A panel of four retired judges who conducted a fact-finding mission into the Sardar Sarovar project (SSP)-affected area of the Narmada Valley in September this year, has said that the claims of the MP, Maharashtra and Gujarat governments about complete rehabilitation of affected people made before the Supreme Court is false.
The panel further held that, based on the findings, the claim of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) that permission to increase height of the dam granted by the Narmada Control Authority on basis of the SC clearance is legally untenable seems to be true.
The Narmada Control Authority had earlier granted permission to increase the dam’s height from 121.92 metres to 138.68 metres.
Findings may be placed before SC soon
Justice (retired) VD Gyani, one of the panel members, presented the final findings of the panel called the ‘independent people’s tribunal on SSP’, before the media on Tuesday.
He said that there would be an attempt to place the findings before the Supreme Court soon.
The retired judge said that during their field visit on September 11 and representations made by affected people from three states and the organisations working for them, especially the NBA, sufficient evidence had come to light that rehabilitation and resettlement of people affected by the 121.92 metres height was nowhere close to complete.
At least 33 villages in Maharashtra and 193 villages and a town (Dharampuri) in MP were yet to be completely rehabilitated.
‘15,000 families to be affected by increased height of project not even recognised’
“Children are still going to same schools and people are casting votes in the same booths from years in the villages that the MP government has claimed have been completely shifted and resettled. What does that prove?” Justice Gyani said.
Further, he said, over 15,000 families which would be affected by the increased height of the project have not been recognised at all as project-affected families (PAFs) due to faulty calculation of the backwater levels.
Patkar hails panel’s findings
Therefore, Justice Gyani said, the panel was of view that increasing in the height of the dam would affect thousands of the people and should not be allowed before the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) of all affected people was completed by the three state governments.
Medha Patkar of the NBA said that the findings of the panel were a shot in the arm for the affected people who have been struggling for their rights from several years now.
“Our demand is the withdrawal of permission for further construction and installation of a gate of SSP till all the affected families are rehabilitated and resettled according to norms,” she said.
Patkar said that while 11,000 families affected by SSP have been resettled till now, at least 45,000 families are yet to be rehabilitated properly and livelihood of many fishermen and artisans are in shambles.
“The findings of the judges’ panel would be helpful for us to forward our cause,” she said.