Narmada Samachar: 8 January 2001


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News related to the appointment of independent committees to review SSP by the Maharashtra Government

NBA Press Releases

Government of Maharashtra appoints independent committees
to review Sardar Sarovar Project
NBA Press Release - Jan 4, 2001
Sardar Sarovar Oustees 'Seize' Mumbai;
Ministers Support the cause of Narmada Bachao Andolan
NBA Press Release - Jan 2, 2001
Maharashtra Govt. should not succumb to pressure by Gujarat;
No work on SSP before assessments by independent committees
NBA Press Release - Jan 8, 2001

News Clippings

Fact-finding panels on SSP to be set up ; The Hindu - Jan 5
State govt. agrees to NBA demands ; Times of India - Jan 5
Committee to study dam's effect on tribals ; Indian Express - Jan 4
Where is the land, question dam-hit people ; Times of India - Jan 3
Gujarat reacts sharply to State on Narmada panel ; Indian Express - Jan 7
CMs to meet on Jan 10 over Narmada dam ; Times of India - Jan 3

Arundhati Roy Interview

Scimitars in the Sun - N.Ram interviews Arundhati Roy ; Frontline; Volume 18 - Issue 01, Jan. 06, 2000 - Jan. 19, 2001
Recently, Roy has been sharply criticised, notably by the
historian-cum-cricketologist Ramachandra Guha, for her writing
as well as her personal support for the movement, and also
for her intervention on the nuclear and privatisation issues.
Guha, in fact, has publicly advised her to confine herself
to fiction. 


In this exclusive, which is our Cover Story, the writer speaks
about the issues she espouses, her response to her critics,
and her views on a writer's place in society.

Other relevant news headlines and articles

NBA Press Releases

Thousands celebrate withdrawal of US power utility from Maheshwar Project,
protest indiscriminate globalisation and privatization;
People's strength will prevail over the profit motives of private companies and multinationals
NBA Press Release - Jan 7, 2001

News Clippings

Petition against Medha Patkar in SC ; Indian Express - Jan 6
Narmada water to Maliya by Dec, says Keshubhai ; Indian Express - Jan 2
State to step up work on Narmada dam ; Times of India - Jan 2
Nothing can stop SSP -- CM ; Indian Express - Jan 1
Saurashtrians enraged over water crisis ; Times of India - Jan 4
That sinking feeling ; The Week; Issue dated Jan 7th, 2001
The story of us ; Kuldip Nayar; Indian Express - Jan 2, 2001

Feature Article: Potato Head Hypothesising - Dilip D'Souza

Rediff on the Net - Jan 4

Mr Potato Head cheats you of several hundred thousand rupees in a business
deal. Naturally annoyed by this, you take PH to court to recover your
money. By way of evidence, you produce before the court various papers from
your deal that demonstrate his crooked ways, that spell out exactly how Mr
PH cheated you.

This being a court case, Potato Head can look at these papers too. He does
so. Then he tells the court: "I don't agree with what's in these papers. I
reject them." Which disagreement, presumably, is entirely natural. After
all, the papers do point out his multifarious misdeeds.

How do you think the court should react to what Mr PH says? My answer to
that would be: it should examine the papers itself and take a decision on
whether to admit them as evidence. Certainly PH is entitled to his opinion
on the merit of the papers, but that's no reason either to accept or reject
them in court.

Yes, I would certainly expect the judges to decide on the merits of any
evidence that implicates Mr PH independently of whatever Mr PH thinks of
the evidence. In fact, even though I have no training at all in law, this
seems entirely self-evident to me.

Bear with me, this is going somewhere. I offer you this Potato Head
hypothesis because I know of a recent petition in real life that one party,
let's call it the NBA, filed against another party, let's call it the Union
of India. In support of its case, the party we are calling the NBA produced
as evidence in court a report that was released back in a year we'll call
1992. This report, let's call it the Morse report, is extremely critical of
the party we are calling the Union of India. It explicitly points out the
UofI's failures in the very matter the petition raises. Naturally, the
Union of India rejected it when it was released.

