Narmada Samachar: 24 October 2001

Headlines


All this (and more) news can be accessed via the Press Clippings page at:
     http://www.narmada.org/pressclippings.html
The NBA press releases are accessible at:
     http://www.narmada.org/pressrelease.html

Archives of Narmada Samachar are accessible at:
     http://www.narmada.org/scripts/subscribe.html



Maheshwar Dam: Diversion of funds by S.Kumars

Press Releases

NBA calls on RBI to freeze account of S.Kumars company Induj Enertech Ltd.
and institute enquiry, asks SEBI to disallow proposed IPO or ensure disclosure
;
NBA Press Release - October 22

S.Kumars divert over Rs. 100 crores of public funds earmarked for
Maheshwar Hydro Project to its other companies, defaults on other
public loans and payments; NBA calls upon FI's not to finance another Enron,
ask for judicial enquiry
;
NBA Press Release - October 17

Press Clippings

NBA alleges diversion of funds ;
The Hindu - October 18



Sardar Sarovar Dam: One year since the Supreme Court judgment

Press Releases

Rallies In Narmada Valley and Outside On "Black Day" 18th Oct.
Assumptions in verdict belied: No resettlement upto 90 m.
Call to review Court decision: Protect people's rights
;
NBA Press Release - October 19

News Clippings

NBA protests seeking review of SC verdict ;
The Hindu - October 21

Why They Call It a Black Day ;
Dilip D'Souza; Rediff on the Net - October 19

...

In the majority judgment that decided the case, Justice B N Kirpal
observed: The Government ... did not accept the [Morse] Report and
commented adversely on it. In view of the above, we do not propose,
while considering the petitioners' contentions, to place any reliance
on the report of the Morse Committee. 

But the Government of India was itself the first respondent in the
case! This positively baffles my non-lawyerly mind. How can a
respondent's view of evidence that is critical of that respondent
be allowed to decide whether a court considers such evidence at all?
After all, if you are a murderer facing trial, and the prosecution
produces a murder weapon as evidence, would it be OK for you to tell
the court: 'I don't like that gun. Please do not consider it as
evidence.' Would it be OK for the court to pay heed to you and throw
the gun out without examining it? 

I read the judgment very carefully, looking for a sign that the court
had rejected the Morse Report for more tangible reasons. I found none.
The government's mere dislike of the report appeared to have been
good enough. 

And yet, elsewhere in the judgment, Justice Kirpal quotes approvingly
from another report -- one he doesn't name -- by the World Bank.
He says: The cost and benefit of the project were examined by the
World Bank in 1990 and the following passage speaks for itself: 

"The argument in favour of the Sardar Sarovar Project is that the
benefits are so large that they substantially outweigh the costs
of the immediate human and environmental disruption. ... [etc]." 

...
A fight against odds ;
Rajni Bakshi; The Hindu - October 21

It was the final day of the Narmada Bachao Andolan's monsoon Satyagraha.
There was a festive gathering, in village Domkhedi, on the banks of what
was once a river. About two thousand people sat listening to a 14-year-old
boy who had gone to meet the President in New Delhi.

...

The day after the children's visit to Rashtrapati Bhavan the President
sent a message saying that he had got the appeal and thanked the children
for coming from so far away. On September 6, the last day of the
Satyagraha, Magan conveyed a hopeful message to his elders. The President
promised that their journey wouldn't be wasted. ``He will do something to
help us,'' Magan said as he stood in front of a grand tree which has a red
line painted across its trunk. That red line is where water would reach if
the Sardar Sarovar Dam were filled to its current 90-metre height. If
there had been a heavy monsoon this year, that Satyagraha site would have
gone under water. The dense crop of grain, standing tall all over
Domkhedi, would also have gone waste.

...

Implementation of the Daud Committee report has been one of the main
demands of this year's Satyagraha and the recent action in Mumbai. The
dharna in Mumbai was finally lifted only after the State Government gave
assurances about rapid action on several of the Andolan's demands.

These assurances relate only to project-affected villages in Maharashtra.
There is a much larger area facing submergence in Madhya Pradesh and that
battle has to be fought with the State government in Bhopal. Yet the gains
of the Mumbai action will have a wider impact.

The most important gain is that the Ministers of the Maharashtra
government have acknowledged errors in earlier reports they submitted to
the Supreme Court on progress in rehabilitation work. It has now been
officially accepted that there are thousands of families who have already
been displaced without adequate rehabilitation. It follows then that there
can be no further construction of the SSP, until there is dramatic
improvement in the status of rehabilitation work.

