NBA Press Release
  25 September 2009
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Madhya Pradesh (M.P.) High Court refuses permission to fill Omkareshwar dam

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Khandwa,
Madhya Pradesh
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Email: nobigdams[at]sancharnet.in

M.P. High Court refuses permission to fill Omkareshwar dam in the light of incomplete rehabilitation and resettlement measures

Directs that villagers should be resettled by December 2009 by providing them house-sites in command area, and suitable agricultural land

Nullifies NVDA order to withdraw the land acquisition proceedings of five affected villages of Dharaji in District Dewas

In an important judgment, a bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court comprising of Chief Justice Shri Anang Kumar Patnaik and Justice Shri Ajit Singh rejected the application of the NHDC to fill the Omkareshwar reservoir above 189 meters up to FRL 196.6 meters, and directed the State Government and the NHDC that it should resettle the oustees by December 2009, by providing them house-sites in the Omkareshwar dam command area, and suitable agricultural land. It may be noted that since the passing of the main order of the High Court on 21.02.2008, instead of providing R&R to the oustees, the NVDA and the NHDC, as well as the GRA have undertaken a series of arbitrary actions resulting in grave prejudice to the right of the oustees to R&R as per the R&R Policy and the clearances for the project.

NVDA Order dated 2.04.2009 to withdraw the land acquisition proceedings of five villages of Dharaji nullified, oustees must be given all R&R measures, including land

The High Court also set aside the Order of the NVDA dated 2.04.2009 through which the authorities were seeking to terrorize the villagers by withdrawing already completed land acquisition proceedings for the five Omkareshwar dam affected villages of District Dewas simply because the tribal oustees of these villages were insisting on land in lieu of their submerged land. The High Court stated that the project authorities would have to implement all rehabilitation and resettlement measures including the allotment of agricultural land for the oustees of these villages affected by the Omkareshwar dam in accordance with the Orders of the High Court and the Supreme Court, and that therefore the Order of the NVDA which was in violation of the Orders of the High Court and Supreme Court was of no consequence. It may be noted that all five of these affected villages which were being sought to be excluded by the authorities are located along the Narmada and would be submerged/encircled by the dam waters. By threatening to withdraw land acquisition proceedings and R&R measures for these villages, the project authorities were trying to terrorize the villagers who were insisting on allotment of a minimum of 2 ha. of suitable agricultural land as per R&R Policy, and were refusing to accept encroached grazing land. The High Court Order has put an end to the terror and uncertainty caused by the Order of the NVDA dated 2.04.2009.

Order of NHDC stopping payments of personal bank-accounts of oustees cancelled

The High Court also held that the Order of the NHDC dated 6.05.2009 asking the bank not to permit the oustees to operate their personal bank-accounts was without any jurisdiction, and that the oustees were at liberty to operate their personal bank accounts and withdraw the rehabilitation grants and other monies at their will. It may be noted that in an attempt to terrorize the oustees of the five villages of Dharaji, the authorities had stopped the operation of their personal bank-accounts, including all withdrawals. This action was patently illegal and without any authority.

HC directs house-plots to given in command area

The High Court has directed that all oustees of the Omkareshwar dam must be allotted house-plots in the command area of the project. Even if those oustees who have been given Rs. 20,000 in lieu of house-plots and who want house-plots, return the same by the 30th of November 2009, they will become entitled to be given house-plots.

Grievance Redressal Authority not to exercise power of review of its own orders

The High Court also made it clear that the GRA would not exercise power of review of its own orders, and if the oustees or the State Government chose to seek review of the orders, they would have to go to the High Court for judicial review. The High Court also directed the State Government to immediately make payments of rehabilitation grants to the 200 oustees who had received favorable GRA orders, which the State Government and the NHDC was refusing to pay, stating that they would get these Orders of the GRA reviewed by the GRA.

Double benches of GRA to re - hear 500 cases heard in single bench hearings

In 500 cases, where there only a single member of the GRA heard the oustees, but the order was signed by two members, the High Court directed that all these cases would be re-heard by the double benches of the GRA in consonance with the earlier directions of the High Court and the Supreme Court.

GRA to maintain Register of complaints

The High Court also directed the GRA to maintain a register of complaints, with registration number, and nature of complaint which would be open for inspection. It may be noted that the GRA had stated that it did not know which complaints were registered with it. Since there was a cut-off date after which the oustees were not permitted to file grievances, this ignorance and cluelessness of the GRA about which complaints are filed with it is likely to gravely prejudice the interests of the oustees.

No permission of submergence beyond 189 meters

In the light of all the above, the High Court held that since the R&R measures were not complete, and since the GRA was required to complete its hearings, and was yet to submit a report about the completion of R&R, no permission may be given for the filling of the OSP reservoir, at the present. The Hon'ble High Court therefore directed that only after ensuring that all agricultural land, house-plots, and all other R&R entitlements had been given to the oustees by the 31st of December 2009, the Grievance Redressal Authority should file a report in the High Court by the 7th of January, on which the next hearing for the raising of the Omkareshwar dam reservoir would be held on the 15th of January 2010.

The hearings for this Order was held over 8 days, after which the Order had been reserved. The State Government was represented in the case by Senior Counsel Shri Shekhar Bhargava and the NHDC was represented by Shri Arpan Pawar. The Grievance Redressal Authority was represented by Shri Manoj Sharma and the Narmada Bachao Andolan through activist of the movement, Ms. Chittaroopa Palit.

Alok Agarwal, Ramkuwar Rawat, Gajraj Singh, Samesh, Radheshyam Tirole