The Human Cost Of The Bargi Dam

1. Introduction

The Narmada is the largest river in Madhya Pradesh, India, flowing towards the west and falling in the Arabian sea. Its total length is 1312 Kms. of which it covers 1072 Kms. in M.P. The Bargi dam is one of the first supposedly completed dams among  the chain of 30 major dams  to be constructed on river Narmada. The proposal of this dam construction was conceptualised by the  Central Water and Power Commission in 1968 envisaging irrigation in 2.98 lakh ha. and hydro-power generation capacity of 105 MW. (Source: DPR, Govt of M.P. 1968).  Later the Bargi diversion scheme was planned, increasing the total irrigation potential to 4.37 lakh ha. The total cost estimates initially conceived were Rs. 64 crores which since then escalated to 566.31 crores in 1989, excluding the cost of canal construction which is estimated to be about 1660.80 Cr. ( Left bank canal Rs.565.6 Cr. and Right bank canal Rs.995.2 Cr). (Ref. Samagra Narmada Ghati Vikas, prepared by NVDA, 1997).

The dam construction work started in 1974 and was completed in 1990 when the gates were closed and the dam was filled to its complete capacity.  The  height of the dam is 69 mts. and length 5.4 kms. A lake of about 75 kms in length and 4.5 kms width, spreading over 26797 ha. in Jabalpur, Mandla and Seoni districts is formed when the water is impounded upto the dam FRL of 422.76m.

162 villages in districts Mandla, Seoni and Jabalpur were affected, submerging about 82 villages completely.  Of the 26797 ha of land submerged, 14750 ha. was ownership land, 8478 ha. forest land and 3569 ha. other government land. Among the 7000 families displaced, 43% were tribals, 12% harijans, 38% OBCs and 7% others. (Source: Plan For Roof, Report by Mr. K.C. Dubey,  Commissioner, Jabalpur Division , Jabalpur, 28th February 1987).

2. Outcome of the Dam

The Bargi dam was filled to its complete capacity in 1990. The following table shows the present outcome of the dam against the original plan:


Original Plan

Present Outcome


4.37 lakh ha.

24000 ha.

Power Generation

105 MW

90 MW

Fish production

325 tonnes

422 tonnes

Water Supply

127 mgd for Jabalpur town


Additional Annual Food Production

10 lakh tonnes


All weather highway bridge

NH 7


Tourism Development



  ( Source: Original Plan: Report of Mr. K.C. Dubey, Commissioner Jabalpur, and Present outcome: Samagra Narmada Ghati Vikas, NVDA, 1997)

The figures of the original plan, when compared with the figures of the present outcome, bring to notice the dismal failure of the dam to live upto its expectations. The overall achievement of the dam depicts a tendency towards depressing the costs and exaggerating the benefits, which in actuality cannot be materialised.

3. Bargi Region Refore Rubmergence

The Narmada valley is known for its fertile land, nature’s bounty, abundant crops, rich socio-cultural life. The submergence area of the Bargi dam once had prosperous farmers, tilling the fertile lands of the Narmada Kacchar, producing abundant food-grains of all varieties without any sort of irrigation or chemical fertilisers. Vegetables and seasonal fruits were also available in plenty. Livestock was healthy and sufficient. There was no dearth of milk and milk products. The region was prosperous and people enjoyed good mutual co-operation in times of marriages and deaths, festivals and all other occasions. Labourers working in the fields of prosperous farmers also lived a life of peace and happiness. Farmers used to make their own agricultural implements and built houses taking their necessities from the nistar forests around their villages.

The villagers were very innocent. All their needs were met from the local markets near by. So there was hardly any contact with cities. Crimes were almost non-existent. People were pious and of a religious, peace-loving nature. In villages like Bijasen, 20 acres of fertile land was communally cultivated and the produce set aside for the visiting Narmada Parikramavasis.

There were many spots and places of natural beauty and religious worship like the Padmighat temple, Meraghat fair ground, Lokeshwarghat, Do-dhara mela area, Gupteshwarghat and Nandikeshwar temple. There was good communal harmony among the Hindu, Muslim, adivasi people of the area.

4. Bargi Dam: Cause Of Human Misery

The dam affected 162 villages and uprooted about 7000 families. The figures of population indirectly affected is unknown.

Today, the oustees are forced to live in the slums of Jabalpur. They pull rickshaws or work as construction labourers or migrate to the supposedly command areas of the Bargi dam. They go in search of employment to the Patan tehsil of Jabalpur district, Gotegaon in Narsingpur dist. and even went as far as the forests Chada\Baigachek in Dist. Dindori this year, to eke out a miserable living.

The following text briefly describes the plight of the oustees.

  • Submergence :

Sl. No.







Villages submerged fully i.e. entire abadi and entire land






Village abadi fully submerged but village land only partially submerged






Village abadi and village land both submerged only in part






Village abadi not coming under submergence but other village land fully submerged






Village abadi not coming under submergence and other village land only partially submerged










(Source:Mr.KC Dubey Report,page 16-17)                         (abadi = settlement)

  • Miscalculation of Submergence area resulting into multiple displacement:

Demarcation of land to be submerged was wrongly carried out. In several villages, houses constructed by oustees on land legally allotted for rehabilitation were submerged when the dam was filled to its  full capacity in 1990. Several houses which were not acquired by govt. as they were not to be submerged, went under water. Govt. properties like newly constructed school buildings, handpumps, certain stretches of roads constructed for rehabilitation purposes, also went under water. Such examples are found in villages: Bijasen, Sarangpur, Sarra, Anakwada, Padmi, Sahajpuri, Maili, Gumti etc. Such miscalculations resulted into multiple displacement for several families, without multiple benefits of compensation.