However, these gains are offset by the fact that the Madhya Pradesh
government is going ahead with work on several other dams, on the Narmada,
even after acknowledging that there is not enough land available for full
rehabilitation of the displaced families. That is why those children from
the Valley went to meet the President of India, who is specially empowered
to protect the rights of Adivasis and Scheduled Castes.

To a pessimist, the President's promise to those children may look like a
straw in the wind.

But for those who lend their energy to Satyagraha in the Valley, it is one
more reason for hope and perseverance.


Other NBA press releases

Farmers of Narmada took out massive rally; Determined to fight eviction and State terrorism ;
NBA Press Release - October 13

Veteran social activist Dashrath Tatya Patil passes away in Dhule;
Narmada and people's movements in Maharashtra lose their comrade
;
NBA Press Release - October 23



Feature Article: A victory for the NBA - Anupama Katakam

Frontline, Oct 13 - 26, 2001 -

IN what is seen as a positive development in the matter of resettlement of
people affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) in Maharashtra, the
State government has put together a plan that not only involves the
participation of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) but also promises the
formulation of the long-awaited master plan for rehabilitation and
resettlement. The NBA's leader Medha Patkar and six activists ended their
10-day-old hunger strike on the issue on September 27, after the
government conceded most of their demands.

The NBA, which has been spearheading the agitation of the people evacuated
by the dam, seeks the implementation of the recommendations of the Justice
S.M. Daud Committee as well as a review of the controversial land rights
and resettlement issues. Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh assured Medha
Patkar that a complete verification of the Project-Affected People (PAP)
would be done before any further decision on the dam height was taken.
Furthermore, he said the Daud Committee report, which was submitted over
two months earlier, would be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting.

Medha Patkar, who came close to being administered intravenous fluids,
welcomed the breakthrough. "This is a major step forward," she said. "But
breaking this fast does not mean the end of an ordeal. The real painstaking
fight lies ahead when we try to get these promises implemented."

The NBA had demanded that the process of verification of the
Project-Affected Families should be done through village-wise surveys at
heights of 90 metres, 93 metres, 100 metres and the full dam height. The
government said it would consult the Narmada Control Authority on a
re-survey and ensure that the survey and the verification were done within
two months. For this it will appoint a task force as demanded by the NBA.
Representatives of the NBA and the Punarwarsan Sangharsh Samiti (PSS) will
be part of the task force, which will be headed by the Divisional
Commissioner of Nashik.

In addition, a letter from Principal Secretary (Rehabilitation) R.K
Bhargava to the NBA states that a new planning group, which will include
NBA members, will be formed to draft a comprehensive master plan for
rehabilitation. Surveys would be done to take stock of the resettlement
work and detect lacunae, if any. A Secretary-level overview committee
would supervise the implementation of the whole programme, the letter
said.

The government also told the NBA that it would not stand in the way of
providing land rights to 33 affected tribal villages in Akrani tehsil of
Nandurbar district - an important demand of the NBA. Until recently the
government had used a High Court case pertaining to the conversion of
forest settlements to legitimate revenue villages to deny land rights to
the affected tribal people and other villagers. The Bombay High Court is
expected to hear the matter on October 10.

The NBA argues that these so-called forest villages were formed before the
promulgation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and a proposal to
designate them as revenue villages was ready by 1986-87. However, the
government delayed the notification and finally issued it only in 1992.
"This process cannot be cancelled arbitrarily, as the government did in
1994 by cursorily cancelling the notification of 1992," an NBA statement
said.

The dharna by NBA activists and the hunger strike by Medha Patkar were
part of the Andolan's protracted struggle against the governments of the
three States "benefiting" from the SSP. "The Maharashtra government may
have conceded the NBA's demands, but it remains to be seen whether it is
just a tactic to pacify me and get me to end the hunger strike," Medha
Patkar told Frontline. She believes that without the "political will,
issues relating to the SSP will never be resolved". The government, she
said, appeared to be making some effort, but a number of problems
remained. For instance, she wondered whether there was enough land to be
given as compensation. Madhya Pradesh was willing to provide monetary
reparation, but that was not the solution in the case of people who had
lost acres of cultivable land, she argued. "Piecemeal solutions will not
do," said Medha Patkar. She wanted a master plan that looked at the larger
issues. The Maharashtra government has agreed to formulate this plan but
NBA activists are sceptical about it reaching fruition. After all, in its
judgment permitting the project authorities to go ahead with the
construction of the dam, the Supreme Court stipulated that a master plan
for rehabilitation and resettlement be presented to it within 40 days of
the ruling. The deadline expired last year and there has been no mention
of it since. This, the NBA said, had led it to understand that the
governments had no intention of looking at the larger picture.

