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Narmada dam oustees: Claims of complete resettlement by Centre, states "false", thousands still affected

A rehabilitation site visited by the fact-finding team
By Our Representative
A National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)-sponsored fact finding team consisting of two experts -- Raj Kachroo, a hydrologist, and Soumya Dutta, an energy and environment expert -- and Communist politicians has disputed the claims of the Government of India, as also Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh that resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) of Narmada dam oustees, is complete. "The actual ground realities are totally different", it has claimed.
Other members of the fact-finding team were Hannan Mollah, general secretary of the CPI-M's All-India Kisan Sabha; Annie Raja, general secretary of CPI's National Federation of Indian Women; Binoy Viswom, ex-forest minister in the Government of Kerala; and Dr Sunilam, senior leader of the Samajwadi Samagam and two time MLA.
The NAPM, which is the apex body of tens of rights-based organizations of India, releasing details of the team's findings, said that the committee visited over 10 villages in the Narmada valley which are affected by the Sardar Sarovar project, to find the current and actual ground situation of the project-affected families, and extent of resettlement and rehabilitation.
Disputing the claims of the Centre and three states over R&R, on the basis of which the Gujarat government was allowed to raise Narmada dam height by 17 meters by installing piers and bridge over them, the committee found that there were "numerous complaints" from the dam oustees that they were still living in the villages in the submergence zone.
"They have not been given land-based compensation as per Supreme Court order and tribunal awards (which compels the Government to complete rehabilitation before starting further construction)", the committee, which visited Dhar district villages (Khalghat/ Ghazipura, Dharampurinagar, Ekalwara, Chikhalda and Nisarpur) and Badwani district villages (Bhilkheda, Rajghat, Pipri and Kharya Bhadal), said.
Annie Raja during a hearing with oustees at Bhadal village
The committee also met oustees from Alirajpur district villages such as Kakrana, Sugat and Jhandana and Bhadal, Dudhiya, Chimalkhedi, Jhapi, Falai and Dunnel from Maharashtra side, local MLA of Badwani Ramesh Patel, the ex-MLA, the Zilla Panchayat head and many gram panchayat heads.
The team found that "thousands of affected families are still waiting to get their due compensation and rehabilitation, as required by court and tribunal orders", and "hundreds of families and their house/land are about to be submerged, but their numbers and listing has not been properly done by the governments, contrary to claims."
The team found that even at the present height of about 122 meters, many families have not been recognized as submergence zone families, like those in Khalghat/ Ghazipur. "With the raising of the height of the dam structure by 17 meters to nearly 139 meters, thousands more will be severely affected/will be submerged", it added.
Calling it a disaster to happen, the team said, the governments seem to have done "large scale violations of both the Supreme Court’s orders and the orders of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal, and these violations are continuing."
The team found that the "physical condition" of rehabilitation sites they inspected were "pathetic, with wild growth on them, no roads, no water supply or electricity." Along with the lack of schools, health centers etc, affected families were "refusing to settle in these incomplete R&R sites".
The team found that some of the oustees who were given land in Gujarat’s Dabhoi resettlement area were now being dispossessed of those land, "as the township of Dabhoi is expanding and is trying to encroach on their land".
It also found that "the primary requirement of land-based rehabilitation, as ordered by the Supreme Court and the Tribunal, identifying demarcation and acquiring enough land by the government, is the biggest stumbling block in rehabilitation, as this critical task has not been done for large parts, particularly in Madhya Pradesh".
The oustees, said the team, also complained of large scale corruption as evident in "land allotment", pointing towards how "many land allotments were done in illegal ways, to people who are not really project-affected – for considerations of money – and this has led to many affected families' records being forged/obliterated."

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