Cheer and excitement across Narmada valley.
14 March 2018, Badwani: Before 2003, the farmers whose lands were forcibly acquired for Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) rehabilitation sites were also eligible to get rehabilitation and compensation benefits equal to the submergence affected people. This was the order by Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA). Village Chhoti Kasravad’s Moolchand s/o Jhapdia was also held eligible for compensation by GRA. Against this order, Narmada Valley Development Authority had filed a petition in High Court. NVDA argued that changes in the fundamental rehabilitation policy makes it not liable to provide these benefits. After hearing Advocate Pratyush Mishra (on behalf of the displaced) and Advocate Vivek Patwa (for NVDA), through order W.P. No. 5594/2016 in 08/03/2018, the high court dismissed NVDA petition and ordered reinstatement of Moolchand Bhai’s eligibility to 2 hectares of land as a ‘rehabilitation site displaced’ and held GRAs order acceptable and justifiable. Due to this order many landless or devastated farmers-dalits-adivasis will finally find justice. Thousands of hectares of land were acquired for rehabilitation sites for the SSP affected people from the submergence affected as well as other farmers. For SSP Inter-state plan, the orders of the Narmada Tribunal as well as rehabilitation policies of different states for Narmada projects is considered as the basis of law for rehabilitation of the displaced. This is clear from the Supreme Court orders of 2000 in response to petition by Narmada Bachao Andolan.
The definition of displaced from 1989 to 2003 has been that apart from submergence affected any other people affected by Sardar Sarovar or Narmada Projects will also be considered SSP affected. In 2001 by amending this definition, only those families affected by canals or for SSP colony sites were included apart from submergence affected as eligible for benefits. In 2003 another amendment was introduced making the definition even narrower and including only submergence affected as eligible.
But according to rehabilitation policy (clause 4.3) after 2003 also this provision remained that lands of any dalit-adivasi or small and marginal farmers will not be acquired. It was also mentioned that any land acquired from any other farmer will limit itself at least after leaving 2 hectares land for their use.
NVDA had sidelined all these legal foundations and has acquired lands forcibly and illegally from dalit-adivasi and other farmers due to which many were rendered landless and many were left at the margins. The struggle of the dispossessed continues.
GRA passed many orders in favour of the displaced but NVDA did not follow most orders and refused land to many families, one of which was Moolchand. After NVDA filed a petition against GRA order in MP High Court Indore, the case was argued for a whole month by Advocate Pratyush Mishra assisted by Advocate Kailashchandra Yadav.
Narmada Bachao Andolan hails the decision of the bench comprising of Justice P.K. Jaiswal and Justice Virendra Singh whose intervention makes it possible for farmers to get back fertile lands. It is NVDA’s duty to not waste public money on appeals and petitions and rather focus on justifiable rehabilitation of all displaced.