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Narmada oustees' long-pending complaints: Apex court asks Gujarat, MP, Maharashtra to act urgently

By Our Representative
The Supreme Court’s Social Justice Bench has directed Grievances Authorities (GRAs) of three states – Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra -- to urgently dispose of all the pending complaints of Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) oustees lying before it by February 28, 2015. The apex court direction came follow another order on January 9 to the three state governments to immediately appoint judges for all the GRAs, whose primary job is to look into complaints of the oustees. Madhya Pradesh has to appoint five judges, Gujarat two and Maharashtra one.
At the same time, the apex court has asked the Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat governments to file compliance reports by March 10 with regard to about 3,000 complaints the GRAs have already looked into. The apex court will further hear on the petition, filed by anti-Narmada dam Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), on March 13.
Meanwhile, complying by the apex court order of January 9, the Madhya Pradesh government filed an affidavit conveying appointment of Justice (retired) AK Sharma, Justice (retired) SS Dwivedi, Justice (retired) Indrani Dutta, Justice (retired) IS Shrivastava and Justice (retired) GD Saxena. All five are retired judges of the High Court. The Gujarat and Maharashtra governments also committed to appoint judges for their GRAs.
The apex court directive came following a hearing of the applications filed by oustees from various affected villages and the NBA challenging the recent decision of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) of June 12, 2014 to raise the height of the dam from 121.92 metres to 138.68 metres as unconstitutional and in violation of the Narmada Tribunal Award.
The NBA argued, the decision was also violative of the previous judgments of the Supreme Court, mandating that any increase in the dam height shall only be carried out after rehabilitation of all the oustees was completed. The applications challenged the NCA’s claims that there would be no “additional submergence’.
Pleading for the oustees, NBA counsel Sanjay Parikh informed the court that the rehabilitation of thousands of oustees was pending, while the dam height was being increased and construction has commenced, leading to grave violation of the fundamental rights of the oustees. He said that the procedure for dam height had been “grossly violated” by the Environment and Rehabilitation Sub Groups of the NCA and the NCA itself.
Parikh also questioned the legality of the ongoing dam work, as it has already been proved that the conditional clearance to raise the dam height from 110.64 to 121.92 metres has been violated and thousands of oustees, already thrown in the submergence zone, have not yet been rehabilitated and have been defrauded by a nexus of officials and agents, whose acts are being inquired into by a Judicial Commission in Madhya Pradesh.
Applicant-in-person, Medha Patkar submitted that there are already hundreds of orders of the GRAs, where compliance is pending, and oustees have already faced impacts of “unlawful submergence”. She pointed out that the NCA’s Annual Report of 2013 had already admitted more than 2,300 families are yet to get land in Madhya Pradesh. At the same time, more than 1,000 adivasi oustees in Maharashtra and a few hundred in Gujarat are without land, civic amenities.

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