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Setback to Gujarat? Supreme Court forms committee to examine Narmada dam oustees' land allocation

By Our Representative
In a move that is likely to impact on the future course of the prestigious Narmada project in Gujarat, the Supreme Court has decided to form a high-level committee consisting of senior lawyers and experts under its guidance to ensure allocation of land to the dam oustees in Madhya Pradesh.
To come up with recommendations on how to allocate land to about 1,589 oustee families, who have been identified by the Justice Jha Commission as having been fleeced by a nexus of government officials and agents, the committee is expected to “rise above individual interests” and come up with a “common list” of beneficiaries, who would be given 5 acres of land each.
Under what is called fake registry scam, the oustee families, majority of them tribals, are received first installment of cash to buy up land. The anti-dam Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) claims, the 1,500-odd oustees, identified by the Jha Commission, not been buy up any land because it is not available for the amount land they have been offered.
NBA has been insisting, instead of cash, the oustees should have been given land. The result is, these oustees’ rehabilitation has still not complete, despite claims to the contrary by the Madhya Pradehs government.
NBA says, the amount offered to each oustee family is half of Rs 5 lakh for five acres in first installment, which is “extremely small”, considering that the price of per acre fertile land acre in the state is Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore per acre.
After hearing the NBA plea, the Supreme Court, announcing the need for the committee, said, it would “look into the market value of land which the oustees would need to buy, and would see whether the oustees’ rehabilitation is complete”, a source said.
The decision to form the committee was declared on January 31, 2017, by the Supreme Court bench consisting of Chief Justice of India Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice Chandrachud and Justice Ramanna.
The decision to form the committee came following the intervention of the NBA, which is fighting for the oustees’ land rights. The NBA petition in the Supreme Court was represented in the court by senior advocate Sanjay Parikh and joined by Medha Patkar, the NBA leader, who appeared in the court “in person.”
The state government pleader argued that the project has to “move on”, even as claiming that rehabilitation of the oustees is almost complete. However, Parikh, representing the oustees, questioned the government, saying the rehabilitation of the project affected families (PAFs), who are entitled to land, is “not complete” and what actually has happened is a major scam.
While the dam’s work is complete, the Gujarat government cannot close its 31 radial gates to fill up the full reservoir level (FRL) o f138.64 metres, because of “failure” of the Madhya Pradesh government to complete the oustees’ rehabilitation process. Filling up the dam at FRL would lead to submergence of major areas in the upstream, adversely affecting the oustees.

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