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Wednesday 15 March 2006

Rehabilitation authority to ignore controversial projects

the relief and rehabilitation (r&r) division of the M aharashtra government's revenue and forest department is set to frame a State Rehabilitation Authority. This would have to ensure there is a proper rehabilitation plan for families likely to be affected by developmental projects (paf), before such projects are sanctioned. However, the proposal to create this authority is receiving much flak because controversial projects such as irrigation and slum development have been omitted from its ambit.

"The notification for the rehabilitation authority will be issued by the end of February," says L R Khuprao, joint secretary, r&r division, Mumbai. "It will have jurisdiction over development projects such as power, as well as on projects in forest areas. The authority will also decide on the nature of infrastructural facilities to be made available to the displaced people, before the project actually takes off."

The authority is being set up in line with the Centre's National Policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation for Project Affected Families, 2003 -- a policy that has been highly criticised by experts who work on relief and rehabilitation of the paf (see Unsettling prospect, Down To Earth, March 31, 2004).

There is no consensus among officials on whether to include large controversial irrigation projects under the purview of rehabilitation authority or not. "We are not sure if the new policy should be made applicable to the existing irrigation projects. But it will try to cover the state's future irrigation projects. The debate, however, will take time to get resolved," adds Khuprao.

Groups working on the relief and rehabilitation of pafs contend that over 30 villages in Nandurbar and Dhule districts that were displaced due to the Sardar Sarovar Project await rehabilitation. The Narmada Bachao Andolan, for example, estimates that a minimum of 40,000 paf s of various irrigation projects in Maharashtra have not been rehabilitated in the last 45 years. And they will get no justice from the proposed rehabilitation authority . Besides, the body will also do nothing over the recurrent slum removals, which are integral to the developmental projects underway in Mumbai.

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