NBA Press Release
  24 February 2005
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

No resettlement in 130 Indira Sagar Project villages: Monsoon 2005 threatens to recreate horror of Harsud

Narmada Bachao Andolan
2, Sai Nagar, Mata Chowk,
Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh
Tel :09425056802, 09425087827

NHDC and state government compound rehabilitation failure by colluding to allow submergence without compensation or rehabilitation

State govt. must stop installation of gates, keep submergence at 245 metres, and rehabilitate, or face legal action for dismissal of government for constitutional violation

In a criminal, completely illegal, inhuman and unconstitutional move, it is learnt that on the 17th of February 2005, the state government of Madhya Pradesh in collusion with the NHDC (Narmada Hydro-Development Corporation) has taken the unprecedented decision not to acquire or to compensate the properties of Indira Sagar dam oustees of 37 villages in the Districts Khandwa, Dewas and Harda even though they are scheduled for submergence within the next four months by June 2005. This move accompanies the reckless placement of gates, making the filling of the Indira Sagar reservoir a virtual fait accompli, while failing completely to rehabilitate and resettle the oustees and even acquire their lands and houses that will be submerged at this level.

The NHDC proposal and state government permission is an open admission of the failure to resettle and rehabilitate oustees in the 130 villages that are slated for submergence within the next 4 months, let alone the acquisition of properties in 37 villages, and is a desperate move to mask that failure. Further, it compounds that failure. No single oustee family has been offered agricultural land for rehabilitation in any of the 130 villages nor has any resettlement site been developed for them. Most of these villages have not been told and are not even aware that they will face eviction and submergence within a mere 4 months time. The complete failure of rehabilitation and the continuing reckless construction of the dam violates the Constitution, relevant law and policy as well as Supreme Court Orders. It is clear that the horrors of not one but a hundred Harsuds will be visited this monsoon in the Indira Sagar area because of the failure of the government to rehabilitate the oustees. In the situation that acquisition and rehabilitation has not kept pace with dam construction and impending submergence, the only legal and constitutional option available to the state government is not to compound their failure by taking the law into their own hands by mandating submergence without resettlement but to de-install the 13 gates already installed, maintain submergence levels at 245 metres this monsoon, and rehabilitate the affected people as per policy, law and Supreme Court directives.

As per recent media reports, the state government has decided to allow the outrageous proposal of the NHDC that in lieu of the acquisition and compensation of the properties of the oustees of 37 villages before their slated submergence in 2005, the amount of compensation due for these properties – approximately Rs. 100 crores as per the NHDC estimate, be kept in a bank account and the annual interest used for payment of damages as found necessary. It is learnt that the state government has not only accepted this proposal, it has even stopped the ongoing land acquisition proceedings in these villages including the pending land acquisition in Wards No. 9, 12 and 13 of Harsud. The justification being offered for this illegal proposal is that the said properties will submerge only in certain years.

Submergence possibility or certainty ?

It may be noted that the Final Order and Decision of Narmada Waters Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) that states in Clause XI: Sub Clause II that all lands of private ownership situated below the FRL (Full Reservoir Level) and all buildings with their appurtenant lands situated between FRL and MWL (Maximum Water Level) as also those affected by the Backwater effect resulting from the MWL have to be compulsorily acquired. The NWDT makes it clear that although lands can be acquired only till FRL, houses will have to be acquired till the highest level possible, because even a single submergence of an hour entails risk and possible loss of life and dwelling place.

Therefore, it may be noted that the authorities are required to acquire only those lands in these 37 ISP affected villages which will definitely be submerged at FRL in the monsoon of 2005. Since this is a certainty once all the 20 dam gates are put up, there is no basis for any evasion of responsibility for acquisition of lands. In fact, in these 37 villages the only properties that the government is required to acquire between FRL and the backwaters at the Maximum Water Level are houses. However, as clear from the NWDT definition, since even the possibility of dam-induced submergence of houses entails risk to life of thousands of oustees, any submergence of these houses without acquisition is willful criminal negligence and an assault on the Fundamental Right to Life.

Violation of Fundamental and Constitutional rights, Supreme Court Orders and Narmada Tribunal Award

Thus this action by the state government not to acquire the properties of the oustees at the backwaters of the MWL violates:

A) The fundamental Right to Life guaranteed to all Indian citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. In addition, the Constitutional right guaranteed under the Indian Constitution under Section 300 A which requires that ‘no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law”. Thus deprivation of the property of the oustees without even land acquisition under the Land Acquisition Act, 1896 is a violation of this Constitutional Right.

