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Press Release                                 September 07, 1999

Maheshwar Resettlement Claims Untrue

There have been reports in the press, on the basis of a Press Trust of India release of 5th September, 1999, that quotes the Collector, Khargone, Shri. Bhupal SIngh as saying that 13 villages affected by the Maheshwar Hydro-electric project have accepted rehabilitation and that this is a big blow to the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

As the organisation of the people living in the 61 villages to be affected by the Maheshwar Hydro-electric project, we wish to inform you that the news is completely false.

The truth is that the promoters of the project - the S. Kumars company has not offered a single project affected family " land for land" for rehabilitation. It may be noted that the Rehabilitation Policy of Madhya Pradesh for the oustees of the Narmada Projects, the Implementation and Rehabilitation Agreements that have been legally contracted between the state of Madhya Pradesh and the promoter company as well as the statutorily required environmental clearance of the Ministry of Environment and Forest all stipulate that the proposed oustees must be given agricultural land in lieu. The environmental clearance directs that land must also be given to the landless, encroachers and adult sons.

However, as the Madhya Pradesh government-constituted Task Force has noted in its report, the project authorities have not been able to demonstrate any land at all for the rehabilitation of the Maheshwar project oustees. The presigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences have also concluded on the basis of a detailed study that there is no land or credible plan for rehabilitation of Maheshwar project oustees.

As recently as 28th August, 1999, the affected people of villages Lepa, Teliyan, Sasawad, Bhatiyan, Amlatha took out a march to Kasarawad - the tehsil headquarters. They challenged the government officials to show any availability of agricultural land and submitted resolutions signed by entire Gram Sabhas rejecting resettlement sites with only houseplots. They said that the project authorities have completely failed in rehabilitating people as per policy and now are attempting to substitute full rehabilitation with 60'x90' house plots, and that this constitutes violations of the human and legal rights, as well as state policy.

It may be noted that the authorities have not even been able to give a single sqare inch of agricultural land to people from Jalud, the first village to be affected by the dam. Whenever affected people have insisted on their rights such as Geeta bai Shankar and Shantilal bhai who are losing their farms in Jalud, they have been intimidated and S. Kumars have dumped truckloads of stone on their land in order to seize them.

Because of continuous violations , and complete failure of the rehabilitation process, the two German power utilities - Bayernwerk and VEW Energie withdrew from their committment to give Rs. 308 crores -49% of the total project equity. This was a big blow to the promoters S. Kumars.

Presently, the German government has received a request for guarantee for a Rs. 523 crore loan to be given to the Project from Siemens Co. and Hypo-Vereunsbank of Germany, and are presently investigating it.

It is clear that the blatant violations of the rehabilitation policy and related legal contracts and clearances by the project authorities as well as prohibitively high cost of power to be produced by this project - Rs. 7.50 per kwh which cannot be used or purchased by any consumer, and the strong, unrelenting struggle on the ground constitute enormous legal, political and financial risks.

The Project has already lost 49% of its equity. If this guarantee for the Rs. 523 crore loan is not given, the Maheshwar Project will become a non-starter. It is in this context that the S. Kumars and the district administration have embarked on a deliberate misinformation and slander campaign, including false claims about rehabilitation.

The NBA and the affected people of the area condemns the promoter company S.Kumars and the district administration for these false statements and expresses its resolve to take legal action against the district administration, and the PTI for giving the same.

Chittaroopa Palit , Urmila Patidar (Village Pathrad)