| NBA Press Release
|| 09 September 2006
M. P. High Court judgment orders important benefits for Indira Sagar dam oustees
2, Sai nagar, Mata Chowk,
Tel/FAX: 07283-233162, 9425056802, 9425087827
Separate land/ SRG package for adult sons
No impoundment up to FRL till R&R for back-water affected families is complete
NBA to go to Supreme Court on other issues
In a very significant and positive development for the oustees of 249 villages affected by the Narmada Sagar Project, in its judgment pronounced on the 8th of September 2006, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has held that adult sons and unmarried adult daughters of displaced families of the Indira Sagar Project will be separately entitled to all the rehabilitation entitlements in the policy owed to the displaced families including Special Rehabilitation Grant (in lieu of land). It may be noted that the Supreme Court had ruled in 2005 that all adult sons of cultivators of the Sardar Sarovar Project losing more than 25 % of their lands would also be entitled to a minimum of 5 acres of irrigable and cultivable land each. It is clear that by extending this benefit to the adult sons and unmarried adult daughters of farmers who are losing their lands to submergence in the Indira Sagar Project, on the basis of similar definition clauses, the High Court has opened a tremendous new opportunity to lead dignified and productive lives not only for the displaced families of the ISP but also for the displaced families of the other projects in the Narmada valley, who are covered by the same policy.
The judgment was delivered by a double bench of the High Court comprising of Justice Deepak Mishra and Justice Shantanu Kemkar. The case had been represented by the Advocate General of the State Shri R.N.Singh as well as Supreme Court senior counsel Shri Raghuvir Prasad. The Narmada Bachao Andolan was represented by Senior Advocate Shri N.S.Kale, Advocate Shri Abhijit Bhowmik and Ms. Chittaroopa Palit, activist of NBA.
The Honorable Court also held that the properties of families affected at back-water levels will have to be acquired and the concerned families rehabilitated before the dam waters are finally raised up to FRL 262.13 meters, and has directed the Central Water Commission to assess the extent of the submergence at the back-waters. It may be noted that one of the most important issues raised by the NBA in the Writ Petition was that the NHDC and the State Government were refusing to carry out acquisition and R&R at back-water which was their strict legal liability, with the aim of minimizing the R&R costs, and that thousands of families would face submergence and death such as in Dharaji due to accumulation of back-waters during the monsoon, due to this exclusion. The NBA had asked the Court to direct that a Central Government expert body such as the Central Water Commission (CWC) to oversee the matter.
Thus the High Court has restrained the State Government and the NHDC from raising the height of the water level in the dam up to the Full Reservoir Level of 262.13 meters, until the R&R of the oustees, including those thousands of families affected the back-water level is not completed pari passu. At the present, the High Court has permitted the water level at the Indira Sagar dam to be raised up to 260 meters from 255 meters. It may be noted that the NHDC was scheduled to raise the water level up to FRL 262.13 meter last monsoon, but has been restrained from doing so because of the case filed by the NBA in the High Court.
The judgment was passed on a public interest litigation filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan in May 2005. It may be noted that at the time the NBA had approached the High Court, the State Government and the NHDC had perpetrated a regime of terror in the ISP area, demolishing houses and essential village facilities such as drinking water, and evicting people without reasonable breathing time and without rehabilitation and even compensation. The judicial intervention broke this sequence of terror and repression, and this Judgment has further provided several important reliefs to the affected people.
Rehabilitation entitlements to be given to all categories, GRA empowered for computation of entitlements and SRG , Filed study and monitoring by NCA R&R sub-group
The High Court has also empowered the GRA further to assess/ compute all R&R benefits as well as broad-based it by inducting an additional member - a retired District Judge named Shri Kasania. Thus, the thousands of families who were being affected at tapu, or those losing lands but not homes and who were desirous of their homes being also acquired, or villages where very few homes are left and the remaining residents also wanted to move, who were hitherto at the mercy of the State Government or the NHDC's discretion can now approach the GRA. Similarly, landless families or their organization can now approach the GRA to their grants determined 5 years ago to be re-assessed at current rates. In the same way, families whose houses are in submergence which has been assessed at 2001 rates can now ask the GRA to ensure that these are compensated at replacement rates so that they can rebuild their houses again.
Taking cognizance of the prayers in the petition that the State Government and the NHDC have manipulated the rates of the Special Rehabilitation Grant being given in lieu of land at very low levels because of which most of the oustees have not been able to purchase alternate lands elsewhere, the High Court has also specifically empowered the GRA to re-assess the rates of SRG.
The High Court has also directed that the rest of the lands of the families who are losing more than 75% of their lands be acquired if the families so wish, and that the encroachers who are entitled to R&R benefits as per policy but who have been left out of the ambit of R&R be provided the same.
The High Court has also directed that the R&R sub-group of the NCA to study the field situation regarding the grievances of the oustees and report the same to the GRA.
Directions for Land bank to be set up, R&R sites within 1 km.
Setting aside State Government objections about the non-availability of land, the High Court has also directed that a land bank be set up by the State Government so that land may be given to the eligible oustees as per policy. It has also directed that that R&R sites with all civic amenities be set up in the reservoir rim villages where houses will face submergence but lands will be remain for cultivation, within a km of the lands.
Thus, the NBA recognizes that the High Court Order requires the State Government, GRA, CWC and NCA R&R sub-group to play a very important role to ensure that the oustees receive their full R&R entitlements before submergence. The NBA along with the oustees will cooperate and monitor the entire process and continue to raise its voice until the R&R of every single oustee is complete.
NBA to go to Supreme Court on prayers related to land/SRG for small and marginal farmers and SC/ST and flawed land acquisition
The NBA had also pointed out that while the Rehabilitation Policy specifically provided that all small and marginal farmers would get a minimum of 5 acres of cultivable and irrigable land, even if they owned less land, the State Government and the NHDC had deliberately denied this to the farmers by forcing them to take cash compensation for less land. It had also shown that from the data of the 91 villages scheduled to submerge in the last phase alone, that around 90% of all farmers in the submergence are small and marginal farmers, and that only around 20-25% of all displaced farmers had been able to replace their lands, thus leading to the pauperization of the majority. The NBA had prayed that since the Right to Life included the right to livelihood and the denial of the land entitlements of the farmers as per policy was an abrogation of their fundamental rights, the oustees be given land for land with a minimum of 5 acres of irrigated land or the Special Rehabilitation Grant be restructured to enable the oustees to purchase the same, so as to reverse the process of pauperization. However the same was not considered by the Honorable High Court. Similarly, the NBA had pointed out that the land acquisition was not carried out by Government officials specially empowered for this purpose, which is a requirement of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, but rather by officials of the NHDC which is a corporate entity, therefore the awards were unreasonable and arbitrary, and the acquisition illegal and incomplete. However the High Court held that these awards were not nullities and have been done in an authorized manner.
The NBA intends to appeal on both the issues of the fundamentally flawed land acquisition and the denial of land entitlements to the small and marginal farmers to the Supreme Court.