narmada_2982326fThe Times of India, Oct 19 2016, Gandhinagar/Bhopal: A massive scam involving the distribution of compensation to fake beneficiaries in Madhya Pradesh is likely to crush the BJP’s hope of making political capital from the completion of the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat by December 2016.The compensation was meant for those who will be displaced when the dam’s height is raised.

Gujarat’s chances of getting permission from the Supreme Court and Narmada Control Authority (NCA) to close the erected gates to store more water now appear bleak given that MP’s poor rehabilitation record has been completely exposed by a judicial in quiry. This has defeated the purpose behind the PMO calling a high-level meeting of the participating states (Maharashtra and Rajasthan included) in May this year to expedite relief and rehabilitation (R&R).

The NCA had given permission on June 12, 2014 to raise the dam’s height from 121.91 metres to 138.68 metres, to raise piers to their full height, to construct a bridge and install gates (to be kept open). The sanctioned work is nearing completion and Gujarat is keen to shut the gates and draw more water in 2017 to keep the farmers happy in an election year.
At present, the water storage is 1.4 million acre feet (MAF). If the gates are closed, it would result in the storage of an additional 4.75 MAF of additional water, but this would displace another 15,000 families yet to move out of the area facing submergence. The Justice S S Jha Commission, after a seven-year investigation, has ex posed the rampant forgery of documents that allowed compensation to be paid to impostors. The commission also alleged that the MP government did not cooperate with its inquiry and made every attempt to prevent the damning report from being made public before it was finally tabled in the state’s Vidhan Sabha at the end of July. The commission recorded at least 2,000 fraudulent cases.
Rajnish Vaish, additional chief secretary, Narmada Valley Development, MP, said police are lodging FIRs against bogus claimants and against government officials who conspired with them to claim compensation. He said 22,068 oustee families who faced submergence when the dam was121.91metres high have been rehabilitated. According to government records, most of the remaining 15,000 families who face submergence once the gates are closed continue to live in their original homes and till their ancestral lands. Some of them have got caught up in the scam as government records show forged documents were used to claim compensation on their behalf. Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar put the figure of project-affected families still waiting rehabilitation in MP and Maharashtra at 45,000. She demanded action on the Jha Commission report and told TOI she had written to the PMO in this regard. In Gandhinagar, MS Dagur, additional chief secretary , Narmada department, said, “I don’t think the Jha Commission report will affect Gujarat’s interests.”

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