A conspiracy to extinguish the land rights of Narmada dam affected tribals and other farmers

Narmada oustees represent their case before MP officials

By Pawan Yadav*

Even though Sardar Sarovar Dam affected farmers from the Narmada valley have the right to agricultural land with house plots and civic amenities in rehabilitation, the government of Madhya Pradesh and Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) are trying to extinguish this right, part of right to life, by threatening and compelling them to accept grossly insufficient monetary compensation and deem them as ‘rehabilitated’.

The MP government has been, since beginning, avoiding its duty to ensure rehabilitation of project affected families (PAFs) belonging to various occupational categories. The farmers, including adivasis and some Dalits, whose entitlement to land was not ensured, were either sent to Gujarat or were allotted absolutely uncultivable land for years, which was illegal as per the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award as well as the Supreme Court judgements, especially one dated 15.03.2005. Refusing to accept anything less than entitlement, large number of families in the Satpuras (District Alirajpur) and in Nimad plains are yet to get land. Those who felt compelled to accept cash were either cheated in fake registry scam or had to stop halfway through!

The Justice Jha commission, through seven years long enquiry, has proved that the ‘Special Rehabilitation Package’ (SRP) in lieu of land is a wrong policy, and the nexus between officials and agents continue to misused it, collectively managing to bring out 1589 fake registries! Instead of taking criminal action against them, the government of MP is trying to propel the cash compensation scheme forward.

A few thousand PAFs are entitled to land-based rehabilitation, yet have not been offered cultivable land in MP. Other than those who went to Gujarat seeking land could not accept hilly or rocky land, including such where their colony is built or tank exists. They were misled or compelled to accept cash as SRP. They collected the first instalment (i.e. half) of the SRP amount, from which middlemen took away their share. However, since they did not get their land entitlement, they still have to be allocated land as per the decision of Narmada Control Authority (N CA), which was repeatedly communicated to the MP government between 2007 and 2011.

Even then, instead of informing the people, who have accepted the first instalment, not just NVDA, but also the retired judges, sitting as Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA), have been repeatedly telling poor, tribal and affected families to bring their bank passbooks and collect their remaining cash compensation!

“Where will we provide the land from? It has become so expensive. If you can’t buy the land, then buy a tractor with that money. You won’t get land even in ten years”, said one of the honorary members (a retired judge) of GRA, which in return received incensed replies from many widows and tribals. Many are even harassed and compelled to accept cash, with their right to land extinguished.

This was also proved through the affidavit filed by the government of MP before the apex court in 2000. The villages, where ‘no land suitable for agriculture’ was reported, are mentioned in the notices of offering land! Clearly defying the orders of Narmada Tribunal, 2000 and 2005 orders of the Supreme Court and orders of NCA, the rehabilitation officers of NVDA have issued notices to hundreds of PAFs, in different tehsils of Badwani and Dhar districts, stating that since they haven’t accepted the land allocated to them by the Land Bank, their eligibility for alternative agricultural land has exhausted, that too years ago! Also, the land offered then was found to be totally uncultivable, rocky, hilly or encroached upon since years! The oustees, therefore, had the right to reject the same and they did it! In many cases, they were never informed of the land offer mentioned in the notices issued to hundreds during the last few days.

This is completely fraudulent, as neither the rehabilitation office nor the NVDA has any authority to exhaust their eligibility to agricultural land.

Conspiring to violate this righto land of the tribals is a crime under section 3,4,5 of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

The notice also stated that if, within 2-4 days (by 30.12.2016), the second instalment of SRP cash compensation (less than Rs 2.5 lakh) is not collected from GRA at Indore, then they would be deemed as ‘rehabilitated’ and the amount would be deposited with the Revenue Department.

Without complete hearing and without any order from GRA, how can NVDA of GRA take any decision? Does depositing the amount in revenue exchequer mean ensuring rehabilitation with land and/or livelihood? This move is an absolute violation of law (the Narmada Tribunal Award), judgments of the High Court of MP as well as the Apex Court. And why is there no attempt to ensure land and house plots to thousands who have not accepted cash?: Women and men with activists screamed, trying to get answers to all these questions, gathering in front of NVDA’s rehabilitation office.

The rehabilitation officer was questioned and cornered to explain why were such fraudulent, threatening notices issued and under whose instructions. He admitted that it was done under the oral instructions from the Commissioner (NVDA)!

Sumanbai of Pichhodi questioned the authority on receiving a notice stating that, having been denied the land allocated to her by the Land Bank, she must collect her second instalment within the stipulated date. Also, she stated that she was never informed about the land allocated to her.

In a similar story, Kalabai stated they she never received the notice of a plot being allotted to her but recently received the notice of collecting her second instalment as her eligibility for the allocated land has exhausted due to her non-acceptance of the same. Also, she complained that the housing plot, that is said to be allocated to her, was located far from her current village.

PAFs excluded were issued notices to collect cash compensation.

Kailash Yadav from village Kasrawad said that his whole village has been declared as falling out of the submergence area with revised backwater levels (BWLs). All 15,946 families, who are similarly excluded, must be given their properties back, since those were faultily acquired and transferred in NVDA’s name if the revised BWLs are true and scientifically computed. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) has already challenged the revised BWLs and exposed the fraud showing that the old BWLs continue to appear on Gujarat’s website.

The Rehabilitation officer has agreed to visit Kasrawad and look into the records once again.

Meanwhile, FIR has been filed against the rehabilitation officer. Mayaram, son of Sukya, village Pichhodi, tehsil Badwani, has filed a case under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, against rehabilitation officer VS Guha, at the Special Police Station, Badwani.

Devram Kanera, Mukesh Bhagoria, Kamala Yadav, Bhagirath Dhangar, Rahul Yadav and Medha Patkar – all have raised various issues of legal violations leading to serious injustice and challenged the Madhya Pradesh government to prove that more than 40,000 families which are still in the submergence areas are rehabilitated, and all social cultural monuments and amenities from the original villages are shifted to the newly constructed at rehabilitation sites. In this aspect, too, huge corruption has occurred that is vindicated by the report of the Justice Jha commission. How can village Sondul shift to a new site which is hilly and where there is only wild tree cover?: Women from Sondul asked the rehabilitation officer, who was speechless on the issue.

Tribals and farmers, widows and youths, all have expressed their determination not to get trapped in threats and pressure, but continue to fight for their rights against illegal moves, promotions and corruption.

They are also aware that the compensation of Rs 2.79 lakh was given years back, and giving the balance amount, Rs 2.50 lakh to 3 lakh now, in lieu of five acres irrigated land, is utter fraud. The cost of 5 acres irrigated land at present is estimated to be between Rs 50 lakh and 2 crore. If land can be bought for Rs 2.50-3 lakh, then why doesn’t the authority buy it itself and then allocate it?

Till the time PAFs are not rehabilitated with land, livelihood and housing facilities, the gates of the Sardar Sarovar Dam cannot be closed.

*Also contributed by Prema Bapu, Shyama Machwara and Gendalal Uchave of Narmada Bachao Andolan

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