Details of extra land which went under submergence when the dam filled up to FRL in 1990 and was not acquired previously, are as follows:


Number of villages

Area (Ha.)










(Source: ‘Punarvas Evam Bhu Arjan Par Sankshipt Teep’, Chief Engineer, RABS Project, Jabalpur, June 1994)

Some farmers were provided cash compensation as per Revenue Book Circular, for standing crops on the above land, which went under submergence in 1990.

Several houses\areas not calculated under submergence, later became islands with all their approach cut off. The acquisition of such misfigured lands and properties is still going on. Example: Villages Tinsai, Budhera, Sarra etc. 

  • Escalation of the prices of land:

Sudden demand for purchase of lands escalated property prices, making it beyond the reach of oustees to purchase land within the compensation money they had received. Oustee purchasers were also required to pay heavy registry (stamp duty) charges on purchase of lands, which was not calculated in the compensation granted.

  • High-handedness of the Forest department:

With no provision of alternative arrangement for housing sites and livelihoods to many oustees, they  were forced to take refuge on the peripheral forest lands for settlement, cultivation and nistar. The forest department came down heavily on the oustees, imposing heavy fines or driving them out using excessive force than necessary, example: villages Tatighat, Bhaliwada, Pandiwada, Gadaghat. Such treatment by the forest officials added to the financial burden of the oustees and dehumanised them further.

  • Loss of Cattle based Livelihood:

With the submergence of forests and grazing lands, cattle rearing which was a thriving occupation in the region, became a liability, forcing people to sell their cattle. Due to inadequate fodder, the cattle  continued to die of starvation. Cattle accidents became a common problem as the feet of the cattle got stuck in the wet mud around the reservoir, while approaching the lake, which was the only drinking water source available for them.

  • Disruption of village communication:

Inter village and intra-village approach got cut off  as small streams, tributaries and nalas got filled up with back-waters of  the dam. Villages like Bijasen, Patha, Lakhanpur which were at one time the thriving markets of the area, got completely cutoff from roadlinks, destroying the markets and the economy of the region. The hardest hit were the porters, petty traders, people who transported loads on small horses over short distances, etc.

People approaching markets, hospitals, children approaching schools now have to bear extra economic burden to cross the  small stretches of backwaters by boat as they need to pay the ferry. Previously they could just walk across.

The electric substation at Jhurki, Dist. Seoni was coming under submergence and was hence dismantled. This was providing power to 19 villages and about 100 irrigation wells\pumps had been energised. Today, all these farmers have their electric pump-sets kept in their houses. The area which was once irrigated, is now without irrigation.

  • Increase in Psychological Stress:

An abnormally large numbers of deaths of people between the age group 50-60 years occurred during 1990-93, immediately after the formation of the huge lake. The entire life-cycle was disrupted, the people were unable to bear the shocks of  emptiness and  purposelessness created in life. Farmers who were used to agriculture cultivation in the rainy season throughout their life, suddenly found themselves without work . The region known for rich cultural life and visits of Parikramavasis was completely disrupted creating  a  void in the community life.

Payment of compensation to the head of the joint family led to bitter quarrels over sharing of  compensation amount within the family, leading to withering of family life.

Land ownership had prestige attached to it; the receiving of cash compensation did not bring back the lost prestige. It was possible to take loan  because of the ownership of land, or to stand bail for somebody. All this was lost.

With loss of property and prestige marriages of young  people became difficult as people from outside villages were unwilling to send their daughters as brides to the submergence areas.   

  • Environmental destruction:

Forests of the submergence area were clear- felled by the Forest department, which showed unusual alacrity in carrying out the felling operations. In this regard the K.C. Dubey report states:Pg107:

‘The instructions of the (forest) department were that forest standing in the strip between FRL and FRL-4 mts. should not be cleared. But before these instructions were received, the strip mentioned above had already been cleared in Seoni and Jabalpur districts. What had actually happened was that the Forest department first issued orders to the local officers of the department to clear-fell and remove the entire forest area coming  under submergence.

In the prospect of showing increase in revenue receipt, or because of some other reason best known to them, the forest were cut as early as they could be so done in Seoni and Jabalpur districts. In Mandla, however, the strip (FRL-(FRL-4)) could not be fully cut. In the mean time, the higher forest authorities perhaps realised the dangerous and far-reaching implications of the orders to cut all the forest.

Revised orders were therefore issued to leave the strip between FRL and FRL-4. As stated in the preceding paragraph, either these orders were late in coming or the forest officers in Jabalpur and Seoni were  too quick in complying with the earlier order. Be that as it may, the fact is that the entire forest has been clear-felled and removed in Seoni and Jabalpur and the strip areas would become available for cultivation (Seoni 696ha, Jabalpur 261ha)’.

No cost of submergence of the dense forests has been considered in the DPR (1968), neither for the timber (mostly teak), nor for non-timber forest produce (NTFP).

People from 8-10 villages around Bijasen used to collect a lot of ‘Lac’ from the forest and traders from districts Balaghat and Seoni used to buy it. (‘Lac’ is used for making bangles, as sealing wax etc.)

  • Loss of habitat:

With rising water levels the oustees settled on forest, revenue or irrigation department’s land. These being small patches of land, the housing  and habitat is highly inadequate for family needs and there is no scope for expansion to start new families.

