The Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has ordered a probe into alleged fake land sales under a government plan to rehabilitate oustees of the irrigation project on the Narmada river. The controversial project - a series of large- and medium-sized dams across the 1,312-km-long Narmada river, which runs through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat - is being built at a cost of Rs 45,000 crore.
The state government was meant to allot at least 2 hectares of cultivable land to 38,000 displaced families, to ensure economic security.
In May, HT reported how the state government was diluting a land-for-land rehabilitation principle with cash awards, by asking dam oustees to file declarations that they no more depend on farming for livelihood, and do not want land as compensation.
The latest court directive reiterates how framing and implementing comprehensive rehabilitation measures remain troubled issues, despite increasing amounts of rural land being diverted for infrastructure projects and industrial use in recent years.
The dam oustees include agriculturalists in the plains and tribe communities, who, experts argue, are ill equipped to diversify out of their current dependence on the river.
This March, the Narmada Valley Development Authority which is building dams and is responsible for rehabilitating displaced families, had claimed the rehabilitation task was complete. The Narmada Bachao Andolan, a grassroots movement, however moved the court alleging that government officials in the affected districts had knowingly registered hundreds of fake land sales to meet rehabilitation targets on paper.
In their order passed two days ago, the judges did not accept the Andolan's plea for a CBI inquiry, and instead named a former High Court judge, Justice S Jha, for the task with a six-month tenure.