Decision not to raise the height of SSP welcome
Madhya Pradesh sacrifices Narmada, oustees and own interests to Gujarat : Maharashtra takes a legal and justifiable position
A tripartite conflict over the Sardar Sarovar continues even today but not without political expediency and resultant fraudulent claims. Amidst much controversy and arguments with counters over whether rehabilitation of all Sardar Sarovar project affected families is complete or not, the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Sub Group of the Narmada Control Authority, we learn authentically, has decided not to permit raising of the dam height beyond the present 122 mts to the final 138.68 mts. No construction towards erection of 17 mts gates was permitted since that too would increase further submergence, even when Gujarat, under Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi was pressing for raising it to 128 mts.
Fraudulent Consent by M.P: Shockingly, the Government of Madhya Pradesh (GoMP), we have learnt, placed the contestable opinion of the ‘Former’ Chairperson Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA), as a basis for raising the dam height, without actually considering the stand of the present GRA. It may be noted that GRA’s consent is a pre-condition for any raise in the dam height, as per the Supreme Court’s Judgement of 2000. Madhya Pradesh, under Chief Minister Mr. Shivraj Singh Chauhan has been denying the existence of 1.5 lakh people in the submergence area, a large number of them beingun-rehabilitated adivasis and other small and marginal farmers, fish workers, landless, potters etc. The people, however, are fighting every inch of battle and the proceedings before the Jst (Retd.) Shravan Shankar Jha Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Corruption in Rehabilitation, appointed by the M.P. High Court in 2008 as well as the GRA, which has been handling various issues, clearly expose the false claims of ‘rehabilitation’. The Govt. of M.P. is, no doubt, playing a serious and reprehensible political game, supporting Gujarat, with the same political party in power at the cost of its own natural-resource based communities and its lifeline, Narmada.
Maharashtra, on the other hand, has categorically conveyed that without completing rehabilitation of the remaining, not less than 1,000 dam-affected adivasi families, raising the height of the dam cannot be permitted. The GRA of Maharashtra has also written a strong letter to the Government, conveying no consent for further raise in the dam height. The R&R Sub Group of NCA having taken a fair and legal position, must bring out the truth and take a firm legal stand i.e. no further dam construction without full and faithful compliance on all rehabilitation and environmental measures as per the Narmada Tribunal, statutory clearances, state Rehabilitation Polices and Judgements of the Supreme Court.
The ground level situation, open to verification by anyone, is that out of 51,000 families, not less than 40,000 are still residing in the submergence zone and the largest number of these are in Madhya Pradesh alone. A massive scam running to the tune of at least Rs. 1,000 crores in the rehabilitation process has been exposed by NBA and the High Court appointed Judicial Commission has been investigating all the aspects including about 3,000 fake land purchase registries, corruption and irregularities in the declaration of oustees, benefits extended to ineligible persons and compensation of ineligible properties, corruption and irregularities in the construction of civic structures at the resettlement sites, allotment of house plots and disbursement of livelihood grants. No criminal cases are filed as yet, but the Supreme Court has directed no further disbursement by cash or cheque, without the scrutiny of Justice Jha Commission of Inquiry. In Maharashtra too, about 3 crore rupees misappropriation in land purchase for rehabilitation was exposed by NBA and 5 officials have been suspended.
The adivasis from Satpuda and Vindhya mountain ranges in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and those in Gujarat who have lost land since years but are yet to get alternative land are up in the hills, refusing to move without the right to land granted. While a few thousand farmers, including these adivasis, who have only been offered rocky and encroached land or have been given meagre cash compensation packages are asserting their right to cultivable and irrigable land as per the orders of the Supreme Court, thousands of landless, fish workers, potters etc. are awaiting livelihood-based rehabilitation promised by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA), in its Action Plan of 1993 submitted to the Apex Court. The people’s struggle has led to attainment of land based R&R for 11,000 families in Maharashtra and Gujarat, while the challenge to obtain good land continues in M.P, although the state government has had to establish 88 resettlement sites for the sake of thousands of PAFs.
In this background, there is absolutely no legal basis for filling of waters and flooding 248 villages in the three states, with 193 villages including a densely populated township in M.P. The M.P. Govt. has, however, given its sanction to Gujarat’s proposal which itself is a legal fraud and gross contempt of the Apex Court’s judgement – not once, but many times. The worst of its gimmicks is to confuse the authorities and push the dam ahead by fraudulent data and false reports of ‘compliance’
On the environmental front, the Expert Committee appointed by the MoEF in 2008 after NBA raised numerous concerns has concluded that all the three governments, especially M.P. are severely lagging far behind in the implementation of various environmental measures, including catchment area treatment, compensatory afforestation, command area development, fisheries, downstream impacts, archeological impacts, seismicity etc. These reports have proved that CAD works in the vast command area is yet to be undertaken. Gujarat has shown little progress on canal building, not beyond 25% and not less than 20% water has been used, while the water ponded by submerging lands of adivasis is being largely diverted to cities and industries, changing the original plan !!
In the case of SSP, the Satyagraha of facing waters occurred since 1994 to 2002 and every time the government had to concede to implement the law and uphold the rights of the oustees. The oustees have now moved ahead and have been asserting their right to land, by occupying and actually cultivating 50 acres of government farm land at Jobat for the past 10 months and are on the verge of reaping the second harvest, even as legal and political action on the ground continues. This very year, however, not less than 1500 acres of land and 300 houses have illegally submerged in M.P. and Maharashtra, twice in the months of August and September, due to release of water from the upstream dams, especially Omkareshwar. The struggle for compensation for the losses also continues.
It is, therefore, time now not to merely expose the political nexus between M.P. and Gujarat, but also the serious violations of law and large scale social and environmental impacts of the SSP, with ten times increase in the overall costs and less than one-tenth of the promised benefits attained. It is also time for serious review of the entire Project from all angles, coupled with expeditious lawful rehabilitation, before any further work can be permitted. The Narmada Control Authority and the Planning Commission are legally bound to undertake this and we demand the same, as the nation and political leaders pay homage to Gandhiji.
Medha Patkar Kailash Awasya Devram Kanera
Surbhan Bhilala Yogini Khanolkar Siyaram Padvi
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