March 25, 2006 3:29:36 am
It’s been a fortnight since the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), chaired by Union Water Resources Secretary, cleared the raising of the Narmada dam’s height and the Gujarat government is going full steam ahead with the construction. Now Union Minister for Water Resources Saifuddin Soz says he isn’t happy with a decision taken by his own Secretary and several committees representing the Centre and the four states concerned.
Soon after the NCA cleared raising the height from 110.64 m to 121.92 m, Soz said he wanted to ‘‘review the premature decision’’ and wrote to the Madhya Pradesh government asking for a ‘‘credible guarantee on proper rehabilitation.’’
“MP is yet to respond, it considers rehabilitation a burden on its head and not a social responsibility,’’ he told The Indian Express today.
Soz’s outburst comes despite the following:
• The decision to raise the dam height was taken after two years by the NCA chaired by Water Resources Secretary and comprising Secretaries of several ministries including Social Welfare, Environment and Forests, Power and Tribal Affairs and Chief Secretaries of the four states concerned: Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.
• All of them were advised by two sub groups — Relief and Rehabiliation subgroup and the Environment subgroup. The R & R subgroup determines that rehabilitation is in order based on the Action Taken Report submitted to them by various states and the Grievance Redressal Committee set up under retired High Court judge in every state.
• Both sub groups said they were satisfied on the rehabilitation front.
Said Water Resources Secretary and NAC chairman J Harinarayan: “Both the subgroups were convinced, hence the NAC gave its clearance.’’
But now Soz claims he has found several ‘‘loopholes and grey areas’’ in the way decision was taken. And says that he wants a review committee to re-look at the decision.
‘‘MP has let me down and the system of justice. This is violation of the Supreme Court judgment on Narmada in letter and spirit,’’ he said.
The Supreme Court has mandated that dam height can only be raised when the NCA is satisfied that R&R of every oustee affected by the dam height increase is done.
But Soz has not called a meeting yet. The review committee chaired by him has chief ministers of four states Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. It has two Union ministers — the Minister for Water Resources and the Minister for Environment. Going by the public stance of the members, it is clear that the committee has more members in favour of the dam height being raised.
‘‘It is me who is responsible to the people of India and not bureaucrats. If I am not satisfied with the claims of the state government, then who will be,’’ Soz said. He said he is awaiting a response from Madhya Pradesh before he decides to hold a meeting of the review committee. Meanwhile, the Narmada Bachao Andolan led by Medha Patkar has been on an indefinite dharna for the last seven days outside the Water Resources Ministry. The CPM’s Brinda Karat has written to Soz asking for a review of the decision claiming ‘‘shoddy’’ rehabilitation by the Madhya Pradesh government.
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