The YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government's move to exit Navayuga Engineering Company out of Polavaram has triggered apprehensions over the mega irrigation project being built on Godavari river.
The new government three days ago served a notice to Navayuga asking it to exit from the project as it was awarded the contract on a nomination basis by previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government.
As a sub-contractor, Navayuga was engaged in various works relating to the project including construction of spillway, spillway channel, coffer dam and power project component. The total value of the works being executed by the company were about Rs 3,000 crore.
The government has now decided to call tenders by going for reverse tendering process. The development was not unexpected as soon after assuming the office, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had declared that all the contracts awarded by the previous government on nomination basis would be reviewed and wherever necessary he would go for reverse tendering as this would ensure transparency by allowing participation of largest number of bidders. He believes this would lead to huge saving to public exchequer.
The government took the action on the findings of a committee of experts constituted by it to review the works awarded to Navayuga.
The move, however, evoked criticism not only from TDP, other opposition parties but also from the Centre, which is funding the project.
Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat termed as 'sad' the move by the YSRCP government to terminate the contract. He told the Parliament that this would become a new impediment for executing the project and lead to cost escalation.
Polavaram, which is estimated to cost Rs 58,000 crore, was declared a national project in 2016 as committed by the Centre at the time of bifurcation of combined Andhra Pradesh in 2014.
It is being executed by the state government under the supervision of the Polavaram Project Authority, a central agency.
The project designed to bring an area of over seven lakh acres in coastal Andhra under irrigation besides producing 960 Megawatt power, utilising 273 thousand million cubic feet or TMC of water currently going waste into the sea.
With floods in Godavari, the project works have come to a halt. Officials say the works could resume after the end of flood season in October.
After his first visit to the project site last month, Jagan Mohan Reddy alleged that TDP government resorted to irregularities in the project by awarding contracts on nomination basis to those who were close to it.
Alleged corruption in Polavaram was a key issue during the election campaign. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also targeted then chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu for delaying execution of Polavaram and alleged that he is using it as 'ATM' leading to cost escalation.
The exit notice to Navayuga may not be the last move of Jagan Reddy government as he claimed that several sub-contracts were awarded to those close to the then ruling party and the ministers.
The TDP has rubbished the allegations and claimed that utmost transparency was maintained in the process of awarding the works. TDP leader and former irrigation minister D. Uma Maheswara Rao pointed out that the sub-contract to Navayuga was in fact awarded on the suggestion of the Centre so that the works could speed up.
"This is one of the several steps taken by Jagan Mohan Reddy government due to political vendetta without bothering about the state's interests," he said.
Chandrababu Naidu said despite the canard spread by YSRCP all these years, the TDP government completed 70 per cent of the project works. He cautioned that if YSRCP government failed to execute the balance works in a stipulated time, Polavaram will remain a dream.
Jagan Reddy recently reiterated that his government will complete the project by June 2021.
However, experts say the termination of contracts and calling of fresh tenders may further delay the project and also lead to cost escalation.
Conceived in 1941 at just Rs 6.5 crore, Polavaram was marred by delays and controversies over last several decades.
Being built at Polavaram in West Godavari district, it is said to be the last irrigation project of this scale in the country and promises to become lifeline of Andhra Pradesh.
Despite being mooted before India's independence, it remained on paper for several decades. Though the foundation stone was laid in 1980, no progress could made be made till 2005 when then chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy launched the work. Most of the works of two canals were completed and majority of the clearances from the Centre were obtained during his time.
However, Rajasekhara Reddy's death in a helicopter crash in 2009 and subsequent political turmoil due to revival of demand for Telangana state once again threw the project in a limbo.
The commitment made by the Centre in Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act came as a fresh hope for the project and since then significant progress was made but for people of state it is still a long way to go.
( With inputs from IANS )