President K.R. Narayanan Assures Delegation on Narmada Dam Rehabilitation

Himanshu Thakkar
October 27 2000

The President K.R. Narayanan assured a delegation led by former finance Minister and former Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission Shri Madhu Dandavate that he will raise the issue of displacement and resettlement of the dam affected people, especially tribals in the Narmada Valley with the  Government. The delegation consisting of former Delhi High Court Chief  Justice Shri Rajendra Sachar, former Finance Secretary S.P. Shukla, well known socialist leader Surendra Mohan and water expert Shri Himanshu Thakker, met with the President today afternoon and raised the serious issues thrown up related to the rehabilitation of oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project.

The delegation told the President that the Narmada  Water Disputes Tribunal Award itself had laid down a series of instructions about the  rehabilitation of the oustees but these were being seriously violated. The Tribunal had asked for a master plan of rehabilitation to be prepared within two years, which was not done even now. They added that the situation of resettlement was extremely serious as it is, and the further addition in height of the dam would complicate it even further. Given this, they requested the President to intervene in the matter under Art. 339 of the Constitution or in any other appropriate manner, and to see that the basic issues are sorted out before the height was raised any further. The delegation pointed out emphatically that the Constitution puts a special responsibility on the President for the protection of the rights and interests of the scheduled castes and schedule tribes.

The delegation informed the President that the recent judgement of the Supreme Court, in its majority order, had permitted construction to start immediately and go up to 90 m level on the Sardar Sarovar Project. However, they pointed out that all the project affected people till 90 m were not yet rehabilitated, and there were no proper arrangements to rehabilitate them fully, particularly in M.P. The M.P. Government had stated that out of 10 resettlement sites needed to resettle the oustees at 90m, only 5 were ready so far, and that even the land acquisition awards were not passed in six of the villages to be affected. The Court itself had noted these facts, as also the report of the Grievance Redressal Authorities headed by retired judges that there is slackness of the States in identification and obtaining of land for resettlement. The M.P. Government had in fact admitted on affidavit in Court that it had no land, and the land identified by it for resettlement was uncultivable. Under these circumstances, the delegation said that the increase in the height of the dam till all these issues were resolved would lead to a serious impact on the oustees, most of whom were tribals.

On a query from the President whether it was true that the people are resisting shifting even though Government is ready to resettle them, the delegation told the President that the people had seen through bitter experience that the Government did not have the facilities including land to resettle them as per the Tribunal and State policies and hence did not have any faith in the promises of the Government. There were many other serious issues raised by the people including an underestimate of number of oustees, surveys being wrong, lacunae in policies and so on.

The President told the delegation that he would raise the issue with the Prime Minister. The delegation had requested the meeting with the President out of its serious concern with rehabilitation of the Sardar Sarovar oustees as also the issues of concern being flagged by the agitation of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, whose 7 members including Medha Patkar are on fast in Bhopal right now.

Himanshu Thakker
(For and On Behalf of the Delegation)