October 21, 2020
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'Immediate Suspension Of Ongoing Dam Construction'

'There was so much that took place in one day and so much that revealed itself to the three ministers. It was clear that the law was being flouted, whether it is in providing land for land or in the establishment of R&R sites.'

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'Immediate Suspension Of Ongoing Dam Construction'

On 4th April 2006, Prof Saif-ud-din Soz, the Union Minister for Water Resources, visited the NBA dharna at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and announced that as per the Prime Minister's directive, Smt Meira Kumarji, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment and Shri Prithviraj Chauhan, Minister of State in the Prime Minster’s Office and him, would visit some of the affected villages and R&R sites corresponding to 121.92m, to assess the veracity of the claims being made by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) and the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) that all affected families have been resettled. The Ministers are expected to immediately report its findings to the Prime Minister.

In their capacity as Observers, this team was accompanied by Shri Prashant Bhushan, Advocate in the Supreme Court, Shri B.D. Sharma, former Commissioner of the National Commission on Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes and Shri Denzil Saldana, Faculty, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and member of the Rehabilitation Planning Committee appointed by the Government of Maharashtra.

To this end, the Ministerial Team has visited few submergence villages and resettlement sites on the 7th of April 2006. These were:

1. Dharampuri R&R site, Dharampuri tehsil, Dhar district
2. Lakhangaon R&R site, Thikri tehsil, Badwani district
3. Borlai – 2 R&R site, Badwani tehsil, Badwani district
4. Piplud, Badwani tehsil, Badwani district
5. Avalda, Badwani tehsil, Badwani district
6. Nisarpur R&R site, Kukshi tehsil, Dhar district

Though NBA had strongly recommended that the Team also visit the 100% adivasi villages in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Alirajpur (Madhya Pradesh), where families have had to face illegal submergence every monsoon for over a decade now without having been rehabilitated, the Team did not visit these areas. This is a matter of serious concern on at least two fronts. Firstly, these are villages where homes and agricultural lands have already been submerged and yet the PAFs are not resettled. Secondly, visiting these regions would have given the team an indication of the destruction and devastation that awaits Nimad. Since the Team was unable to visit these areas, representatives from Bhadal (Akrani teshil, Nandurbar district, Maharashtra), Kakrana, Jhandana, Sugat, Bhitada, Nadi Sikhedi, Bhitada, Anjanwara (Alirajpur tehsil, Jhabua district, Madhya Pradesh) and Kharya Bhadal (Badwani district, Madhya Pradesh) travelled about 100 kilometers to come to Avalda to make their voices heard.

This visit by the Ministers has truly turned out to be an eye opener for themselves and the general public to the reality of rehabilitation claims by the governments. This is important since on the 10th of March, Prof. Soz stated that he was not satisfied with the situation of rehabilitation and felt that the clearance was premature. His suspicion has certainly been confirmed by what he has seen in the Valley. The Team was accompanied throughout the trip by a group of electronic and print media, which have been giving live telecasts of the Team's trip and all their interactions with the affected people.

The response to this visit and the manner in which the affected populations participated in it is an indication of the need for an independent review of the rehabilitation process. The Team was met by thousands of PAFs wherever it went. The anger, frustration, and still, hope, of the affected people took various forms, from speeches to written applications, to slogan shouting and songs, to demands that the Team visit their village as well as that the NVDA officials, especially Vinod Kumar, be immediately suspended. Ultimately through the day, the Team witnessed that affected people were willing to challenge the governments who are hell-bent on submerging them without rehabilitation.

The Team was stopped en-route on numerous occasions, including at Khalghat, Datwada, Mandwada and Picchodi, by PAFs from various surrounding submergence villages. The entire population of Chikhalda gathered on the road that leads through their village, in anticipation of the Team passing by on its way to Nisarpur. They wanted the Team to just drive through their large village of over 700 families who have not been rehabilitated though they are affected at 95 metres. However, they were denied the opportunity of meeting the Team and airing their views since the NVDA conveniently changed the route of the Team at the last minute. (This was even as people stopped the Minster’s convoy and asked them to take the route through Chikalda only to be forcibly roughed up and thrown aside by the accompanying police).

