No drowning fear, so oustees not in a hurry | india | Hindustan Times
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No drowning fear, so oustees not in a hurry

MOST OF the rehabilitation sites developed for Sardar Sarovar Project oustees have not been occupied. Why are project-affected families (PAFs) not shifting to these sites?

india Updated: Apr 24, 2006 15:55 IST

MOST OF the rehabilitation sites developed for Sardar Sarovar Project oustees have not been occupied. Why are project-affected families (PAFs) not shifting to these sites?

One reason could be that the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) has not been able so far to provide all civic amenities to the sites. But is it the only reason? The affected families are apparently unwilling to shift since they are somewhat sure that their villages, though bracketed in the submergence zone, will not go down under the Narmada waters.

In fact, most of the villages, put under permanent submergence areas when the Sardar Sarovar Dam height was raised to 95 metres, have not drowned. Baba Amte’s hamlet in Kasravad, where he stood firm opposing the dam, was supposed to be submerged at the height of 95 metres. But it stands safe.

Similarly Bijasan, Katnera, Gehalgaon, Bhilkheda, Eklera, Kukara and Nisarpur villages, which were shown in the submergence map at 95 metres, are safe and people continue to live there.

In fact areas, shown in the submergence zone at 95 metres, have not drowned even when the dam height has gone up more than 110 metres. NVDA Chairman A V Singh said a submergence area was determined on the basis of the worst flood in the Narmada in 100 years.

“Vast tracts of submergence areas could remain unaffected for years or for all time to come. But we decided to consider all those villages among submergence areas where flood waters of the Narmada had gushed in, in the worst-ever floods in 100 years”, he said.

Those who know ground realities in the Narmada Valley say people were accepting cash component of compensation and not moving to other areas.

“Most of the PAFs continue to live and cultivate their land in submergence areas even after being paid compensation and provided house plots at rehabilitation sites,” said a senior NVDA official.

As people refuse to budge from their place of residence and rehabilitation sites remain vacant, Narmada Bachao Andolan and other NGOs get a chance to cast aspersions on rehabilitation efforts of the State Government.

Asked why the Government does not acquire land and houses of persons paid compensation so that they can move to safer areas, A V Singh said: “We wish to allow them to shift on their own so that they could use iron pillars, bricks and other things in making their new houses”. 

However, such an attitude has only slurred the image of the State Government vis-à-vis rehabilitation of oustees. And it seems that NVDA finds it convenient to see people stay put at their villages so that they could carry on with rehabilitation work with tardy pace.