Next Hearing of NBA’s petition challenging cash in lieu of land scheme on 9th April

Jabalpur: A Division Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court including Hon’ble Chief Justice Shri Sharad Arvind Bobade and Justice Rajendra Menonwhile hearing a writ petition filed on behalf of Narmada Bachao Andolan and by some Sardar Sarovar Project – Affected Families (SSP – PAFs), challenging the new Scheme of the state government to unilaterally deposit meagre cash compensation in lieu of land, required NBA to submit a list of lands which are cultivable and suitable for allotment to the oustees, other than the existing Land Bank of the Government, so that the same may be considered for the purpose of rehabilitation.

The Bench was hearing arguments for and against the impugned Scheme dated 6-09-2010, in the light of various legal guarantees, mandating land –based rehabilitation for the SSP – PAFs, including Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA), R&R Policy, Judgements of the Hon’ble Supreme Court (18-10-2000 and 15-03-2005) and various Orders of the Hon’ble Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA.). It was argued on behalf of NBA that most of the oustees are small or marginal farmers, especially adivasis and dalits and that this scheme of replacing cash with land is in utter violation of all the aforesaid legal provisions. It was also stated that the cash compensation is very meagre in comparison to the current land prices in the area and the same cannot be used for land purchase. Infact, most oustees who received the 1st cash grant 5-6 years ago have not been able to purchase land.

NBA also made voluminous submissions proving how the ‘offers’ made to the oustees by the State are mostly of lands that are uncultivable, un-irrigable, encroached by other poor farmers since decades or the distance between land and house plot allotted is more than 150 kms. The Bench also appreciated that one of the major issues that is plaguing the process of resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) of the SSP PAFs in Madhya Pradesh is with regard to the allotment of cultivable, irrigable, suitable and un-encroached land with house plots in adjacent sites. Denial of the same has led to a range of problems including encashment of the R&R entitlements, massive corruption and deviation of the binding legal provision to provide land, as per law, thereby violating their right to rehabilitation and right to life of hundreds of PAFs.

In this context, this Court appreciated that if the land available in the Government Land Bank is not in terms of the aforesaid legal provisions, the State must be willing to identify and allot other land that would be in the nature of a cultivable and legal offer. The Court accepted that only such lands must be offered which is cultivable and suitable. The Court suggested that if land suitable to the oustees is given, there would not be any grievance. The Court required the petitioners / NBA to submit a list of such lands to the State Government through the learned Advocate General, who committed to the Court that the Government is certainly willing to consider the proposals from the petitioners and would like an amicable resolution.

It is notable that the Madhya Pradesh Government has filed another writ petition challenging an Order of Justice Jha Commission, which has stayed withdrawal of the 2nd instalment of the cash grant in the case of 400 PAFs, on the ground that the deposit has been made without the scrutiny of the Commission, as mandated by the Supreme Court. NBA strongly demanded that the petition itself is malafide and entertaining the same would amount to contempt of the Hon’ble Supreme Court which directed in its order of 11th May, 2009 that there shall be no payments without prior scrutiny of the Commission. After hearing the preliminary submissions, the Hon’ble Court directed NBA to file its reply by the next date, so that the matter may be heard fully.  The Commission is investigating into and conducting hearings in the case of all the 400 PAFs in whose bank accounts the NVDA has deposited the 2nd instalment amount, in a unilateral and unlawful manner. The hearings are to be held from the 13th to 15th March, before the Commission.

Medha Patkar represented the cause of the PAFs and the case on behalf of Narmada Bachao Andolan. Shri R.N. Singh, learned Advocate General and Adv. Arpan Pawar represented the State of M.P and NVDA.

The next hearing for both the petitions has been scheduled for the 9th of April, 2013.

Pema Babu           Edubhai         Kamla Yadav                        Meera                                                

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