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Return unused land acquired for Narmada dam, oustees demand citing Modi's decision not to amend Land Acquisition Act

By Our Representative
In an important move, the Narmada dam oustees in Madhya Pradesh have demanded that the order to acquire their housing and agricultural lands should be “cancelled” and they should be given “full ownership rights” of the lands they possessed following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that the 2013 Land Acquisition Act (LAA) will not be amended any more.
Asserting that they all have automatically become the actual owners of their houses and/or agricultural lands that were acquired 10-15 years ago, the oustees have said, the acquisition of their plots should be deemed cancelled as on January 1, 2014 “as per section 24(2) of the LAA.”
In a representation to Madhya Pradesh’s state-level Narmada authority, Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA), 80-odd oustee families have said that, the LAA requires that if a piece of land remains unutilized for project development for five years, it should be returned to the owners.
“Our names should be entered through mutation on the said property”, the representation was quoted as saying by the powerful anti-dam movement, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), in a statement.

The NBA claimed, the oustees from village Pipri, Piplud, Chhota Barda and Bhilkheda of Badwani district and Chikhalda and Bhavaria of Dhar district, totaling about 80, have also filed their petitions before the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Indore Bench, and have “already received a stay order against dispossession of their lands.”
The High Court has directed the state “not to elicit or even drown their properties”, according to the NBA, adding, “This is applicable to above 40,000 families residing in the submergence area of the Narmada dam and other dam projects on the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh.”
The NBA statement came on the 22nd day of the Jeevan Adhikar Satyagraha, in which hundreds of farmers, labourers and fisherpersons gathered at the district collector’s office in Badwani, which borders Gujarat, to protest against the ongoing construction of the Narmada dam, apprehending massive submergence.
“The oustees are confident the section of the LAA has already been interpreted by the Supreme Court in 2014 and 2015 in such a way that it prevents the Modi government and other lower courts from misinterpreting LAA in a particular way”, the NBA said.
“The Supreme Court has rightly interpreted that even if the 2013 Act section 24(2) gets amended or deleted, the ownership rights already granted under the Act since January 1, 2014, cannot be compromised with”, the NBA underlined.
Calling this a “great relief to the project affected people whose lands/houses were acquired years ago”, the NBA said, they received a “meagre compensation”, even as rehabilitation began much late, leaving many oustees “penniless”.
“Lack of rehabilitation planning and land resources have created a situation in which the“oustees become the losers as they cannot start a new life”, it added. Under construction on Narmada river in Gujarat, the Narmada dam’s height is being taken from 122 metres to 139 metres.

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