By Akash Kumar
How many times the can the authorities avoid the right to rehabilitation of displaced persons? Oustees of Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) have been seeking rehabilitation for the last over 30 years how. A recent statement by the Supreme Court on this is not just an observation, but the voice of thousands of adivasis in the Narmada valley.
The crux of the apex court statement is: Money cannot compensate for land, as land is not just a source of the tribals’ livelihood but it also shapes their lifestyle. Referring to SSP, the Supreme Court said, “We will tell you now itself. You giving cash instead of land is tentatively not acceptable. That’s just not done.” These are the words of Chief Justice of India JS Khehar.
It was a winning moment for the people struggling for their right to rehabilitation in the SSP-affected area for the last 30-odd years. The Madhya Pradesh (MP) government’s wrong policies led to a situation where many oustees lost their land and livelihood, and they were left to suffer. There were fake registries in special registration package (SRP) while handing over land to the tribals.
The MP government launched SRP for the displaced persons of SSP in complete violation of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award (NWDTA) of 1987 as also the Supreme Court judgments on 2000 and 2005 in order to show that there was zero balance in the number of oustees to be resettled. The displaced persons of SSP, neglected for decades, were force to agree with the new SRP system of the MP government. The result was, since 2005, a large number of fake registries were made under SRP to show that the resettlement process has been completed.
The Jha Commission was set up in 2008 by the order of MP High Court. It has found 1,435 fake registries, in which the purchasers don’t know the buyers, and the buyers don’t know the purchasers, yet land has been shown as sold – all through middlemen, in connivance with officials.
The Jha Commission report’s 144 pages, along with 2,000 pages of annexure, after seven years of rigorous investigation, has not been taken seriously by the MP government. It has taken no action to implement its recommendations. The only action taken is registration of FIRs against innocent adivasi purchasers and sellers. A few of them were even arrested! In some cases, the police knocked at the door of adavasis at midnight to arrest them. The police have even arrested old women and pregnant woman.
All this happened despite the fact that the 144 pages report in its conclusion clearly states that middlemen and officials alone were responsible in fake registry cases. In fact, the Jha Commission report insists that SRP alone caused these fake registries.
\On the basis of SRP, previously, the MP government tried to show zero balance of oustees in the submergence area, which is clearly a bluff. Thousands of families are still living in their native villages because the rehabilitation process has not ended till date and civic amenities at many resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) sites are not suitable for living. Many cases of corruption have been found at R&R sites in the Jha Commission report.
Many adivasis want land for land, not money, yet the MP government is intimidating them by saying they will transfer money to their account. Adivasis, who have already suffered a lot, are no condition to fight again and again against the government. The recent arrest of adivasis demoralized them., but the latest Supreme Court statement in the Narmada Bachao Andolan vs Government of Madhya Pradesh case has given them hope that their many years’ struggle will not go waste.