Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NBA Press Note                                                                                 August 16, 2000

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats, Ellora Park, Baroda-390007

HOW COME MAHARASHTRA GRA REMAINS INDEPENDENT AFTER MAKING STATEMENT FAVOURING STATE GOVT.?

It is bewildering and a serious matter that the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) set up to look into the resettlement of Maharashtra oustees of Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), headed by the former Justice Mr. Kurdukar, has stated that the Government of Maharashtra has enough land for resettling all the oustees in Maharashtra. This assertion came even before submitting his report to the Supreme Court after completing a full and independent inquiry.

The GRA, which was set up by the Government of Maharashtra with the concurrence of the Supreme Court is supposed to review the resettlement of the oustees of the SSP and assess the possibility of the future resettlement and the land availability. It was to submit its interim report to the Supreme Court by July 1. Thereafter, it would work to redress the grievances and complaints regarding the resettlement in long term. However, the latter task would be preceded by the order of the Supreme Court in the writ petition filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). The petition was filed in May 1994 and its final hearing was completed in May 2000.

Mr. Kurdukar has continued his inquiry and hearing by getting the extension from the Court for submitting its report. He made a brief visit to the SSP affected villages on August 7, 8. In this visit, he heard very few people in very few villages, and the people were apparently not satisfied with the kind of ‘inquiry’ that was conducted. The GRA seemed to caught up too much in technicalities. He told the people that they would have to resettle in the other place. He asked the Maharashtra oustees, resettled in Gujarat and neglected by that government, if they want resettlement they would have to leave their lands in Gujarat and come to Maharashtra and stand in the queue for resettlement.

In Dhadgaon, the GRA spent five hours but listened only to 10-12 oustees, that too making detailed enquiries about the family members or the crops, with no time remaining for the basic issues regarding the land rights displacement and resettlement. Thousands of people gathered there including the reservoir affected along with those affected by the compensatory afforestation for the dam. Hundreds of applications were filed with the GRA till now from the villages, but Mr. Kurdukar did not read the applications and various reports filed by the people and NBA in the month of May. He again assured in Dhadgaon that he would get the response from the government on the statement submitted by the NBA; but, as far as we know, it has still to be realized.

Most serious was the fact that Mr. Kurdukar made a statement, concurring with the version of the state government that, the Government of Maharashtra has enough land to resettle all the oustees. This statement has appeared in the regional newspapers (Dailies Lokmat and Deshdoot, August 10).

It is a fact that hundreds of families, ousted for years, are still languishing in the resettlement without the lands. It is also known that the government is trying to take away the lands of those who were resettled some years back and give it to the other oustees. It has been experience of the people that on every occasion or every time, when the people approached the District Collector of Nandurbar to show the land which was claimed to be available, the officials were unable to show any land. The state government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, in July 2000, that only 318 hectares land was available in the resettlement sites which too does not exist in reality- and it would make the land available through private purchase. In such a situation, how can one claim that the land is available for the resettlement of all the oustees? The NBA has explained to Mr. Kurdukar, with all the details of lands and families that at least 5000 hectares of additional land would be necessary if all the remaining project affected families from Maharashtra are to be resettled.

On all these issues, Mr. Kurdukar could not be available for many reasons for conducting an independent and complete inquiry and scrutiny. Now, even before submitting his report, on the basis of state government's claims, he found the land available for resettlement. This is very serious matter and beyond our comprehension.

NBA understands that the GRA under Mr. Kurdukar, as it is appointed by the state government with the concurrence of the Supreme Court, should conduct its inquiry by consulting as many villagers, by accepting, studying their statements and hearing them. After such a full inquiry, it may submit its independent and truthful report to the Supreme Court. The Government of Maharashtra has been filing false affidavits regarding the resettlement and land availability. But we expect the GRA, to give a true report on the basic issue of the right to life.

Medha Patkar