The Team, not only heard the testimonies of people, but also received numerous written complaints and applications from the affected people. Prof. Sozji had through the day, on numerous occasions, promised that these applications would be looked into and not thrown into wastepaper bins.

The Team had a meeting with Shri Prashant Bhushan, Shri B.D. Sharma, Shri Denzil Saldana, Ashish Mandloi and Clifton D’ Rozario (the last two being members of Narmada Bachao Andolan) at about 3.30 p.m. at the NVDA rest-house in Badwani. The observers and NBA activists took this opportunity to brief the Ministers on the legal implications and gigantic scale of human tragedy that would befall the villages affected at and under 121.92m, were the construction of the dam not suspended immediately. The Team was shown the relevant extracts from the Narmada Award and Supreme Court judgments that stipulated completion of acquisition, payment of compensation and rehabilitation as a necessary precondition to grant clearance for further construction. Shri Bhushan detailed the legal ramifications of the present violations in rehabilitation while Shri B.D. Sharmaji talked about the need for the Gram Sabhas to be an integral part of the rehabilitation process especially the formulation of the Action Taken Reports (ATRs). Shri Denzil Saldana referred to his role in the Rehabilitation Planning Committee set up by the Maharashtra government and the need for the same in M.P.

During the meeting, Smt. Miera Kumarji queried about the figure of 35,000 families being quoted by NBA. In response, Ashish and Clifton brought to her notice that in Maharashtra the Yashada report has claimed that about 3300 families are affected, in Gujarat there are around 1000 families in the original villages, while in Madhya Pradesh there are more than 30,000 families affected (from the Minutes of the R&R Sub-group dated 12th September 2006 shown to the Minister Smt. Miera Kumar). They added that considering the number of PAFs wrongly shown as affected at higher levels, the yet-to-be completed enumeration of major sons, inclusion and enumeration of tapu – affected, etc. indicates that at least 35,000 families remain to be rehabilitated. Ashish added that while around 4500 families are claimed to be resettled in Gujarat, 75% have actually returned to their original villages due to various irresolvable problems and hence cannot be considered as resettled. In fact, through a consultative process, some new rehabilitation plan needs to be worked out for them. Some of the villages where PAFs have returned after having opted for resettlement in Gujarat include Rajghat (Kukra), Kasrawad, Bhavti, Pendra, Jangarwa, Sondul, Kotbandini, Dehar, Dasana, Nadi Sirkhedi, Ekkalbara, etc.

The clear facts that emerged are:

I. Regarding R&R Sites

a) Vania from Jhandana (Alirajpur, Madhya Pradesh), made the point that there were no R&R sites for the 100% adivasi villages from Jalsindhi to Kakrana that have repeatedly demanded land in Madhya Pradesh. Pemabhai from Avalda stated that though there was no R&R site for his village, the government, in its ATR, claims that all affected families at 121.92m have been rehabilitated and that all have been given house plots.

b) The R&R sites are not ready as was seen in Dharampuri and Lakhangaon. Even basic services like drinking water, electricity, sewage lines, etc. are not provided. This compliant was also received from that small number of families who have shifted to Lakhangaon R&R site, who stated that they do not have electricity, nor are there toilets or sewage connections. They also stated that the hand pumps provided were not functioning; just one was repaired the previous evening in anticipation of the Team's visit.

c) Further all these R&R sites are uninhabited, except for a few families. The Team also noticed the other R&R sites on the road that they traveled that were also barren and uninhabited.

d) One major compliant made by many was that there was no agricultural land at the R&R sites. This was stated by Rameshbhai in Piplud, Pemabhai in Avalda and Bhagirathbhai (from Chikhada, while speaking at the Nisarpur hearing) among others. They also made the point that shifting to these sites is not an option for them for this very reason. They demanded that R&R site be established with all civic amenities, adequate houseplots and cultivable and irrigable agricultural lands.

