The party demanded that the Centre order a high-level probe into the irregularities and corruption in the project.
Congress MP N Uttam Kumar Reddy on Friday demanded that both the NDA government at the Centre and the TRS government in Telangana clarify their stand on national project status for the Kaleshwaram project.
"Both the TRS and the BJP governments must clarify why a project built for Rs 1.2 lakh crore and is called Asia's biggest irrigation project is not eligible to be included in the list of national projects. If the project is not economically viable, then all those involved in its designing, construction and execution should be severely punished by ordering a high-level probe," he said.
Addressing media persons in New Delhi, Reddy said that Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao should reply to the Centre's stand that the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project was not eligible to get National Project status.
"In a question raised by me in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, Union Minister of State for Jal Shakti Bishweshwar Tudu revealed that the Telangana government did not obtain the mandatory investment clearance from the Centre, and therefore the Kaleshwaram project was not eligible to get National Project status. The reply clearly shows that neither the TRS government in Telangana nor the NDA government at the Centre was serious about national project status for the Kaleshwaram project," he said.
Reddy said that the TRS government did not seek investment clearance for the Kaleshwaram project as its benefit-cost ratio was too low which made it highly unviable.
"The TRS government did not seek investment clearance, and the BJP government did not insist on it. Therefore, the TRS and the BJP are equally complicit in the scam," he alleged.
"And it was a huge scam. By redesigning the original Pranahita Chevella project to Kaleshwaram, the TRS government more than doubled the project cost, to over Rs 1 lakh crore. The TRS government was always hesitant to answer questions on the exact capital cost, operational cost, cost-benefit ratio and viability of, and the justification of taking high-cost loans for, the Kaleshwaram project. Consequently, thousands of crores of public money was looted by the TRS leaders to build a project so unviable that it does not qualify to be called a National Project," he alleged.
He said that several experts had pointed out that Kaleshwaram would ruin Telangana's economy due to its non-viability. As per the original Detailed Project Report (DPR), the project cost was estimated to be around Rs 80,000 crore for Phase-I, and the annual Operational & Maintenance (O&M) cost was expected to be Rs 13,923 crore. It was claimed in the DPR that the project would provide irrigation to 24 lakh acres. All these figures proved to be false as the project cost crossed Rs 1 lakh crore and the O&M cost too increased significantly, Reddy said.
It also displaced over 30,000 people in 19 villages while affecting nearly 40,015 hectares of land. All of this meant that to get an estimated profit of Rs 15,000 per acre, the State government was now being forced to spend over Rs 53,000 per acre every year on the O&M costs, he lamented.
"The Kaleshwaram project has benefited only the KCR family while the people of Telangana and their future generations will be forced to repay the loans and the interest from their hard-earned money," he said.
Reddy also said that the project was executed in a haphazard and sub-standard manner. The submergence of two pump houses of the project in the recent rains had exposed the poor quality of work, he said.
"To cover up this failure, KCR came up with a ridiculous, utterly silly, immature and unscientific theory of a foreign conspiracy causing a cloudburst in Telangana," he said.
Reddy said that union home minister Amit Shah, BJP president J P Nadda and other national leaders had been visiting Telangana frequently for political campaigns. "These BJP leaders are however maintaining a strange silence on the irregularities in the Kaleshwaram project. The union government is having all the proof of the big scam that took place. Then why is the BJP government not ordering an inquiry?" he asked.
"Indeed, is it not the duty of the Centre to stop a State from constructing an unviable project to prevent loot and wastage of public money? Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government never reacted when Congress raised the issue of corruption and non-viability of the Kaleshwaram project on multiple occasions since 2016. Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, while replying to my question in Lok Sabha in December 2021, said that the Kaleshwaram project was accepted by the Advisory Committee on Irrigation, Flood Control and Multipurpose Projects of the Ministry in June 2018. How could the Centre approve a project worth over Rs 1 lakh crore without looking at its investment clearance?" he sought to know.
The Congress MP alleged that both the TRS and the BJP governments were indulging in a blame game to cover up huge corruption and other irregularities in the construction of the project. He demanded that the Centre order a high-level probe into the irregularities and corruption to expose the culprits who looted public money through the project.
Reddy also accused the TRS government of failing to stop the illegal construction of the Rayalaseema Lift Irrigation Scheme, the Pothireddypadu expansion and the Sangameshwar project to draw about 7 TMC of water from the Krishna river meant for Telangana.
"The KCR government has wasted over Rs 1.2 lakh crore on the pretext of drawing 3 TMC of water from the Godavari river. But it did nothing to stop Andhra Pradesh from constructing illegal projects to draw 7 TMC of water from the Krishna river which was coming to Telangana free of cost through gravity. The TRS government did not even approach the Supreme Court to get a stay on these illegal projects," he said.