Supreme Court verdict on SSP is anti-people


The Supreme Court verdict delivered on the Narmada Bachao Andolan's writ petition regarding the Sardar Sarovar Project is an anti-people judgment. It makes a mockery of the NBA-led epic people's struggle against the dam project for their right to life and livelihood, right to information and right to people's participation that has been modeled on the principles of non-violence and satyagraha (insistence on truth).

By delivering a judgment that favors further construction of the dam in the face of blatant and repeated violations of basic human rights and Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal award, in the face of non availability of land for rehabilitation, in the face non-transparent analyses and a lack of people's participation, in the face of continued environmental damage and lack of proper clearances, in the face of grave and repeated atrocities committed by the police and oppressive governments on marginalized communities such as the adivasis, poor peasants and landless toilers, the highest court of the land has essentially sided with the oppressors and violators and has once again placed its faith in a system and government that has only answered this faith in its violation.

This judgment brings to my mind the following questions. How can one expect the governments and the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to deliver a land acquisition and rehabilitation plan in four weeks when they have not accomplished this in the last 15 years? How can one expect the state governments to properly address the grievances of the people when the very same governments continue to routinely oppress the people from often even peacefully assembling? Further, the judgment while outlining how further construction would occur, places the arbitration first directly or indirectly in the hands of the project implementers (namely the state government and the NCA) and finally, the Prime Minister, instead of an independent and unbiased entity; in this way the court also appears to wash off any further responsibility from itself.

The NBA had made "Satyagraha se nyayagraha tak" ("From insistence on truth, to insistence on justice") their call for this year's monsoon satyagraha that concluded a month ago. Instead, this judgment sadly does not inspire in them, and in the minds of the project affected people and their supporters, any faith in the rule of law and in the process of justice.

Nevertheless, the strong spirit, tenacity and courage of the Andolan, with which it has led the people of the Narmada valley for over 15 years --- in undauntedly facing every challenge thrown up by an insensitive and oppressive government, in throwing out the formidable World Bank, in challenging the abomination that the Sardar Sarovar dam is, in braving the rising waters that submerge the land, forests and livelihood of the people every year, and in being a model and a source of inspiration for people's struggles throughout the world --- will also enable it to tide over this unfortunate judgment as well.

I, once again, salute the spirit of the people of the Narmada valley and the Narmada Bachao Andolan and stand in solidarity with them.

Aniruddha Vaidya