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Rs 1,000 crore scam in payment to Narmada dam oustees: Commission asked to scrutinise into all cases

By Our Representative
In an important setback to the protagonists of the Narmada project, the Madhya Pradesh High Court has come down heavily on rampant corruption, alleged to be to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore, asking the state government to ensure that the Justice Jha Commission of Inquiry  looks into every case of corruption. Ramant corruption resulted from the Madhya Pradesh government policy of handing over cash instead of land as compensation to the Narmada dam oustees. The top anti-dam body, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), welcoming the High Court order, said, the court has "validated" the Jha Commission, wanting the inquiry to "reach its logical conclusion."
The NBA claimed, “The order shall have a significant effect on the working on the commission, which has to scrutinize all cases of cash disbursals, in order to ensure that the oustees, mostly non-literate, tribals, farmers and landless, are not swindled by the corrupt nexus of officials and agents. Payments without scrutiny would have opened up a Pandora’s Box, which has been avoided by the High Court’s intervention.”
The NBA quoted the court order to say that the Jha Commission must be allowed to proceed with its inquiry without any delay, adding, the Madhya Pradesh government “is obliged to honour the direction given by the Supreme Court on May 11, 2009 regarding disbursement of compensation by way of cheques or cash after April 24, 2009, subject to the scrutiny by the Justice Jha Commission." Saying that this condition is now become "inviolable”, the NBA added, now payments to oustees would have to be obligatorily made by the government after verification from the Jha Commission.
In fact, the NBA said, all payments would have to be placed before commission for verification "within seven days, after which the commission shall furnish the report within two weeks, for necessary orders" for payment. The order was passed on an application by the NBA, which challenged the action of the state government and the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) for not complying with the orders of the Supreme Court and the High Court on mandated pre-payment scrutiny of rehabilitation.
Significantly, the Madhya Pradesh government was interpreting the Supreme Court order as applicable to only 396 oustees, whose case was examined in the apex court. The NBA said, “After exchange of detailed pleadings and hours of oral submissions, the High Court upheld that the order dated May 11, 2009 of the Supreme Court mandating pre-scrutiny of all cash/cheque payments shall not be eclipsed by the subsequent specific order of the Apex Court, permitting cash payment only in cases of 396 oustees. Thus, the contentions of the state, based on misrepresentation of judicial orders were rejected.”
The NBA further said, “It is well-known that as per the High Court’s orders since 2008, the commission has been investigating a massive corruption scam in the rehabilitation of oustees in Madhya Pradesh to a tune of Rs 1,000 crore, including almost 2,000 fake land registries, irregularities in civic amenities at 88 resettlement sites, fraud in house plot allotments, resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) grants to ineligible persons and betrayal of thousands landless persons entitled to alternative livelihood.”
“After issuing stern orders to the Chief Secretary, which has led to appointment of three senior full-time officials to assist the commission in the last months of 2013, the court took into consideration the undertaking given by the senior counsel, appearing for the government of Madhya Pradesh, that henceforth all permissible cooperation would be extended to the commission for its smooth functioning”, the NBA said.

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