Deadline extended for shifting people affected by Omkareshwar dam

Monsoon impedes demolition and moving of homes; Narmada Bachao Andolan claims time provided is insufficient

 
By Aparna Pallavi
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

The Madhya Pradesh High Court has extended the deadline of the rehabilitation package for those displaced by the Omkareshwar dam   from August 16 to September 8, 2013. The extension was granted during the hearing of a public interest petition filed on August 6 by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), a people’s front fighting for the rights of the displaced.

The 520 MW Omkareshwar dam has affected five villages and a total of 2,500 families. The people affected have been agitating for rehabilitation since July last year when they staged a jal satyagraha  after the government ordered the dam reservoir to be filled without providing alternative land or compensation. Following the agitation, the government constituted a complaint redressal cell for the project affected. However, the cell failed to function as desired.
 
Compensation after demolition

On June 7 this year, the Madhya Pradesh state government had declared a Rs 224 crore rehabilitation package for Omkareshwar dam oustees. Under this package, landed farmers are to be paid Rs 2 lakh per acre over and above what they have been paid earlier by way of compensation; the landless, who had been earlier denied rehabilitation benefits, are to be paid Rs 2.5 lakh per family.

However, a condition had been added that only those who demolish their houses and leave by July 15 would benefit from the package. The NBA had protested this inhuman clause. Following protests at Bhopal from June 28 to August 2, the government had extended the deadline to August 16. As this time too was insufficient, NBA filed a petition in the High Court, demanding an extension of the deadline.

During the hearing, the NBA brought it to the judges’ notice that it is not possible for the oustees to demolish their houses and leave during the monsoon. Talking to Down To Earth, NBA’s Alok Agarwal said that the extension granted by the court was still insufficient, given the heavy monsoon this year which is not likely to be over by September 8. “We had demanded a six-month period for evacuation,” he said. Agarwal added that NBA will approach the court again for a further extension if the period proves inadequate.

The NBA is also challenging some of the provisions of the rehabilitation package in court, including the Rs 2 lakh per acre compensation to farmers. “According to rehabilitation regulations, at least five acres of land is to be given, so the current provisions are not fair to farmers who own less than five acres. Also, the market price of land is much higher, and Rs 2 lakh as proposed in the package is not adequate compensation,” he said.

 

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