Jan Sangharsh Morcha
Press Release

  02 September 2004
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

State government must solve Harsud oustee’s problems : Madhya Pradesh High Court

Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-233162
Email: nobigdam@sancharnet.in

On the 31st of August 2004, in a hearing on the Harsud case, a two member bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court at Jabalpur comprising of Chief Justice Shri Ravindran, and Justice K.K. Lahaouti directed the petitioners to file a list of the problems and areas of needs of the Harsud oustees who have been displaced to Chanera. The Advocate General of Madhya Pradesh Shri R.N.Singh gave an undertaking that the state government would take immediate action on these issues. The next date of the hearing is fixed for 4th October 2004.

It is noteworthy that Shri Harakchand Sand and Shri Dharamraj Jain, residents of Harsud had filed a case in the Jabalpur High Court in May 2004 on the issue of the displacement of the Harsud oustees without their rehabilitation. In this context, on the 23rd of August 2004, the petitioners had submitted a fresh affidavit in the High Court asking for the appointment of a Commissioner to investigate how the Harsud oustees were forced to flee their city without rehabilitation as per rehabilitation policy and Narmada Waters Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA). The petitioners had asked for strictures to passed against the responsible officials for the enormous distress caused to the oustees and the blow to dignity as well as the violations of the rehabilitation policy and the stipulations of the Narmada Award. In this regard the two-member bench had directed that the state government file their reply on the 31st of August, 2004.

The petitioners also documented the huge problems with education, health, and potable drinking water, and almost complete lack of drainage, sanitation, and toilet facilities at the New Harsud site at Chanera. In their petition, they had filed an Investigation Report of the health conditions at New Harsud conducted by independent health professionals – Dr. Ashish Gupta, Amulya Nidhi and Ms. Rinchin. The Report had found that there were three parallel epidemics raging at the site – gastro-enteritis, malaria and fever, and skin ailments, and that 97% of the households surveyed had sickness. The team had also collected water from the tankers supplying water to the families living at Chanera, and submitted it for examination to a Government laboratory at Bhopal. The report of the Laboratory was that there was fecal contamination in the water – ie. 28 counts of E-Coli bacteria per 100 ml of water, rendering the water completely unpotable. As a result, there was a huge outbreak of gastro-enteritis at the site.

For the oustee families living with small daily supplies of tanker water, with the setting up of private toilets forbidden since the sewage lines are yet to be set up, and with almost no usable public toilet facilities at the site, and nearby field owners hostile to them, having to walk 3-4 kms to go to a secluded place, several times a day because of stomach related complaints is unbearable. Because of the lack of drainage and the undulating nature of the site, water courses through the houses, and rain pours in through the temporary shelters built of malba and plastic.

On the 31st of August 2004, the state government and the NHDC filed their progress report of conditions at the site, with colorful photos and the contention that there is rapid progress. However Shri Kale, Senior Counsel for the petitioners disputed this hotly and showed alternative photographs and reiterated the demand for a Commissioner.

The Advocate General speaking on behalf of the state government said that the complaints brought forward by the petitioners would be immediately solved and the state government was serious and would take forward the rehabilitation process. Senior Counsel Shri Kale reminded the AG and the Court that the state government was serious about the rehabilitation of the oustees of Harsud since 1984 and yet no progress had taken place till date. It may be noted that the lands of Chanera began to be acquired for the rehabilitation of the Harsud oustees as far back as 1984, but civil works such as roads, drainage, etc began only in March –April 2004, plots were distributed in June and July 2004, yet people were compelled to break their homes and leave Harsud on the 30th of June 2004, to come to Chanera, homeless and vulnerable in the monsoons.

The AG undertook to solve the problems brought to light by the petitioners and the Court directed the Petitioners to file a list of their problems and shortcomings in rehabilitation as soon as possible, so that the state government can take immediate action on the same.

Shri Kale also drew the attention of the High Court towards the plight of the rural oustees of the 32 villages slated to be submerged this year, who are yet to be rehabilitated, as well as that of the oustees of the 17 villages not slated for submergence at 245 metres, but whose homes and lands were submerged this year itself. The bench pointed out that these issues were beyond the scope of the present petition. However, when Shri Kale stated that they would file a fresh petition on this matter, the Honorable Justices assured that they would entertain such a petition.

In the coming fortnight, with the support of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and Jan Sangharsh Morcha, Madhya Pradesh, the petitioners will collect the problems of the oustees at New Harsud through a series of public meetings and hearings. It is also intended that the petition highlighting the problems of the rural oustees will be filed in the Jabalpur High Court very soon.

Alok Agarwal
Chittaroopa Palit
Dharamraj Jain