ACCEPTING IN toto the report of the Shunglu Committee on rehabilitation status of Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) oustees in Madhya Pradesh submitted to the Prime Minister three months ago, the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) is gearing up to carry out upgradation work. The work, for which a sum of Rs 3.5 crore has been earmarked, will begin from October 16 at various sites across four affected districts.
“We accept the Shunglu Committee report in toto. We were waiting for the rains to stop to start work according to the suggestions of the Committee. We have decided to start work from October 16,” NVDA Commissioner Vinod Kumar told Hindustan Times here. January 31, 2007 is the deadline to complete the work.
The NVDA has chosen to work on 49 sites - where no PAPs have shifted as yet – which were categorised as average or below by the committee. “There are 177 villages spread over seven tehsils at the dam height 121.92 metres. But, what we are trying to do is upgrade and develop sites taking into consideration PAPs from 192 villages (including one town – Dharampuri) at
the full reservoir level (FRL) of 138.68 metres,” Kumar said.
“Of these 49 sites, six that were rated very poor will be totally abandoned. PAPs who had been allotted plots there would be given new plots … in fact a few persons have already taken land at other places. These people had not moved to the sites and now they will be accommodated at the nearby sites of their choice,” the NVDA Commissioner said.
Remaining 43 sites would be upgraded as per the suggestions of the committee. ‘‘NVDA has been sanctioned Rs 3.5 crore for this as we do not want any complaint now and we would be taking care of even small things,” he said.
NVDA vice-chairman Uday Verma said priority would be given to developing roads and upgrading other infrastructure. “We want to give priority to three things – developing connecting roads, repair of existing buildings and providing proper drinking water facilities,” Verma said speaking from Bhopal. NVDA plans to finish work before Jan 31, 2007, he added.
After much hue and cry over the status of rehabilitation of the PAPs in wake of the increased dam height, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had set up the Shunglu Committee - comprising chairman V K Shunglu apart from members Prof G K Chadha and Dr Jaiprakash Narayan - to find out the true status. The Committee submitted
its report to the Union Water Resources Ministry on July 3, 2006, which forwarded it to the Prime Minister. With the help of National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) volunteers, the Oversight Group had surveyed the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) sites from across Dhar, Jhabua, Barwani and Khargone districts and categorised them as good (37), average/below average (25) and poor (24) on the basis of condition of plots demarcated and allotted and also considering the provisions of associated infrastructure.
Of these 87, NVDA would be carrying out minor works at the 37 sites rated good. At the remaining 49 sites rated as average and below, NVDA would carry out work at 43 sites, abandoning six totally.
On the flaws pointed out by the committee, Kumar said, “It’s okay for the group to point out such things. But we have to go by the actual situation. For instance, they have pointed out that there is no piped water provision at these sites. But according to the prevailing laws in Madhya Pradesh, there is no provision in rural plans for piped drinking water. So even these villages won’t have it.”
Only Dharampuri out of these original places comes under the definition of a town and hence it would be rehabilitated accordingly, the rest are villages and would be treated so.
“In fact, we are aiming at providing mid-level minimum facilities at all sites,” he said, adding that these would be more than what the villagers had at their original places.
NVDA claims that plots at these sites were allotted quite sometime ago but the people have not yet shifted probably waiting to actually let the water come to their doorsteps.
For instance, the school buildings, the PHCs are ready but because PAPs have not shifted, there is no point in shifting these things from the original places.
Another points raised were lack of ponds, tree plantation and allied environmental protection measures. “Tell me, who is going to look after the trees planted if nobody goes to stay there. People are not going there but their cattle is and we cannot possibly keep a watch on each cow or a goat roaming out in the open,” said Kumar.
On the same lines, if the rehabilitation sites are on the banks of Narmada, what is the need of a separate pond, he asks. One major suggestion was about reopening of the claim cases before March 2005 of major sons and unmarried daughters getting a separate piece of land as compensation, the NVDA claims 1505 persons have benefited by alternate land.
The claims have been settled taking into account the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) records. NVDA is also ready to provide other facilities like sanitary drains provided the people themselves ask for it and also pay.
Asked if NVDA would be able to satisfy all people, pat comes the reply from the NVDA chairman, “Even the world’s richest man Bill Gates is not a satisfied. Thanks to him, we keep getting updated versions of Windows every now and then. So tell me, can you satisfy everybody?”