e) One constant compliant that was heard was that of insufficient houseplots at the R&R sites. For instance, Jaganbhai from Picchodi (at the Avalda hearing) stated that there are 480 families in his village while the R&R site being established only has 62 houseplots. Nisarpur is also facing the same situation with insufficient houseplots being available.

f) Rameshbhai from Picchodi and Shantilalbhai from Bhawariya (in Nisarpur hearing) both made the point that the NVDA was establishing R&R sites without consulting the Gram Sabhas and it disregards resolutions of the Gram Sabha in which the affected villages have rejected the sites being established.

g) The Team also heard the manner in which some PAFs are facing double displacement due to the SSP. On the one hand, they are submergence-affected, while on the other hand, their balance agricultural lands are being forcibly acquired for making house plots at R&R sites for the PAFs' own villages. This came through in one of the testimonies heard in the Nisarpur hearing where he stated that there were people in Nisarpur who were affected by submergence i.e. house or land or house and part of land, while his agricultural land is being acquired for the establishment of R&R site for his own village. This, he mentioned, has been taking place in several villages and demanded that an order be passed that land would not be acquired from a PAF for any other part of the same project, including establishment of R&R site.

II. Regarding land for land

a) A large number of people made the demand for cultivable and irrigable agricultural land to be offered by NVDA. They claimed that the NVDA only offers uncultivable land to dissuade PAFs from demanding land for land.

b) People have strongly objected to cash compensation in any form, including the new Special Rehabilitation Package (SRP). Sajjanbai from Pipri (at the Piplud hearing) said that for her the choice is not between money and land, but between a bottle of poison and land. She also added that this policy is against the stipulations of the NWDTA and the Supreme Court verdicts, which mandate land-for-land. Sanovar Bi from Chikhalda village, while speaking at the Nisarpur hearing made a strong plea for land for land and added that they would not accept anything less. All the speakers at the Piplud and Avalda hearing including the representatives from Maharahtra, Mangliya Kaaliya (village Bhadal) and those from Alirajpur, Vania (village Jhandana), stated that they have been repeatedly demanding land for land.

c) Motilalbhai of Chotta Barda (in Piplud hearing) stated that the NVDA was forcing people to accept SRP by not offering them land at all or by offering uncultivable land or by threatening them of not receiving anything is they did not accept cash compensation.

d) What also emerged from the numerous testimonies was that people are not able to but land with the SRP amount. Motilalbhai of Chotta Barda is a good example of this, while he is entitled to 5 acres of agricultural land, when he tried buying it himself using SRP he found that the 5 lakhs he received fell far short of the 12 lakhs he needed. It was also pointed out that as per the ATRs themselves, the PAFs who have accepted SRP have not received land as per their entitlement (column 34 of the ATRs of M.P. titled 'balance land still needed to be purchased as per entitlement')

e) Ashish Mandloi of Chotta Barda (in Piplud hearing) stated that NVDA is forcing people to take SRP in other ways as well. Firstly, they only offer uncultivable land, and, secondly, allotting uncultivable lands to them through ex – parte. Pemabhai of Avalda stated that he had submitted a list of 202 families of his village who demanded land for land. In response, NVDA has allotted 56 families uncultivable land ex-parte and taken no action on the demands of the remaining.

f) Deverambhai Kanera (in Avalda hearing) pointed out that most who opt for SRP are doing so due to pressure of existing debts and fear that they will not receive anything at all if dam is built. Thus most of the money is utilised in clearing off existing loans. Since they are supposed to show registries to get the second installment of SRP, they are producing fake registries but no land transfer either in title or possession. Thus mass corruption is taking place.

g) Clifton from Narmada Bachao Andolan, on the basis of the ATRs, made the point that the NVDA offers the same piece of uncultivable land to all PAFs and then claims that they opted for SRP on rejection of this offer. In Manawar, for example, from the ATRs of 14 villages, it is seen that about 550 PAFs were all offered 7 hectares of land! The village-wise breakup has been given to Prof. Soz.

