NBA Press Release
  05 October 2004
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Madhya Pradesh High Court directs GRA to investigate condition of civic amenities and rehabilitation in New Harsud

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

Report to be submitted to High Court in six weeks

In the context of a public interest litigation filed with regard to the displacement of Harsud town by the Indira Sagar Project, the Madhya Pradesh High Court passed an important Order yesterday directing the GRA to investigate the condition of civic amenities and rehabilitation in New Harsud and submit the Report to the High Court in six weeks. In addition, the High Court also directed that the GRA look into the individual complaints of the oustees with regard to inadequate compensation of houses and properties. The High Court has also directed the state government to resolve the water and sanitation problems of the oustees of New Harsud on a war footing.

It may be noted that two oustees of Harsud - Shri Harakchand Sand and Shri Dharamraj Jain had filed a public interest litigation in the Madhya Pradesh High Court in June 2004. At that time the High Court declined to give the relief sought of stopping the submergence of Harsud, given the imminent nature of submergence due to the advanced stage of construction of the dam. Since July, after the people of Harsud were compelled to leave their town under the most humiliating circumstances, the Narmada Bachao Andolan has been helping the oustees and the petitioners in this legal intervention. In a hearing on this case, yesterday, the Shri NS Kale, Senior Counsel for the petitioners drew the attention of the Court to the pressing problems of drinking water, complete lack of sanitation facilities, employment and transportation at New Harsud and demanded that the Honorable Court should call for an independent report on the status of civic amenities in New Harsud. Shri NS Kale also drew attention to the numerous individual complaints related to compensation that had been compiled by the activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in a series of camps conducted at New Harsud and asked for an immediate resolution of the problems.

In the affidavit filed in the High Court yesterday by the petitioners, it was stated that while nearly 18,000 oustees and laborers are presently residing at New Harsud and require at least 18 lakh litres of water for drinking and nistari purposes, in addition to that required for the extensive house-building that is currently ongoing, the NHDC is supplying a mere 7 lakh litres of water. Because of this paucity of drinking water, while the oustees are thirsty on one hand, on the other, the work of house-building is being badly affected. The petitioners have also stated in the affidavit that because the sewage lines are yet to be laid, and since sewage connections are yet to be given to even a single family, the oustees are facing great difficulties. So much so that women are being forced to defecate in vessels in their own homes. The Court was also informed that market facilities were yet to be set up in New Harsud, and plots for shops have not been allotted to the oustees who were shopkeepers in Harsud despite hefty deposits being taken from them nearly two months ago.

After the hearing, the divisional bench comprising of Chief Justice Shri Raveendran and Justice Shri Lahoti passed an interim Order directing the Grievance Redressal Authority for the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar Projects headed by Shri Ravindra Sharma to visit the New Harsud site at Chanera ^”for ascertaining and reporting to this Court the existence or non-existence or inadequacy of provisions with regard to infrastructural facilities at New Harsud, particularly relating to water and sanitation, burial ground, schools and roads.^‘ The GRA has been asked to file the Report to the Court in six weeks time.

The High Court also asked the Grievance Redressal Committee to consider the "various grievances in regard to inadequate house compensation, inadequate property compensation, non-grant of plots, etc" and to "try to extend to them as many facilities and reliefs as possible..." so that "New Harsud becomes a place worth living." The Order also said that "Learned Counsel for the Petitioners state that there is acute water shortage in New Harsud and water is being sold in the black market and for want of adequate number of toilets and absence of water facilities, it has become virtually difficult to live in New Harsud." The High Court directed the state government ensure that "adequate drinking water is provided and toilet facilities are increased immediately on a war footing."

The Narmada Bachao Andolan and the Jan Sangharsh Morcha welcome this interim Order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court and express the hope that it will provide relief and justice to the oustees. The NBA will extend all support to the oustees in this process and plans to invite a team of water, sanitation and town-planning experts to visit New Harsud and offer an appraisal and necessary suggestions which will be then put before the GRA and the High Court. The NBA also plans to hold a series of camps in the next few weeks to collect grievances, ensure supporting evidence and help the poor oustees as much as possible to receive positive judgments from the GRA.

Alok Agarwal
Dharamraj Jain