NBA Press Release
  19 November 2001
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

The Supreme Court Must take Note of Illegal Move : Demand to Dismiss the Proposal

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Prominent persons and various organizations in Maharashtra have condemned the latest move by the Madhya Pradesh government by which it has proposed an amendment in the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal (NWDT) Award, to give the cash compensation to the people affected by the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). Former Minister in the state and the President of Rashtra Seva Dal, Bhai Vaidya, noted jurist Dr. S.P. Sathe, pioneer of Pani Panchayat, Vilasrao Salunkhe and others have termed this as a sinister move to deny the land for the SSP oustees.

In a letter to the Chairman of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) Sub-Group of Narmada Control Authority (NCA), they demanded to dismiss such a proposal at the outset, and that the Madhya Pradesh government and other governments should be restrained from violating the law and the rights of the people in the Narmada valley.

The state government has made such a proposal in the 50th meeting of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement (R&R) sub-group of the NCA held on August 29, 2001 in Bhopal. It has proposed to give cash compensation instead of the cultivable land for the oustees, which is binding on the government according to the provisions of the tribunal. Obviously this was done because the state has no land to resettle more than 35,000 project affected families in Madhya Pradesh itself.

Mr. Vaidya and others pointed out the contradictory stance of the governments. They said, " It is curious that, all the state governments M.P., Gujarat and Maharashtra- along with the Union government were swearing by the NWDT Award as sacrosanct in and outside the Supreme Court till the other day. However, when they find it hard to resettle the project-affected people according to the provisions of the same NWDT Award, the state governments have no hesitation to change the Tribunal. Clearly, this move is aimed to absolve any responsibility to resettle the people with cultivable land, on the promise of which the project was undertaken."

They made it clear that such a move to amend the NWDT Award will have serious legal, judicial and political fallout. They warned against:

  • Any attempt to violate the law, i.e. the NWDT Award, that too without giving any information to the people and without any meaningful debate and consultations with the oustees' organization.
  • This also violates the Supreme Court order of 18th October 2000, in which the Court has unequivocally laid down that the land-based resettlement should be done as per the NWDT Award.
  • Most important, it will be the denial of the land and displacing the people with the cash compensation. It is the betrayal of the people and violation of their right to life and livelihood.
  • Such a move violates the fundamental rights of the people enshrined in the Constitution of India.

They demanded that, if the state governments cannot provide land for the PAFs, the NCA should suspend the work on the dam, re-think of alternatives to the project. In no case the dam work be pushed ahead at the cost of the people. They also opined that the Supreme Court must take suo moto cognizance of this violation of its own order in October 2000.

Along with Mr. Vaidya, Dr. Sathe, R.P. Nene of People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) Ms. Vidya Bal (Writer and Journalist), Dr. M.A. Ghare (senior geologicst and Chairman, AFARM), Vasant Palshikar (Editor, Navbharat), Sanjay M.G.(National convenor, National Alliance of People's Movements), Gajanan Khatu (Samajwadi Jan Parishad),Ulka Mahajan ( Shoshit Jan Andolan) and others sent the letters to the Chairman of R&R Sub-group and also to the President of India and Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Similar appeals have reached to the concerned governments from all over India.

Sanjay Sangvai