A people’s team has just completed a tour of the Sardar Sarovar dam affected area of Dhar and Barwani districts in western Madhya Pradesh and released its findings in the public domain.
The people’s team, comprising former Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary S C Behar, veteran journalists L S Hardenia, Chandrakant Naidu and retired DGP Arun Gurtoo interacted with the affected people, including women and Dalits during its tour of the dam affected area between 4 and 6 August. The team went to Dharampuri, Salha, Nimola, Ekalwada, Nisalpur, all coming coming under submergence and have been identified by Government agencies under various schemes for rehabilitation of the Project Affected Families (PAFs).
All the members of the people’s team were also present at a meeting between the Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar and a team of officers sent by State Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on 5 August. The team of officers included Additional Secretary to the chief minister Chandra Shekhar Borkar, Commissioner Indore Division Sanjay Dubey, Zonal ADG of Police Ajay Sharma, and the Dhar Collector and the district Superintendent of Police.
The people’s team has emphasized that “Human Resettlement” is a complex issue and it is much more than mere transfer of money or land. Therefore, “across the board” solutions can neither work nor should be applied in such cases.
While pointing out that the important task of human resettlement in the case of Sardar Sarovar dam affected people has been left mostly into the hands of junior government functionaries and some senior officers of the NVDA, the people’s team has criticised the government for not bothering to assess the objective requirements in each case.
The cost of a house to be built on black cotton soil cannot be the same as the cost of a house built over murrum soil, it has been pointed out while asserting that the compensation for land can never be the same in each case. The size of he original house, the soil and its location are matters that cannot be ignored.
The people’s team has asked – How can temporary shelters -all of them of the same size, irrespective of the size of the family, can be accepted in terms of rehabilitation? A 3-month compensation package of 20000 + 60000 = Rs80000/= has been fixed, irrespective of the size, need (medicine, medical treatment, etc) of the family that opts not to avail of this contemporary shelter, it has been pointed out.
The people’s team goes on to point out:
A plot allotted to a woman (separated/divorced for the last 8to10 years and with 2 young children) is an adivasi burial ground. Plots of land earmarked or allotted much below the road level and having black cotton soil, would require to be filled and more money would be needed in such cases than for a normal plot.
Due to submergence, a large chunk of land will be reduced to an island. Till now, there is no provision of approach an approach road.
There has been frenetic construction activity with tin-sheds being erected to settle project oustees at Salha village in Dharampuri Tehsil. The present status of activity here shows that it will take quite some time before basic amenities like regular water supply, drainage, electricity supply, and toilets would be available and this is proving to be a major disincentive for the PAF to shift to the new location.
In Salha and another village Nimola, some PAF have accepted the proposal to be relocated but are not prepared to give up claim over their original property till basic infrastructure like roads, water and sewage disposal, and other facilities are ready.
In a couple of other villages near Dharampuri, the area identified for resettlement is a large stretch of unlevelled slushy land which is unfit for immediate construction activity. The black cotton soil that runs deep in the area would never permit construction activity at a cost envisaged by the Government.
The government is claiming preparedness for resettlement and supporting its claim with a large set of photographs of various community projects like schools, PHCs, community centres, water tanks and houses. Obviously these have been picked up selectively from many different locations not related to the places chosen for relocation.
A visit to the original homes of the PAF shows the reasons for the hostility to Government’s haphazard rehabilitation norms. Ekalwara has different flood level marks submerging some houses and excluding others arbitrarily. For a haveli, owned by a large undivided family of Jagdish Singh Mandloi, we were told that the compensation fixed was Rs 12000, which is a pittance by any standards. Several such examples were mentioned by the PAF to indicate the arbitrary fixing of compensation.
Another example of flawed planning is seen in the rehabilitation site of Nisarpur. 30 families, originally located in the area, have been evicted and rendered landless to make room for the prospective arrivals from five other villages. These families are now running from pillar to post to get compensation through land or finance.
Nisalpur is a large village of over 10,000 population. The Government has projected this village as a model of rehabilitation whereas work is still in progress and it will take months to finish.
An alert for the hazardous consequences of locating families temporarily in tin shades was sounded at Nisalpur, where 3 persons were electrocuted while they were working on the electricity supply line.
The Grievance redressal Authority (GRA), created by the Supreme Court, has been asked by the NVDA to wind up and stop all its activities. The GRA, as an independent body, provided a good platform and window for the PAF to ventilate their grievances
It is very clear that the Government and the senior officers posted for the PAF area will need several monthsof intensive effort to complete the rehabilitation process.
We do not deny that, we also found certain PAF claims to be incorrect.
We also found that the PAF were ignorant of several schemes of the Government. For example, they did not know that the Government not only gives money but has also to form a committee of locals to arrange the shifting of public temples and other places of worship.