NBA Press Release
  11 March 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

SOUTH AFRICAN SUPREME COURT JUDGE EMPATHISES WITH NARMADA VILLAGERS: "HUMAN VALUES ARE SUPREME IN ANY DEVELOPMENT"

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats
Ellora Park,
Baroda-390007
Tel: 0265-282232
Email: baroda@narmada.org

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

Noted human rights jurist and the sitting Judge of Supreme Court of South Africa, Jst.Yacoob expressed his whole hearted sympathy to the people of Narmada Valley and emphasized that in the case of any development project , human cost involved should be considered before material cost and benefits. He pointed out that the struggle in the Narmada Valley is a struggle highlighting the human cost of development. He was speaking at the public meetings in the Nimad area of Narmada valley, affected by the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). Hundreds of people gathered at a public meeting in Pipri village to appraise the eminent judge about the injustice being meted out to them over the years and current plans to raise the height of SSP by 5 to 10 metres before upcoming monsoon without any possibility of rehabilitation. Later on he had a brief stopover at Kadmal village and inspected one resettlement site without agricultural land.

Mr Yacoob, also made it clear that in case he were involved in the dispute, he would support at dialogue between the two parties: the State and the people, negotiation with the people and considering human cost of the project before proceeding further on a project of this scale. The judge, along with his wife Mrs. Anuradha, visited the Narmada valley villages on Sunday, March 10 and heard the people on their vision, views on the project and experiences on displacement due to the Project. He further said, "Human values are binding on all of us. Any government has to respect certain fundamental rights and human values; no killing of anyone, even if a few would be allowed either by the State or any section of our population".

Jst. Yacoob played a major role in formulating the Constitution of Independent South Africa and was active in the freedom struggle against apartheid, under the leadership of Dr. Nelson Mandela. As a senior human rights judicial activist, he is also involved in the worldwide campaign for housing rights for the poor, through famous judgements such as one on Ms.Grootbom (a poor lady's petition on right to housing against the state).

Currently he is in India on an unofficial tour and met many academicians, intellectuals and students besides visiting many institutions and exchanged views on the present political, educational and legal scenario in both the nations. His visit to the Narmada valley was a part of this endeavour.

At Pipri, the representatives from various villages narrated their experiences with the Government for the past 16 years of the struggle against destruction and for livelihood. Kamla Yadav and Ashish Mandloi from village Chhota Badada, Jagannath Kaka from village Kundia, Ambaram Mukati from Village Borlai, Shantaben from village Piplud, Vinodbhai Patwa from Bargi and Medha Patkar briefed the judge about the situation in the Valley full of legal violations. They also told him about the constructive works the movement has undertaken despite limitations like Jeevanshalas, Micro-hydel power plant and against availability of alternatives to large dams, etc. They also questioned the financial, social and environmental cost-benefit of the SSP.

Justice Yacoob made it clear that though he was a sitting judge, he is a human being. He also narrated the struggle against apartheid in South Afrtica. He said that in both India and South Africa only the first phase of struggle is over and the real battle lies still ahead to be fought.

Geethanjali Chavan
K.Sukumaran