With great difficulty some of the revenue lands were regularised, but the problem still remains for forest and irrigation lands. Not having legal titles to house plots, has deprived people of access to government welfare schemes and civic amenities. 

  • Inadequacy of Civic amenities:

People having  shifted to higher grounds because of submergence. Old drinking water sources being submerged, women have great difficulty in fetching drinking water. They many times have to depend on stagnant reservoir water, especially in monsoons, example: villages Sarangpur, Chamarwah Baigatola, Maldha Madaitola, Chaurai, Hinotia.

Village people normally went to forests close to the village for defecation. In several villages, the approach to such forest areas is now cut off because of backwaters. Example villages Pipariya, Bijasen, Gadaghat, Patha, Maldha etc. People now have to either climb a big hill or cross water by small boats for purpose of sanitation. This causes  great hardships especially to women.

Children have to cross long stretches of water by boats to go to school. Patients find difficulty in going to doctors. School teachers, health workers are unwilling  to stay in such villages.

  • Increase in health problems:

Lack of nutrition due to loss of  agriculture and forest based livelihoods, has led to general decline in the health status of the affected people. People were used to traditional home remedies. But the herbal medicines are now submerged.  Incidence of diseases such as Falciparum Malaria and water borne diseases, has drastically increased. About 150 people died during Aug.-Nov.1996 in the oustee villages.

‘On receipt of a report about high prevalence of malaria and deaths in submerged villages of Narayanganj PHC of Dist. Mandla due to Bargi dam in October- November 1996, an investigation into the causes was carried out in 20 villages. Blood smears from fever cases and contacts of diseased patients were collected. Slide positively rates was over 70%, of which more than 90% was Plasmodium Falciparum. Mass blood surveys of infant and pregnant women revealed 39% and 62 % parasite prevalence rate respectively. More than 80% children (2-9yrs) had enlarged spleen. Such high Malaria prevalence appeared to be maintained by Anopheles Culicifacies and An. Fluviatilis which could not be suppressed by intensive surveillance, prompt radical treatment with 1500mg Chloroquine and 45mg  Primaquine and 2 rounds of special focal spray with DDT in October 1996 and January 1997. There is, therefore, an urgent need to develop suitable malaria control strategy by replacement of insecticides in conjunction with prompt and effective radical treatment.’

(Source: Out break of Falciparum Malaria in submerged villages of Narayanganj PHC, Dist. Mandla due to Narmada irrigation project, Central India (M.P.) : By Neeru Singh, M.N. Shukla, S.K. Chand and B.P. Sharma, Malaria Research Centre, Field station, Medical College building, Jabalpur ; article appeared in Current Science, vol. 78, no.8, 25th October 1997).   

  • Increase in seismic activity:

An earthquake of intensity 6.2 hit Jabalpur and neighbouring districts on 22 May 1997, causing  about 35 deaths and massive damage to property. Severe damages were reported from several oustee villages. Some scientists claim the cause of this earthquake being reservoir induced seismicity caused due to construction of the Bargi dam. 

  • Secondary displacement

Occupational groups residing outside the submergence area but depending upon the economy of the submerged area have suffered loss of livelihoods. Example: village artisans, petty traders, landless labourers etc. No efforts have been made to identify such groups and ameliorate their distress.

5. Governmental Attempt Of Addressing Human Miseries:

  • Compensation:

Rates of compensation paid to the oustees were as follows:


Land Compensation per acre

Min.             Max.

Rs.                Rs.

Houses per Sq. feet

Min.              Max.

Rs.                 Rs.

Trees per Hectare

Min.              Max.

Rs.                 Rs.

Phase I

Before 3oth April 1982







Phase II

After 30th April 1982 and until the revision of rates in 1983







Phase III

Since 24 Sept. ‘84







  (Source K.C. Dubey report, Table 6, Page 24)

Details of Submergence and Compensation Paid:








Private cultivable land under submergence (ha.)






Amount of compensation awarded (Rs.Lakhs)






Total number of land owners affected by submergence






Number of identity cards






Number of persons to whom rehabilitation grant has been paid






Amount of rehabilitation grant distributed (Rs.Lakhs)






Amount of allotment for distribution of rehabilitation grant





(Source: Punarvas Avam Bhu-Arjan Par Sankshipt Teep, Chief Engineer, RABS Project, Jabalpur, June 1994

‘The compensation has not covered a large section of landless families  who have been depending on the river bed (Kachhar) cultivation for generations. It has not covered either the landless encroachers of culturable govt. land.’

‘There is yet another dimension of the problem of rehabilitation of the tribal people. A substantial part of the living of the people is derived from the forests which is not taken into account while computing the cash compensation. Many amongst the landless, like traditional artisans, live on the community as a whole. As the village communities are uprooted, this group gets delinked from the traditional source of its livelihoods, which generally goes unnoticed by the administration.’

(Source: K.C.Dubey Report 1987 Table 6 and articles 2.19 and 4.9)

In some cases landless persons had been allotted govt. land several years before submergence. They invested their time, money and hard labour to make these lands into good agricultural fields. Later these lands were found to come under submergence. No compensation or replacement was provided to these oustees, example: villages Gangai, Khajari .   

  • Resettlement Plan

The report of Mr K.C. Dubey, referring to section 3.06 of the Project Agreement, maintains that the State had a clear cut policy for the rehabilitation and resettlement of persons whose lands come under submergence in irrigation projects. The report further points out that a draft legislation was also prepared to this effect.

