Dam increases! Submergence decreases? –
Fraud on the People
Sardar Sarovar Dam Work Unlawful:
4 Judge People’s Tribunal
‘Development’ or Jaws of Death?
Question Sardar Sarovar Oustees
2 day Jan Adalat concludes: 4 Retired Justices call upon Supreme Court and Govt. of India to review the status of displacement, submergence and rehabilitation of Sardar Sarovar oustees
Rajghat / Badwani, M.P. Pronouncing their interim verdict in the presence of about 10,000 oustees of Sardar Sarovar Dam, based on their observations and assessment of the legal and field situation, a Panel of 4 retired Judges of various High Courts concluded gross violations of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award and Judgements of the Supreme Court. Speaking at the proceedings of the “Jan Adalat” organized by eminent citizens of the country, well-known Justices including Jst. P.C Jain (Rajasthan High Court), Jst. Nag Mohan Das (Karnataka High Court) and Jst. V.D. Gyani (Madhya Pradesh High Court) and Jst. N.K. Mody (Madhya Pradesh High Court) expressed grave concern at the displacement of about 2.5 lakh people due to the completion of the Dam and the mass violation of the constitutional right to life, destruction of livelihoods, as also wiping out of an entire culture and civilization.
They stated that the further dam work and installation of gates should not proceed in the present circumstances of clear evidence of multiple violations. Observing that the concerned authorities have miserably failed to comply with the provisions of the Award and the Apex court’ orders and have committed serious dereliction of legal obligations, they called for a serious review of the entire situation and a serious social-economic impact assessment. The Govt. and Apex Court must widen their horizons of ‘development’, in the light of the complex realities of the 30 years struggle of the Narmada valley, they said.
Reading out the operative part of their preliminary verdict, Jst. Jain exclaimed that the official claims of no additional submergence due to the current dam work is clearly unlawful and also unbelievable, since when the dam is being completed with the same original height, there is no reason why the submergence area would not increase ! Listening to testimonies of about 35 oustees they found that the Judgement of the Supreme Court dt. 18/10/200 and 15/3/2005 as well as several orders of the Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRAs). Jst Jain also said that the Government must await the Report of Jst. Jha Commission of Inquiry into Corruption in R&R before any further work is undertaken.
The 4 Justices urged the Social Justice Bench of the Apex Court to review its decisions and hearings in the light of the overwhelming evidence of legal violations and well as the obviously flawed “full rehabilitation” reports of the project authorities. The Jan Adalat specially acknowledged the valiant role of thousands of women warriors in the valley who have been keeping the torch of struggle aglow over the past 30 years. These observations were made after hearing the depositions of about 35 oustees from the three states of M.P., Maharashtra and Gujarat, perusal of the NWDTA, various orders of the Apex Court, GRAs, interim reports of Jst. Jha Commission, official correspondence and intensive visit to various affected villages in the tehsils of Badwani, Kukshi, Manavar and Dharampuri yesterday.
The deponents before the Tribunal today included representatives of adivasis from the hilly and plain areas, other farmers who have been entangled in the fake registries scam, received meagre cash and denied land or given land from the land bank, landless oustees, including fish workers, potters, boatmen, small traders etc. Oustees from Maharashtra and Gujarat also expressed their grievances and pointed out to major violations. The hearing was conduced in a completely formal manner, with a People’s Court set-up on the Narmada river bank at Rajghat and each oustee / deponent stood in the ‘dock’, as s/he deposed.
Bhagirath Dhangar spoke of the plight of hundreds of farmers, workers, small traders, shopkeepers, hawkers etc. whose lands and livelihoods are to be lost by the dam increase, with no alternative R&R in sight. He questioned if the balance is indeed ‘0’, then how is it that the govt. fair price shops, panchayats, voting and even govt. licensed wine shops are functioning here? Mahesh Patel exposed the fraud in the name of back water levels due to which 16,000 families has been declared “out of submergence”. He said that all these unscientific claims would be blown up by Narmada herself and her fury into which 99 tributaries and 999 large darins flow. Fish worker families represented by Savabai (Pichhodi) & Madubhai (Chikalda) demanded fishing rights in the reservoir and alternative livelihood. They said that fishing and riverine rights cannot be compensated in monetary terms.
Mr. Karan Yadav from Pipri read out the message from Mr. Ramesh Patel, the MLA of Badwani, admitting that governmental reports of R&R are patently false and that 99% oustees, still reside in the original villages awaiting R&R. Mr. Patel submitted a written demand to the Tribunal that the SSP gates should not be installed at this stage, without completion of R&R, as per law. Meera spoke of the absolute failure and connivance of the elaborate machinery of monitoring and project authorities in complying with the Apex Court’s orders and demanded that all the clearances granted by the authorities are unlawful and need to be set aside by the Apex Court. Adv. Umesh stated that thousands of SSP oustees are now owners of the acquired lands/houses as per 2013 LAQ Act and Govt. dare not dispossess them.
