People facing displacement under Polavaram to take part in democratic process on February 17
For members of about one lakh families in the Polavaram project area, the ongoing gram panchayat elections will be the last such exercise in their native habitations, as they will be displaced and rehabilitated soon in the upland areas.
In all, 1.03 lakh families residing in 373 habitations – 240 in East Godavari and 133 in West Godavari – will be shifted. The officials have so far evacuated the families from 17 habitations.
“During the recent Godavari floods (in September last), our village was completely inundated. We had to take shelter on top of a hill for about one week. We request the government to shift us to the R&R Colony before the advent of monsoon,” said Soyam Durga of Koida village.
Members of a few tribes and non-tribes staying in various hamlets in Polavaram, Velerupadu, and Kukunoor mandals had approached the State High Court, seeking a direction to halt the election process as they would be shifted to other villages.
However, the State Election Commission had decided to conduct elections in the habitations, which would soon be inundated under the project, as the villagers need public representatives to represent their problems and take decisions in a democratic way till they were evacuated, the officials said.
“All arrangements have been made for conducting the elections for 178 panchayats and 1,904 wards in the third phase of polling on February 17 in West Godavari district. We have conducted coordination meetings with the community elders, and the voters are ready to exercise their franchise,” Polavaram Sub-Collector R.V. Suryanarayana said.
Prior to bifurcation of the State, the villagers formed part of Khammam district and had cast their vote in 2013. Post bifurcation, the habitations were merged in residual Andhra Pradesh, and 373 hamlets were bracketed under the Polavaram project submerged area.
“My father and my forefathers had stayed in the Agency area. Our family members have been exercising our franchise here for the last 50 years. Now, the government is evacuating us. This is the last time we will be casting our vote in Kacharam village,” said Kunja Somaraju, a tribal.
West Godavari Superintendent of Police K. Narayan Naik said elaborate bandobust arrangements had been made for peaceful conduct of polling.
Polavaram Deputy Superintendent of Police K. Latha Kumari, who camped at Velerupadu, said the villagers could exercise their franchise freely in the Agency habitations in the district.
“I want to vote as this may be the last time for me to do so in my ancestral village. We have been listed as one of the project displaced families,” said Tati Srinu of Kakuturu village.