Ignoring the K.C. Dubey Report,  the NVDA report ‘Punarvas Avam Bhu Arjan Par Sankshipt Teep’, June 1994, states :

‘ No specific R\R policy regarding PAPs was existing when the RABS project was taken up for construction in the year 1971. There was, at that period of time, only provision for payment of compensation for land and property coming under submergence’.

The contradiction in the two reports points out the confusion and lack of political will on the part of the government to implement a just R&R policy.

  • Relocation and Rehabilitation:

GOMP ordered a Divisional Rehabilitation Committee under the chairmanship of Divisional Commissioner, Jabalpur to be constituted to prepare a R\R plan for the PAPS. The plan proposed to rehabilitate and resettle 4008 affected families from only 81 villages surveyed, away from the submerged area. A budget amounting to Rs.10 crores was sanctioned for the purpose in 1988.

The Main features of the R\R plan were:

Identity card to each PAP.

Rehabilitation grant  @ of Rs.2700 per family.

Land for residential plot of size 90 ft x 60 ft

Setting up schools, dispensaries, market places, ration shops, roads, electricity and water supply arrangements in the area earmarked for the rehabilitation of the PAPs.

Opportunity of employment.

An amount @ of 20% of the total amount of compensation for houses, to cover expenditure incurred towards dismantling of his dwelling in the submerged area, and transport charges.  

  • Comments on the Implementation of the Relocation and Rehabilitation Plan:

The B.K. Minz Report ( Regional Additional Commissioner S.C. and S.T, Regional Development Authority, Jabalpur ) ordered by the Tribal Research Institute Bhopal on 1st July 1987, studied the implementation of the R\R plan.

As part of the R\R Plan, five model villages were made at Gorakhpur in Dist. Seoni, Maniksara, Singodha, Jamunia in Dist. Mandla and Ghullapath in Dist. Jabalpur. Commenting on model village Jamunia, the report states :

‘....In the name of the model village, only buildings for primary school, PHC, Veterinary hospital and co-operative societies have been constructed, which are non-functional as no such plans were envisaged by the government. A look at these  buildings suggests that the Rehabilitation Dept. has constructed these merely for  the purpose of exhibition rather than for the  facility of the residents of the model village. Serious thought has not been given to the idea of model villages that human beings are to be settled here. ......The oustees were promised five acres of agricultural land by the government, which was not provided. In the absence of any source of livelihood being provided, 39 out of 74 families resettled here have migrated in search of employment. .....These oustees were eking out a living by tilling the forest land. This was also prevented by the Forest Department so that they may die of hunger.’ 

When the situation of Model Villages is so pathetic, one can only imagine the situation of other villages awaiting rehabilitation . In most villages, the emphasis of rehabilitation work was on undertaking construction of buildings which were either of no use to oustees or made in places where no oustees had settled. Some glaring examples are:

  • Five separate school buildings were constructed in Barginagar, Dist Jabalpur, while there were no school buildings in most villages where oustees had settled.
  • Several buildings were constructed at villages Singodha and Maniksara, Dist. Mandla, which have been of no use to oustees.
  • A large building was constructed at the office of Collector Mandla from these Rehabilitation funds.
  • Some roads, buildings and handpumps were constructed such that they came under submergence when the dam filled up. These can be seen in villages Gadaghat, Bijasen, Sarangpur, Tatighat, Tikaria-Jhurki road etc.
  • Buildings were constructed in places where the govt. scheme was not functional. Ration shops, health centres etc. were constructed at places where the relevant departments had not planned to start these schemes and the structures are lying useless.

Hostel and school building was constructed at village Sukri on Jabalpur -Nagpur road where there are no oustees.

  • Transparency and Right to Information:

On inquiring with the displaced people, it was told that no information of any kind about the project was provided to the people. It was reported that when the disbursement of the compensation started, the people didn’t not know  what  were the item-wise compensation amounts - how much for the house, land, trees etc. and as such, they were not able to protest about any amounts which were unreasonable.

They were kept in the dark about the compensation rates for the various categories of their property, depriving many from obtaining their legitimate amount of compensation.

Transactions of dubious nature were rampant as the nexus of government officials and middle men entered into fraudulent deals with people, extracting money from them, promising to get their compensation amount raised to what they were actually getting, which in fact was plain deceit.

Not only was correct information kept away from people, but they were also misinformed and lured into leaving their property, by false promises such as providing five acres of land in lieu of land or else employment opportunities in the project.

Had the affected people been well informed of the project and the exact nature of compensation, much of the confusion, deceit and fraudulent transfers could have been avoided.       

6. Emergence Of The Bargi Bandh Visthapit Avam Prabhavit Sangh And Its Role:

In 1986-88, Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Ms. Medha Patkar and Dr. B.D..Sharma—chairman of  Bharat Jan Andolan (then Commissioner of S.C. and S.T. Commission, Govt. of India) visited the area and saw the plight of the oustees. There was widespread dissatisfaction among the displaced peoples owing to Govt’s insensitivity, lack of political will to address their problems, and unclear policies pertaining to rehabilitation. At the same time, peoples’ resistance to the Sardar Sarovar dam was growing stronger. Slowly, an organisation of the oustees began to take shape. In 1991, the peoples’ organisation Bargi Bandh Visthapit Avam Prabhavit Sangh (hereafter ‘Sangh’) made the demand for total rehabilitation. The movement gained momentum and led to :

  • Boycott of Loksabha elections 1991in some villages.
  • Boat Rally and fishing in September 1992, to assert the right to fish, and stoppage of auction of fishing rights in the reservoir - hundreds were arrested in Jabalpur, Seoni and Mandla districts.
  • Mass  demonstration at  Commissioner’s office, Jabalpur, Oct. 1992.
  • 55 days Satyagraha at Bijasen to stop filling the dam, June - August 1993.

