Damned despair

Oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project still languish in large numbers for a roof over their head

By Himanshu Thakkar
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

-- THE latest figures of the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project (ssp) show that relief and rehabilitation (R&R) has almost come to a standstill. In the last 14 months since June 1994, the Gujarat government has been able to resettle just 94 families from all the three states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. As accompanying graphs show, with each passing year, ssp authorities' performance in the progress of R&R is going down, when theadditional number of families displaced with each metre added to the dam goes up.

According to reports received, till October, the project authorities have been able to resettle hardly 20 per cent of the over 41,000 families to be affected by the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir, and they plan to complete the dams in another three years. All this ]ends evidence to the contention of the opponents that resettlement is impossible.

The chief obstacle to the process of resettlement (rehabilitation being a far cry) is the mcm -availability of land in Gujarat, where maximum resettlement is planned. In a recent meeting, the R&R sub-group of the Narmada Control Authority - the interstate monitoring and control agency - decided that in future, Gujarat authorities should provide land in contiguous chunks of 200 ha or more, so that, more than 100 families can be resettled in one place. This reflects one ofthe basic principles of community resettlement, According to this decision, almost all the present R&R sites in Gujarat would be invalid. This and the detailed land-based information inquired by the Madhya Pradesh government is one of the stumbling blacks.

But opponents claim that the concerned governments do not have the political will or sensitivity for proper rehabilitation. Resignation of an mil tant supporting NGO of Grijarat Arch-Vahmi - from the Rehabilitation Agency supports contention. The work oil main spillportion of the dam has been stop since January 1995 due to a halt in i Since nine months, Gujarat has reset just 29 families.

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