YET ANOTHER World Bank-funded dam project is under fire. The Visthapiti Mukti Vahini (VMV) has challenged the rehabilitation of people displaced by the Chandil dam on the Suvarnarekha river in Bihar, in the Supreme Court.
The VMV holds that a decade after the initiation of the land acquisition proceedings, rehabilitation has been completely overlooked. For the first time, petitioners have challenged the very provisions of the Land Acquisition Act.
Says lawyer R Venkataramani, who has been involved with a number of cases concerning development projects, "The Act is inappropriate in the context of tribals who depend on land for their livelihood. Compensating them in market terms is meaningless, especially in areas where markets play a small role. To deprive them of their livelihood violates Article 21 of the Constitution, which ensures everyone a right to life."
Last year, as many as 52 villages were submerged during the monsoon, when flood waters rose behind the Chandil dam. The villagers were evacuated to temporary camps, but two people died in the rising flood. This year, the local administration has posted notices in villages likely to be submerged during the monsoons, asking villagers to leave on their own. This provided the impetus for the villagers to approach the Supreme Court.
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