| NBA Press Release
|| 17 April 2004
Supreme Court Directs M.P. Government to Provide Land-based Rehabilitation;
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
On April 16, 2004, the Supreme Court heard a petition by Sardar Sarovar Dam affected families from Madhya Pradesh. While taking a lenient view of the crass violation of law, constitutional and human rights by the all the concerned governments, it refused to stay the construction upto 110 m. of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, despite the crying evidence of utter lack of rehabilitation in the submergence area of the dam, it did however make clear that Government of Madhya Pradesh must comply with the provisions of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA) and past Court rulings to provide full land-based rehabilitation to all Project affected families (PAFs). It ruled that the cash compensation in lieu of land-based resettlement was unacceptable.
The case was filed by PAFs of Picchodi and Jalsindhi villages who were affected at the 95 and 100m dam levels, who are still not been rehabilitated despite being affected long back. While declining to issue a stay on construction, the bench consisting of Justice Y K Sabharwal, Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice S B Sinha, they did however rule that the Government Madhya Pradesh must comply with the provisions of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA) and past Court rulings and provide full land-based rehabilitation to all PAFs and that cash compensation is unacceptable. Unfortunately, the Court will fail to prevent the tragic and unlawful submergence of thousands of families, without any sort of rehabilitation, during this year's monsoon season.
Modi Absolved; Trickery by M.P.
The Court's judgement comes after a March 16th decision by the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) giving clearance to further construct the dam from its present height of 100m to 110m. The clearance came after a protracted struggle by the NBA challenging the false claims of rehabilitation and thus the legality of a further height increase. While Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh both claimed to have completely rehabilitated all PAFs, Maharashtra admitted that rehabilitation was incomplete (although greatly underestimating the balance of PAFs to resettle). Nonetheless, under pressure from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh to give a green light for further construction, Maharashtra signed a letter promising to resettle the balance PAFs before submergence. With this, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi got his wish for a height increase before the elections.
The decision to go ahead with construction even though rehabilitation is admittedly incomplete in Maharashtra is itself a clear breach of the law, which requires resettlement of families at least 6 months before submergence. Nevertheless, while these obvious problems in Maharashtra exist, there are even more glaring and large scale problems with rehabilitation in the dam-affected villages of Madhya Pradesh. M.P. accounts for 193 of the 245 villages affected by the dam and the bulk of the 40,000 affected families, and this is a great travesty of justice.
There are thousands of families who have been left off of the government's PAF list for a variety of reasons, including land titles that haven't been cleared up, major sons (who are entitled to land) who haven't been counted, faulty level surveys, and the unwillingness of the government to recognize the traditional but untitled lands of adivasis living along the river. In addition, the government is simply deleting people from its PAF list who it finds inconvenient to rehabilitate. Minutes of Narmada Control Authority meetings show that GoMP has made terribly inconsistent estimates of PAFs, erasing thousands with the stroke of a pen from one statement to the next. For example, at two meetings of the NCA's R&R Sub-Group (February and November 2002), GoMP testified that there were a total of 12,600 families from 135 villages in the state affected by the dam at 110m. In fact, this was the number it had consistently given at meetings over the course of several years.
Nevertheless, in May of 2003 it made the "tentative" claim that now only 5,607 families were affected at 110m. A month later it bumped that number up to 8,406 families, still a reduction of over 4,000 families. Amazingly, the government reduced the number of PAFs it recognized by a third.
And while GoMP plays this game of numbers, it is also failing to actually rehabilitate the PAFs it does recognize. It has illegally forced a portion of its PAFs to accept cash or to involuntarily move to Gujarat and has not given one family in M.P. proper rehabilitation with replacement agricultural land as required by law. In clear violation of the NWDTA and the Supreme Court orders of 2000, M.P. is only giving out insufficient cash compensation or allotting mostly uncultivable land in Gujarat, violating the PAFs right of choice to settle in their home state. As a consequence, many people that have been declared as affected remain in the valley, refusing to take bad land in Gujarat and demanding land-based rehabilitation in Madhya Pradesh. It thus clear that between faulty counting and totally insufficient rehabilitation of those declared, rehabilitation in M.P. is anything but complete.
Allows Abuse of Law
Given this situation and law surrounding rehabilitation for the project, it is clear that this height increase is totally illegal. According to the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA) whose provisions govern dam construction, all Project Affected Families (PAFs) must receive land-based rehabilitation before being ousted from their land. To quote:"Gujarat [read state government with funds from Gujarat] shall acquire and make available a year in advance of the submergence before each successive stage, irrigable lands and house sites for rehabilitation of the oustee families from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra who are willing to migrate to Gujarat. Gujarat shall in the first instance offer to rehabilitate the oustees in its own territory." Thus, oustees must be provided with rehabilitation land either in Gujarat or in the their home state (depending on the oustee's choice) one year before any submergence. It further says that the PAFs should be totally shifted to the new plots no later than six months before submergence.
The Award further states, "In no event shall any areas in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra be submerged under the Sardar Sarovar unless all payment of compensation, expenses and costs as aforesaid is made for acquisition of land and properties and arrangements are made for the rehabilitation of the oustees." Again, there is no ambiguity: rehabilitation before submergence.
The Supreme Court judgement of 2000 further stipulated that, "Construction of the dam will continue as per the Award of the Tribunal," and, "Further raising of the height will be only pari passu with the implementation of the relief and rehabilitation." Pari passu is defined as moving at the same rate or apace. The Court thus acknowledged the NWDTA's provisions as law, and further upheld the principle that submergence cannot precede rehabilitation.
Thus, it is clear that the construction now underway on the SSP, and the destruction of lives it will bring with it, is in utter violation of the law, not to mention the human rights of the affected people. The failure of the state governments, Central Government, and the Supreme Court to protect the legal and human rights of its people for the sake of political expediency has been made clear. The people of the Narmada Valley who will soon face the relentless flood waters as they are impounded behind the 110m dam will, will nonetheless continue to fight for their rights to just and fair rehabilitation.