NBA Press Release
  15 August 2009
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Victory for decade-long land-struggle of tribal oustees of Man dam as M.P. High Court directs Govt. to provide 5 acres of agricultural land to adult sons

2, Sai nagar, Mata Chowk,
Khandwa,
Madhya Pradesh
Tel/FAX: 0733-2228418, 9425394606, 9425928007
Email: nobigdams[at]sancharnet.in

The Madhya Pradesh High Court gave a very significant judgment in a public interest litigation filed in 2003 by tribals Bherusingh Aapsingh and Hirka Omkar, oustees of the Man dam, about the rehabilitation and resettlement of the tribal oustees affected by this dam built in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. A bench comprising of Chief Justice Shri Anang Kumar Patnaik and Justice Shri A.M. Sapre directed the State Government to provide 5 acres of land to each family of adult sons of cultivators families, within a period of 4 months. The bench also directed the State Government to return the compensation for trees and wells which had been arbitrarily deducted earlier, back to the oustees along with interest at the rate of 9% per annum from the date of deduction of the amount to the date of payment.

However the High Court did not allow the prayer of the displaced cultivators to a minimum of 2 ha. of land as per the provisions of the R&R Policy, holding that the lands that the oustees had purchased themselves from the compensation and Special Rehabilitation Grant was sufficient and not in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution. However, it held that that those families who had not accepted the Special Rehabilitation Grant (SRG) were still entitled to a minimum 2 ha. of land, as per the R&R Policy.

The Man dam, it may be noted is one of the 30 large dams in the Narmada valley. The affected people of the seventeen villages affected by this dam have been struggling unitedly for the last 12 years for land, under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. In 2002, the State had to bow down to the villagers who insisted that their lands could not be submerged without their prior rehabilitation, and blasted the sluice gates of the dam, to let the river-waters pass through. However in 2002, without providing rehabilitation and resettlement measures including agricultural land to the oustees, and while the struggle of the oustees was on-going, the State evicted the villagers of Villages Kacchauda and bulldozed the schools, shut off the hand-pumps, and demolished all schools and Panchayat Bhavans in the area. Undeterred, the oustees of the Man dam sat in Bhopal and activists fasted for 29 days, as a consequence of which the State Government appointed a two-Member Expert Committee to look into the problems of the oustees of the Man dam, and also appointed the GRA (Grievance Redressal Authority) to address the questions of the Man dam oustees. However, just after the visit of the Two-member Committee, and before the GRA could begin its hearings, the State officials evicted village Khedi-Balwadi with the use of bulldozers, and armed force.

Continuing to fight for their rights, and facing submergence first in 2002 and then again in 2005, the oustees of Man dam filed a petition in the Indore High Court in 2003. It is this matter in which the Hon'ble High Court gave its judgment on 11th of August.

The oustees of the Man dam and the Narmada Bachao Andolan welcome the Order of the High Court directing the grant of 2 ha. of land to each adult son family which would benefit a large majority of oustees in the area. It may be mentioned that out of the 900 odd families affected by the Man dam, nearly 500 families are of "adult sons". It also welcomes the decision of the High Court that the payment of compensation to the oustees in 1990-91 did not prejudice the right of the oustees to land, and therefore those oustees who have not availed of the Special Rehabilitation grant may still ask for land. It is clear that the State Government and the Project authorities - the Narmada Valley Development Authority will not easily allot lands to these oustees, and they will have to embark on a new course of struggle to achieve their rights. The oustees have expressed their determination to do so.

Validity of unequal cash package forced on oustees upheld

The Order of the High Court barring the oustees who have accepted SRG from obtaining their minimum entitlement of 2 ha. of land under the R&R Policy, is difficult to comprehend, both because the R&R Policy clearly states that the oustee is entitled to a minimum entitlement of 2 ha. of land, whether Government land is provided or private land is purchased, and also because the Court did not take cognizance of the circumstances of force and compulsion in which the oustees "availed" of SRG, which was after their villages were made unlivable by severing water supply, after they were evicted with bulldozers and police force, and after the GRA disallowed their land entitlements. The confirmation of the validity of a cash package which is unequal to the entitlements under the R&R Policy, and which affects the right of the oustees to these land entitlements, paves the way for the large-scale use of force by the State on the dam oustees of various dams in the Narmada valley, to accept a lower package, than is permitted under the R&R Policy.

It is clear that this aspect of the Court Order that violation of the R&R Policy by forcing the villagers to accept lower packages than their entitlements have huge implications and are required to be challenged in the Courts and in the public discourse.

Chittaroopa Palit, Ramkuwar Rawat, Sangeeta Kanera