| NBA Press Release
|| 31 March 2005
An open memorandum to the Government of India: suspend raising the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
The situation in the Narmada Valley is very urgent and dire. There are still over 10,000 families living in the submergence area in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, affected under 110.64 metres, the current height of the dam. All this while, the processes are now on to raise the height to 121.92 metres!
BALANCE UNDER 100 AND 121 metres: In August 2004, the government of Madhya Pradesh claimed that 12,000 families were affected between 110.64 and 121.92 metres. Of these, only a handful have been rehabilitated in the last six months. The balance families are all still very much in the submergence area, whose lives will be put at great risk if the dam height is raised to 121.92 metres right now. Thousands of families have already faced submergence without rehabilitation in spite of the Narmada Tribunal Award strictly stipulating that in no event should submergence be brought without full rehabilitation having been completed. Thousands have lost their homes and fields and are facing a food security crisis. The situation is the same in Maharashtra as well as Gujarat. The ‘zero’ balance claimed at 110.64 metres is absolutely false and the situation of people is dire. There at least 10,000+ families under 110.64m height yet to be rehabilitated.
ILLEGAL CASH COMPENSATION: The M.P government is illegally offering cash compensation in lieu of agricultural land and house plots to oustees, even though this is a clear violation of the Narmada Award and the state government’s own rehabilitation policies. Cash compensation is offered and paid through intimidation tactics by corrupt officials who take huge bribes from oustee families. This process will most certainly lead to families becoming shelterless and destitute when submergence hits. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure that lives of oustees is better after rehabilitation, but obviously giving cash compensation will ensure quite the opposite, hence THIS MUST BE STOPPED.
EX-PARTE LAND ALLOTMENT: All three state governments must stop the process of ex-parte (one-sided) land allotment, by which oustees are randomly allotted land in places they have never seen, or sometimes even heard of. These lands are almost always totally uncultivable. This process is then used to show the false ‘zero balance’ figure on the website. CUT-OFF DATE FOR MAJOR SONS: The state governments count major sons as those who have reached 18 years a year before the notification of section 4 under Land Acquisition Act is published. However, in the case of submergence villages in all three states, land acquisition has been done much before the rehabilitation process actually starts. Hence, especially in the adivasi areas, many boys attain the age of 18 years and have families and cultivate a part of their father’s land, but are not given the status of ‘major sons’, by saying that they are too young. This deprives young families of any relief or rehabilitation. For example, in a village such as Jalsindhi, land acquisition was done in 1992, which is cut-off date, but rehabilitation is taking place today in 2005. All the boys who turned 18 after 1992 are denied rehabilitation, even though some of them are 30 years old today with families of their own.
‘UNDECLARED’ FAMILIES: Thousands of families in Maharashtra are still ‘undeclared’ in spite of the Task Force which brought them on record, and several cabinet decisions as well as the Jst. Daud Committee report saying that all affected persons should be declared and rehabilitated, since they are all affected by the project. The situation is similar in the interior adivasi villages of Alirajpur tehsil, M.P. The number of PAFs (project-affected families) is constantly increasing. The M.P. government recently stated in a reply to MLA Dr. Sunilam, that the total number of PAFs in M.P. has increased from 33,000 to 40,000! This is certainly because hundreds of major sons are still unaccounted for in every village in M.P. These persons still need to recognized as PAFs.
NO GOOD LAND: No adequate land for rehabilitation has been identified and purchased in all three states. In Madhya Pradesh, the situation is most shocking with the state claiming even in front of the GRA that they refuse to buy private lands, and will only allot uncultivable land from their “land bank”, most of which is completely uncultivable grazing land. In Maharashtra, land has been identified but not yet purchased, even for people affected under 110 metres itself. In Gujarat no new land has been purchased, even for the few hundred people who remain to be rehabilitated. Thousands of others have written to the GRA in Gujarat, asking for a change of land since the land they have been allotted cannot be cultivated.
RECENT SC JUDGMENT: Just a few days ago, the Supreme Court gave a judgment in favour of the NBA, in the cases of two villages that were filed. The Court stated that all major sons must be given 2 hectares of land, a provision that was being denied by the M.P. government until now, while Maharashtra was allotting only 1 hectare of land to major sons. It was also stated by the Court that M.P. cannot continue to make the distinction between temporary and permanent submergence. The immediate result of this verdict is what we have been saying for many years, that is, there are still thousands and thousands of families affected under the current height who have been denied rehabilitation and denied their entitlements, especially by the state of M.P. Now this has been supported by the SC as well, which also states that all these families must be fully rehabilitated before the dam is raised further.
There is a GROSS VIOLATION of the Narmada Tribunal Award and the principles therein, which was endorsed by the Supreme Court of India in its judgment of 2000, 2002, and was reiterated in the SC judgment which was delivered on Tuesday, 15 March 2005. Not less than 25,000 families are in the affected zone of 121 metres and the government is preparing to raise the dam to 121 metres and to flood all the families in an inhuman, unjust manner.
Our demands are clear:
As per the Prime Minister’s orders, the Minister of Water Resources, Shri Dasmunshi and the Secretary of Social Justice and Empowerment, Mrs. Sarita Prasad, are to visit Narmada Valley personally and judge for themselves the situation of rehabilitation in all three states, BEFORE the dam height is raised to 121 metres. They should certainly visit the submergence area villages as well as the resettlement sites, and should inform us in advance so that we may be part of it.
For the M.P. government to immediately STOP giving cash compensation, and instead to give people cultivable lands and house plots in a fully developed R&R site.
For the current cut-off dates in all three states to be delayed, and the date when actual rehabilitation takes place should be taken as the cut-off date.
For all ‘undeclared’ but eligible families to be declared right away and for them to be given their due entitlements.
The entire list of families claimed to have been rehabilitated and all ATRs of all three states to be made available in the public domain and to all affected families and their organizations, for them to comment on the same.
For the dam height NOT to be raised at this stage, when it is absolutely clear that thousands of families remaining to be rehabilitated, even under the current height of 110.64 metres, and not less than 25,000 families are without rehabilitation under 121 metres.
For the Sardar Sarovar Project to be reviewed, since the final cost – Rs. 40,000 crores- is financially unviable, land-based rehabilitation is being compromised, water and power benefits are not accrued and distributed till date is skewed.Medha Patkar, Ranya Gonjya, Kailash Awasya, Yogini, Ashish Mandloi, Kamla Yadav, Phillip Matthew, Raijibhai Deva, Devram Kanera, Mangliya Kaliya, Dipti Bhatnagar, Chetan Salve