BEFORE THE PANEL OF
HON’BLE JUSTICE (RETD.) A.P. SHAH (RETIRED CHIEF JUSTICE, DELHI AND MUMBAI HIGH COURT), PROF. IMTIAZ AHMED, DR DEVENDER SHARMA, PROF. JAYA SAGADE
Everyone is well-acquainted with the reality of the Sardar Sarovar Project and its impacts over the past 25 years and more. The displaced adivasis and farmers of the Narmada valley have, through all these years, raised crucial questions not just about their rights and rehabilitation but on all aspects of this mega-project within the constitutional and legal framework, which had to be answered, both by the State and the society.
Hoax of Rehabilitation: The displaced and affected adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and others have also questioned the scale and justifiability of the displacement, the implementation of the Rehabilitation Policy and the future of thousands of them in the valley. With alternative land and livelihood-based rehabilitation nowhere in sight, people have been seriously challenging the statistics and information of the Government, massive corruption, fake land bank, lack of rehabilitation villages for the submerged adivasis, flaws in enumeration of back water levels, inclusion and exclusion of thousands of persons and many other emerging issues and irregularities.
Of course, 11,000 families have received land for land in Maharashtra and Gujarat, but is that complete and satisfactory? How true and complete are the reports of the project and monitoring authorities on the R&R? Even to this day, more than 2 lakh people are living in the submergence area of this one big Project, without rehabilitation. Despite this, the Government wants to push the project to its full height of 138.68 mts, beyond the present height of 122 mts, which itself was based on fake claims and false affidavits of rehabilitation and environmental non-compliance. Will the living communities be consigned to a watery grave? Will this be legal and just?
Environmental Harm: The Devender Pandey Expert Committee Reports (2009 & 2010) have clearly concluded severe non-compliance of various environmental safeguard measures as stipulated in the environmental clearance of 1987. In such a situation, the Committee recommends that neither can the dam proceed further nor could the canals be built. When the command area development, catchment area treatment, compensatory Afforestation, protection of flora and fauna, relocation of archeological monuments and other environmental works are not even carried out, neither can the negative impacts be mitigated nor can the benefits be realized.
Noose of Costs and Benefits:
It is now in public domain that the cost of the Sardar Sarovar project today has shot up from the original estimate of Rs. 4,200 crores to 45,000 crores (at present prices) and shall go upto Rs. 70,000 crores by 2010 as per the estimates of the Planning Commission itself. In such a situation, when the entire Project is in doldrums, how can the Planning Commission approve revised investment clearance of Rs. 39,240 crores? With not more than 10% of the available waters being used by Gujarat, why raise the height and destroy the valley? Without assessing the actual status of compliance on the rehabilitation and environmental measures, assessing compliance on the conditions stipulated in the Planning Commission’s clearance in 1988 and reviewing the entire Project in the light of the benefits-costs scenario, how can the construction of dam and canals go further?
The Game of Canals in irrigated villages:
Another new challenge that has cropped up in the past few years is the huge canal network of the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar in the Sardar Sarovar affected areas that are being pushed ahead without even having in place approved command area development plans. Is it either logical or necessary to destroy already irrigated prime agricultural lands in dozens of villages?
With more than 50% of the proposed command area already irrigated, the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, in its judgement of November 2009 has clearly stated that agricultural land should not be destroyed for the canals and the network must be reviewed to minimize displacement. Without even extending the benefits of rehabilitation to the canal-affected, as per the Rehabilitation Policy, is it legal to clamp the ‘urgency clause’ for land acquisition and entrap the farmers through forced or deceitful ‘consent letters’? What is the true meaning of the Interim Order of the Supreme Court? What will be the impacts of these huge canals on the agriculture, river, water bodies, tanks and crops in Nimad?
Is Sardar Sarovar proving to be the life-line of even Gujarat or is Narmada the real life line of lakhs of people in the valley?
Main terms of Reference of the Tribunal shall be:
1. Whether the rehabilitation of the Sardar Sarovar and Jobat dam-affected and Indira Sagar, Omkareshwar canal-affected is taking place within the framework of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award, law, rehabilitation policy and Court’s judgments? To what extent land and live-livelihood based rehabilitation has been ensured to the project oustees?
2. What is the level of compliance of the environmental safeguard measures of the SSP and the ISP-OSP Canals vis-à-vis the conditional clearances granted, impacts of non-compliance on the environment, the legal violations involved and action by the central authorities on the findings of the latest Report of the Devender Pandey Expert Committee (2009 & 2010)?
3. What is the actual status and reality of the massive corruption of crores of rupees that has crept into and derailed the entire rehabilitation process and what measures being taken to address the same?
4. Whether there is any basis in law and policy to further the construction of these projects without pari-passu compliance of all the conditions and ensuring full, fair and prior rehabilitation?
5. What is the true status of the costs and benefits of the Sardar Sarovar Project today? Without reviewing the entire Project in the light of the stipulated conditions in the Planning Commission’s clearance (1988) and the present benefits-costs scenario, how can the construction of dam and canals go further?
6. What have been the legal and human rights violations of the project-affected people, over the years and what legal redress must be provided to them and what is the legal responsibility of the project and monitoring authorities?
7. Is it either logical or necessary to destroy already irrigated prime agricultural lands in dozens of river-bank villages? Do alternatives exist, to minimize displacement and save agricultural land?
The people of Narmada valley, along with the activists and experts shall depose before the Indian / Independent People’s Tribunal. They shall not just point out to the existing problems, but also share their experiences and propose alternatives. The hearing on the Sardar Sarovar Project and the Indira Sagar & Omkareshwar canals shall also be located in the larger context of the questions on the role of the State, democratic processes, development planning, water policy and on the politics around the SSP and other large dams. The farmers, adivasis, potters, fish workers and boatsmen shall also be joined by the experts and intellectuals who shall raise their voice and express their opinions.
The Tribunal shall deliver its verdict through a Report after field-visits, hearing, investigation and detailed analysis of the Projects and all related documents.
Panelists for the Independent / Indian People’s Tribunal:
1. Hon’ble Justice (Retd.) A.P. Shah, Retired Chief Justice, Delhi and Mumbai High Court
2. Prof. Imtiaz Ahmad, Noted Social Scientist, Former HoD, Dept of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University
3. Dr. Devender Sharma, International Researcher and Agriculture Policy Analyst
4. Prof. Jaya Sagade, Indian Law Society (Law College), Pune
Venue: Anand Karaj Bhavan, Near Gurudwara, Rajghat Road, Badwani, Madhya Pradesh
Badwani can be reached by road from Khandwa / Dhule / Indore / Baroda railway stations within 4-5 hours. All of you who have been observing the struggle of the people in the valley are welcome to the join in and participate in the hearing process.
Badwani Contact: 07290-222464 / 09179148973
Bhopal Contact: 9009106297
Mumbai Contact: 9820039557
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