PUCL Bulletin, Jan. 2001

PRESIDENT ASSURES TIMELY ACTION ON NARMADA DAM ISSUE
INDEPENDENT JURY OF IPT CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE REVIEW OF THE SUPREME COURT VERDICT

Representatives of the Narmada Valley, who met the President today ( Wednesday, November 15) at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, were assured by him that the matter of Narmada will be immediately referred to the Prime Minister for his timely action. He also promised that he would take all necessary legal advice to use his Constitutional powers to save the tribal area from destruction.

A delegation of narmada Bachao Andolan, comprising of Deldibai, Mangalya, Vaniya, Baliben, Kamala Yadav, Mansaram bhai, Mahesh Patel, Bablu Patwa, Jordar Pawra, Chittarupa Palit and Medha Patkar met the President this afternoon, representing tribal, Nimad and other regions of the Valley.

The President, along with Mrs. Usha Narayanan, welcomed the delegation warmly and gave a patient hearing to the delegation. During the 45 minutes meeting, the tribals and peasants of Narmada valley have put forth the whole case related to the Sardar Sarovar Project - its environmental destruction and social devastation. The presentation was in the context of the destruction done by big dams all over. The delegation urged the President to use the special power him by the Constitution of India, under Schedule V, which empowers him to save the tribal population from any kind of developmental works. He assured the delegation that he will study the issue in depth and will do whatever in his authority.

The President and Mrs. Usha Narayanan were invited by the delegation to the Narmada Valley to see for themselves the reality. He was also told by the delegation that a few thousands of people are in Delhi, awaiting for his response. Interim Findings of Public Hearing on Narmada Meanwhile, the Interim Findings of the Public Hearing on Narmada, oganised by the Indian People's Tribunal held on 14th November 2000 on the Parade Ground, Delhi in front of 3000 people were released by Prof . U R. Ananathamaurthy, Jst (Rtd) Tewatia (former Chief Justice, Hight Courts of Calcutta and
Chandigarh), Harubhai Mehta (Former Member of Parliament and senior advocate, Gujarat government), Mohini Giri ( Former Chairperson, National Commission for Women) on 15th November. Dr. Ashish Nandy (Social psychologist, Former Director, CSDS) and Justice ( retd). Jaspal Singh ( former judge, Delhi High Court) were the other members on the Jury. Detailed report will be released in soon.

The Jury noted that "At no stage the affected people were given a hearing by the state authorities or the Narmada Tribunal." They also noted that the government has only "Thought of getting mandatory clearances which should have been done before start of the execution of construction work.. Benefits fall far short of projected benefits and costs had escalated to many times of the initially estimated costs.

No effort is made to consider alternative schemes involving small money."
Among other observations, the interim conclusions the Jury has noted that: "The project according to the evidence adduced, cannot and does not intend to meet the need of people of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh..."

" The state governments, particularly the Gujarat government has persisted with the project for reasons that have more to do with the vested interests of the enthusiasts than with the needs of the people."

" The callous attitude with rehabilitation is an indication of the amoral nature the project. And even better indicator is the way all descent against the dam has been throttled. Even the small meetings of the protesters and even discussions of the issues have been systematically disrupted and the protesters physically assaulted by the hoodlums of the supporters of the dam or the law enforcing agencies."

" The Narmada Project is the ultimate symbol of the pathology of developmental process in India. It reveals the psychopathic dimensions of our public life better than any other political or economic scam in last 50 years".

The Jury has also unanimously stated that "... People already affected by the construction completed at 88 mts have not been fully rehabilitated and resettled. R&R (rehabilitation and resettlement) is utterly neglected by the authorities concerned."

" The permission to raise the height of the dam above 88 mts should not have been given until all environmental and social impact surveys were completed."

Not recognizing the people affected by the canal, colony, afforestation and others as 'Project Affected Persons' was termed by the Jury as "unjust discrimination".

On the recent Supreme Court judgement the jury has observed that the verdict has to be "reviewed". "An appeal should be made to the President of India for same", they concluded.

-Joe Athialy (E.mail)

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