The Supreme Court has refused to entertain a plea seeking relief and rehabilitation measures for oustees of the Narmada dam project. A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar declined the plea saying the Madhya Pradesh High Court will deal with the matter after hearing the parties.
“We will not interfere in the matter. The Indore bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court would decide it after hearing the parties,” the bench also comprising justices A K Goel and D Y Chandrachud said. Senior advocate Fali S Nariman, who appeared for the oustees, alleged that the high court has not even started hearing the plea despite saying it will hear from July 13.
Reacting to the outcome, V K Saxena, president of NGO National Council for Civil Liberties, who has been supporting and fighting for the cause of the Sardar Sarovar Project for 17 years, said it is the lifeline of the people of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. He said the decision of the Supreme Court not to interfere in the matter will help in the rehabilitation process.
Saxena, who is also the chairman of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission, said that the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) led by Medha Patkar was using oustees to approach courts as the apex court in 2011 had come down heavily on it for allegedly filing false affidavits. The apex court had earlier cleared the decks for monetary compensation for the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project on river Narmada in Madhya Pradesh by ordering Rs 60 lakh for each of the families, likely to be displaced.
The issue of compensation would cover 193 villages in Madhya Pradesh, 33 in Maharashtra and 19 in Gujarat. The bench had ordered compensation of Rs 60 lakh per family for two hectares of land with an undertaking to be taken from them that they would vacate land within one month failing which the authorities would have the right to forcibly evict them.
However, NBA, which is leading the campaign for the oustees, was of the view that there was no good land that could have be given to oustees as compensation. Earlier, NBA had told the apex court that 192 villages and one township would be affected in Madhya Pradesh alone and about 45,000 affected people are yet to be rehabilitated. The Sardar Sarovar Project oustees, including thousands of Adivasis and farmers, have been waiting for land-based rehabilitation of many years, NBA had said.