NBA Press Release
  06 September 2004
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Gigantic human tragedy created by Indira Sagar Project unfolds with the monsoon, 20 undeclared villages submerged without rehabilitation

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

The Indira Sagar dam being built on the Narmada river at Madhya Pradesh has created one of the largest man-made human tragedies of our times by submerging lakhs of people living in 119 villages and Harsud town slated to be submerged at the present height of 245 m. The oustees have been evicted by openly violating all rules and regulations, by giving them pittances in cash and on the basis of threats, intimidation and repression.

In addition, lands and houses of 20 other such villages submerged in the back waters of the Indira Sagar Project which were not slated to be submerged at 245 m dam height at all. The Narmada Bachao Andolan condemns the callous and inhuman action on part of the Government of Madhya Pradesh and the NHDC for creating massive submergence before schedule without any preparation for ensuing displacement and rehabilitation, and demands that criminal proceedings be filed against responsible officials and that the installation of the gates of the ISP must be stayed until all oustee families are rehabilitated as per the Rehabilitation policy of the State government for the oustees of Narmada projects, the Narmada Award and the Memorandum of Understanding between the State government and the NHPC (Narmada Hydro-Power Corporation).

Uncertain and minimal benefits

It may be noted that the India Sagar dam will cause the largest impoundment till date in Asia. This dam has a strange mathematics – it will submerge 2.25 lakh acres of land and irrigate three lakh acres of land. One lakh acres of the submergence are prime deciduous forests. Even as far back as 1982, the Detailed Project Report for ISP noted that 75,000 acres of this land, ie. 25% was already irrigated. Moreover, an official study by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore has concluded as far back as 1985 that almost 40% of the command area will become waterlogged. (Ground water modelling in composite command area of Narmada Sagar and Omkareshwar reservoirs –K. Sridharan and S. Vedula, Indian Institute of Science, March 1985) In a similar fashion, this Project that has a proposed installed capacity of 1000 MW will produce initial firm power of 212 MW that will finally decrease to a mere 118 MW. Till date, the Indira Sagar project has produced a mere 750 million units of power – a mere 2.5 % of the Madhya Pradesh’s total power consumption. That too in a state where 44 % of the power is lost as T&D losses and can be saved and made available to the people of the state at one thirds of the cost of NSP power. Clearly, very huge human costs are being paid for very small benefits.

Clear legal regime

On the 16th of May 2004, the NHPC (Narmada Hydro-Power Corporation) and the Government of Madhya Pradesh formed a subsidiary company, the Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation (NHDC) in order to build the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar Projects. The NHPC holds 51% and the Madhya Pradesh Government holds 49% of the shares of this company. The Memorandum of Understanding for this Project clearly states that the NHDC will follow the provisions of the NWDT and the Rehabilitation policy of the state government. The Narmada Award and the Rehabilitation policy both state that irrigated agricultural land in lieu of submerging land will be provided to the oustees as well all civic facilities and community resettlement. The environmental clearance that was accorded to the Indira Sagar Project in 1987 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests also states that rehabilitation must take place prior to reservoir filling. Similarly, an Order of the Supreme Court also states that complete rehabilitation with land and all other arrangements must take place six months prior to submergence.

Denial of rehabilitation : Recourse to repression

Despite this well spelt out legal regime, there has been open violation of the concerned regulations and legal requirements. Not a single family has been given land for land till date. People have been given small pittances, and too after a process of humiliation, demands for graft and many irregularities. Bulldozers and police have been extensively used to vacate the villages. Resettlement sites have not been built for a majority of the villages, and in the very few that have been built, civic amenities are rudimentary and there is a complete lack of employment.

