Scores of complaints on violations in the rehabilitation process greeted a three-member panel of retired judges on Friday when they reached villages in Dhar and Barwani districts that are affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project, especially by the recent decision to increase height of the dam.
The field visit by the panel of retired justices PC Jain (Rajasthan high court), Nag Mohan Das (Karnataka HC) and VD Gyani (Madhya Pradesh HC) comes just a day before the independent people's tribunal at Rajghat in Badwani.
The tribunal will hear the complaints and representations of the affected people on Saturday and is also likely to pronounce their preliminary findings on the situation. Justice (retired) NK Modi of MP high court will join the three retired judges at the hearing.
The independent tribunal has been called as part of the ongoing 'Jeevan Adhikar Satyagraha' (right to life sit-in) by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists that started on August 12.
On Friday, the judges visited villages like Khalghat, Dharampuri township and Semalda, Chhota Barda, Pipri, Chikalda, Kadmal, Khaparkheda and Nisarpur and heard the grievances of the oustees.
"The people poured out their grievances of denial of rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R), poor quality amenities at the resettlement sites, massive corruption and unlawful submergence in 2012-13 before the panel," Meera of NBA said.
They spoke about irregularities in the back water level surveys and denial of livelihood based rehabilitation to the landless, denial of right to fishing in the reservoir, violation of rules in submerging properties that have come back to them due to delay in rehab process and so on, she said.
The villagers demanded that the government should come clean on the true state of land and livelihood based R&R and conduct person-wise and village-wise fresh surveys before undertaking any further work on the dam, Meera added.
The panel of judges was invited for the independent tribunal and field visit to affected villages by a team of distinguished citizens, including retired chief justice of Delhi high court Rajinder Sacher, former member of Planning Commission of India and national commission for women Syeda Hameed, senior filmmaker Sagar Sarhadi, educationist Anil Sadgopal, founder of Popular Prakashan, Mumbai Ramdas Bhatkal and filmmaker on developmental and human rights issues Anand Patwardhan.
"I am shocked to see the scenario here"
Retired justice VD Gyani said, "I am shocked to see the scenario here. Displacing people without rehabilitation is a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India."
Retired justice PC Jain said the pain of the people here is deeper than the depth of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.