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Narmada dam oustees: Madhya Pradesh govt suffers setback, as High Court insists on land compensation

By Our Representative
In a major setback to the Madhya Pradesh (MP) government, which had been offering cash compensation against the land lost by the oustees of Gujarat’s Narmada dam, the High Court’s Indore bench has ruled that those who had received the first cash installment would be entitled to land compensation.
Termed special rehabilitation package or SRP, the cash-for-land formula was worked by Gujarat government bureaucrats more than a decade ago in order to speed up completion of the Narmada dam. Gujarat officials worked out SRP because, say sources, there wasn’t enough land available in MP to be offered to the dam’s oustees.
Oustees’ rehabilitation, under the law, is a perquisite for completing the Narmada dam. Failure to rehabilitate the dam’s oustees in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra currently remains the main hurdle in putting the dam into full operation by closing its 30-odd gates, installed on it.
The MP High Court’s interim ruling is likely to benefit as many as 1,505 oustee families, who were offered first installment of the cash compensation. Operating through the grievances redressal authority (GRA), formed to listen to the oustees’ complaints, the state government had decided against giving land, saying they must get cash compensation alone.
A large number oustees, mostly tribals, say activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), had found that amount offered to them – just about Rs 2.79 lakh – as compensation is ridiculously insufficient to buy up 5 acres of land.
The interim order has come in a case filed by tribal farmer Mohan Mehtab, who had pleaded with the court that, as he jad refused the second cash installment, he should be offered land. The High Court upheld Mehtab’s plea, keeping the next hearing for February 14, insisting, all those who did not get the second installment should be entitled to get land.
The High Court’s interim order comes just about two months after the MP government issued a controversial notice to hundreds of oustees belonging to tens of villages of Badwani and Dhar districts of MP, stating that, since they had not accepted the land allocated to them by the state’s Land Bank, their “eligibility for alternative agricultural land has exhausted.”
Issues by MP's rehabilitation officer of the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA), the notice stated that if the oustees did not collect cash compensation “within 2-4 days” (i.e. by December 30, 2016), which is up to Rs 3 lakh, they would be deemed as rehabilitated, and the amount would be deposited with the Revenue Department.
Questioning the compensation amount, NBA wonders (click HERE), “The cost of 5 acres irrigated land at present is estimated to be between Rs 50 lakh-2 crore. If land can be bought for Rs 2.50-3 lakh, then why doesn’t the authority buy it itself and then allocate it?”
An honorary member of GRA, which has been hearing the plea against such little compensation, has been quoted as saying, “Where will we provide the land from? It has become so expensive. If you can’t buy the land, then buy a tractor with that money. You won’t get land even in ten years.”

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