The Doobenge par hatenge nahin Satyagraha (‘we will drown but not move’ agitation) at Bijasen, August 1992.

Govt. acceded to the demand for no royalty on 20% of the fish catch for self consumption and this became applicable to the whole of M.P.

Finally, the Governor (M.P. was under President’s rule) ordered the formation of Rehabilitation Planning Committees at State, Division and District level, with  representation of oustees.

Nothing much happened, which led to another mass demonstration at Bhopal by all the peoples’ organisations of the state, in April 1994.

On 11th May 1994, the Chief Minister Mr. Digvijay Singh, in a  meeting with the Sangh at Mandla, recognised for the first time the sacrifice of the oustees and accepted the Government’s responsibility for their  rehabilitation.

The State level Rehabilitation Planning Committee was reconstituted. A Punarvas Ayojan Samiti was formed at the divisional level under the chairmanship Dr. B.D. Sharma, with oustee representatives, experts and govt. officials as members. The Narmada Bachao Andolan was requested to help plan the Socio-economic rehabilitation of the oustees, based on the natural resource base available.

GOMP gave rights of fishing and sale in the Bargi reservoir to the oustees on co-operative basis, which led to the formation of  the Bargi Bandh Visthapit Matsya Utpadan Avam Vipanan Sahakari Sangh Maryadit ( hereafter Federation’) in Sep.1994 -a federation of 54 primary co-operative fishing societies, with oustee fishermen as members.

A two year long collaborative effort resulted, but was beset with problems due to red-tapism, pending policy decisions and non availability of funds etc. The government officials did not take the peoples’ organisation, the Sangh into confidence and avoided giving  proper guidance in the beauracratic maze—the collaborative effort was there in the letter, but not in spirit. Still, several plans—masterplans for roads\electrification of villages, housing, community facilities—drinking water etc., lift irrigation schemes, pending cases regarding house/land compensation etc.—were handled/prepared on paper.

Financial powers of sanction of rehabilitation schemes upto Rs. 10 lakhs were given to the Commissioner Jabalpur, instead of the necessity to approach higher authorities in Bhopal.

Beauracratic apathy was however a very common occurrence.

  • Evaluation:

A critical evaluation of the rehabilitation process during the period 1994-96 was made by the Sangh in its Samiksha Aur Apeksha Report submitted to the GOMP on 26th April 1996. It had been decided in 1994 that the Sangh would help the Rehabilitation Planning Committee in the long and complicated process of rehabilitation planning and that works of longer gestation periods and longer term impact would be taken side by side with employment generation programs to provide oustees with the opportunity of earning a proper wage. The two year period of working together with government led to several meetings and lots of paper work. But lack of policy decisions, delay in implementation of decisions taken and non-availability of funds led to a situation of very little happening on the ground, the report pointed out. A definite plan of action for the future and a time-frame were proposed in the report as well.

No response from government and no action on the ground finally led to the oustees again going on an almost month long Satyagraha at Bijasen in July-August 1996. The demonstrators were caned and arrested in large numbers. Finally, talks with the Chief Secretary, GOMP resulted in:

  • Water level in the Bargi reservoir to be brought down to 418mts on 15th December 1996, thus releasing about 2780 ha draw-down land for rabi wheat cultivation.
  • Rs. Five crores to be made available for rehabilitation works in 1996-97.
  • Land available for draw-down cultivation to be allotted to oustees.
  • Electric/diesel pumpsets to be installed for irrigation of draw-down land.
  • Every PAF not allotted land, to be provided 100 days employment in the year.
  • Survey relating to resettlement of PAFs to be conducted by a joint team of government officials and Sangh representatives.

Appointment of Director Rehabilitation Field at Jabalpur.

This was followed by the visit of the Chief Secretary, GOMP, to the dam affected area in October 1996. He promised to release Rs. five crore funds immediately to provide employment. However, the money came late, so only about Rs.3.01 crores could be allocated to various departments for rehabilitation works. Some infrastructural work such as roads, schools buildings, hand pumps, soil conservation works, electrification etc. were taken up.

But, the means of earning a livelihood—the promised and agreed- to allotment of land available for draw-down cultivation, provision of irrigation facility for draw-down land cultivation by small units of electric\diesel pumpsets and pipelines to small groups of oustee cultivators, arrangements for seed\fertilisers, ferry service in the reservoir, provision of  minimum 100 days employment in the year for every PAF not allotted land, etc., were not done.

Besides the Rs. 3.01 crores spent on rehabilitation, about Rs. 0.93 crores was used up by the Rehabilitation Division (Bargi Project) for their establishment expenses.

Further, of the Rs. 3.01 crores spent, Rs.29 lakh were spent on works taken up without consent of the Sangh. These were unnecessary, wasteful and not in priority.

The issue was strongly objected to in a meeting of oustee representatives with the Chief Secretary on 5th July 1997, being an effort to misuse government money in the same manner as the Rs.10 crore were wasted on rehabilitation works in 1988. A committee including oustee representatives was then constituted on the orders of the CS to look into the matter and its report was submitted to Government.