B) The above mentioned Clause XI: Sub Clause II of the NWDT as well as Clause IV (6) (ii) which states that in no event shall any areas be submerged 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 therefrom in accordance with these directions and intimated to the oustees. It may be noted the Indira Sagar dam is bound by the NWDT.

C) In addition, the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between the State Government and the NHPC forming the NHDC, also clearly states under Clause VI (a) that “The Joint Venture would comply with the provisions of the Narmada Waters Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) Award and the directions of the Narmada Control Authority, its various sub-groups and the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority (RCNCA)” The MoU also clearly states that “The Joint Venture would comply with the conditionalities imposed by the Planning Commission/Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) /Ministry of Social Justice in respect of the clearances issued to the projects by the various agencies of the GOI.”

D) The 1987 clearance of the Ministry of Environment and Forests clearly states in this regard that “Rehabilitation plans may be so drawn as to be completed before reservoir filling”

E) Order of the Supreme Court WPC 1290/1990 B.D. Sharma v. Union of India that states “ Rehabilitation should be done so that at least six months before the area is likely to be submerged, rehabilitation should be complete in respect of homestead, substitution of agricultural property and such other arrangements which are contemplated under the rehabilitation scheme.”

F) Judgment of Honorable Supreme Court dated 18th October 2000 (WPC 319 of 1994, Narmada Bachao Andolan V/s Union of India) that “raising of the height (of the dam) will be only pari passu with the implementation of the relief and rehabilitation.”

Company in adverse interest with oustees, Collusion with state government

The Narmada Bachao Andolan expresses anger and shock that public officials of the Madhya Pradesh government should so openly collude with the NHDC – a profit making corporate entity to permit submergence of affected villages without acquisition, compensation or resettlement and rehabilitation in flagrant and contemptuous disregard of the Award of the Narmada Waters Disputes Tribunal, Orders and judgments of the Supreme Court, and Fundamental and Constitutional Rights guaranteed to the oustees by the Indian Constitution.

It may be noted that since the NHDC is required to pay for the cost of land acquisition and rehabilitation of the families affected by the Indira Sagar Project. Since this reduces its profits, it is interested in either low or better still no compensation for the villages slated for submergence. The Land Acquisition Act legally bars all but the government to exercise the powers of land acquisition, since right of eminent domain that it is based on is sovereign and inalienable. Since NHDC is not the government, but is a company that holds an adverse interest to the oustees, it is legally barred from land acquisition. Therefore it is not the NHDC’s place either to undertake or interfere with land acquisition and consideration of any such proposal by the state officials is open collusion and punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

It may be noted that the land acquisition and even determination of property rights of the villages have been illegally handed over to the NHDC since 2001, and the state officials have been perpetrators and party to this colossal fraud. It is this take-over of a sovereign function by an imposter has led to minimization of oustee entitlements, huge financial irregularities and flagrant corruption in Indira Sagar and the diabolical evictions in Harsud. The Report of the Grievance Redressal Authority has found evidence of such financial irregularities and pointed out that the transfer of several crucial responsibilities and powers from the state government to the NHDC lies at the root of these irregularities. At the same time, the rampant corruption has invited multiple raids by the CBI in the last one month and officers of the NHDC have been caught red-handed and arrested.

On the other hand, it is clear that the Indira Sagar has failed to solve the power crisis in the state. Neither will it do so after the Full Reservoir Level is achieved. In fact, despite its huge submergence of 92,000 hectares and 249 villages, the ISP is designed to generate a mere 200 MW firm power. Moreover, unlike state power projects, ISP power will be available for Madhya Pradesh only on payment.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan and the oustees of the Indira Sagar Project call on the state government to immediately rescind the illegal proposal, stop any further installation of dam gates, keep the reservoir level at 245 metres till next year, and rehabilitate all oustees, or face legal action and an intensification of the people’s struggle. In the event that the state government continues with this unconstitutional and illegal action, the Narmada Bachao Andolan and the oustees will have no choice but to approach the President of India and the Governor of Madhya Pradesh to dismiss the Madhya Pradesh government.

Chittaroopa Palit
Mukesh Kevat
Suresh Patidar