| NBA Press Release
|| 23 February 2009
Jabalpur High Court Directs Immediate Inquiry into Corruption in the Rehabilitation of Sardar Sarovar Project Affected
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Almost on the eve of the completion of the original six-month term of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into corruption in the rehabilitation of the Sardar Sarovar Project affected families, which was appointed by the High Court of Jabalpur on 21-08-2008, the High Court took serious cognizance of the delaying tactics of the Government of Madhya Pradesh in operationalizing the Commission and directed that the Respondents shall, by the 4th of March provide all requisite facilities so that the Commission shall start functioning with immediate effect from Indore and begin receiving complaints and grievances from the PAFs as well as their representation organization – Narmada Bachao Andolan.
The Order dated 20-02-2009 was subsequent to the progressive interventions and earlier orders of the High Court dated 21-08-2008, 25-11-2008 and 05-02-2009. The series of Orders are a consequence of the lackadaisical attitude of the GoMP / Respondents on the one hand and the persistent interventions of the petitioner to challenge the rampant ongoing corruption not just in fake registries and civic amenities at resettlement sites, but also in the allotment of house plots, livelihood grant disbursement, land acquisition and compensation of properties.
With every passing order, the High Court directed the Respondents to actualize the Commission and provide it the necessary infrastructure, staff and resources. It must be noted that it was only after the Court's stringent directives that the GoMP provided office facilities and some staff, even if that was a half-hearted partial move.
In the latest Order, the Court specifically directed that the Commission's demand for additional furniture and staff be urgently considered and approved by March 4th and the staff already appointed should immediately start the work. Answering to the petitioner's legitimate concern that PWD / police and revenue officials who are on duty and are deputed to the Commission's work in part-time cannot be able to do justice to this stupendous task of investigating more than 1000-2000 fake registries (as per NBA's assessment) and inspecting the quality and quantity of civic works at least 80 resettlement sites, the Court directed that all the officials appointed shall give 'utmost priority' to the work of the Commission and shall be at its disposal.
Pleading on behalf of the petitioner, Medha Patkar, assisted by Advocates Abhijit Bhowmik and Sharada Dubey impressed upon the Court the urgency to begin the inquiry at the earliest, as the GoMP is not only not making any positive move to acknowledge or address the unabated corruption, but is infact declaring all the 25000+ families in the affected areas at the present height of 122.92 mts as 'rehabilitated'! It was also pleaded that the non-serious approach of the Respondents tantamounts to contempt of court and seriously prejudices the fundamental right to life, livelihood and rehabilitation of thousands of PAFs
A couple of glaring fallacies and blatant lies that were brought to the notice of the Court are: *the hollow claim by GoMP that all facilities have been provided to the Commission so that it may start its work immediately! *the NVDA claiming to submit an Affidavit on behalf of all the Respondents, including the central monitoring agency, the Narmada Control Authority! *the deliberate misinterpretation of the Order of 21-08-2008 that the case must be heard 6 months from the date of Notification of the Commission by the GoMP!
Pointing to a gigantic scandal by way of 'compensating' ineligible properties and persons, the petitioner gave the specific example of village Chhota Barda (Tehsil Thikri, Dist Badwani) wherein 13 properties worth Rs. 40 lakhs have been identified and accepted at last by the Collector as ineligibly compensated and the amount is now being recovered from the allottes. If this is an example of only a few cases in one village, which indeed it is, one shudders to imagine how many hundreds of crores would the cumulative corruption run into!
Medha Patkar also pointed out that had the Respondents shown at least little keenness in establishing the Commission, as against pushing the Project forward in an over zealous manner, probably large amount of the mind-boggling corruption, which can probably be compared only to the (A)Satyam scam in magnitude could have been arrested.
The matter has been posted to 06-03-2009, when the Court will hear the petitioners at length on the entire changed and charged scenario of continuing corruption. The Court has also declared its role as a monitoring authority in the progress of the Commission's work and the role of the States pertaining to the Commission. We hope that in the context of incomplete to nil rehabilitation with rampant corruption, this Order and the work of the Commission would certainly be a ray of hope in the decades old struggle of the PAFs of the Narmada Valley.