| NBA Press Release
|| 09 November 2004
False information given in the name of "Right to Information" : Sardar Sarovar not cleared by the Planning Commission
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Even as the UPA (Congress-Left) coalition that is now in the power at the Centre pledges to raise the important issue of "Right to Information", and hectic preparations are on for bringing the legislation on Right to Information Act 2004, the right to information of the marginalized people of this country, tribals, peasants, farmers, especially those affected by development projects, and on whose "sacrifice" the nation boasts of "progress", is negated at every moment. The government wants to continue pushing projects, such as the Sardar Sarovar Project, that directly affect the life and livelihood of these vulnerable populations, without giving them true and correct information about the costs and benefits of these projects, on the number of displaced persons and the strategies for providing alternate livelihood, on full and complete rehabilitation of all affected families. Pushing the SSP ahead at any cost is illegal and unjust and violates every norm of natural justice.
The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), the organization of affected people, has emphasized and demanded the Right to Information right from 1986 onwards.
This year for the first time with the decision of the Central Government, government agencies are compelled to post the information about the rehabilitation of affected persons of Sardar Sarovar Project on websites of those agencies. It is true that this information has indeed now been posted (just recently), but on accessing it we have come to know that it is significantly misinforming in many respects. The website of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) for instance, shows the balance families under dam height 100 metres and 110.64 meters (current height) as "zero". This is clearly untrue and false. In Madhya Pradesh alone, thousands of families are living in villages of Jhabua, Dhar and Badwani districts who are affected at 110.64 meters and whose rehabilitation is still pending. An estimate of the number is over 10,000 families, and yet when you access the information on NCA's website, it shows you the number of balance families as "zero".
The ground reality shows the villages of Kukshi, Badwani, Manavar, Thikri or Alirajpur tehsil as well as towns such as Khalghat (on Mumbai-Agra road), having population of thousands, are even today very much inhabited and thriving with life, having farms, schools, hospitals, shops, are bustling with populace. In these thickly populated villages of Nimad, the corresponding resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) sites are empty- villages like Amlali, Bhavti, Keekarvaas, Jamda, Pendra, Sondul, Picchodi and so on. For the thousands of families who are entitled to land-based rehabilitation, since they are losing more than 25% of their land to submergence, there is no land allotment near these R&R sites. Barely 700-800 families have moved to the R&R sites. For villages like Khaparkheda, Kadmal and others, there are no R&R sites. Similarly, for the hilly- Adivasi villages of Madhya Pradesh, like Jalsindhi, Anjanwara, Bhitada, Kakrana and many others - there is not even a single R&R site, with cultivable land nearby, identified for settling these families.
In addition, even land acquisition has not been completed for many villages in Nimad like Bagud, Piplud, Chota Barda who are affected at the current dam height, whereas they were supposed to have been rehabilitated by now. The numbers of displaced families have always been underestimated, by Maharashtra as well as by Madhya Pradesh, by not bringing on record so many affected families and keeping them in the perpetual state of "affected but undeclared".
The Maharashtra government appointed the Task Force, which, jointly with representatives of the Andolan, conducted a household survey of all affected persons and families, and enlisted all these names, declared as well as undeclared, along with the mention of corresponding height when their land will get submerged. Although, government officials and NBA activists jointly surveyed and brought out the Task Force report (September 2002) bearing names of thousands of people affected at the height 110.64 meters and who are not yet rehabilitated, the information posted on the website of Narmada Control Authority has shown the number of balance families yet to be rehabilitated as "zero".
We wish to challenge, that officers of the Central Government and the Narmada Control Authority, prove by standing in these villages in the presence of the eminent citizens of India, that the affected persons have been rehabilitated.
We would also stress that, on website, they should come out with the names of every single family out of those 8000 PAFs affected at the height of 110.64 meters with information as to where, on which R & R sites, with what amenities, have they been rehabilitated. We also challenge that we be shown what preparations have been done, and where is the land for resettling those 20,000 families who are going to be affected up to 138.68 meters, or even the 12,000 families who are going to be affected at 121.92 meters.
In the Common Minimum Program (CMP) of the UPA government, the government pledges, "Eviction of tribal communities and other forest-dwelling communities from forest areas will be discontinued". We believe Narmada will be a test case for the UPA government, where thousands of Adivasi families are to be or have already been submerged without rehabilitation, which is against the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of 1979, against the Supreme Court judgment of October 2000 and also against the CMP. We urge that the UPA government take urgent steps to stop the eviction of these tribal communities and farming, peasant communities submerged and to be submerged by the Sardar Sarovar.
Moreover, there are serious doubts about the cost-benefit aspects of the project, as there has been an enormous cost escalation and the project now finds itself in a mounting debt trap. The original cost of the dam, Rs 4,200 crores in 1983 (the figure presumed in the economic appraisal), Rs. 6404 crores in 1988, which the Planning Commission approved, has soared to Rs.40,000 crores according to the submission to the Construction Advisory Committee (CAC) of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) in March 2004. The Planning Commission has not approved this escalated cost as yet. The SSP and the Gujarat government are in dire financial constraints, as was repeatedly exposed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. (cf. Report of CAG on Gujarat (Commercial) for the year ending March 31, 2001 and Report no. 15 of 2004).
Under the "Right to Information", if the government fails to take action against those officials who sell complete lies and incorrect information to mislead the citizens, the central leaders who take decisions and questionable moves even after being proved culprits, it would be understood that the Central government is merely paying lip service to the cause of giving Right to Information. When, on other issues the hollowness of claims of true democracy in the nation has already been exposed, then the people of Narmada Valley struggling for the last 19 years can't sit in silence.