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India: The True Face of Rehabilitation

‘If all dam affected persons have been “Rehabilitated”, then why Crores of money is being spent on “Disaster Management ?!’

| by Narmada Bachao Andolan

( July 28, 2014, Badwani/New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) Every year, with the beginning of heavy rains in the Narmada Valley, the Government suddenly gets “concerned” and pours out money for setting up relief camps for persons affected by dams. This year too, 551 Lakhs, i.e. 5.5 crores have been declared for the areas affected by Sardar Sarovar, Upper Veda, Maan, Jobat , Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dams. On June 24, 2014, in a petition related to Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar canals, Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh Justice Khanvilkar directed that a “disaster management scheme” be prepared for the entire Narmada Valley. However, since 1979 when Sardar Sarovar Project was passed no such scheme has been made, despite the reservoir spreading over 214 km, and yet in the last many years, many villages of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat as well as Dharampuri town have also faced “disasters”.

A Protest message against Tehri Dam, Garhwal, Uttarakhand

The way land and houses in the hilly adivasi villages of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh were submerged without any rehabilitation in 1993-1994, the same way, in the last 2-3 years, houses, shops and standing crops in the densely populated villages of Nimad, Madhya Pradesh, along are getting submerged. This is happening because thousands of families of farmers, labourers, fish-workers, potters, shop-keepers, land-less persons have been rehabilitated just on papers. In 2006, the group ministers including Shri Saifuddin Soz, Smt. Meera Kumar and Shri Pritiviraj Chavan who toured the Narmada Valley for three days, reiterated the same.

At the present height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, i.e. 122 meters, there are 177 villages which are affected by submergence and out these, many villages, thousands of houses and some wards of Dharampuri town faced destruction even last year. In the 2006 judgement which allowed for raising the height up to 122 meters, it was ordered that families must be compensated for damages but in spite of the orders of Justice Khare, Grievance Redressal Authority, the M.P Government and Narmada Valley Development Authority have not complied. When the law and legal orders clearly state that six months before submergence, families must be rehabilitated, then why this severe and outright violation ?

The centres/camps that have been set up in the name of relief, are at least 10 to 15 km away from the hilly adivasi villages. The administration expects these adivasi villagers to come in their boats, with children and sick and elderly persons, and eat and thus, get “relief” in the camps. If they don’t come, then officials take 2-3 persons (who are often there just to serve the officials) to the camp and that is all. Furthermore, for relief purposes, the Government arranges for around boats so as to “save’’ houses, shops, schools etc. Not less than 20 boats are arranged and they are kept just for Government related work by giving 25,000 to 30,000 per month. In such situation, the common villagers, the adivasis cannot get, nor can they afford, the boats for commuting to markets or even for their daily needs. Does the Government really think that it will “save” around 700 to 1500 houses by putting them all together on the boats?! Or will lives be saved, and not property? That too, of how many families? Who will ask this question?

Claiming that there is no one left to be rehabilitated at the present height of 122 meters and also saying that our angst is “false and misleading”, the Modi Government, in its first big decision, has decided to raise the height of the dam by 17 meters. Even today, more than 40,000 families, lakhs of animals and trees are residing in the submergence affected areas of Sardar Sarovar Dam. And out of these, thousands may also come under submergence this very year. Then, will 318 lakhs out of 551 lakhs help in saving these houses, lands, villages? Or will the nexus between the Government and brokers/middlemen not eat up this money too, in the name of “relief” and “disaster management”?!


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