Letters

Print edition : July 20, 2002

The article "Hell and high water" (June 21) is not based on facts. Here is the fact-sheet of the . The project submerges only 785 hectares of private land in 18 villages and the total number of project-affected families (PAFs) is 993. The land was acquired between 1983 and 1995 and full compensation was paid to the landowners. As per the rehabilitation policy of the Madhya Pradesh government, 448 PAFs, who will lose 25 per cent or more of their land, are eligible for allotment of land and 805 PAFs for allotment of plots for houses.

The policy gives the PAF the freedom either to accept land from the government in lieu of land coming under submergence or to opt for full compensation in cash in lieu of land. Following this procedure, 62 PAFs (not 22 as your correspondent has mentioned) were allotted land and the remaining 385 PAFs were given full compensation as desired by them. One case is pending in the civil court. Out of the remaining 385 PAFs, as many as 124 have purchased land with the compensation amount and also taken advantage of the provision for exemption from stamp duty and registration charges.

The Government of Madhya Pradesh has further sanctioned a special rehabilitation grant to those who lost their lands, providing an additional amount that is three times the compensation already given to them. For example, the compensation given for irrigated land earlier was Rs.58,000 a hectare. Now an additional amount of Rs.1,54,000 is being given. The PAFs have also been permitted to till their land in the past 15 years after its acquisition by the government. The displaced persons who want to buy land get full support from the district administration.

Four resettlement and rehabilitation sites have been developed with all civic amenities; 295 plots have been developed on these and allotted. The rest of the PAFs have chosen to shift to villages of their choice and have taken money in lieu of plots. Thus rehabilitation package as per the policy has covered all PAFs.

The State government has enhanced various grants payable to the PAFs. Clearly, the rehabilitation policy of Madhya Pradesh is one of the best in the country. About 85 per cent of the PAFs have already shifted to alternative sites and only about 145 remain to be shifted. Only those public properties that face submergence have been demolished. The doors and windows will be used elsewhere. The trees had to be felled as otherwise fishermen's boats could get entangled when the reservoir is full.

The government has also constituted a fully autonomous Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA), where any PAF feeling aggrieved by any order of the government can file a complaint. The orders passed by the Authority are binding on the government. Not a single PAF of the has filed a complaint before the GRA. Local people as well as their constitutional representatives are in favour of early completion of the project.

At a time when the rehabilitation of all the PAFs is complete, it is surprising to find mention of a report of some Task Force which states that only 5 per cent of the resettlement and rehabilitation work has been completed.

Similarly, there is no substance in the so-called Indian People's Tribunal report that the would irrigate only 3,300 hectares against 15,000 ha, which is envisaged. In the total cultivable command area of the , only 2,556 ha is under irrigation at present. The culturable command area of the project is 15,000 ha spread over 57 villages, of which 9,600 ha is for the rabi season, which is based on the actual survey. It will also irrigate 9,300 ha in the kharif season and provide irrigation for perennial crops on 300 ha. It is not true that an additional 1,200 ha can be brought under irrigation from existing irrigation structures.

The is the first of its kind in the drought-prone Dhar district. As the project is in the scheduled areas, 85 per cent of its beneficiaries will be tribal people.

L.K. Joshi Commissioner, Public Relations Madhya Pradesh government Bhopal

Correspondent Lyla Bavadam writes:

During the course of writing assignments on the subject, I have consistently made attempts to contact government representatives connected with the Narmada dams. But it is only in rare instances that a response is forthcoming, and even then the specifics are glossed over. Information for articles is gathered from interviews with the affected people and Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) representatives and from official government documents. I have often asked NBA members to quote their sources and they confirm that they frequently use published official information apart from their own extensive groundwork.

The letter from the Commissioner of Public Relations says there is "785 hectares of private land in 18 villages and the total number of PAFs is 993". The official government Gazette of December 2001 lists the number of submergence villages as 17. Now the government says there are 18 villages on the verge of submergence.

The Gazette not only gives the figure of Project Affected Families as 1,262 but also names these families. The article mentioned "some 993 affected people" simply because that was the officially provided figure. Once again, there are two official figures for the same fact.

The Grievance Redressal Authority existed for the Onkareshwar and Narmada Sagar projects. It was only a few months ago that Maan was also attached to it. However, no notification was published of this fact and the Maan-affected people were not aware that there was a GRA to whom they could address complaints.

As regards the rest of the letter, making public the following details will bring about a degree of transparency and public involvement in the project:

1. The names of the 62 PAFs who have already been allotted land as well as the location of this land.

2. The names and original villages of the 385 PAFs who have received full compensation.

3. Proof that this compensation was desired by them, including proof that the Collector had indeed studied the case of each (if they are Adivasis) to see that cash in lieu of land would not harm the applicants' interests.

4. The names and original villages of the 124 PAFs who have purchased land from the compensation amount, along with details of the amount of land they initially had, the amount of land they have been able to purchase, and the location of this land.

5. The names and locations of the four R&R sites which have been developed with all civic amenities. How many people have built homes at these sites? Are there agricultural lands adjoining these sites?

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