Meena Menon

`Hundreds of displaced people yet to be rehabilitated'

  • Madhya Pradesh worst offender
  • SEZs in Gujarat fell in command area of SSP

    MUMBAI: Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar on Thursday criticised the proposed dedication of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) to the people by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. She said this was happening despite the fact that hundreds of displaced people had not rehabilitated yet.

    Ms. Patkar said Mr. Modi had invited the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and the former Chief Ministers of Gujarat to convince them of the dam's benefits and the need to build gates on the dam wall. At the current height of 122 metres, about 35,000 families were yet to be rehabilitated in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and a few in Gujarat.

    Various Government reports, including the Shunglu committee's had recommended that the rehabilitation for this height must end by January 2007. However, it had not happened. Madhya Pradesh was the worst offender. About 19,000 families have not been resettled, besides the 6,000, who were yet to get the oustee status.

    In Maharashtra, according to latest reports, 874 families were yet to be resettled and people not being shown land by the Government. Only Gujarat had managed to resettle most of its project-affected people as per the norms of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT), giving them land for land.

    The Supreme Court too had upheld the primacy of rehabilitation before the dam height was increased apart from land for land compensation.

    However, in Madhya Pradesh, cash was being given instead of land and now the Government was saying that 2,000 people had bought land with the cash compensation. Stating this to be untrue, Ms. Patkar said a complaint was filed with proof with the Central Vigilance Commission to inquire into what was patently a fraud.

    In this situation, to declare the dam as completed and dedicate it to the public was a travesty and a glaring example of development without even pretence of social justice. A lot was said about the irrigation and power benefits the dam would provide. The fact was that both were highly over-rated, she said.

    Ms. Patkar also alleged that the proposed Special Economic Zones in Gujarat fell in the command area of the SSP. The benefits of the project were going to the corporate sector now instead of farmers.

    She demanded a law on land alienation.

    Referring to Singur, she said 80 per cent of the land was under multiple cropping and they fell in the command area of the Damodar Valley projects. A cash compensation of Rs. 12 lakh an acre was not enough as the land was worth much more.

    The NBA and other groups would launch an indefinite struggle in March all over the country to focus on the issues of displacement and land alienation, she said.