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Medha Patkar meets President

Thursday 18 May 2006, by PARSAI*Gargi

Asks why the Shunglu panel has not visited Maharashtra, Gujarat

Construction must be suspended till survey is over Medha challenges survey based on government records

NEW DELHI: Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar met President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam here on Wednesday and sought his intervention to ensure that the construction of the Narmada dam is suspended till the Shunglu Oversight Group on rehabilitation of Narmada displaced families completed its survey on rehabilitation in Madhya Pradesh and submitted its report.

"We told him that the Supreme Court had acted against its own judgements on rehabilitation. The construction of the dam when rehabilitation had not been done would be a fait accompli for the displaced tribal and rural families. This was a constitutional crisis and he has the constitutional authority to ensure that justice is done to dispossessed tribals," Ms. Patkar said. The NBA also invited the President to visit the valley.

Ms. Patkar also met the Shunglu panel today accompanied by rural and tribal representatives of the displaced families from the basin States of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Former Vice-Chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Upendra Baxi and lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Sanjay Parikh also accompanied her.

Ms. Patkar pointed out the "inherent contradictions" in the terms of reference of the panel. She said the Madhya Pradesh Government’s Grievance Redressal Agency could not be the basis for survey by the Oversight Group. The GRA’s brief was to ensure that the Narmada award and Supreme Court’s orders were implemented. Instead it had given legitimacy to cash compensation.

The NBA suggested to the Shunglu panel that the survey by the National Sample Survey Organisation, the methodology should be not just to assess individual oustees but to take the village as a unit also into account.Ms. Patkar also challenged the Shunglu panel basing its survey on government records. "Already the water levels at the submergence villages have risen by two to three metres. In Manavar village for instance, the number of families affected has gone up from 120 to 230 because of the backwaters’ effect. Therefore, official figures cannot be the basis for the NSSO survey."

She pointed out that the panel would not do justice to displaced families if it limited its survey to those displaced between the dam height of 110.64 metres and 121.92 metres. The NBA has questioned why the Shunglu panel should visit only Madhya Pradesh and not Gujarat and Maharashtra. "Is it because Maharashtra is ruled by the Congress and in Gujarat the project affected families have no voice and space to raise their voice?"

See online : The Hindu

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