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GoM report: Holes picked

NOW THAT the heat and dust kicked up by Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar?s hunger strike against a go-ahead to raise the Sardar Sarovar Dam height has settled a bit, it is time for a reality check on rehabilitation of the oustees.

india Updated: Apr 23, 2006 13:38 IST

NOW THAT the heat and dust kicked up by Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar’s hunger strike against a go-ahead to raise the Sardar Sarovar Dam height has settled a bit, it is time for a reality check on rehabilitation of the oustees.  

The report submitted by the Union Government’s Group of Ministers (GoM) to the Prime Minister on rehabilitation after visiting the Narmada Valley may not be ‘biased’ as alleged by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, but it betrays ‘ignorance’ on the modalities of the ongoing resettlement.

Some persons and places referred to in the report to substantiate the charge of shoddy rehabilitation work are fake, claim top officials of the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA).

According to the report, the first rehabilitation site the GoM visited was Khalghat. “It is the site where the State Government offered land to 407 families but only two of them have accepted the land,” says the report.

But the fact is that there are no rehabilitation sites at Khalghat. NVDA officials refuted  the `finding’ that 407 families were offered land at Khalghat. In fact, of the 4268 project-affected families (PAFs) eligible for relief only 407 families opted for land,  the rest wanted special rehabilitation package (SRP). Those 407 families were offered land at different places and not at Khalghat, said the NVDA officials.

The report refers to one Mohanlal Sharma who spoke on behalf of oustees at Khalghat. But no such name figures in the NVDA records on PAFs.

“We would also like to meet Sharma and know his grievances. Anybody from the NBA or any other agency or NGO is welcome to find him,” said an NVDA top official.

After Khalghat, the GoM visited Dharampuri, one of the largest rehabilitation sites in the state. “It is the largest area selected by the Madhya Pradesh Government for settlement of oustees and 4,000 PAFs are slated to be settled there (No, they are shown to have been settled there already). Not a single plot of land has been occupied by any PAF,” says the GoM report.

The NVDA officials said the state government has not claimed that the site was fully developed and PAFs have been settled. “The Action-Taken Report (ATR), which formed the basis for the Narmada Control Authority’s decision to give the go-ahead for raising the dam height from 110 metres to 121.9 metres, clearly stated that house plots had been allotted and development of the site was going on, and it will be completed before monsoon,” said an NVDA official looking after the site.

The GoM report quotes Motilal Patidar of Chhota Barde as having said that he got Rs 5,53,000 as compensation to
 purchase five acres of land whereas he required Rs 13 lakh for the purpose.

“No land has been acquired by the government from Patidar and he is not eligible for a single penny, forget Rs 5,53,000”, claimed an NVDA official.

The GoM report is also riddled with anomalies in the details on other rehabilitation sites including Lakhangaon, Borlai, Piplud, Awalda and Nisarpur. 

The GoM has also a word on deduction of Rs one lakh by way of income tax on every Rs 10 lakh paid to oustees. “The GoM found that there was no moral and legal justification for deducing Rs one lakh by way of income tax for every unit of Rs 10 lakh that is to be given to a displaced persons as a settlement under SRP”, says the report.

The ‘immoral and illegal’ deduction, however, is made on behalf of the Union Government as Tax Deduction at Source (TDS) and despite repeated requests by the State Government to the Centre for its waiver. “If it is such an immoral act, Saifuddin Soz or Meira Kumar, who were part of the GoM, should quit the Union Ministry”, said an official.

Asked about the allegation that the GoM report favoured her, NBA leader Medha Patkar had said the team mainly went to places decided by the State Government. “Though they also visited some places suggested by us but tribal-dominated submergence areas, where we wished them to go, were left out”, she said.