The Central Government on Monday released Rs.1,981 crore, in the much-awaited first instalment through Nabard, for the Polavaram project.
Union Minister for Finance Arun Jaitley handed over the cheque to Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu in the presence of Union Ministers for Water Resources Uma Bharti, Information and Broadcasting M.Venkaiah Naidu, Ministers of State Vijay Goel and Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Nabard chairman Harsh Kumar Bhanwala and A.P. Water Resources Minister Devineni Umamaheswara Rao at a programme in New Delhi.
The Nabard chairman said funds were being released from the Long-term Irrigation Fund for 99 projects in the country. The Polavaram project was getting Rs.1,981 crore as the “first disbursement”.
Ms Uma Bharti said Nabard was releasing funds for major irrigation projects for the first time.
Irrigation would be given a great deal of priority in future. A cheque for Rs 2,480 crore made out to the National Water Development agency that includes the Rs 1981 crore for the Polavaram and the remaining amount for other States was handed over to the Chief Minister.
Mr. Jaitley said the handing over of a cheque for Polavaram had more than just symbolic value.
It would restore in the people of Andhra Pradesh the confidence and trust they lost in the Centre after the bifurcation in which the State was subjected to “economic discrimination”.
Mr. Jaitley recalled how the Chief Minister had raised several issues very forcefully and Telugu Desam MPs Y.S. Chowdary and C.M. Ramesh said the Centre was forcing bifurcation on Andhra Pradesh.
The Union Minister said the release of funds for Polavaram would not only fulfil the long-pending dream of Andhra people, but would also restore their faith in the Centre.
The Centre was preferring to invest in irrigation over industry because the returns were faster.
While it took just one season to get returns in agriculture, it took much longer in industries, he explained.
The Chief Minister said the Centre created an ‘excellent arrangement’ for the funding of the Polavaram project.
All Central governments talked about developing agriculture and irrigation, but he had not seen till now a Centre releasing funds for 99 irrigation projects.
Mr. Naidu said not only would Polavaram be the biggest irrigation project in the country, it would also be the last of the big projects. It would not be possible to build such big projects in future, he said.
Inviting all the Union Ministers for the inauguration of the concrete work on December 30, Mr. Naidu said the Polavaram project would be completed in the first quarter of 2019.
He said all records not only in the country but outside also would be broken. Andhra Pradesh would become a drought-free State once the project was completed.
Mr. Venkaiah Naidu recalled how Mr. Jaitley stood by him when he fought for a better deal for Andhra Pradesh in Parliament.
Mr. Venkaiah Naidu said for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), industry and agriculture were like two eyes. One would not be sacrificed to promote the other, he added.