Acting on a writ petition challenging the land acquisition process under Mallannasagar reservoir, the Telangana state government has given an undertaking on Monday to the High Court in Hyderabad that a gram sabha would be conducted. The petition was filed by a group of small and marginal farmers and landless agricultural workers from Vemulaghat village in Thoguta mandal in Siddipet district.
While the High Court recognised the importance of conducting a gram sabha before the land acquisition process and sought the government’s reply, Advocate General D. Prakash Reddy had submitted an undertaking to take steps to conduct a gram sabha on behalf of the state government. The case is posted to October 25 for further hearing by which time the gram sabha would be held.
In the petition, the farmers have claimed that the authorities have initiated proceedings to conduct an inquiry under Section 15 of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 without conducting gram sabha. Section 15 of the Act deals with hearing of objections.
It also urged the court that the government did not keep its promise to provide the relevant documents in Telugu, which meant that the villagers remained in the dark regarding the rules and procedures being imposed on them.
Mallannasagar reservoir, a part of the Kaleswaram lift irrigation project has faced stiff opposition from farmers of several villages in the submergence zone. The farmers of Vemulaghat village have staged a year-long protest demanding the implementation of Land Acquisition Act, 2013 instead of the state government’s proposed Government Order (GO) 123, which does not consider the rights of farm workers dependent on land.
Earlier in January, the High Court had squashed the Telangana Government’s GO 123 and ruled that the state can acquire land for irrigation projects only under Land Acquisition Act, 2013. The Telangana government has issued notifications for acquiring 1600 acres of land from several villages, after the court ruling.
The state government claims that the Mallannasagar project after completion will provide water to drought-hit regions of the state. According to the plan, water from a barrage on Godavari river in Karimnagar district will be diverted and transported to around 200 km away, to a large reservoir in the area that can store 50 TMC.