Medha Patkar decried the massive violation of the rights of the Gram Sabhas in the constitutionally protected scheduled adivasi areas. She spoke of the possibilities of and need for a review even at this stage to avert the inhuman pauperization of 2.5 lakh people, for the benefits of corporates. “While displacement and disaster is planned by the State, development and rehabilitation is not” she said and concluded that continuation with the dam would mean a mass atrocity on the dalits and adivasis.
Shri Soumya Dutta, one of the members of the recent Fact-Finding Team to the Narmada valley (May, 2015), whose report has received wide attention and even alerted the Judges of a disaster in Narmada moderated the proceedings and shared with the Judicial panel, the findings of his Report co-authored by senior political leaders and experts including Hannan Mollah, Annie Raja, Dr. Sunilam, Raj Kchroo and Benoy Vishwam.
The Panel of Judges was invited by a team of distinguished citizens including Jst (Retd.) Rajinder Sacher [Retd. Chief Justice, Delhi High Court].; Syeda Hameed [Former Member, Planning Commission of India and National Commission for Women]; Sagar Sarhadi, Senior film maker, short story and play writer, writer, director and producer; Prof. Anil Sadgopal, Eminent Educationalist and Founder, All India Forum on Right to Education.; Ramdas Bhatkal, Founder, Popular Prakashan, Mumbai and Senior Litterateur and Anand Patwardhan, Internationally Acclaimed Film Maker on Developmental and Human Rights Issues to hear the oustees and State agencies and give its findings on the legality of the decisions of the Government to pursue the dam work in the light of large number of complaints of denial of R&R.
Notably, the highest officials of the Central and State Governments including the Chairpersons of the NCA, R&R Sub Group and GRA, as well as the Chairman, Vice-Chairman and Commissioner of NVDA, Bhopal, Collector, Nandurbar (Mah) and Commissioner, SSPA (Guj) were invited on behalf of the Organizers, but as none of them turned up, their chairs were kept vacant !
The hearing today was preceded by a day-full of intensive visits yesterday to various villages including Khalghat, Dharampuri Township as well as Vill. Semalda (Teh. Manavar) and Villages Chhota Barda, Pipri and Chikalda, Kadmal-Khaparkheda (Tehsil Kukshi); where elderly persons and women who poured out their grievances of denial of R&R, poor quality amenities at the resettlement sites, massive corruption, unlawful submergence in 2012-13 etc. The hearing began with a homage to Shri. Ramaswamy Iyer who passed away 2 days ago. Madhuresh of NAPM remembered of him as a beacon, for decades, in the water-ecology sector, whose own life was enriched by his engagement with the SSP struggle, as a Govt. Member of the 5-Member Review Panel and later his valuable contributions to the water rights regime, acknowledged internationally.
Mukesh Hirdaram Rahul Yadav Leelabai
Contact Ph: 09179148973 / 09179617513
Major issues put forth before the People’s Tribunal
Some of the major issues that the oustees from the three states put forth before the Tribunal are:-
- a)Representatives of tribals – farmer (Kailash Awasya-Vill Bhilkeda, Surbhan-Vill. Kakrana and Ghokru-Vill.Bhadal) spoke of the atrocities on adivasis in the hills and plains and demanded that oustees who have not accepted cash and have been given bad land, should be given good land and compensation as per the GRA’s orders. They rejected the cash grants, exposed fraud in the name of land bank and SRP and demanded cultivable land as well as interim relief.
- b)Deven Tomar, Dayaram and Rahul Yadav exposed the 1,000 crore corruption scam due to the fake registries, house plot irregularities, sub-standard works at R&R sites, livelihood grant fraud and demanded that there must be no further dam work until the Report of Jst. Jha Commission is out.
- c)Devram Kanera stated that there are lots of reasons to review the SSP even at this state. When the dam cost has shot up from Rs. 4,000 crores to Rs. 90,000 crores., why cannot there be a comprehensive review? Why not search for alternatives, he questioned ?
- d)Bhagiram (Piplud) and Mohan (Kundiya) who have been given only one instalment of the Special Rehabilitation Package refused the meagre cash grants, asserted the right to land of 1500 oustees like them and also of the 2000+ oustees those who have been entangled in fake registries scam or have been given only meagre cash in lieu of land.