Yes, I would certainly expect the judges to decide on the merits of
evidence -- this Morse report -- that implicates the UofI, independently of
whatever the UofI thinks of that evidence. In fact, even if I have no
training at all in law, this seems entirely self-evident to me.

Apparently things are not so self-evident in real life. In their judgment
in this case, the judges 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 Morse

I swear I am not making this up.

Of course you know by now what I am talking about. The party we are calling
the NBA is the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The party we are calling the Union
of India is the Union of India. The petition we are discussing is the one
the NBA filed against the UofI some years ago, that the Supreme Court
dismissed last October 18, thus allowing the resumption of construction of
the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada. The report we are calling the Morse
report is the Morse report. It was indeed written and submitted in 1992,
after a comprehensive review of the project.

And if you know what I am talking about, you probably know that the Morse
report was a severe indictment of the Sardar Sarovar project. It found
resettlement and rehabilitation being half-heartedly pursued; required
reports and studies nonexistent or incomplete; benefits exaggerated, costs
discounted. And for a project conceived out of the urgent need for water in
dry parts of Gujarat, this sentence in the report showed just how far from
that conception reality is:

"Despite the stated priority of delivery of drinking water, there were no
plans available for review."

That's right, "no plans." A good generation after people first began
thinking about that Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada, as a solution to
thirst in vast dry regions of Gujarat, the builders of the dam did not even
have "plans" for drinking water to show the Morse Committee.

At the beginning of the report, Morse explicitly and gratefully
acknowledges the full, generous co-operation he got from the governments
concerned during the review. This is important to remember only because
given how critical the report is, it would have been easy for these
governments to say Morse refused to hear their case. But he did hear their
case. And he crowns his critique of a misconceived project with this
astonishing statement:

"The Sardar Sarovar Projects are likely to perpetuate many of the features
that the [World] Bank has documented as diminishing the performance of the
agricultural sector in India in the past."

That's right: given how the project was shaping, Morse concluded that it
would actually stunt agricultural performance in India. Now that's what we
truly need in a country where hunger is a daily preoccupation for hundreds
of millions of us.

No wonder the Government of India doesn't like this report.

No wonder, too, that the NBA offered it up as evidence in the Supreme

To reiterate the point: No doubt the court is at liberty to accept or throw
out this report as evidence against the government. Courts are supposed to
take decisions like that. Since it was presented as evidence, I would have
expected my Supreme Court to consider the findings of the report and then
decide whether to accept them or not. Of course, I would have liked the
court to accept them. But I am hardly trying to assert that everybody in
the world must agree with the Morse report. I am quite willing to believe
the court would have, on reading the report, found no merit in it.

The operative words there being, of course, "on reading the report."

But this Supreme Court rejected the report not after reading it, but based
on what the Government of India -- the Government! itself the first
respondent named in the petition! -- thought of it. What are we to make of

Much has been said about how the NBA, and indeed all of us, should accept
the Supreme Court's judgment as is. We must all respect the judiciary, we
are told. If the NBA disagrees with the verdict, we are also told, it would
be no different from such groups as the VHP that vow never to accept an
adverse judicial verdict in the Ayodhya tangle.

All well and good. But respect does not preclude scrutiny. In fact it seems
to me that scrutiny is the only way to be sure our courts do function as
the guardians of justice and democracy they are meant to be. We can presume
the judiciary acts with justice and logic, but we can make that presumption
only because we watch its functioning closely and carefully. In fact, such
scrutiny must be the true meaning of this respect for the judiciary.

And that's why it's important to read and understand what's in the judgment
the Supreme Court has handed down in the Narmada case. When I did that, I
found much to disagree with. That was hardly a surprise, for I had expected
no less. But what was a surprise was the reasoning behind the decision.
Again and again through the judgment, I found examples of such reasoning
that were breathtakingly baffling, and I think that would be true of anyone
who reads it. Their Honours' dismissal of the Morse report is just one
example. There are many more.

I am aware that dam lovers will dismiss this article as mere sour grapes.
Maybe it is. But consider again: what I thought I would find when I read
the judgment was a careful, reasoned dismissal of the NBA's case. I was
ready for that, and such a vital national issue deserved no less. What I
found instead was Mr Potato Head. Well, I suppose that's what scrutiny
sometimes does.