A government official told Frontline that one of the biggest difficulties
the Maharashtra government faced was in compensating for the lost of land
with land: "We are in the process of purchasing land but there is not
enough land available for distribution when the dam reaches its full
height." There does not seem to be enough land even for those who were
affected by the dam when its height reached 90 metres. According to the
NBA's figures, of the 144 families displaced at the 90-metre height, only
69 have been resettled. Should the dam height be increased, as many as
1,061 families in Maharashtra could be displaced.

NBA activist Clifton Rozario said the government cleared 2,700 hectares of
forest land in 1990 to resettle those who had been displaced.
Subsequently, it cleared another 1,500 hectares. Of the 4,200 hectares,
795 hectares was not cultivable. Rozario claimed that in Maharashtra
approximately 20,000 hectares would be affected by the dam. "How can 4,200
hectares replace 20,000 hectares?" he asked. He pointed out that those who
were resettled in 1994 had not yet been given land titles. "It means that
tomorrow the land can be snatched away from them without any explanation,"
he said. "The Chief Minister has promised us that the land titles will be
given within the next three months," he added.

WHAT is resettlement and when is a family resettled? According to the
World Bank's guidelines, the purpose of resettlement is to help a family
regain its previous standard of living. By that yardstick, the resettlement
and rehabilitation plans of the governments of Maharashtra and the other
State governments concerned were failures, said Rozario. In Maharashtra,
none of the five resettlement sites in Taloda met the standard requirement,
he said.

In fact, the Committee to Assist the Resettlement and Rehabilitation of
Sardar Sarovar Project-Affected People, headed by Justice S.M. Daud,
exposed the Maharashtra government's failed resettlement and rehabilitation
efforts. Its report brings out the inherent inadequacies in the resettlement
process. These include the non-availability of land, incorrect enumeration
of the project-affected Adivasis, non-granting of land rights, unequal
resettlement policy and bureaucratic corruption. It places the blame for
most of these on the absence of a master plan for rehabilitation.

A physical verification of the project area, it states, shows that the
resettlement of those displaced at a dam height of 90 metres is yet to be
completed. It is against increasing the height of the dam before families
that have already been displaced are resettled. Additionally, owing to the
non-availability of land, hundreds of displaced tribal people have no
source of income, the report says. Members of the Committee, who visited
resettlement villages, say the sites "lack almost all the basic facilities
required for habitation. One of the greatest shortcomings is the
non-availability of water even for cooking and drinking."

The Committee was formed after people from the 33 affected villages
protested for three days in Mumbai in January demanding an independent
review, within the framework of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award
(NWDTA), of the plight of those who had been relocated and those who were
in the submergence zone. In fact, Deshmukh announced the formation of two
independent committees, to review the rehabilitation status of the persons
displaced in Maharashtra and to do a cost-benefit analysis of the SSP for
Maharashtra. While the Daud Committee reviewed the status of the affected
people and submitted its report on July 3, 2001, the second committee
remained only on paper. Now the State government has said it will
constitute a study group to do a cost-benefit analysis of the project. The
report is expected in six months.

FOREMOST among the Daud Committee's recommendations is the one to alter
the definition of "project-affected persons" by including all those
affected by every type of construction related to the dam. In addition,
the committee suggests that the government undertake a fresh survey to
determine the number of families that would be affected and the compensatory
acreage as part of the process of granting land rights, using the
unpublished official surveys of 1985-86.

The Committee, having surveyed much of the area, recommended that for the
loss of agricultural income the tribal people should receive monetary
compensation, in addition to land, for a period of at least 50 years. For
those who have been deprived of their houses and agricultural land because
of submergence but have not been placed in possession of cultivable land
and house plots, it suggests a compensation of Rs.3,000 an acre a year
from the date of ouster to the date on which they are placed in undisturbed
legal possession of new land. "What we prescribe is far less than what the
tribals are entitled to. Their loss is irreparable," the report says.

Much of the report's contents are common knowledge. Now it has been
officially documented. Unfortunately, when the report was presented to the
government, it was labelled "anti-dam and pro-NBA". Perhaps that explains
the government's indifference to discussing it and, of course, its
implementing the recommendations.

One of the critical requirements of the NWDTA is that the rights of the
displaced Adivasis are ensured before work on the dam begins. It states
that any individual or community facing submergence owing to proposed
construction should be rehabilitated one year before actual submergence.
This norm has been consistently violated, says Rozario. Once the reviews
and surveys are complete and are presented to the Narmada Control
Authority, if the government does not provide adequate resettlement before
increasing the height of the dam, that will be in complete violation of
the law, he says. Given the history of the struggle, the NBA wants to make
sure every project-affected person is accounted for.