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Economist calls for hearing oustees' grievances

Written by: Staff

Ahmedabad, May 5: The Grievance Redressal Authorities (GRA) should hold meetings with the Project Affected Persons (PAPs) near the site of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), instead of asking them to lodge complaints and pursue their case in state capitals, according to noted Gandhian economist Sudarshan Iyengar.

Talking to sources about the contentious issue, he said: ''It is a crime to ask the oustees, who were already deprived of their land, roof and source of income, to go to the GRA offices, located in state capitals.'' ''Where is the data of the PAPs in the first place, be it of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra or Gujarat?'' he asked.

And even if some of it was available, he pointed out, people still fond lapses in them.

Demanding more transparency in the allottment of alternate plots or compensation to the PAPs, he alleged that the state had proved itself to be lacking in competence, honesty and sincerity of purpose.

Prof Iyengar, Vice-Chancellor Gujarat Vidyapith (founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920), said he knew many cases in which the oustees were not found eligible for the alternative sites because their plots were likely to form islets, though surrounded by reservoir water.

The criminal delay in rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) of PAPs from the SSP catchment areas, particularly in Madhya Pradesh, confirmed that the state had failed to implement the Narmada Tribunal Award in letter and spirit, he charged.

The job required integrity and transparency, issuing a series of notifications under different sections to contour the catchment area, demarcate the area under submergence, identifying the oustees by their name, age, gender and land holdings, searching alternative plots, and inviting and granting awards.

However, he lauded the wisdom of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) for having constituted an in-built mechanism of GRA, but wondered as to why it could not settle the disputes near the site.

Prof Iyengar, who did his doctorate in Irrigation Economics and watched the progress of the inter-state multipurpose project from close quarters since 1986-87, also called for physical verification of action taken reports (ATR) of respective state governments.

The project began several years ago. Looking at undue delay in raising the height to even 121.92 metres, he opined that it was high time NGOs partner state in the R&R of PAPs.

He said when the dam would reach its full height of 138.68 metres (455 feet), Gujarat would be the main beneficiary in the form of water but at the same time MP and Maharashtra too would benefit, as they would get 57 per cent and 28 per cent of 1450 MW of electricity respectively, he added.

Prof Iyengar's biggest contribution to R&R in predominantly tribal areas of SSP had been to conduct baseline surveys on their livelihood pattern and the suitability of resettlement land for cultivation in the three riparian states of MP, Maharashtra and Gujarat as project coordinator with the Magsaysay Award winner NGO ARCH-Vahini in south Gujarat for six years.


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