Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Narmada dam outees: Apex court asks Gujarat, MP, Maharashtra to set up grievances mechanism

Narmada dam oustees
By Our Representative
The Supreme Court’s newly-formed social justice bench, which has commenced hearing on the Sardar Sarovar Project case has asked the state governments of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, to appoint Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA), meant for looking into complaints of the oustees of the Narmada dam. Presided over by Justice Madan Lokur and Jusice UR Lalit, the bench began hearing on the case related to further raise in the height of the dam, on January 9, 2015.
The apex court had received summary submission with data and arguments from the petitioner, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), through its leader Medha Patkar, and other project affected person (PAPs), alongside respondents from Union of Indian through the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), and the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Counsel for Government of Gujarat, Harish Salve and Attorney General of India for Union of India challenged the locus standi of Patkar, accusing her and NBA of quoting from only from the judgment on the Omkareshwar dam, calling them “obstructionist” towards the dam.
Salve argued that Parkar should not be heard and the NBA “should not be permitted henceforth to be in the Supreme Court”. A National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) statement said, “The judges listened to all the arguments on maintainability, and then requested advocate Sanjay Parikh to plead on behalf of the representatives petitioners of farmers, labourers and fish-workers in thousands.”
“Parikh narrated the history of violations of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal (NWDT) Award, the state rehabilitation policies, as well as the judgments of the apex court of 1992, 2000 and 2005”, NAPM, the apex body of tens of people's organizations, including NBA, said.
“The land and livelihood based rehabilitation”, Parikh argued, “is far from completed and the same is evident from the official documents and reports. Hundreds of cases are pending before each of the three GRAs, and hundreds of orders are not complied with. Land offered and/ or allotted to many is uncultivable and hence against law and judgment.”
“Patkar was granted permission to plead as party-in-person against the request of the opponents”, NAPM said, adding, “She, on her turn, put forth the situation on the ground as well as the violations. She narrated the story of the big scandal in rehabilitation that has totally derailed the policy and squandered crores of rupees from rehabilitation funds without completion of rehabilitation.”
“The fake registries scam”, she said, “has led to making affected persons landless instead of giving them better standard of living, promised through policies.” NAPM added, “This made the bench to enquire about the present status and functioning of GRAs. It was finally confirmed before the bench that hundreds of cases are pending before GRAs while there is no chairman in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat today.”
“The bench then directed to appoint urgently the five GRAs in Madhya Pradesh and two in Maharashtra and Gujarat each. Further, the bench stated that it would like to get pending cases redressed and GRA to give their assessment on the differing data presented by parties. The bench also directed the all the three states to consult respective authorities and come back with names of the GRAs”, NAPM said.
The next hearing would be held on January 16.

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