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Victory for anti-Narmada dam forces, as Supreme Court dismisses Madhya Pradesh govt plea on outees' land rights

By Our Representative
In a major victory for the country’s powerful anti-Narmada dam organization led by Medha Patkar, the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), the Supreme Court has dismissed the application of the Madhya Pradesh (MP) government denying the right of land to thousands of adult sons of the dam’s oustees.
Upholding the right of land to every adult son as per its earlier 2000 and 2005 judgments, the apex court’s Social Justice Bench comprising Justices Madan Lokur and Uday Umesh Lalit have dismissed the MP government plea through the state’s Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) seeking a “modification/clarification” of its previous judgments in order to deny the right of land to the adult sons of the dam-affected farmers.
Welcoming the apex court order, the NBA said, the court held, among other things, that the MP government application suffers from “gross delay” for failing to implement the earlier orders. “The bench took note of the fact that while the entitlement of adult sons was recognized many years ago, one set of oustees were offered land as special rehabilitation package (Rs 5.5 lakh for 5 acres) since the judgment of March 15, 2005, but another set of oustees were denied the same.”
According to the apex court, this would result in a “clear violation of Article 14 of the constitution which “guarantees a fundamental right to equality”, terming this as not an example of “good governance” while dismissing the application.
Arguing for the oustees, advocate Sanjay Parikh stated that, besides being un-maintainable, the MP government pea was based on “gross misinterpretation of the 2011 judgment of the apex court in the Omkareshwar Dam case, which is not applicable to the Narmada dam oustees.”
Parikh argued, “As per the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award and the 2005 judgment, all adult sons are indisputably entitled to five acres of cultivable and irrigable land.”
The NBA said the apex court judgment was “a vindication of the rights and struggle of thousands of adivasis and other farmers, who have been waiting for land-based rehabilitation since many years and many of their families have also faced unlawful submergence in the previous years.”
The NBA underlined, “The effect of today’s order is that all the adult sons of the dam oustees would be entitled to and have to be allotted five acres of cultivable land.”
It added, “This includes hundreds of farmers who have been entangled in the fake registries scam, an estimated 2000 plus oustees to be finalized by the Justice Jha Commission, 1,500 oustees who have received only one installment of cash but could not purchase land, and hundreds of those who have been given uncultivable land out of the land bank.”
The NBA believed, another 500 applications pending before MP’s Grievances Redressal Authority “can also now be immediately decided in the favour of the adult sons on the basis of today’s order.”

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