Similarly, another very serious issue raised by the Sangh was the use of rehabilitation funds (Rs.104 lakhs) for establishment expenses of the Rehabilitation Division (Bargi Project). A proposal was then made to cut down the size of this division and finally the whole division has been transferred to the Chief Engineer, Bargi Project. However, for 1997-98, out of a total allocation of Rs 259.421 lakhs received for rehabilitation works, an amount of Rs.94.16 lakhs has again been spent on establishment expenses of this Rehabilitation Division.   

  • Village Micro Planning:

A major effort at village micro-planning based on available natural resource of each village, was taken up by Sangh. Rehabilitation micro-plans for two villages were presented to the Chief  Secretary in the Punarvas Ayojan Samiti meeting at Jabalpur in October 1996. Since these were appreciated, NGO volunteers, Sangh activists and local oustees worked together to make detailed rehabilitation micro-plans for 34 oustee villages.(out of approx.81 villages to be considered) in the dists. of Jabalpur, Mandla and Seoni. Visiting technical experts helped in this exercise. These micro-plans took into consideration the natural resource base available in each village situation and suggested how best the oustees could be rehabilitated. Micro-plans for 29 oustee villages were presented to GOMP in August 1997. An outlay of approx. Rs.6 crores is envisaged. Some of the items covered in each micro-plan are:

Drinking water for human beings and animals.

Land treatment—Soil-Water conservation measures for land above submergence.

Small irrigation bunds and tanks.

Small\large lift irrigation schemes for land in the upper reaches as well as draw-down cultivation.

Health, education transport and communication, housing, grazing land etc.

  • Problems Remaining:

In spite of a lot of effort  on part of the Sangh ,however, several issues remained outstanding. Some of these were:

  • Distribution of draw-down land to oustees with ten year pattas, and amendment in the Irrigation Act.
  • Reservoir water level to be maintained at 418 mts. on 15th December every year.
  • Starting mini-PHCs at Iswarpur and Jamthar and mobile dispensary on motor-boat.
  • Appointment of specialist advisor to the Punarvas Ayojan Samiti.
  • Budget provision for village rehabilitation micro-plans.
  • Budget provision for incomplete and new rehabilitation works.
  • Acceptance of Jabalpur earthquake R&R policy, prepared by the Bhookamp Nav-Nirman Samuha, and other associated demands.

Irrigation facility for draw-down land.

With no action from the side of Government, the oustees were again forced to go on dharna (sit- in strike) at Jabalpur from 4th August 1997 and then  hunger strike from 15th to 24th August 1997, as well as gherao of the Commissioner Jabalpur. The agitation was strongly supported by the workers organisations and  the people of Jabalpur.

The agitation was finally called off with the GOMP agreeing to most of the demands on 24th August 1997.

7. Intervention by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC):

A petition had been made to the NHRC regarding the plight of the Bargi oustees by the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), New-Delhi, on 24th Aug. 1996. The NHRC team visited the Bargi area on 12-15th September 1996 and the case is still going on before them.

In the latest meeting held on 20th January 1998 at NHRC, the GOMP stated that:

  • Adult sons of oustee families who have completed 18yrs. of age in June 1990 would be treated as a separate family and be eligible for facilities available under various govt. schemes

There was no problem for issue of pattas  for revenue land to oustees, however in respect of degraded forest land, approval of Govt of India was necessary. A formal proposal in this regard would be submitted by the State govt. by 31st May 1998 with a copy to NHRC for follow-up. this would include requirement of cultivable land for such villages as the model village Gorakhpur. The State government would reconcile the need for upgradation of degraded forests with the need for providing a reasonable area of cultivable land for the resettled villages.

(The Sangh has completed their survey of degraded forest areas and forwarded to Director Rehabilitation, Jabalpur).

  • Regarding allotment of draw-down land the allotment of pattas was not considered favourably by the GOMP.
  • The Government was committed to keep the level of the Bargi reservoir at 418mts on 15 December but because of very unusual rain in winter of 1997, water level remained high and that there were problems in letting out water because of apprehensions of flooding downstream.

The NHRC decided to have the matter taken up at a higher level.

( It may be noted here that large quantities of water were released from the Bargi reservoir on 6-7th February 1998, causing havoc in the downstream areas. Drawdown land thus becoming available in February was of absolutely no use to the oustee farmers as the crop planting season was long past). 

  • Progress of electrification of villages would be reviewed after March 1998.
  • In the allocation of funds and in undertaking work, priority would be given to roads which have already been taken up which are incomplete at present.
  • The Sangh made a strong plea for provision of irrigation facilities for effective utilisation of draw-down lands.

The norms of the health department to set up PHCs were being relaxed  to provide better health facilities in resettled villages.

The Chief Secretary explained that the scheme had not been approved by GOMP.

The Commission decided to take up this matter with the State Government.

8. Fisheries:

In August 1994 the GOMP gave the rights for fishing and sale in the Bargi reservoir to the oustees on co-operative basis, for a period of five years. Fishing was previously done by auctioning the reservoir to contractors. In the face of a host of difficulties, the work  is going on properly through the Bargi Bandh Visthapit Matsya Utpadan Avam Vipanan Sahakari Sangha Maryadit, Jabalpur (hereafter ‘Federation’) -- a federation of 54 primary co-operatives of over 2000 oustee members in 3 districts. The Government  had already also decided to collect royalty on only 80% of the fish catch. The annual fish-catch has varied between 406 to 582 tonnes over the last four years. When the Federation started work it had received from the NVDA a grant of Rs. 5 lakh and an interest free loan of Rs.5 lakh repayable over five years. The loan has been returned in full in three years only.

