Sardar Sarovar Project, Noose Around Narmada Valley

Biggest Planned Displacement of 2 Lakh people in Modern Indian

­Medha Patkar, @medhanarmada

Sardar Sarovar the dream of modern India will be the nightmare of 40,000 families, something which will affect the entire ecosystem of the Narmada Valley and wipe out the age old civilization of the world… The question we ought to ask, won’t the forceful eviction of thousands of adivasis, farmers and others from their villages without rehabilitation and resettlement leave a blot on our democracy?

This will be the biggest mass displacement / forced eviction in the modern Indian history, perhaps also one of the biggest in the world. Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement) has led a long drawn out battle against this injustice for more than three decades now, in the process forcing the World Bank to withdraw its funding, change the discourse of development paradigm, building a global coalition against the big dams leading to formation of World Commission on Dams, and many other such feats.

Today, pushed to the wall, by completely hostile governments in four states and at the Centre, the Andolan has decided to challenge this injustice at every forum and is now appealing to the conscience of those in power and the public in general by undertaking an indefinite fast from July 27th on the Banks of river Narmada in Badwani, MP. We need your support in averting this monumental disaster and save the massive forced evictions / displacement and ensure justice.

Know more in ten points the issues at stake …

  1. The Tragedy : The completion of Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada to 139 meters height will raise water level by 55 ft, while with 122 meter high dam in 2013 itself water had gushed in villages and caused submergence of hundreds of houses. Can anyone survive when this happens? The dam will affect 244 villages and one township due to its reservoir spread over 40,000 hectares in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat as long as up to 214 kilometers. Out of 192 villages and one township falling in Madhya Pradesh, at least 150 villages are in the plains, with highest density of population including various occupational categories such as farmers, laborers’, potters, fish workers, boatmen, shopkeepers and various artisans to small entrepreneurs. The adivasis on the hilly areas are the communities living on the agricultural land as well as forest and fish. The whole of the area and village communities that are to be affected is scheduled tribe where PESA should be applicable.
  2. Entitlements : The Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) of the Sardar Sarovar affected families is governed by the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award (NWDTA), each of the state’s policy and the two main judgments of the Supreme Court of India (2000 and 2005). The landholders are to get minimum 2 hectares of land, if they are severely affected while the landless, as per Action Plan (1993 onwards) submitted before the Apex court, are to get a source of livelihood with a special fund and through a special agency. Supreme Court in its most recent judgement on February 8th, 2017 has ordered the payment of sixty lakh rupees (Supreme Court Package) to all 681 affected families, and 15 lakhs to 1,358 families and also to complete in three months all the resettlement and rehabilitation sites.
  3. Resettlement: The Government of Maharashtra and Gujarat resettled more than 14,000 families with land, while Madhya Pradesh allotted land to hardly 53 families in its own state. As per the Tribunal, Gujarat had to give land to 5,500 families from Madhya Pradesh and 777 families from Maharashtra while the rest of the oustees chose to resettle in their own state. The Madhya Pradesh government decided to give cash in lieu of land, against the law, that is, Tribunal Award and Supreme Court’s judgments (2000 and 2005) which led to fake registries, scam and derailment of policy depriving thousands of families of their due entitlements in rehabilitation.
  4. Corruption : The huge corruption in various aspects of rehabilitation in Madhya Pradesh was investigated by the High Court appointed Justice Jha Commission whose 2000 pages has not been opened as the High Court was prevented from doing so by the apex court which handed it over to the government of Madhya Pradesh and asked it to the take action. No appropriate action on the basis of the recommendations is taken as of yet. The Supreme Court stopped the government from acting against the oustees while the Jha Commission has held the officials of the Narmada Valley Development Authority and the agents (about 400 named) as responsible.
  5. Irregularities : The result is that many farmers got duped in fake registries scam of land based (or farmers) and livelihood based for the landless, fishermen, labourers, potters; the resettlement sites are without 2 hectares land and the landless without alternative livelihood, hundreds are yet to get a house plot and thousands are not able to build their houses at the resettlement sites which lack even basic amenities due to neglect and massive corruption over years. This is obvious from the fact that 40 engineers-officers were sacked due to corruption in construction works at all R&R sites in Madhya Pradesh, after the CAG report and during the case of Narmada Bachao Andolan before the High Court, Jabalpur. The 2000 page report by Justice Jha Commission incorporated a technical report by MANIT, Bhopal and IIT, Mumbai bringing out a totally unlivable condition at the R&R sites and corruption involved. No work was carried out since then till the Supreme Court order of 8.2.2017.
  6. In Maharashtra : too there are a few hundred families yet to get land and house plot, a few hundred are yet to be declared as Project Affected, some are to get forest rights and land measurement to work on amenities is pending in the R&R sites whereas more sites are yet lacking in irrigation and basic amenities. The state has hidden all this and reported false compliance. Problems of adivasis in the hills and those at the sites are serious.
  7. In Gujarat : relay fast by the oustees of our state since the 15th of July 2016, was withdrawn after one year, prior to visit of PM, on assurance from the Gujarat government, but no action done on ground yet, on their demand for completing rehabilitation and ‘No to taking back land after 20 years’. Gujarat is ready and has begun taking back lands allotted to hundreds of adivasis, after 15-20 years!
  8. The Government’s Lie : Sardar Sarovar gates have been closed since 17th June onwards and it’s claimed that this has been done with due diligence and approval by the R&R subgroup and Environment subgroup. However, that is based on false claims and fake figures. There are not less than 40,000 families in the submergence area of Madhya Pradesh itself. All of them are to be drowned and devastated, with their farms and houses, schools, shops, brick kilns, enterprises, temples, mosques and all religious places, huge number of cattle and big trees, the green cover for Narmada. You may judge yourself as to what will be the fate of these lakhs of people and the generations old communities?
  9. Our Belief : This is nothing else but political expediency of Narendra Modi and Shivraj Singh government, all out and ready to benefit the corporate in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. This is in violation of legal rights, Supreme Court judgments since 2000 and impingement upon right to life.
  • This must be immediately challenged and stopped. DON’T CLOSE THE DAM GATE without comprehensive R&R for all PAFs.
  • No force should be used against those sacrificing for development, their rights must be respected.
  • Each of the Project Affected Families (PAFs) including the landless must be rehabilitated as per eligibility and benefits granted by law, policy and action plans submitted to the Apex court.
  • All R&R sites should be ready with all the civic amenities as per tribunal award and R&R policy.
  • No impoundment affecting any family before complete rehabilitation should be permitted.
  • Project, its impacts and feasibility of just rehabilitation may be reviewed to find a reasonable way out.
  1. Take action, sign petition, Demand Justice.

Read more details in this article : Sardar Sarovar too Costly for Indian Citizens

Medha Patkar is founding member of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM).