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No relief, rehabilitation for affected-people in MP: NBA

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Apr 29 (UNI) Barely a few days before the next Supreme Court hearing on the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, the NBA today made public its ''Pol Kholo Yatra' report which said the Madhya Pradesh Government's claim about rehabilitation of all outsees in the state was ''entirely untrue''.

The NBA once again appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to stop the construction of the dam and ''save'' the lives of scores of people affected by the dam.

Addressing a press conference, NBA activist Swami Agnivesh said the Madhya Pradesh government's affidavit in the Apex Court that relief and rehabilitation of all the people was complete in the state is replete with ''white lies''.

''Thousands of people are displaced without any alternative we visited 12 villages in MP and Nandurbar district in Maharashtra.

The MP government has completely misled the Supreme Court on rehabilitation,'' he said.

''Village after village along the Narmada river in MP showed no sign of people being rehabilitated to other sites.... these poor people are living in half submerged landsand homes without being rehabilitated,'' said Swami Agnivesh who was part of the Yatra from April 25 to 28.

He said, ''the people who were affected by the dam height of 69 metres have not been rehabilitated leave alone the ones with increased height of 121 metres''.

Coming down heavily on the Prime Minister, he said Dr Singh had announced on April 24 yet another committee, led by former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) V K Shunglu, ignoring the report of his own ministers on the issue.

''It is really unfortunate that the report given by the Group of Ministers is being ignored by the Prime Minister. He had a chance to act till the next hearing of the Supreme Court but failed to do so,'' he added.

On May 1, the Supreme Court will hear the PIL, filed by the NBA, against the construction of the dam.

Swami Agnivesh said the Government cannot compensate for the environmental, social and cultural damage the project will cause and listed several specific problems with the rehabilitation process.

He claimed that the government's agenda seemed to decrease peoples' entitlement rights as much as possible.

The affected people are being intimidated to settle for cash compensation instead of the land allotment and widows are not being considered for settlement, he added.

The Surveys that were carried for entitlement benefits were undertaken in ''hurry'' and have ''huge discrepancies'', he said.

Swami Agnivesh said the livelihood of those involved in non- agricultural occupation was not taken into account and people who have no titles to land and self owned homes have been completely left outof the list of displaced people.

He said the situation in the Tribal areas was of complete neglect and they were being cheated out of their ancestral land and allotted uncultivable land.

While hearing the NBA PIL on April 17, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the construction of the dam, but warned that it relief and rehabilitation were not adequate it will order otherwise.

On the same day, NBA leader Medha Patkar, who was on a 20-day fast to protest against raising the dam's height and demanding that the construction of the dam be stopped and adequate rehabilitation given to the outsees, called off a month-long agitation.

She had appealed to the Prime Minister to use his constitutional authority and stop the construction.

As part of the efforts to persuade her to call off her fast and the NBA to end its agitation, Dr Singh had dispatched a ministerial team, headed by Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, to Madhya Pradesh to assess the rehabilitation work.

The Prime Minister subsequently convened a meeting of the Review Committee of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) after the GoM submitted its report, observing that rehabilitation work by the Madhya Pradesh government was not adequate.

UNI NR GC1845

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