A glance at the following table provides the details:

Bargi Bandh Visthapit Matsya Utpadan Evam Vipanan Sahakari Sangh Maryadit

Saliwada, Mandla Road, Jabalpur 

Comparable Annual Progress at a Glance

Sl. No.











Target fixed (Production Year)*

450 tonnes

600 tonnes

700 tonnes

600 tonnes


Total fish production

483 tonnes

582 tonnes

406 tonnes

422 tonnes


No. of primary Co-operative Societies






No. of Members






No. of Working Members






Working Days






Wage Payment to Fisher-Folk

(per Kg.) on 80% catch (Rs.)

(per Kg.) on 20% catch (Rs.)










Total Wage Payment to Fisher-Folk

48.00 lakh

67.00 lakh

48.00 lakh

54.00 lakh


Bonus/Deferred wages

5.00 lakh

5.00 lakh

3.00 lakh

4.00 lakh


Total Profit to Fisher-Folk

53.00 lakh

72.00 lakh

51.00 lakh

58.00 lakh


Annual Average Profit per Fisher-Person (Rs.)






Sale of Fish (Financial Year)

140 lakh

155 lakh

153 lakh

149 lakh


Royalty Paid

23.15 lakh

27.92 lakh

19.42 lakh

20.26 lakh


Business Profit (Financial Year)

29.35 lakh

14.50 lakh

15.98 lakh

18.64 lakh


Other Income


3.73 lakh

2.80 lakh

1.30 lakh


Total Income

29.35 lakh

18.23 lakh

18.78 lakh

19.94 lakh


  Establishment Expenses

7.01 lakh

13.13 lakh

10.84 lakh

13.98 lakh


  Provision for Tax

7.94 lakh

9.37 lakh

9.17 lakh

3.57 lakh




0.41 lakh

2.09 lakh

1.84 lakh












Ø Figures for 1996-97 & 1997-98 liable to change.

  • 16th August to 15th June

  • Problems in Fisheries:

  • The Bargi oustees’ fish federation has to pay Sales tax of Rs. 30.05 lakhs @ 6% from 1994-95 upto 31st October 97, provision for which has been made. However the M.P. State Fisheries Corporation has been exempted from sales tax since 1990. The case of the Federation for exemption of Sales tax is pending before GOMP.

  • The lease of the Bargi fish federation expires in June 1999. This needs to be extended for 10 years.
  • No hatcheries have been developed by the State fisheries Corporation in this area. As such the Bargi fish federation has to purchase fish seed from long distances to put in the reservoir.

Royalty of 90.75 lakhs has been paid by the Federation to the State Fisheries Corporation over the past four years. As per M.O.U., the Corporation was to return the balance amount after deducting their acceptable expenses for the Bargi reservoir. This amount was to be used to provide fishing nets, boats, hatcheries etc. to oustee members and for their welfare schemes. No amount has been received till date.   

9. Budget for Rehabilitation :

During 97-98 an amount of Rs. 259.421 lakh was allocated by GOMP for rehabilitation works.

Of this Rs.165.261lakh was spent of rehabilitation work and Rs 94.160 lakhs on establishment expenses of Rehabilitation Division  ( Bargi Project).

Several useful works could be taken up, with Govt. and the Sangh working together for planning and over-seeing implementation of rehabilitation works.

However, till now all these have been works of infrastructural nature and hardly any works leading to possibilities of long term livelihood creation have been taken up till now.

In Mandla district, Singodha-Mohagaon road was made of very bad quality. After inquiry by Govt. officials and Sangh representatives, an amount of Rs 72,000 was recovered from the SDO Irrigation, Narayanganj, because of efforts of Collector Mandla and pressure from the Sangh. Similarly recovery of Rs.1,30,000 has been ordered from SDO Rehabilitation Division (Bargi Project) for Padmi-Baraua mohalla  road and Kikaria-Chamarwah  road in Mandla district.

Also inquiry of some roads constructed by forest department and RES department in Mandla district is in progress.

For 1998-99 an amount of Rs.50 lakhs has been allocated by GOMP for rehabilitation works. The Punarvas Ayojan Samiti, in its meeting on 24th June 98, has asked for further amount of Rs.230 lakh from Govt.

10. Outstanding Issues:

  • Water level of the Bargi reservoir to be brought to 418mts. every year definitely.
  • Land revenue rates for drawdown land to be reduced from Rs.50 per acre to nominal for the oustees.
  • Provision of irrigation facility for draw-down land (as per Avanti Dhara Yojana) from rabi (winter) season 1998.
  • Regularisation of abadi and agriculture plots on forest land encroached upon by oustees.
  • Allotment of pattas to oustees living on irrigation\revenue land and provision of civic amenities to all such oustee  settlements.
  • Clearance of all pending cases of compensation for land, house, trees etc. within specified time limit.
  • Withdrawal of all pending  court cases against oustees relating to protests at different times.
  • Budget provision for village micro-plans prepared by the Sangh through the Specialist Advisor to the Punarvas Ayojan Samiti, already submitted to GOMP in Aug.1997.
  • Provision of means of earning a decent wage for all people who may not be allotted draw-down or other land. 
  • Provision of civic amenities viz. drinking water, nistar, school, health centres, transport ration-shops electricity etc. to all  oustee  houses and settlements.
  • Construction of electric substation at Sailwara, Dist.Seoni and Maniksara,Dist.Mandla.
  • Budget provisions for incomplete and new work to be taken up for rehabilitation.
  • Extension of lease of the Bargi reservoir for fishing to the Bargi oustees fish federation for another ten years. Royalty of Rs.6\-per Kg. to be reduced to Rs.2\- per Kg. Transfer of assets of M.P. State Fisheries Development Corporation to the Bargi fish federation. Return of royalty of Rs.90.75 lakhs paid to the government during the past four years by the fish federation. Exemption in sales tax from 1994-95 to 31st October 97 to the Bargi Fish  Federation.

