Reports on resettlement "largely paperwork" with no relation to ground realities
NEW DELHI: The Group of Ministers (GoM) which visited rehabilitation sites and submergence villages in Madhya Pradesh has said in its report that the complaints that rehabilitation had not been done in consonance with the orders of the Supreme Court and the Narmada Disputes Tribunal Award, were found to be "correct.''
More than 5,000 petitions were pending before the Grievance Redressal Agency of the State. Displaced villagers and tribals faced a lot of hardship in their attempts to approach the Chairman of the GRA, headquartered in Bhopal. The GRA had not visited the rehabilitation villages in the last six years, it said. The GoM, led by Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, has said that the reports of the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Sub-Group and the Grievance Redressal Agency, on the basis of which the (official-level) Narmada Control Authority granted permission for raising the height of the Narmada dam in Gujarat had been "largely paperwork'' and irrelevant to the situation on the ground.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had deputed the GoM to visit the valley in Madhya Pradesh after Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar went on an indefinite fast seeking suspension of the construction of the dam till rehabilitation of the affected families was completed in accordance with the Narmada Disputes Tribunal Award and Supreme Court orders.
Union Minister for Social Justice Meira Kumar and Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chauhan were members of the Group. "In spite of extreme shortcomings in resettlement and rehabilitation of oustees, the Madhya Pradesh Government can organise proper effort for rehabilitation, say, within a year from now. It has to show political will,'' the GoM said.
It criticised the payment of cash compensation to the displaced families under the Special Rehabilitation Package instead of land for land as envisaged in the award. "This practice has bred corruption and thousands of people the GoM met in the valley rejected the SRP,'' the GoM said.
It said there was "no moral and legal justification'' in the deduction of Rs. 1 lakh by way of "income tax'' for every unit of Rs. 10 lakh cash compensation to be given to the displaced families as a settlement under the SRP. The GoM has asked the Supreme Court to ascertain whether the payment of cash compensation was in line with the tribunal award and its own instructions
It said that there was no special provision for resettlement and rehabilitation of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the position of tribal oustees, particularly in areas such as Kakrana and Kharia Bhadal, was reported to be bad.
The GoM recommended that the Action Taken Report filed by the Madhya Pradesh Government with the R and R sub-group be sent to the gram panchayats for verification. During its tour, it visited Khalghat, Dharampuri, Lakhangaon, Borlai 1, 2 and 3, Awalda, Piplud and Nisarpur. "In due course of time, the Government must explore a better system of redressal of complaints about rehabilitation than what is sought under the present GRA,'' it said