III. Regarding number of affected families

a) Clifton from Narmada Bachao Andolan pointed out that NVDA is playing games with regard to the number of families affected at 121.92m. According to the Minutes of the R&R Sub-Group meeting held on 12th September it is shown that there are 30,690 families affected upto 121.92m of whom 13,402 families are entitled to land. It is important to note that post this meeting, the cumulative number of affected families is not reported anymore and instead the NVDA only reports about those families affected between 110.64m and 121.92m. According to Prof. Soz’s letter to Shri L.C. Jain dated 6th March 2006, there are 17,255 affected families between 110.64m and 121.92m. According to the Minutes of the R&R Sub – group meeting held on 8th March, there are 16,156 affected families between 110.64m and 121.92m. Clearly over two days, the number of affected families dips by 1099 families.

Game of Numbers continues! It was 17,255 families on 6th March 2006 per Prof. Sozji’s letter to Shri L.C. Jain, but only 16,156 families on 8th March 2006 Minutes of the R&R Sub – group meeting

There is more to this. On 12th September in the R&R Sub – group it is reported that the backlog is 13233 PAFs. This implies that as on 6th March, is 17255 – 13233 = 4022 i.e. only 4022 families are affected in Madhya Pradesh despite the raise in dam height being nearly 12m! On 8th March this number reduces further to 2923 families affected in M.P. due to 12m raise in dam height. This is blatantly incorrect. In 2005 the Supreme Court held that; "…We are not oblivious of the fact that the river valley of Narmada is shaped like an inverted cone and the area of submergence increases exponentially for the each metre of height raised...". Given this reality how is it possible that the number of PAFs between 110.64m and 121.92m is a mere 2923 families after excluding the backlog of 13233 PAFs?

b) Ashish from Chotta Barda made the point that while the ATR for his village shows 146 as affected at 121.92m, in reality the full village is affected at this level. He also stated that the same is the case in Chikhalda and other villages as well.

c) Haribhai, a dalit, from village Aowli, further exposed the discrepancies in enumeration of PAFs by the NVDA. He stated that he was affected at 100m and that his full land is in submergence. However, of the 18 co-sharers on record, the NVDA had only provided entitlement to 5 of them. Thus 13 co-sharers, including himself were not being provided entitlement to land. He also added that, as per official records, his house is in submergence, hence he was entitled only to a houseplot when, as per the awl, he was also entitled to land. He made a demand for land for land.

IV. Regarding those who returned back to M.P. from Gujarat

a) Motilal from village Jangarwa and Khanaksingh from village Rajghat (Kukra) stated that they had initially opted for resettlement in Gujarat and had been allotted land there. While in the case of those from Jangarwa (90m affected) these lands were allotted to several other PAFs so they had to leave it and return back to their village. They made representations for change of land and finally sat in a month-long dharna in Badwani making the demand that they want land in MP itself, but to no avail. This sage of theirs is on since 1993. The case of those from Rajghat, as stated by Khanaksingh. All these families, like all those who have returned from Gujarat, live in their original village awaiting proper rehabilitation, though on paper they are rehabilitated.

V. Regarding Land acquisition

a) Ashish from Chotta Barda and Rameshbhai from Piplud showed the recent notifications under Section 6 for the acquisition of the properties in their villages coming under submergence. Ashish stated that this was illegal since the Tribunal does not allow for submergence of property that has not been acquired and compensation paid.

b) Smt. Sarita Prasad made the point that they had objected to the surveys and hence the process of acquisuition was delayed. To this Rameshbhai replied that the survey was carried out more than 2 years ago and still they had not competed acquisition proceedings. Ashish added that the reason for objecting to the surveys was that since acquisition and rehabilitation are linked they had demanded for the resettlement plan for their village before surveying. On failing to receive any such plan they were forced to object to the surveys since once their land was acquired their bargaining power would reduce.

VI. Regarding Government claims

a) The statement of the NVDA officials, and the assurances recorded in the minutes of the R&R sub – group meeting, indicate that the work at the R&R sites would be completed by 31.05.2006. This is illegal since according to the NWDTA and the judgment of the Supreme Court in 1005, these should have been made ready 1 year ago.

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