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'It is yet another step towards muffling the world of the poor'

Arundhati Roy

A disconcerted Arundhati Roy is impassioned as
usual about the ramifications of the Supreme Court
judgement allowing further construction on the
Sardar Sarovar Project. In an exclusive interview to Damandeep Singh, she accuses the judiciary
of bowing before the politicians, in a voice
tremulous with emotion

New Delhi, October 18

The Supreme Court has delivered a judgement
after years of litigation. What do you feel about it?

It is one of the most disgraceful events in recent times. None of us were optimistic (about the judgement), but even in our pessimism, we never expected something
so retrogressive. The only thing that saves the situation from making me believe that we live in a Banana Republic is that there was a dissenting judgement, which was by Justice S P Bharucha, where he said that the environmental clearance of this project was unacceptable because it was given without any study being done. Even the poorest of conditions being met, it should be sent back for clearance.

The majority judgement, as they call it, was incredible because:'what was the petition about?' The petition said that for the past 15 years, the Award of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal, which really visualised the project, suggested how the project should be carried
out and how resettlement should be handled. The NBA (Narmada Bachao Andolan) said that this is being violated. For 15 years, the NCA (Narmada Control Authority), the organisation in charge of it, was violating the Award of the Tribunal. Now, the Supreme Court
says that the dam should be built in accordance with
the Award of the Tribunal. Madhya Pradesh says that
we have no land to resettle oustees, they are distributing cash compensation illegally in violation of the Tribunal.
In the past 15 years, they have not produced a single hectare of agricultural land for the oustees, in violation
of the Tribunal.

Yesterday, I was
at a traffic light
where the lights
were working, but there was a traffic policeman giving signals which had nothing to do with
the lights. You
just don't know
what to do.

People who were displaced by the 85 metres (height)
of the dam have not been resettled. The Tribunal says one year before submergence whoever is going to be displaced has to be rehabilitated; one year after submergence, they haven't been. In effect, what the
SC (Supreme Court) has done
is actually given an order that condones the violation of the Tribunal, and yet they manage

to say that we should do it in accordance with
the Tribunal.

Yesterday, I was at a traffic light where the lights were working, but there was a traffic policeman giving signals which had nothing to do with the lights. You just don't know what to do. And it must have been some kind of accretion from my past. I thought: 'we don't understand anymore how to conduct ourselves and live in society.'

But the NBA filed the petition to get redressal…
No, the NBA filed the petition and the judgement
has come out where…If the court had dismissed
the petition, it wouldn't have been as bad as it is now, where it is almost as though if the Gujarat government had drafted the judgement, it wouldn't have been so bad.
I mean, it is unbelievable. The judgement is saying that not only should the dam go ahead, the NCA -
it's Kafkaesque - is to be in charge of it. In a dispute,
the prime minister will take the final decision. Five years in the SC and you don't arrive at an understanding of what's on the ground. It's like a bit like being in a
Banana Republic.

Why I am saying that it is Kafkaesque is because you are putting it back in the lap of people who have shown utter callousness all these years. There is no reason for them to change their tune now.

Has the judiciary then bowed to the politicians?
I would say so.

How did the NBA petition get transformed into
this? This was the NBA filing the petition, it wasn't the state government dragging it to the court.

I can't believe it, there isn't any rational reason for it
to have happened. You would have to look outside rationality for it.

Sonia Gandhi
Chhota Rajan

Sushmita Sen

strologer Uma Shankar Shukla
will be providing
a weekly health
guide for the
Zodiac signs

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