NBA Press Release
  20 May 2005
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Madhya Pradesh High Court orders GRA to give Report on rehabilitation status of Indira Sagar Project within a month

Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-233162

Madhya Pradesh High Court orders GRA to give Report on rehabilitation status of Indira Sagar Project oustees of 91 villages within a month, asks State to desist from coercive action

Hearing on closure of ISP gates fixed for 20th of June 2005

On the 18th of May, in a public interest litigation case filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court Shri R.V. Raveendran and Justice Shri S.S. Kemkar directed the Grievance Redressal Authority (Indira Sagar Project) to examine the status of rehabilitation and resettlement of the Indira Sagar oustees living in 91 villages slated to be submerged by the Project this year, and file its Report to the Court within a month. The Order stated that the GRA should examine whether the oustees had been provided reliefs as per the guidelines of the Narmada Waters Disputes Tribunal Award, ie land for land, with a minimum of two hectares of land, house plots, disbursal of compensation and other rehabilitation entitlements, and whether there are any shortfalls in the R&R work.

The Honorable High Court stated that while “collecting of materials with respect to 91 villages in 30 days is a stupendous task .. but having regard to the fact that the ensuing monsoon may have the effect of submerging the villages, it is necessary to have the correct picture immediately so that appropriate interim directions, if required can be given”. On the basis of this Report, on the 20th of June, 2005, the High Court will hear and decide on the interim prayer of the Narmada Bachao Andolan that the 20 gates of the dam be kept open and 91 villages prevented from submergence by keeping the water level at 245 metres until all oustees are rehabilitated as per the provisions of the NWDTA, the State Rehabilitation policy and the Orders of the Honorable Supreme Court.

It may be noted that the Narmada Bachao Andolan has filed a case in the Madhya Pradesh High Court against the proposed submergence of the lands and houses of thousands of oustee families living in the 91 villages without rehabilitation and without land acquisition and compensation, in the monsoon of 2005. The Petition points out that the Project authorities and the State government have completely violated the provisions of the Narmada Waters Disputes Tribunal Award, the Orders of the Honorable Supreme Court, the Rehabilitation policy of the State Government, the Memorandum of Understanding dated 16th May 2000 regarding the Indira Sagar Project and the conditions of the environmental and Planning Commission clearances.

The Petition pointed out that although 91 villages of the Indira Sagar area were slated to be submerged forever due to the Indira Sagar dam within a few weeks, their residents were yet to be rehabilitated and resettled. A detailed survey conducted by the Narmada Bachao Andolan and concluded on the 15th of April has found that in 38 out of 91 villages, even payments of compensation for agricultural land and houses is yet to be given. Only 189 out of nearly 7000 families eligible for house plots have been given their entitlements, and only three resettlement sites have been developed for the oustees although thousands of families in 58 villages are eligible for resettlement. Thus thousands of families are facing a real threat of submergence without compensation, let alone rehabilitation and resettlement. Yet, the NWDTA and the recent Order of the Supreme Court dated 15th March 2005 in the case of the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar dam makes it abundantly clear that all rehabilitation entitlements such as irrigable lands and house-plots must be given to the oustees a year in advance and rehabilitation completed in all respects six months in advance of submergence by the 31st of December of the previous year. Thus, the petition demanded that the oustee families must be resettled as per policy and law instead of being uprooted in a cruel and callous manner like the residents of Harsud were displaced in the monsoon of 2004. This was only possible if the gates of the dam were to be kept open until the families had received all their legal entitlements and rehabilitation was completed.

In this way, another extremely grave issue raised in the Petition is that of the proposed submergence of thousands of families who fall at the back water level of the dam without acquisition of their houses, resulting in danger to the life of an additional thousands of families. It may be noted that the back-waters of the Indira Sagar dam are slated to extend up to 12 metres above the Full reservoir level, and the recent Order of the Supreme Court dated 15th March 2005 has made it abundantly clear that there can be no distinction between temporary and permanent submergence, and that houses that fall in the submergence of the back waters of the dam will have to be compulsorily acquired.

Shri S. Murlidhar, well-known lawyer from the Supreme Court and Law Commission member, represented the Narmada Bachao Andolan in the case. The State government and the Central Government was represented by Shri RN Singh, Advocate General, Madhya Pradesh and Shri Dharmendra Sharma Standing Counsel for the Central Government respectively. This public litigation has been filed against the NHDC (Narmada Hydro-Electric Development Corporation), NHPC (National Hydro-Power Corporation Limited), Government of Madhya Pradesh, Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Planning Commission, Union Ministry of Water Resources, Union Ministry of Power and Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs

The Petitioner also expressed apprehensions about the use of force and forced evictions by the police and the District administration to drive the oustees out of the villages. In this context the Honorable Bench stated that “We however hope that during the pendency of these proceedings, the State will not take any action which can be termed as coercive.”

Alok Agarwal