Challenge illegal decision to raise Sardar Sarovar dam height


Expose false claims of rehabilitation and environmental compliance 

More than 1,200 women and men from the Narmada valley stormed and occupied the head office of the Narmada Control Authority, Narmada Bhavan at Vijay Nagar, Indore yesterday on 2nd July.The loud and strong protest by farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters, small shopkeepers, adivasis and dalits was against the decision to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam from the 122 mts (present) to the 138.68 mts (final height) that was learnt to have been taken on 27th June at New Delhi. It was at the end of the protest that the agitators learnt from authentic sources that as a result of the voice raised by the people and their supporters, the meeting of NCA to finalize raise in dam height was postponed.

The decision by the Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) Sub Group (NCA) chaired by the Secretary, Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment was despite the fact that it was earlier very critical that not less than 40,000 families in the submergence area and to be affected even at the present dam height are not rehabilitated with entitlements of land for the farmers, alternative livelihood for the landless, house plots and amenities at the resettlement sites. While since 1994, adivasi villages and since 2000 even densely populated villages in the plains are being affected, the largest number of villages affected, are in M.P. (193).

The decision was made on the basis of false claims and reports by both Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra  and even Gujarat, what were taken as the basis for pushing the dam, under political pressures from the Narendra Modi Government. The people with large strength of women, beyond caste and class were obviously upset that the decision is to be finalized in the full NCA meeting in utter violation of the Narmada Tribunal Award (1979), environmental conditions in the clearance, 4 judgments of the Supreme Court, (1991,  2000, 2002 and 2005) and the state level rehabilitation policies.

Previously, the height of the SSP was raised from 110 mts to 122 mts in a similar manner in 2006 which led to 21 days fast by Medha Patkar, Bhagwati behan and Jamsing bhai at Jantar Mantar, Delhi. Since then, the permission was not granted, as every time it was proved that thousands of families remain to be rehabilitated. In M.P, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry was appointed by the State High Court, when massive corruption was unearthed by the farmers themselves, along with NBA, in the rehabilitation process. The state government itself had to admit 686 land purchase registries as fake, while the actual figure could be 3,000 or even more. Inquiry by the Commission is on since the last 5 years in every aspect of rehabilitation including house plot allotment, quality of civic amenities, fraud in the lists of PAFs, betrayal of landless etc.  The report is due any time after October and a pre-mature political decision on the dam would be a huge fraud on the people and the Courts.

The Govt. of Maharashtra was always taking a stand that rehabilitation o hundreds of adivasis in the state must be completed prior to dam construction and submergence. Yet, its new Secretary, Rehabilitation, seems to have misreported the position in the state. It is in this context that the people at NCA yesterday, raised every issue in rehabilitation, environment, cumulative impacts of all dams vis-à-vis regulation in the valley and the costs-benefits of SSP. Shyama behan, a fisher woman compared the fish catch before and after pondage and questioned, whether the officials including Mr. Pawan Kumar, Director Environment, NCA knows anything about fisheries ! “We will not allow commercial contracts to be granted to outside investor in SSP reservoir, as we have invested our sweat and blood, over generations”, she said.

Pemabhai, an adivasi from the plains of Nimad warned the officials that NCA cannot accept the reports from NVDA, M.P. State agency or Maharashtra, unless a thorough scrutiny of the same is made. Maglia bhai from Village Bhadal, Maharashtra narrated the story of one adivasi Leharya Ganya, who attempted suicide on the 30th of June, as even after 4 years, since shifting, he was not given possession by the owner of land, whom the government had not paid full price.Pemalbai Koli of Village Dhanora represented the landless women, many of who are excluded from the list of eligible PAFs and left deprived of house plots and alternative livelihoods which is their right. Kailash Awasya, Bhagairath Dhangar, Adv. Yogni, Chetan Salve, Medha Patkar and Meera exposed the false claims on paper and distortions in the decision making process.

Many youth and the aged from the Pahad and Nimad questioned the officisls Mr. Pawan Kumar, Director, NCA and the Dy. Director, Mr. Asif, rehabilitation, who were made to reply and promised that they would certainly look into every issue immediately. The people, occupying the NCA premises, warned the NCA that if any decision is taken to submerge such a vast area and drown the people illegally, merely under the pressures and political expediency exhibited by Gujarat, it will not be tolerated. People and activists with supporters from Indore asserted that:

Ø R&R Sub Group must withdraw its illegal decision, if already taken, and NCA should not finalize the same, admitting that more than 40,000 families are residing in the submergence area and most of those, affected at the present height are also not rehabilitated.

 Ø NCA must not submit to pressures from the states, but play a major and independent role in strictly monitoring and ensuring compliance with law, policies and judgements on rehabilitation and environment, through frequent field visits and investigation. 

Ø Land should be identified for eligible farmers, including adivasis, to rehabilitated them, as per the Narmada Tribunal and Supreme Court Judgements and cash disbursement, as special package, must be stopped, for ever. Maharashtra should not offer cash package to the hilly adivasis in lieu of land.

 Ø Right to fisheries should be granted to the fish wotrkers, alternative livelihood to other landless, as per the NVDA’s Action Plan, 1993, recognized by the Apex Court.

Ø All major sons should be rehabilitated, with land, as per the Tribunal Award and Judgement of the Supreme Court, 2005.

 Ø No further construction at the dam, including pillars and bridges, should be permitted at this stage, which too would increase submergence by 1.5 mts, as it would be committing contempt of Court and people, both.

 Ø NCA must ensure that all those who have faced losses (crop), labourers (houses), fish workers (fish, nets and boats) and shopkeepers (shops and material), potters etc. are compensated.

The mass action ended at 7:00 p.m. with people warning that if their houses and farms get submerged due to Sardar Sarovar or water releases from upstream dams, as happened last August, they would be compelled to take shelter in the same Narmada Bhavan. They also insisted that NCA must monitor compliance, fully and fairly, without relying on false statistics coming from the state; or else the people would be compelled to lock up the premises. 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 warned the officials.


Tags: , ,