South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy
|November 3, 2000|
Shri K. R. Narayanan
President of Inida
The October 18 majority decision of the Supreme Court in the matter of the Sardar Sarovar Project delivered by Jst Kirpal and Jst Anand does a great disservice to the cause of justice and has consequences beyond the severe blow it strikes to the adivasis and dalits whose livelihood and way of life are to be swept away by raising the level of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
Justice requires that the best information pertinent to an issue be brought to bear on it. But in this grave question affecting thousands of lives, the basic ethical principle of protecting the rights of the downtrodden, and the globally urgent issue of e nvironmental degradation, the Hon. Justices have ignored the evidence of available current knowledge. Contrary to what is now internationally recognized, they have asserted that: The experience does not show that the construction of large dams is not cos t effective or leads to ecological degradation. On the contrary there has been ecological upgradation with the construction of large dams, and that in most cases of involuntary displacement the oustees have in fact been left better off after their displacement. This remarkable prejudice, which is the governing principle of the judgment the two justices have rendered, is nothing more than the self interest of the national elite in the nineteenth-century European language of progress. More than half a ce ntury after independence the highest court in India continues the mental habit of imitating the discarded practices of the West.
The two justices have also disregarded the evidence of experience in regard to the rehabilitation of the adivasi and dalit inhabitants of the villages that are to be drowned by the dam. The state of Madhya Pradesh has acknowledged that it does not have cultivable land to resettle the people affected by the already built dam; the Court itself has noted that in the six villages of Madhya Pradesh affected by the now sanctioned raising of the dam to 90 metres, even land acquisition awards have not been passed; and it has been established by the Narmada Bachao Andolan that after twenty years of the Sardar Sarovar Project there is neither land nor a Master Plan for rehabilitation. Yet, in the face of this experience the Court has ordered the Narmada Control Authority to draw up an Action Plan in relation to further construction and the relief and rehabilitation work to be undertaken within four weeks of the issuance of this order, which the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh are commanded to obey. To base a judgment of such grave and irreversible consequence on such irrational expectation destroys the respect due to the highest court in the land.
When people lose faith the rule of justice civil society crumbles, political life becomes an extension of gangsterism, and democracy becomes a meaningless word. When in the name of development the state sacrifices the livelihood and rights of the downtrodden, development means only the interest of the powerful. These are the extended consequences of the Supreme Court s judgment.
We appeal to you, Sir, to intervene in the interest of the adivasi and dalit inhabitants of the Narmada valley and in the wider national interest of justice, democracy, human rights, and the environment. Support the minority judgment of Jst. Bharucha to stop the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam till the serious issues raised by the heroic people of the Narmada valley and the Narmada Bachao Andolan are adequately addressed.