At the current height of the dam, 119 villages were slated to be submerged. 85 have already been submerged by 2004, and 32 were additionally to be submerged this year along with the town of Harsud. Although the people living in these villages should have been fully rehabilitated by the 31st of December 2003, even resettlement sites have not been built for 27 of these 32 villages, compensation was distributed in these villages a few weeks before the submergence deadline of 30th of June. In villages like Purni and Jhagdia Mal, that has not happened even now. Grants were paid even later in July and August 2004, and a large number of families are yet to be paid. Yet the villages are sought to be vacated by the NHDC by severing life supplies like drinking water, schools, electricity, as well as threats of bulldozing their houses and other methods of intimidation by the NHDC and the administration. In 12 out of the 32 villages, schools are already closed down, electricity has been severed in 10 villages and electricity for irrigation in 14 villages, and water supplies have been cut off in 8 villages. Even this year, structures have been broken in Billod Mal and Piplia Mafi with the help of bulldozers. There is armed police in almost every village.

Un-slated submergence : Criminal negligence of the NHDC

An even worse nightmare was created when the swelling waters of the reservoir spread and submerged lands and homes in nearly 20 villages that were not even slated for submergence at 245 metres, and where even land acquisition is in very preliminary stages. This includes the tribal villages of Nandana and Dantha in District Khandwa, Village Mehendgaon in District Harda and Kanherkheda in District Dewas. In Mehendgaon, a family including a small child survived by holding onto a tree for 15 hours. In addition, nearly 2000 acres of land and around 200 houses were submerged in villages Mohnia Kala, Mohnia Khurd, Bhagwanpura, Junapani, Kukshi, Kasrawad, Mahatpura, Badgaon Raiyyat, Lachoramal, Tipras, Phatehgarh, Narainpura, Khapras, as well as several others. Thus, in an action that amounts to criminal negligence, the lives of several thousand families have been gravely jeopardized by the authorities.

Court takes up Harsud rehabilitation issue

The story of the people of Harsud forced to break their own homes in the middle of the monsoons and their plight at Chanera is of course well known. In a recent development, on the 31st of August 2004 a bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of Chief Justice Shri Ravindran and Justice K.K Lahauti have directed the petitioners and Harsud residents Shri Harakchand Sand and Shri Dharamchand Jain to submit a list of rehabilitation related problems and needs. The Advocate General has undertaken to solve the problems within a specified time frame.

Rehabilitation for the oustees, punishment for guilty officials

The Narmada Bachao Andolan and the forum of 17 people’s organizations in Madhya Pradesh – the Jan Sangharsh Morcha, deplore and condemn this deliberately created human tragedy and demands that there should be a judicial enquiry into the criminal negligence and dereliction of duty on part of the NHDC and government officials that has resulted in illegal submergence without rehabilitation in this and earlier years, that culpability be fixed and the responsible officials punished. Moreover, criminal proceedings must be immediately filed against the concerned NHDC officials in all cases where houses were submerged without acquisition, and loss of life was possible.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan also demands that the installation of the gates of the dam must be stalled and that all families whose crops, homes and belongings have been submerged without rehabilitation must be compensated the full amount of their loss, as assessed by the revenue authorities, and be immediately rehabilitated, with the construction of rehabilitation sites, and offer of irrigated, agricultural land as per the Narmada Award and the Rehabilitation policy. Further, the NBA also demands a comprehensive level re-survey of all submerging villages to assess the actual extent of the submergence to be caused by the Indira Sagar Project, as well as an enquiry into the grave financial irregularities and denial of rehabilitation that has occurred in the case of Harsud.

The NBA and the Jan Sangharsh Morcha will support and assist the petitioners in the Harsud case to prepare a compilation of problems, grievances and needs of the oustees through a series of public hearings at Chanera and Harsud on the 10th, 11th and 12th of September. Additionally, the NBA will file a new petition on the issues of the people of the 248 villages affected by the dam. The Narmada Bachao Andolan is also preparing and organizing the ISP affected people for a long and sustained struggle and for public protest to seek their rights and entitlements.

Alok Agarwal
Nandabai, Village Badgaon Raiyyat
Anandram, Village Bhagwanpura
Amarsingh Mukati, Village Lachora Mal
Harakchand Sand, Harsud