In a major relief to the anti-dam Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) which is being led by well-known social activist Medha Patkar, the Chief Justice of India will be hearing Sardar Sarovar project-related cases on August 8, 2017, especially the NBA plea that there cannot be any forcible displacement without full compliance with all the orders by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the hunger strike by Patkar and others activists continues into its sixth day. Those on hunger strike include Gayatri Bahen, Kadmaal, Vimla Bhai, Khaparkheda, Dharmendra Kanhera, Khaparkheda, Bhagwati Bahen, Nisarpur, Manjula Bai, Nisarpur, Pushpa Bai, Nisarpur, Rameshwar Awalda, Bau, Awalda, Rukmani bai, Nisarpur, Chota Badda, Sevanti Bai and Chota Barda, all of whom are representatives of various sections and categories of the displaced Sardar Sarovar affected families.
The decision was taken after the Supreme Court hearing on what the NBA considers as "serious concerns" over massive displacement due to the decision to take waters in the Sardar Sarovar dam to the full reservoir level (138.64 meters) by closing the dam's 30-odd gates.
Two legal interventions, a special leave petition (SLP) against the interim order of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh and a writ petition praying for the SC's intervention in staying any displacement or forcible eviction until relief and rehabilitation, has been completed were filed and heard yesterday. In these legal interventions, prominent citizens have relied upon the detailed analysis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan that has documented that not only are the 40,000 project affected families (PAFs) yet to be rehabilitated but also that the resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) sites in the state do not have all basic amenities. Hence it is impossible for thousands of families to shift to such sites.
The writ petition under Article 32 (right to life) was filed by eminent persons, including former Justice Panachand Jain, Kuldip Nayar, Aruna Roy, Hanan Mollah, Manoranjan Mohanti, Soumya Dutta and Annie Raja, with the prayer to save all the displaced farmers and landless. The petition prays for
a) Appropriate Writ/Order/Directions to the Respondents to complete the Resettlement and Rehabilitation of the PAFs of the Sardar Sarovar Project, which include providing all the amenities and facilities at the R&R sites in consonance with the NWDTA, judgments of this Hon’ble Court and Art. 21 of the Constitution;
b) Appropriate Writ/Order/Directions to the Respondents to not evict the PAFs of the Sardar Sarovar Project, till the time the R & R is completed in all respects and the R&R Sites are ready with all the amenities and facilities and that reasonable time is given to them to shift by providing required help by the State
The SLP challenges a June 2017 Order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, saying that the state government has still not complied with the Supreme Court order dated February 8, 2017, andthat R&R packages for farmers have not been implemented in at least 50% of cases. It added that, instead of R&R amenities, temporary resettlements of tin sheds have been planned in thousands. Besides, the PAFs' cultural and religious needs are not being taken care of in the proposed sites
Both petitions were listed before Justice R Nariman and Justice S Kaul, but the bench forwarded it to the Chief Justice, whose order of February 8, 2017 is under reference.
The Chief Justice heard senior advocates Sanjay Parikh and Prashant Bhushan, assisted by advocate Clifton Rozario immediately. He was told about "serious crisis" and "huge scale" of displacement and impact on up to 40,000 families as and when floods take place.
The Chief Justice agreed to hear the case, in spite of a writ petition pending before the High Court, and fixed the date to August 8, 2017.
In a communique, the NBA stated that it welcomes the openness shown by the Apex Court by taking cognizance of the serious issues and situation that would lead to violation of right to life and devastation of age-old communities and their resources. NBA further said, the Government of India, and the governments of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, must "immediately decide against any violence and brutal forcible eviction of a few lakh people. There should be no filling of reservoir with water to drain the life and livelihood."
The Supreme Court on July 31 heard the serious concerns over massive displacement due to Sardar Sarovar. The SLP against the interim order of the High Court of MP contented that the R&R sites in MP do not have all basic amenities and hence it is impossible for thousands of families to shift to such sites. It is non compliant with the Supreme Court’s order dated 8.2.2017, since the packages for farmers are not paid to 50% and more families and instead of amenities, temporary resettlement of thousands into the tin sheds is what is being planned. Almost all the cultural, religious sites and amenities can be found in the original villages.
The Writ Petition under article 32 was filed by the eminent persons including Justice Panachand Jain, Kuldip nayar, Aruna Roy, Hanan Mollah ji, Manoranjan Mohanti, Soumya Dutta and Annie Raja with Prayer to save all the displaced farmers to landless from both the petitions were today listed before the Justice R. Nariman and Justice S Kaul when the Bench forwarded it to the bench of Chief Justice whose order of February 8, 2017 is under reference.
The Chief Justice then heard Senior advocates Sanjay Parikh and Prashant Bhushan assisted by Clifton Rozario on July 31, the cut-off date for the release of the dam waters. The CJI was told about the serious crisis and huge scale of displacement and impact on anywhere upto 40,000 families depending on floods.
The Chief Justice of India then agreed to hear the cases, in spite of one Writ Petition pending before the High Court and fixed the date of August 8th, 2017.
Narmada Bachao Andolan welcomes the openness shown by the Apex court that has taken cognizance of the serious issues and the situation that would lead to violation of Right to Life and bring the devastation of age old communities and their resources.
The writ petition states:
"08.02.2017 passed in IA Nos. 42,43,50-51 & 52-53 in Writ Petition (C) No. 328 of 2002, this Hon’ble Court acknowledged that land for land as envisaged in the Award was not given to the PAF’s and therefore, as an alternative, directed payment of Rs.60 lakhs to enable the PAFs to purchase lands. To another category of oustees, who were duped because of faulty Special Rehabilitation Package policy of the State, a sum of Rs.15 lakhs was directed to be given to them."
For resettlement sites, it was observed that affected persons should approach the GRA and thereafter, to the Competent Court i.e. the High Court. True Copy of the Order dated 08.02.2017 passed by this Hon’ble Court in IA Nos.42, 43, 50-51 & 52-53 in Writ Petition (C) No. 328 of 2002 has also been annexed to the petition.
Further, the petition reads that,
"…from facts which have been gathered by the Petitioners, it is clear that the payment of 60 lakhs and 15 lakhs have not been received by large number of oustees. The rehabilitation sites are in very bad conditions and are not habitable. The government has now issued work orders for repair and for other works at the rehabilitation sites. The State Government is however, forcing the oustees i.e. tribals, women and children to vacate their villages on the ground that in the order dated 08.02.2017, this Hon’ble Court has fixed a deadline of 31.07.2017."
The entire writ petition may be read here.
Further, the NBA has also expressed concerns that neither the Government of India, Government of MP and Maharashtra resort to any violence and brutal forcible eviction of a few lakh people. There should be no filling of reservoir with water to drain away lives and livelihood, the NBA has added.
Meanwhile, the fast of Medha Patkar with 11 others is to continue for justice, non violence and democratic humane development. Gayatri bahen, Kadmaal, Vimla Bai, Khaparkheda, Dharmendra Kanhera, Khaparkheda, Bhagwati Bahen, Nisarpur, Manjula Bai, Nisarpur, Pushpa Bai, Nisarpur, Rameshwar Awalda, Bau, Awalda, Rukmani bai, Nisarpur, Chota Badda, Sevanti Bai and Chota Barda, the representatives of various sections and categories of the displaced Sardar Sarovar affected are on fast with commitment to the cause and determination.