NBA Press Release
  20 August 2005
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

High Court Order establishes legal regime for the first time in Indira Sagar; Order restrains Project authorities from submerging 91 villages and orders NCA to monitor rehabilitation process

2, Sai nagar, Mata Chowk,
Khandwa,
Madhya Pradesh
Tel/FAX: 07283-233162, 9425056802, 9425087827
Email: nobigdam[at]sancharnet.in

In a very significant development that turns around the ongoing history of extreme callousness and repression in the Indira Sagar dam (ISP) in the Narmada valley in Madhya Pradesh, on the 17th of August 2005, the Madhya Pradesh High Court passed an Order restraining the dam authorities from submerging the 91 dam affected villages that were slated to be submerged in the June of 2005. The Order on the Interim prayer was in a case filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The Court upheld the principle that a full six months breathing time should be given to the oustees after the distribution of rehabilitation entitlements to them and ordered a legal regime to be set up involving proper monitoring and grievance procedures. The Order stated that the R&R of these 91 villages should be completed by the 31st of December 2005, and that only after this, may the State Government issue a fresh Notification for submergence in 2006. The Court also directed the Narmada Control Authority to involve itself in the monitoring of the R&R measures of 91 villages, and the Grievance Redressal Authority to hold regular weekly hearings at dam site in order to ensure that by the end of this year all oustee families of the Indira Sagar Project receive their rehabilitation benefits. The Court also took cognizance of the families affected by the backwater effect.

It may be noted that the Madhya Pradesh Government had issued a notification on the 31.12.2004, requiring 91 villages affected by the Indira Sagar dam to be vacated by the 30th of April 2005 and submerged by the 30th of June 2005 with the closure of the 20 gates of the dam. In its Order for the first time, the NHDC and the State Government have been made accountable for their omissions and they have been ordered to pay a package of over Rs. 10 crores to all those who were forced to leave their villages without compensation and due to fear of submergence. The High Court permitted the Project authorities – the NHDC (Narmada Hydro-Development Corporation) to raise the water level of the Indira Sagar Dam up to 255 meters and not beyond “to ensure that there is no submergence of the 91 villages mentioned in the Notification dated 31.12.2004 during the monsoon of 2005-2006.”

The Order on the interim prayer was passed by a Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of Chief Justice R.V.Raveendran and Justice Shantanu Kemkar. The Advocate General of Madhya Pradesh Shri R.N.Singh argued for the NHDC and the State government, and Ms. Chittaroopa Palit argued on behalf of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

The High Court had noted that agricultural lands and house-plots had not been offered to the oustees by the NHDC at all, and that even compensation had not been paid to the villagers by the date of the slated vacation on the 30th of April 2005, although it was required to be done six months ahead. Noting that the “Compliance is nowhere near the Narmada Award and Supreme Court expect before submergence”, and directed the NHDC to complete all rehabilitation and resettlement measures in regard to the PAFs/ oustees of the 91 villages on or before 31.12.2005 and issue a fresh notification requiring the existing residents to vacate before the onset of the next monsoon i.e. 1 July 2006.

It may be noted that although the Narmada Control Authority was mandated to monitor the implementation of R&R measures of the oustees of the Indira Sagar Project as per the Narmada Award by the Ministry of Water Resources and the environmental clearance of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Madhya Pradesh Government and the Central Ministry of Environment and Forests blocked the monitoring of the Indira Sagar Project. As a result, there was no monitoring of the Project which led to the complete failure of rehabilitation and resettlement of the ISP oustees. The monitoring by the NCA has now been restored by the Court.

It may also be noted that thousands of families in the Indira Sagar Project have been excluded from the reckoning of Project affected families altogether because of the large-scale corruption in the ISP area. In the last few years, there has been a regime of terror and extortion in the affected villages and many NHDC officials have been caught red-handed by the CBI exhorting bribes from the oustees. Now, the High Court has directed that the GRA should hold regular sittings at least once a week at Indira Sagar to receive, consider and dispose of the complaints and grievances of the oustees and to ensure that by the end of this year the R&R benefits are fully extended to all Project Affected Families/oustees, and to remove all these anamolies.

Shocked by the humiliating and brutal uprootment of Harsud at the end of June 2004, the Narmada Bachao Andolan became active in the area since July 2004, trying to support the people affected by the Indira Sagar Project who are being pulverized by the brutality of the administration, the presence of armed police and by submergence without any semblance of rehabilitation, to raise their voices and resist the injustice. In fact before 2004, Harsud and another 118 villages were uprooted with the use of force, armed police and bulldozers and without receiving their full entitlements and rehabilitation. This year the 91 villages were slated for the same treatment by the NHDC. Because the oustee families were able to organize themselves with the support of the NBA in the last 1 year and resolved that they would not anymore succumb to the brute force of the state, that the repressive history of the Indira Sagar Project could not be repeated this year. However it may be noted that around 23 houses of one village Fatehgarh was brutally demolished on the 3rd of August this year despite the express Orders of the High Court not to use coercive measures. A contempt petition has been filed against the SDM and SDO(P) of Kannod, Dewas and notices have been issued by the High Court in this regard.

Thus it is amply clear that the NHDC and the State Government are not to be believed whether in regard to the non-submergence of the 91 villages or in its use of coercive measures. It is in this context that the Narmada Bachao Andolan intends to continue and intensify the process of vigilance, struggle and demanding accountability from the institutions and fighting corruption, and state terror.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan and the oustees of the 91 villages welcome this Order. It is clear that the Rule of Law has been established for the first time in the Indira Sagar Project where hitherto only lawlessness by the NHDC (Narmada Hydro-Development Corporation) and the Madhya Pradesh Government and the rule of force flourished without any checks and balances whatsoever. This decision will not only give the several thousand oustee families of the 91 villages affected at FRL the minimum time of one year to prepare for their resettlement and rehabilitation but also bring into the fold of rehabilitation for the first time the nearly one lakh people in the back water effect who had been hitherto excluded from the rehabilitation process. The oustees have announced that they will set up a Monitoring Committee to ensure that the NHDC does not submerge any of the 91 villages and the timely and proper rehabilitation of all the oustees is completed as per the Order.

Alok Agarwal
Bhagwan Mukati
Ram Kumar