The claims by the Gujarat officials in relation to Sardar Sarovar Project as reported in “The Times of India” (Gates of Narmada Dam are jammed by 3 saffron states, September 1, 2015) are seriously questionable. The decision by the Modi government, taken on June 12, 2014 to raise the Sardar Sarovar Dam height from 122 m. to 139 m. has certainly been against law and Supreme Court’s own judgements. While there are a number of applications filed by the Sardar Sarovar affected persons before the Supreme Court, not just describing the ground reality but explaining violation of law by the submergence imposed on thousands of families, the concerned state and central government are filing false or incomplete information and mis-briefing the apex court.
The fact about rehabilitation is that out of the 244 villages and one township, Dharmapuri, in Madhya Pradesh there are a few villages in the hilly areas that are vacated and the adivasis resettled; although with continued problems at resettlement sites too. What is more serious is that the large number of farmers, labourers, fish workers, traders who are in the agricultural villages are still without full and fair rehabilitation and neither their lands nor their houses can be submerged till six months after completion of resettlement and rehabilitation.
This is not only against Narmada Tribunal Award but also against Supreme Court judgments. Almost every village has schools, dispensary, shops, panchayats, rationing shops running along with agricultural fields on prime agricultural land and houses with which life is on! People are voters in the same village too. Gram Sabhas in the scheduled areas (where all villages lie) have passed resolutions during last many years! But who cares?
The Supreme Court’s Social Justice Bench is no doubt taking review of the number of families with applications pending before the Grievance Redressal Authority, but it has not yet been seized with the whole matter. When the decision to raise the dam and construction is illegal and will cause a great human tragedy, putting up the gates and closing doors will be a brutal act on the part of Gujarat as well as the Prime Minister.
Hundreds of adivasis in Gujarat, some original villages like Mukhadi (next to the dam site) and the rest at rehabilitation and resettlement site are yet to get their complaints redressed, about undeclared families or bad lands and problems of water supply and approach roads at many sites.
In Maharashtra 1200 families await rehabilitation in MP not less than 40000 residing in the submergence area are to face drowning of homes and livelihoods, not replaced. This is the dam where 11000 families are resettled with alternative land but now the government of Madhya Pradesh is unwilling and trying to dupe oustees with meager cash in lieu of land. Since the state government and its authority is fully trapped in massive corruption which is under inquiry by Justice Jha Commission, appointed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
Not less than 2000 registries by the oustees showing purchase of land with cash are to be found to be fake. Corruption, in not this one alone but in five aspects, including house plots allotment as well as constructions at resettlement and rehabilitation sites has resulted in total derailing of policy costing the State Exchequer at least 1000 crores! Modi-Shivraj Chauhan alliance is surely wanting to damn all evidence and make the inquiry report redundant.
The water available today is not being used beyond 20% as the canal network is not ready. And whatever is lifted is used for industries rather than for irrigating farms or satiating thirst. Raising the dam is therefore unjustifiable.
It is in this background that the judicial propriety and honesty demands that the dam work is stopped immediately and the gates not erected nor closed. Thousands of oustees have been participants in the Jeevan Adhikar Satyagraha at Rajghat on the Narmada bank in MP. Although that may not be making news in Gandhinagar, the future will not forgive Modi for the genocidal attack on the oldest of the civilisations i.e. Narmada Valley.
*Well-known social activist, Narmada Bachao Andolan