A central fact finding committee visited over 10 villages in the Narmada Valley which are affected by the Sardar Sarovar project, to find the current and actual ground situation of the project affected families, and extent of resettlement and rehabilitation.
The Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Union governments have claimed in the Supreme Court that the rehabilitation of all affected families is now complete, and thus the recent decision to allow the increase of the dam height by 17 meters by installing piers and bridge over them. In face of this, there were numerous complaints from the project affected families that thousands of families are still living in the villages in the submergence zone, that they have not been given land based compensation as per Supreme Court order and tribunal awards (which compels the Government to complete rehabilitation before starting further construction). To ascertain the true situation on the ground and the physical condition, a central fact finding team of senior political leaders, well known experts and senior social leaders visited the western villages in the Narmada valley, those affected by the huge Sardar Sarovar project.
This six member central FF team consisted of Shri Hannan Mollah, general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha and eight time member of Parliament from the Communist party of India (Marxist), Ms Annie Raja General Secretary of National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) and senior leader of Communist party of India, Shri Vinay Biswom ex Forest Minister in the Government of Kerala, well known Hydrologist Prof. Raj Kachroo, senior leader of Samajwadi Samagam and two time MLA Dr Sunilam and well known energy expert and environmentalist Shri Soumya Dutta.
During their two-days visit to the Narmada valley, the FF team visited the Dhar district villages - Khalghat / Ghazipura, Dharampuri nagar, Ekalwara, Chikhalda and Nisarpur, and Badwani district villages - Bhilkheda, Rajghat, Pipri and Kharya Bhadal. Apart from these, several others from Alirajpur district villages - Kakrana, Sugat and Jhandana and Bhadal, Dudhiya, Chimalkhedi, Jhapi, Falai and Dunnel from Maharashtra side also came to the meetings and presented their cases in front of the central Fact Finding Team.
The team also met and discussed with the present MLA of Badwani Shri Ramesh Patel, the ex MLA, the Zilla Panchayat head and many gram panchayat heads.
The preliminary findings of the team are
1. Thousands of affected families are still waiting to get their due compensation and rehabilitation, as required by court and tribunal orders,
2. Hundreds of families and their house / land are about to be submerged but their numbers and listing has not been properly done by the governments, contrary to claims. Soumya Dutta, a member of the team stated that even with the present height of about 122 meters, the team found many families which have not been recognized as submergence zone families (like those in Khalghat's Ghazipurs amongst others), and with the raising of the height of the dam structure by 17 meters to nearly 139 Meters, thousands more will be severely affected / will be submerged, while the governments of Madhya Pradesh and India seem to be totally unconcerned about this ! This is likely to lead to a major disaster.
3. Another member of the team, Annie Raja said that the governments seem to have done large scale violations of both the Supreme Court's orders and the orders of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal, and these violations are continuing.
4. The team also found that the physical conditions of the rehabilitation sites they inspected were in pathetic condition, with wild growth on them, no roads, no water supply or electricity. Along with the lack of schools, health centres etc, affected families are refusing to settle in these incomplete R&R sites.
5. The primary requirement of land-based rehabilitation, as ordered by the Supreme Court and the Tribunal, identifying, demarcation and acquiring enough Land by the government, is the biggest stumbling block in rehabilitation as this critical task has not been done for large parts, and particularly the Madhya Pradesh government seem to be not very interested in this.
6. A number of project affected families also complained that large scale corruption was evident in land allotment, many land allotments were done in illegal ways, to people who are not really project affected for considerations of money, and this has led to many affected family's records being forged / obliterated. These large scale corrupt practices / cases are now being investigated by the MP High Court appointed Jha commission, whose report is due soon.
7. Another serious matter that came to light is the large scale violations of all the constitutional and legal protections given to scheduled tribes, in many of the project affected villages.
8. The team also found that affected families who were given land in Gujarat's Dabhoi resettlement area, are now being dispossessed of those land, as the township of Dabhoi is expanding and is trying to encroach on their land.
9. Another major and frequent complaint faced by the team was about rehabilitation of livelihoods, which was part of the rehabilitation orders by the Court but is being ignored in most cases, leading to large scale deprivations.
10. A member of the team, Mr Raj Kachru informed that the areas identified by Central Water Commission as the Back-water affected submergence zone, has been wrongly done. This has been proved by the fact that in both 2012 and 2013, the flood levels were much higher than projected, even with the present 122 Meter height, and this is going to get seriously magnified with the building of the piers and bridge which will create obstructions to the flow at higher water levels.
11. The team also found that the Madhya Pradesh government has not shown any interest in giving fishing rights and other facilities, as was given by the Maharashtra government for several (five) fisher's cooperatives.
12. The team also found that the rehabilitation orders for adult sons were not being complied with, by not counting them as separate affected families.
The team will soon prepare its fact finding report and present this to the central government, relevant state governments and also in front of the people of the country. Different farmers organisations, social movements and others have assured their cooperation in bringing these out to the larger national stage.