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SC verdict on Narmada project anti-people -- Patkar
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Thursday, October 19, 2000

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SC verdict on Narmada project anti-people -- Patkar

MUMBAI/VADODARA, OCT 18: A visibly upset Medha Patkar described the Supreme Court judgement clearing the Rs 18,000-crore Sardar Sarovar Project, that has been at the centre of a raging controversy, as ``anti-people and a virtual surrender to the pressures by power holders''. Patkar has led the tribals of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra against the dam for nearly 15 years under the banner of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).

The NBA leader has called for immediate intervention by the President, saying it was the constitutional obligation of the President to protect the rights of the tribals and downtrodden who have been struggling to save their land in the Narmada valley in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. The President should stay the construction and the consequent displacement of the dam, till the basic issues pertaining to the Sardar Sarovar Project are resolved, she said.

The judgement, she remarked, does not reflect the complex ground realities at all; it is instead based on the submissions that state governments had made to the Court. The Court had not taken cognisance of serious issues regarding the incomplete studies of resettlement, non-fulfillment of environment and other conditions which were put before the court. It even failed to link the resettlement issue with the construction of the dam or consider the option of reducing the displacement, she said, adding the Court has neglected its own orders and logic in the previous orders, which had resulted in the suspension of work for about five years.

The Court has ``apparently violated the spirit of the Constitution and democratic governance'' by allowing ``unconditional and unfettered construction of the SSP, thus playing into the hands of dam builders, dominant economic and political powers'' she alleged in a statement circulated at a press conference on Wednesday.

``I am not weak but I feel sad for the democratic process of the country in the name of globalisation,'' Patkar said. The court has totally neglected the fundamental rights of the most vulnerable section of society and also serious issues raised regarding the propriety of the dam, she said. Instead, it has provided ``a weapon to the power-holders to indiscriminately displace the project affected people and crush their rights,'' she added.

However, the struggle in the valley will continue because it is a question of people's livelihood. ``Courts are bound by law but people are bound by questions of their livelihood,'' she remarked.

There was clear acknowledgement in the Grievance Redressal Authority, especially in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, that enough land was not available for compensation which itself is against the basic Tribunal award. How then could the Court go against it, she wondered, because the Tribunal stated clearly that loss of land had to be compensated with land.

The verdict has marred any prospects of rational and natural displacement and resettlement process, she said, the entire rehabilitation process has been harmed by this approach of the Court.

Patkar has also called upon people's organisations to confront the ``anti-people and anti-constitutional approach'' of the Supreme Court. ``A fierce, nation-wide struggle has to be launched against these politics of undermining the equality, liberty and rights of the people,'' she said.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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