THE NARMADA Bachao Andolan (NBA) on Saturday welcomed the High Court’s order to allow raising water level at the Indira Sagar Dam and, at the same time, instructing the authorities to properly rehabilitate the people affected by the dam. The NBA said the court order would go a long way in benefiting thousands of project oustees, who had not been taken care of.
The MP High Court on Friday had allowed the State Government to raise the water level at the dam to 260 metre and the government had described the same as its major victory.
However, NBA activists Alok Agrawal and Chitrupa Palit today said at a press conference that several of their demands towards proper rehabilitation of project oustees were conceded by the High Court while allowing the State Government to partially raise the water level.
Further, the court did not allow storing of water up to full tank level (FTL) of 262.13 meter holding that the relief and rehabilitation (R&R) work of oustees has not been completed so far, the NBA activists said.
They said the most remarkable direction of the court relates to entitlement of adult sons and major unmarried daughters of project-affected cultivator families to special rehabilitation package (SPE) in lieu of land.
They said that it was in line with the Supreme Court directive of 2005 for the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). With the High Court extending its scope to Indira Sagar raises hope that it will be applicable in all other Narmada Valley projects as well.
In another significant directive, the court asked the Central Water Commission to assess the extent of the submergence at the backwaters. The court further held the properties of families affected at backwater level will also have to be acquired and they will be required to be rehabilitated before raising the water to its full level.
They said thousands of families, who will be affected by backwaters of the dam, had been left out of the survey conducted for rehabilitation of oustees.
The court also further strengthened the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) by inducting one additional member, a retired district judge.
Similarly, it directed setting up of a land bank so that land could be given to eligible oustees. It also directed that R & R sites with all civic amenities be set up in the reservoir rim villages where houses will face submergence but lands will remain for cultivation, within a kilometre of the lands.
The two NBA activists, however, said the court did not concede their two major demands – five acre irrigated cultivable land to small and marginal farmers as provided in the SSP R& R package and holding land acquisition by the NHHC illegal as only the State Government was entitled to land acquisition and no other agency. On these two points, the NBA would contemplate moving to Supreme Court, they said.