INDIA: Activists storm M.P Bhawan demanding justice for the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar Dam oustees
(Hong Kong, September 06, 2012) The Asian Human Rights Commission endorses the following press release issued by activists and civil society groups concerning the ongoing Jal Satyagrah being held in Madhya Pradesh. The AHRC expresses deep concern about the government's apathy and inaction towards the people's legitimate demand. The following is the text of the press release issued by the Delhi Solidarity Group.
A protest demonstration was organised by Delhi Solidarity Group (DSG) at Madhya Pradesh Bhawan in New Delhi today at 2:30pm demanding the Madhya Pradesh Government to take immediate action and lower the water levels of both, the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams where 51 oustees have been standing in the dam water since the past 12 days. This protest was attended by more than 50 people who came together in support of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The activists shouted slogans held banners and photographs of the jal satyagrahi’s at the dam site asking for answers from the Madhya Pradesh Government. They demanded the Resident Commissioner, Snehlata Kumar to come out and address the concerns of the protestors, which she did.
Prashant Bhushan, Himanshu Kumar, Bhupinder Singh Rawat and Vimal Bhai addressed the gathering. They gave an overview of the happenings at the dam site and said that land acquisition is not being done with consent of the people which is the reason for several movements all across the country. It was asserted that the government must address these issues immediately and rehabilitation should be carried out abiding the directives of the Supreme Court and High Court.
The main demands from the memorandum were also read out to the resident commissioner and urgency of the issue was stated.
The demands read were:
Immediate intervention and reduction in the water levels of both the dams in accordance with the Supreme Court’s and GRA’s directives in this regard.
Provision for land for land and other rehabilitation rights as per Supreme Court Order to all the affected people.
5th September 2012
Sh. Shivraj Singh Chauhan,
The Chief Minister,
(Through The Resident Commissioner, M P Bhawan, Delhi)
Sub: Demanding Immediate Justice for the Omkareswar and Indira Sagar Dam Oustees on Jal Satyagrah for last 12 days
We, the citizens in Delhi from different movements, organizations and institutions are extremely concerned about the ongoing situation of the fifty one Jal-Satyagrahis standing in the Omkareshwar dam water, Ghoghalgaon for the last 11 days. Many of them have developed blisters in their feet. Water has now reached up to their chin level & any increase in the water level would be fatal. We urge your immediate attention to this alarming situation.
We are shocked and dismayed at the initiative of the Government of Madhya Pradesh to raise the water-level in both Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar Dams without providing relief and rehabilitation to thousands of the project affected families respectively, which is in complete disregard of its legal mandate and in direct violation of various orders and findings of the Supreme Court of the country, as well as the specially appointed Grievance Redressal Authority.
The Government and the company Narmada Hydro Development Corporation (NHDC) who built these dams are violating the Orders of the High Court and Supreme Court by raising the water level in these dams, causing submergence of land and houses of thousands of oustees without rehabilitation.This is unjust and unacceptable. Last week around 4000 people from 250 villages of 10 districts like Indore, Dewas, Burhanpur, Harda, Badwani, Khargone, Bhopal & Dhar arrived to extend their solidarity to the Satyagrahi’s. They are not being allowed to the site where the satyagraha is taking place.
These important concerns for which the satyagrahis are staging their protests are not new at all, in fact people have been protesting since the past many years demanding rehabilitation.
Details of the issue:
OMKARESHWAR DAM: In May 2011, the Apex Court ruled that the authorities are obliged to allot land for land and a minimum of 2 hectares of land to be given well in advance of the completion of dam construction. However, even though an entire year has passed since the judgment, the State has failed to allot land to the over 2500 land-holder families. It must be noted that recently even the Grievance Redressal Authority has said in its orders that the rehabilitation policy has not been followed and all the oustees of Omkareshwar dam should be given land in lieu of land. Over 1000 families have still not been allotted house-plots. Various other rehabilitation entitlements still need to be provided.
Despite all this, the State Government and the project authorities have announced that they intend to raise the water level of the Omkareshwar dam to 193 meters from the earlier level of 189 meters and on 25th August, 2012 when the authorities raised the level of the reservoir by 1.5 meters, the oustees started Jal Satyagraha and are standing in the water of Omkareshwar dam since then.
In four villages of the Omkareshwar dam area namely Goggal, Bilawa, Bada Kailawa and Sukaya already more than 1200 acres have been submerged so far by the filling of the reservoir.
INDIRA SAGAR DAM: Similarly, in the Indira Sagar dam area also, thousands of oustees are yet to be given land and other rehabilitation entitlements. There are orders of Supreme Court and High Court that the water level in Indira Sagar dam cannot be raised beyond a level of 260 meters but it has been decided to increase it to 262 metres. Jal Satyagrah has been on in three places in the Indira Sagar dam area from September 1st, in villages Khardana, Badgaon Mal and Badkhaliya of Districts Harda and Khandwa.More than 191 villages are likely to be submerged in this area.
The district administrations statement is false and misleading: The statement issued by the Collector of Khandwa stating that compensation has been given to all Omkareshwar and Indra Sagar dam affected people and that the state owes them nothing, is not just false but misleading. It is surprising that during the meeting Officers of Narmada Hydro Development Corporation (NHDC), the company building the dams, spoke only about compensation and not about the rehabilitation of the affected people in accordance with the Rehabilitation Policy.
According to the Supreme Court orders the affected people need to be given not just compensation but land for land and other rehabilitation entitlements as per Rehabilitation Policy and this must be done 6 months prior to submergence. The Supreme Court, the High Court and recently even the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) has clearly stated in their orders that NHDC and the State Government have not adhered to the Rehabilitation Policy. Recently the GRA in first 225 orders has asked the state to give land for land to the displaced people. Therefore, the statement of District Administration is in direct violation and contempt of Supreme Court orders. Also in both these projects thousands of houses still have to be acquired and in the Indra Sagar Project, in 38 villages the back water survey has also not yet been done
On August 31, 2012 the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) passed an interim order directing the government to ensure the safety of the oustees.
The Narmada Water Scheme – 1980 and 1987 has authorised and rather mandated the Narmada Control Authority chaired by the Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources to monitor and coordinate all the projects, in the Narmada Valley. The Narmada Control Authority must take a firm position on the demand for “No submergence without rehabilitation and compliance as per measures”, here and now!! Any further delay would cause a great human tragedy. The Madhya Pradesh Government which is responsible for the resettlement and rehabilitation of the oustees has the primary responsibility and must live up to its constitutional mandate.
We want you to know that the affected people have turned to the authorities exercising their legal rights. They have put their lives at stake and have been homeless and have lost all their belongings. Urgent decisive action from your part is THE WAY OUT.
We demand that the government:-
1. Immediately intervenes and reduces the water levels of both the dams and abides by the Court’s and GRA’s directives in this regard.
2. Provides land for land and other rehabilitation rights as per Supreme Court Order to all the affected people.
The memorandum with signatures of the protestors (pasted below) was submitted to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan through the Resident Commissioner at M.P Bhawan.