Sardar Sarovar: Hollow claims of benefits: Crores of corruption, lakhs to be rehabilitated

‘Power Benefits’ of SSP is an alibi: Real intent is ‘Benefit of Political Power’

September 25: As elections are round the corner, the BJP Government in Gujarat and its Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi have once again begun playing the same old Sardar Sarovar (SSP) card, knowing pretty well that the Project, which the Planning Commission estimates to cost more than 70,000 crores as on date (ten times the initial sanctioned cost) has not lived up to its tall political claims and paper promises. With the BJP led Madhya Pradesh Govt. on its side, that cares little for the thousands of hectares of fertile land to be submerged and thousands of families to be affected in 193 villages, Gujarat’s CM has been pushing his illegal agenda to clear the final height of the dam (from 122 mts to 138 mts) and consign 2.5 lakh people in the Narmada valley to a watery grave, as had happened in Uttarakhand.

The election stunt in the state capital, Bhopal today is just another attempt by the Modi-Shivraj nexus to raise the hollow issue of ‘delayed benefits’ due to the SSP. It is not even ‘power’ generation that Madhya Pradesh or Gujarat are interested in, but only political power that the leaders are keen to attain. It may be noted that the Sardar Sarovar dam with 1450 MW of firm power generation capacity would generate only 415 MW firm power and the same would also go on reducing as and how the irrigation comes into being and takes water allocated for the same purpose. Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, however, are not entitled to even a drop of water from SSP, but only 27% and 56% of whatever power is generated at every level of the dam height respectively. While official data shows that power generation at SSP, commenced since 2004, Maharashtra and M.P. have not received the exact amount of the power they are entitled to. M.P, even after having to sacrifice thousands of hectares of land and resources with livelihoods is not to attain any real ‘power’ benefits !

A few months ago, Modi, on his election visit to Pune, made a bogus claim that Maharashtra can get 400 crores free electricity from the SSP ! Maharashtra, which has also sacrificed a few thousands crores of revenue, by submergence of 33 hilly adivasi villages, has not been getting the expected quantum of electricity as decided by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award, 1979 (Award). Maharashtra got its first meagre share of power i.e. 3 million units (MU) only in 2006. On an average, the state has been getting less than 540 MU of electricity,which is less than 1% of Maharashtra’s power generation capacity.

It may be noted that more than 2,50,000 people reside in the submergence area in the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat till date, fighting not just for their right to land, livelihood, fisheries, rehabilitation etc., but for the right kind of development. There are, to this day, millions of trees, hundreds of temples, mosques and other monuments, small and large of immense cultural significance in the submergence area. Can the State restore the generations old archeological remnants that lie underground in this oldest of the civilizations in the world? Can anyone ‘rehabilitate’ this heritage ever?

Over the years, the Andolan has exposed a huge corruption scandal in the rehabilitation, worth about Rs. 1,000 crores. Not less than 3,000 fake registriesin the name of land purchase and 8,000 fake documents claiming livelihood based rehabilitation of landless has meant wastage of crores of rupees from the state exchequer. Who are the culprits? The Report by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry, which has been investigating, for the past five years, as per Orders of the M.P. High Court will bring out the truth. The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, for his part has no moral right to speak about corruption, since one of the largest scams in the country that has not just looted the state exchequer, but violated the right to life of the people is under inquiry by the Jha Commission.The High Court had to appoint this Commission only because the Chauhan Govt. deliberately ignored to handle this massive corruption. As per the Narmada Tribunal Award, Gujarat should seek not just ‘accounts’ of the money given to M.P. for rehabilitation, but actual accountability and ensure lawful and timely rehabilitation of all the affected families, before seeing any political benefit out of SSP.

While Gujarat, supported by Madhya Pradesh, ready to sacrifice its own people and villages has been justifying all destruction, in the garb of ‘development, one really has to look at the benefits front to see if all the displacement is actually serving any ‘public purpose’? The financial cost of the project itself has escalated from Rs. 4,200 crores (1983) presumed for economic appraisal to Rs. 6,488 croes (1988) approved by the Planning Commission to the peak of 70,000 crores in 2012. What is the Benefit-Cost ratio today needs to be looked at in utmost seriousness. Even the Planning Commission could have but has not, never reviewed the same.Pushing the dam ahead from 122 mts to 139 mts, but not building the canal network over 30 years has resulting in irrigation falling behind and no use of the reservoir waters already ponded and available.

Is it fair for a Project, built and pushed ahead in the name of needy farmers and villages of Kutch and Saurashtra to divert waters, on a large scale, to corporates, urban municipalities and cities in Gujarat? Is the decision of the Modi Government to exclude 4 lakh hecatres of land from the command area and reserve the same for corporates, SEZs, SIRs etc. a ‘farmer-friendly’ move or a fatal blow to the farmers in the state? Is the sacrifice of the Narmada valley necessary and justifiable for satisfying corporate greed and political vested interests, by changing the very plan of Sardar Sarovar?

No doubt, M.P. and Gujarat are deliberately indifferent to the huge losses that have occurred due to submergence since 1993 to 2013, to the lives and livelihoods of 2.5 lakh people, to the thousands of houses, schools, dispensaries, shops, markets, temples, mosques, adivasi religious structures, lakhs of trees, all that is part of thriving village-life in the valley till date and all that is doomed to be drowned if the 17 mts gates on Sardar Sarovar are to be installed. Like last year, this monsoon as well, thousands of hectares of farm land and more than 2,000 houses in M.P. and Maharashtra have faced illegal submergence, without rehabilitation and the oustees have not even been compensated for the same, despite orders from the GRA. Gujarat has also faced severe impact due to flooding in more than 100 villages and ‘evacuation’ of thousands of people to safer places, although this ‘news’ has been suppressed !

When the Uttarakhand calamity has already taught a lesson, we cannot allow the Narmada valley to face the same, people from the most beautiful and ancient valley warn the Governments. The common masses in the valley have no option, but to fight every party and politician , whether at the Centre or in the States, if the SSP is pushed ahead, since such a decision would be only political and completely illegal and an utter violation of the Narmada Award and numerous Judgements of the Supreme Court. The people will compel the authorities to comply with law and are prepared to fight the vulgar politics tooth and nail, both on the field and in the Courts.

Medha Patkar, Kailash Awasya, Yogini Khanolkar, Kamla Yadav, Meera



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