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(en) India, People of the Narmada Valley - Face to Face with the Apex Court

From Medha Patkar <medhapatkar@vsnl.com>
Date Tue, 19 Dec 2000 03:40:00 -0500 (EST)


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NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN Press note- 13.12.2000

Demanding justice and judicial accountability

About 300 representatives from the tribal and non-tribal villages in the 
Narmada valley have reached Delhi again! This time there is a 'Face to 
face' with the Apex Court. Apart from expressing a clear protest against 
the judgement which is based on wrong facts, unrealistic or no 
comprehensive assessment of the ground reality and is contradictory in 
itself. The farmers of the Valley want an immediate review of the Supreme 
Court verdict.

It is thus clear by now that the judgement on Sardar Sarovar Project by the 
apex court permits further construction of the Dam, which will lead to 
forcible eviction and destitution through flooding of houses and lands, 
without rehabilitation of a few thousand families. The judgement thus has 
paved the way for violation of right to life and livelihood of innocent 
toiling masses and integrated natural resource based communities. Will it 
not be a violation of the Constitution itself?

Since the Supreme Court verdict of 18 October, NBA has caught hold of and 
confronted all the concerned authorities especially the Narmada Control 
Authority with its rehabilitation sub-group headed by the Secretary, 
Ministry of Social Justice and Ministry of Water Resources itself. All of 
them with no exception have refused to accept that they have ever claimed 
that all the Project Affected Families (PAFs) at 90 mts height are 
rehabilitated and that they have given permission for the construction up 
to 90 mts. All that the rehabilitation sub-group had said in 1999 was that 
the 'arrangements' are made for the same! It has neither stated that people 
have been rehabilitated, nor given a permission for further construction in 
its reports.

With further discussion and field surveys, however it is proved to the 
sub-group and NCA by the Andolan that even arrangements are not made in 
Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, the states with maximum submergence. This 
was done during eminent activists' and intellectuals meeting with the 
District Magistrate of Nandurbar in Maharashtra and one day occupation of 
the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) office with 3 hours long 
discussion that followed in Badwani, Madhya Pradesh Andolankaris also 
seized the Indore office of NCA on December 11-12 and obtained copies of 
the action plans submitted by the State governments which show that there 
is no land identified in Madhya Pradesh for even a single village. A small 
magnitude of land suggested is yet to be identified, purchased and made 
available. Government of Maharashtra has repeated the false claims of land 
available at R&R sites where itself there are families without land since 
years.

It is clear that for the 100 % tribal communities from the Jhabua district 
of Madhya Pradesh or Nandurbar in Maharashtra, for families returned from 
rehabilitation sites due to serious betrayal in villages of Gujarat, the 
flooding is certain in July 2001 while no land or house plots in 
rehabilitation sites are even planned!

The reality and the documents thus both confirm the violation of the 
Narmada Disputes Tribunal Award (NVDA). The judgement too stipulates 
measures to ensure protection of right to life. This means all those 
affected at the height (almost 90 mts.) should be rehabilitated by December 
2000. This being impossible, the judgement has become ridiculous and 
irrelevant. The court's decision to produce plans for rehabilitation of all 
PAFs at the full dam height (138.68 mts) too could not be complied with!

The judgement on the dam is them symbolic of both, the court's supporting 
violation of the Constitution against the common people from disadvantaged 
sections of society and judgements (such as the ones in Bhopal Gas tragedy, 
Enron and Niyogi murder etc) based on ill information due to outdated, 
inadequate process and procedures to appraise the complex reality. While 
the judiciary is one of the four pillars of democracy, the time has come to 
recognise peoples' movements and civil society groups are the fifth one to 
take the role of changing the judiciary, its value framework, its 
anti-people biases bringing in not just judicial reform, but revolution.

It's towards this end that the people of the Narmada Valley has had to take 
the initiative and responsibility through the two days (13-14 Dec.) sit-in, 
in front of the Supreme Court. People will continue to knock the door of 
judiciary till justice is attained!

Mohan PatidarLuhariaKhatri VasaveMedha Patkar


Post script: in the evening

Over 350 people forcibly arrested in front of the Supreme Court
People appeal to the Chief Justice to hold a public hearing in the Narmada 
Valley

After a peaceful dharna in front of the Supreme Court, when people were 
waiting for a response from the Chief Justice to their memorandum, suddenly 
over 150 police forcefully arrested over 350 people, including 50 women 
today, in New Delhi.

Men and women of the Narmada valley, reached the Supreme Court this morning 
at 11 am. They held a peaceful dharna at the gate of the court, apparently 
for the first time in the history of the Supreme Court. Songs, slogans, 
exhibits and posters capturing the 15 year long struggle, life and its 
richness along with the resolve to save the valley from forced destruction. 
People were determined to point out that present construction of the Sardar 
Sarovar dam is in violation of the Narmada Tribunal and the Supreme court 
order itself. Construction is being pushed ahead even though it has no 
permission from the NCA and no valid environmental clearance.

A memorandum submitted to the Chief Justice pointed out that the order is 
based on false information and presumptions, be it about impact and role of 
large dams in general or Sardar Sarovar Project, despite mounting evidence. 
Court gave permission for raising the dam up to 90 mts based on Narmada 
Control Authority's permission, but NCA claims that it has not given any 
such permission for further construction. It is impossible to rehabilitate 
all the people affected by the 90 mts. dam as there is no detailed plan for 
rehabilitation, as per the court's order of 18 October. This is violation 
of the court order itself. Given this fact, allowing the dam to go ahead 
means sanctioning submergence and displacement without rehabilitation 
violating people's right to life. People demanded that

1. The verdict should be reviewed immediately.
2. Earliest date for NBA's review petition should be fixed.
3. An appeal to the Chief Justice to hold open 'Public hearing' in the 
Narmada valley, in order to give a humane face to judiciary by making it 
people oriented.

People were waiting for Chief Justice's response to the memorandum. Instead 
of allowing the peaceful action, police force was brought in to forcibly 
arrest the people.

Sukumar         Amrita


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