Allotment of drawdown land to oustees with ten year pattas and  amendments in the M.P.Irrigation Act.

11. Conclusion

The Bargi dam project has been founded on the premises of confusion, mis-conceptualisation and ignorance, not only of its technicalities, but also of the invaluable, intimate and complex human, ecological and environmental issues . Even a superficial look into the various reports and documents pertaining to the project, points out the inherent contradictions between the facts quoted in one document over the other. 

The Bargi case amply demonstrates the type of justification of large dam projects, with the tendency of devaluing  costs and escalating the benefits, which eventually are not capable of being materialised, demand immense human and environmental sacrifices, which are unwarranted and irreplaceable. The ecological and environmental costs in fact do not even find a mention in the Bargi dam appraisal reports.

Superficial attempts by the Government to remedy the human and ecological losses, designing a plethora of expensive schemes, in the absence of appropriate policy and legal framework, only add to the miseries of people. The various  documents pertaining  to the Bargi dam make this amply evident.

The immense demands placed on financial and natural resources to relocate and rehabilitate a huge population of displaced people, the trauma, stress and miseries inherent in such processes, the misrepresentation of  the costs and benefits, are all inevitable aspects in the construction of mega-dam projects.

It is high time that policy makers and society come to terms with the ground realities of the issues involved in the construction of large dams and make clear priorities defining an ecologically sustainable and ‘Just’  development  paradigm.

It would  require a clear and strong political will to depart from the present dehumanising development and accept and face the challenge of looking into the future, with expressions of viable alternatives which are socially, economically and environmentally more ‘Just’ and humane. 


20th August 1998

Bargi Bandh Visthapit Avam Prabhavit Sangh

Guru Nanak Market,Russel Chowk,Napier Town,Jabalpur-482 001,M.P.

Phone: c/o (0761) 316919 \ 25920 \ 23432

Fax: c/o (0761) 392114 \ 316976

Contact Persons: Mr.Raj Kumar Sinha \ Mr.Rajesh Tiwari

Rehabilitation Works Taken Up During 1996-‘97 and 1997-’98

Sl. No.


Expenditure (Rs.Lakhs)

Total Expenditure

% of Total Expenditure

Villages Benefited





Drinking Water:


Handpumps (25 nos.)






Wells (10 nos.)






Piped Water-supply Scheme (1 no.)






Tube-well (1 no.)












Fruit-tree Plantation







Soil Water Conservation

Stone Bunds







Lift Irrigation Scheme (1no.)







Buildings (4 nos.)

(Godown, Community Hall, Passenger Waiting Halls)







Small Boats (15 nos.)









WBM Roads (81.25 km)





Road Improvement

(23.4 km)





Internal Roads (4.25 km)





Culverts (42 nos.)





Large Culverts, Vented Causeways, small bridges (7 nos.)










Previous incomplete works











Grand Total





(Source: Punarvas mad ke rozgar moolak nirman karya-sweekriti varsha 1996-’97, Director, Rehabilitation, Jabalpur)

Estimates approved and amount allocated in 1997-’98

(Work going on in 1998-’99, details of expenditure not available yet)


Particulars of Work

Amount (Rs. Lakhs)


Roads (incl. Culverts, small bridges etc.)






Drinking Water



Balance Payment of old works



Land acquisition for roads




(Source: 1. Vitteya Varsha 1997-’98 mein sweekrit naveen nirman karya ki soochi, Director Rehabilitaion, Jabalpur

Vitteya Varsha 1998-’99 mein prapt avantan avam punaravantan ki sthiti, Director Rehabilitation,  Jabalpur

Communication from Addl. Collector, Mandla)

Budget Allocation for Rehabilitation works

Sl. No.


Allocation (Rs. Lakhs)












(* as of 14 June 1998)

Table of Contents




Outcome of the dam


Bargi region before submergence


Bargi dam: Cause of Human misery


Miscalculation of submergence area resulting in multiple displacement

Escalation of prices of land

High-handedness of Forest Department

Loss of cattle based livelihood

Disruption of village communications

Increase in psychological stress

Environmental destruction

Loss of habitat

Inadequacy of civic amenities

Increase in health problems

Increase in seismic activity

Secondary displacement


Governmental attempt of addressing human miseries


Resettlement plan

Relocation and Rehabilitation

Comments on implementation of the Relocation and Rehabilitation plan

Transparency and Right to Information


Emergence of the Bargi Bandh Visthpit Avam Prabhavit Sangh and its role


Village micro-planning

Problems remaining


Intervention by the National Human Rights Commission



Bargi Bandh Visthapit Matsya Utpadan Avam Vipanan Sahakari Sangh Maryadit - the Bargi oustees fish federation

Comparable annual progress at a glance

Problems in fisheries


Budget for Rehabilitation


Outstanding issues





Map - Elongated Reservoir of Bargi

Rehabilitation works taken up during 1996-’97 to 1998 - ‘99

1 lakh = 1,00,000

1 crore = 100,00,000

Million Gallons per Day

Parikramavasis were people who walk the length of Narmada from its source at Amarkantak to Bharuch where it falls in to the sea, and bank along the other bank, for religious reasons. The Narmada is the only river in the country which is worshipped in  this way.