- e)Representatives of landless and fish families including Pemal (Dhanora) refused the meagre cash grants as “rehabilitation” and stated that more than 10,000 families like hers are entitled to stable and sustainable alternative livelihood. She demanded that the middlemen should be completely eliminated from the R&R process.
- f)Sanobar Bi spoke of the impacts of Displacement, Denial of R&R and Implications for women and the unique situation of river-dependent women farmers, widows, single women.
- g)Haribhai, an old encroacher from Vill. Segava stated that hundreds of old encroachers on government land entitled to R&R are being denied land, since decades.
- h)Fish worker families represented by Savabai (Pichhodi) and Madhubhai (Chikalda) demanded fishing rights in the reservoir and alternative livelihood. They said that fishing rights, river bed cultivations, boating rights etc. cannot be compensated in monetary terms. Madubhai also questioned the illegality of the GRA’s orders denying compensation for the 2012-13 submergence on the ground that submergence was due to the Omkareshwar dam waters, although the impact was due to the SP dam wall of 121.92 mts.
- i)Ramesh Prajapati from Nisarpur demanded recognition of the rights of the potters with alternative land for the brick kilns and the narrated the woes of potters due to frequent problems faced from the local administration.
- j)Mohan Patidar deposed on the status of villages like Bhavaria, Malangaon, Sondil etc. where entire hamlets are to become marooned (tapu – affected), but no surveys have been done in M.P. and no R&R entitlements have been given till date.
- k)Balram Kevat demanded livelihood rights for the generations, 5,000 strong old boats-men communityaffected by the SSP and other dams on Narmada.
- l)Shantabai warned of disasters worse than Nepal and Uttarakhand if the nature’s laws are are ignored and ecologically unsound projects like large dams or river linking is pursued !
- m)Bhagirath Dhangar (Chikalda) spoke of the plight of hundreds of small traders, shopkeepers, hawkers, artisans, tailors whose livelihoods are to be lost by the dam increase, with no alternative R&R in sight. He said if the balance is indeed 0, then how is it that the govt. fair price shops, panchayts, voting and even govt. licensed wine shops function here ?
- n)Mahesh Patel (Vill. Kundiya) exposed the fraud in the name of back water levels due to which 16,000 families has been wrongly declared as “out of submergence”. He said that all these claims are unlawful and will be exposed by Narmada herself and her fury into which 99 tributaries and 999 large drains flow.
- o)Madan Alave (Pichhodi) stated that hundreds of tribal and other small farmers who are losing lands even for the R&R sites are denied land-based R&R. How can rehabilitation be complete without giving us land, he asked.
- p)Noorji Padvi (Vill. Danel) and Punya Vasave (Somaval R&R site), Maharashtra along with Yogini stated that when not less than 1200 oustees in Maharashtra, mostly affected under 121.92 mts, even at 80 mts are yet to be rehabilitated, how can the Governments claim “full or even substantial compliance”. Good land, irrigation facilities, house plots, compensation etc. are yet to be given to hundreds. The self-contradictory affidavits of the GoM before the Apex Court expose the fraud, they said.
- q)Lakhan Musafir, with Chaintamani and Shankar Kagda from Gujarat deposed about the status of the oustees in Gujarat and they stated that while hundred affected since decades are yet to be rehabilitated and still face problems at the R&R Sites such as denial of quality land, civic amenities etc, thousands more are to be affected in the name of tourism projects, Garudeshwar weir, Sardar Patel Statue of Unity, Bharat Bhavan, Naar-Paar River Link Project etc. Unique Problems of Project-affected in Gujarat: 6 Colony-Affected, Oustees due to Tourism plans, Garudeshwar weir,. – Costs and Benefits of SSP
- r)Vikram Verma and Mansaram Jat decried the massive impact to be caused on the Dharampuri township where not less than 10,000 people reside and Govt. claims that thousands are now suddenly ‘out of submergence’. Mr. Jat appealed to “My Lords” to ensure that the villages and real India survive.
- s)Mukesh and Jagish Patidar spoke of the further destruction to be caused by the canals in the irrigated villages, affected by SSP and Maheshwar dams close to Narmada and stated that while the Apex Court and Expert Committees have been looking into the violations, many grievances are still not fully resolved.
- t) Umesh Patidardrew the Panel’s attention to the fact that thousands of oustees have become absolute owners as per Sec 24(2) New Land Acquisition Act, 2013 and their lands should neither be submerged nor they be dispossessed without due legal process.
- u)Tukaram of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan demanded that there should be a complete moratorium on large dams and only small projects in the interests of the farmers, workers and environment must be pursued