Monday, December 11, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Sardar Sarovar Dam row must end

THE Sardar Sarovar Dam project has become a sacrificial goat between the activists working for and against it. It was hoped that the tempers will cool down after the judgement of the Supreme Court, but, unfortunately, not so. The outburst of some of the leaders against this were in bad taste and could attract the provisions of the Contempt of Court Act.

The main grouse of the Narmada Bachao Andolan activists is the displacement of the inhabitants from the submerged areas and their proper rehabilitation. Now any development work, may it be a canal, a road, railways, factories, etc, will involve displacement of some people. It definitely is the responsibility of the government to see that the affected persons are suitably compensated and are not harassed on this account. Those who have been seeing the relief and rehabilitation of the oustees vouch for the fact that the arrangements made by the Government of Gujarat are comparable to any project of such magnitude.

Ms Patkar was seen flaunting a report prepared by the World Commission on Dams which includes a recommendation that a no-objection certificate should be arranged from the affected people before such a project is sanctioned. By this logic no dam or development work of any other kind is possible because nobody is ever willing to be displaced.


There is reservation in some quarters about the very idea of big dams. The opinion is divided. But focusing on this particular project, it is pertinent to note that an amount of Rs 10,000 crore (a big amount for a country like ours) has already been spent. Any sort of benefit is yet to flow. In fact, it seems to be a dead investment and has been tolerated for too long.

Secondly, a very large area under the command of this dam has already been reeling under a severe drought for many years. Parched fields, people without food and dying cattle gave a harrowing look and a shivering feeling. There was no drinking water and it had to be arranged by tankers and railway wagons at a tremendous cost. A large number of people had to leave their home for food, fodder and drinking water. They too have some human rights.

In one of her interviews Ms Patkar has remarked that only 1 or 2 per cent people will be benefited (get drinking water) from this dam. How she arrived at this figure is not known. However, she should be told that if we can carry oil through a pipeline from a third country like Iran, we can definitely reach out any area and provide drinking water which is more essential than oil.

Some people have questioned the accuracy of the cost benefit ratio, and they insist that the figures are exaggerated to justify the economic viability of the project. Their impression does not hold ground because every mega project like the dam under question, involving a huge cost, is screened at about a dozen stages by engineers, geologists, economists, environmentalists and bureaucrats before being finally approved/sanctioned by the Planning Commission.

Ms Medha Patkar and her supporters, who are responsible for delaying the completion of the dam through litigation and agitations, are holding crores of people of three states to ransom. They should concentrate on the relief and resettlement of the oustees and allow the completion of the project in the spirit of the judgement of the Supreme Court.

Former Engineer-in-chief, Irrigation, Haryana


Schools violating laws

I would like to draw the attention of HUDA to the schools being run from residential premises. Besides violating the HUDA by-laws, they are a nuisance for families living in the neighbourhood,

They encroach upon people’s privacy, indulge in trespass, cause noise pollution and dirty streets and the neighbourhood.

As there are not enough toilets, as is the case with most residential buildings, children are forced to relieve themselves on the roads.

Moreover, there is always the risk of accidents taking place, especially at the time of opening and closing of the schools. The ill-maintained, smoke-belching buses are another health hazard.

Imagine the plight of the residents and hospital inmates where a school is adjacent to a hospital, with smoke-belching buses, blowing horns, together with the noisy children and hawkers. The authorities concerned should do something to change this.



Winter & schoolchildren

I was very glad to see students of two schools in a sort of track suits as school uniform. It was really a heartening sight, as they looked comfortable, bright and active. This is a very good idea as this keeps the children warm in winter.

Last year also this was pointed out and suggested that in winter school uniforms should be such that children should be well clothed with warm pants and so in place of skirts and nickers. This idea of track suits is still better as in these children would be still more active.




Kohinoor: wrong date

A BJP member in the Lok Sabha, while asking the government to seek the return of the Kohinoor diamond from Britain, said that it had been taken away by Nadir Shah in 1971 but was brought back to India by Maharaja Ranjit Singh after a war (Return of Kohinoor sought”, December 1). This is not correct.

The Persian invader, Nadir Shah, took away the diamond from the then Delhi King, Mohammad Shah, in May, 1739, and not in 1731.

With the passage of time, it came into the hands of Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk, King of Kabul. After his deposition, he was seized by Ata Mohammad Khan, Governor of Kashmir. He threatened the Shah with death in order to extort the diamond. Shah’s queen, Wafa Begum, who was residing at Lahore under the protection of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, promised to give the diamond to him as a token of gratitude if he rescued her husband.

The Maharaja deputed his General, Diwan Mohkam Chand, who rescued the Shah and brought him to Lahore. Instead of redeeming the promise, the Shah and his wife dilly-dallied. The Maharaja made an offer of Rs 3 lakh and an annual jagir of Rs 50,000 for the family. The Shah accepted the same and handed over the diamond to the Sikh monarch in a ceremonial manner.

bhagwan singh



Issue of health care

Apropos of the news item carried in The Sunday Tribune, December 3, page 7, “Health for All is still a dream".

It had been resolved to provide health care, drinking water, etc, to all by the year 2000. The World Health Day celebrations have only brought out the glaring fact that the promises made have not been fulfilled.

This is ironic because the infrastructure and finances are available. The methodology of the health care delivery system, called “Medical Manthan”, had proved that health care for all was possible. During 1971-74 the Punjab Health Department, through its innovative new approach of multipurpose mobile health care scheme, had successfully delivered the required medical care for the rural areas of Punjab at their doorstep.

The medical aid provided this way was of the highest order, with a built-in second opinion. The then Finance Secretary, Mr Bagla, had shown his displeasure with “Medical Manthan”, saying that the high-grade medical care given to the people in Punjab’s rural areas was not available even in the USA. The “Medical Manthan”, methodology had given to the Health Department many other social and administrative benefits as spin-off.

The picture today is dismal. The health care is being taken over by commercialism, and saving a life has become an extremely difficult task. What is needed is the political will at the top, and a sense of rage among the populace.

(dr) sohan singh
Director, Health Services,
Punjab (retd)
SAS Nagar


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