M A I N   N E W S

SC refuses to halt work
* Asks PM to resolve dam issue
* Seeks rehabilitation report within a week
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 17
Advising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to deal with the contentious Narmada dispute by using his standing as a “statesman” and defuse the “politically charged atmosphere” on the issue, the Supreme Court today declined to pass immediate order for stopping the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to raise its height to 121.92 meters as approved by the Narmanda Cantrol Authority (NCA) on March 8.

A Special Bench of Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal, Mr Justice K G Balakrishnan and Mr Justice S B Sinha, also sought a report from the Madhya Pradesh Government within a week about rehabilitation of the families to be displaced due to raising the height of the dam, besides reply to applications of the Centre and the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), led by its fasting activist Medha Patkar, within a week.

Similar replies to the twin applications were also sought from the Gujarat and Maharashtra Governments by the Court, while fixing further hearing in the matter for May 1 amidst the announcement by Additional Solicitor-General (ASG) Gopal Subramaniam that the Union Government has decided to set up a National Rehabilitation Commission (NRC) to deal with all such issues in the country.

The Court not so impressed at the idea of setting up the NRC in the background of the Sardar Sarovar controversy, said the decision in such sensitive issues could not be taken in a “charged atmosphere…which posed a grave threat to the civil society. There should be an attempt to stop the agitation as the project has to go on and at the same time rehabilitation work should be implemented in letter and spirit. The Prime Minister must approach it like a statesman ignoring egos and political interests.”

The Court remined the government that in the meeting of the Review Committee of four Chief Ministers and two Central Ministers, “the divisions were on political lines. You have to accept it. You cannot run away from this reality… There were sharp and equal divisions.”

“Having regard to the fact that we have on record permission granted by NCA of March 8, the matter brooks no delay lest it will become a fate accompli,” the Court said.

The Court, however, made it clear that if relief and rehabilitation to “unfortunate oustees” were not granted in the letter and spirit, it would have no option but to stop the construction work.

Stating that any “interim injunction (judicial direction)” on such a contentious issues would be only as a last resort, the Bench appealed to all the “stake holders” in the project to try to resolve the issue in a “fair and reasonable manner in a cool and calm atmosphere,” while putting on record that the matter had now been referred to the Prime Minister.

The ASG also pointed out that the referring of the matter to the PM was “exclusive” of Centre's application, seeking more time for establishing a suitable mechanism to undertake a review of the measures taken so far by the MP Government to ensure rehabilitation of affected families within three months.

Meanwhile, NBA counsel Shanti Bhushan read out from the report of GoM comprising Saifuddin Soz , Meira Kumar and Prithviraj Chavan, about the inadequate rehabilitation measures taken up by MP. This was strongly contested by state government counsel Harish Salve, who accused the GoM of even “fudging” names of certain rehabilitation centres which did not exist at all.

Stating that the Court could send an independent commission to examine the rehabilitation measures taken by MP Government, its counsel also raised question mark about the figures of oustees quoted by the GoM.

But ASG said that Union Government had not entirely relied upon the GoM report as it had made independent inquires about the issue and came to the conclusion that proper inventory of affected families needed to be prepared, land be allotted to them in fair and transparent manner, cash package of Rs 5 lakh to those who refuse land and reparatory measures to those whose claims still survived.



Medha Patkar ends fast
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar being helped by her colleagues after she returns to the dharna site from AIIMS Hospital at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday evening
Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar being helped by her colleagues after she returns to the dharna site from AIIMS Hospital at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Monday evening. — A Tribune photograph

New Delhi, April 17
Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar today pledged to carry “the 20-year-old Narmada fight far beyond” after she ended her 20-day fast with a glass of juice this evening.

A rather frail-looking Medha was brought to the dharna site in an ambulance from AIIMS with her colleague Jamsinghbhai.

But the 20 days of fasting, for which she also thanked doctors at AIIMS for allowing her to continue, had made her lose none of the grit and determination that she is well known for.

In almost a 20-minute long forceful address after breaking the fast, she told her supporters that she now intended to take the fight further beyond.

Ms Patkar said she and her two comrades, Jamsinghbhai and Bhagwatibhen, had taken the decision to break the fast as “we have to move from our 21-day long fast to fight with the unprecedented challenge again”.

Her supporters said she took decision to break the fast under immense pressure from them after the Supreme Court said it would be left with no option but to stop the construction of the dam if relief and rehabilitation measures for the oustees were found inadequate by May 1.

She termed this and the report by the three-member ministerial team that put a question mark on the rehabilitation process in the states a major victory.

Though exact details have not yet been finalised by the NBA, but activist Dipti Bhatnagar said after Medha is released from the AIIMS tomorrow, she then plans to move the center of resistance to the Narmada valley. “ Otherwise in the next 15 days, by the time next court hearing comes up, the state governments can indulge in lot of malpractices,’ Ms Bhatnagatr told The Tribune.

The activists plan to go the project site via Bhopal and Indore to mobilise forces in its favour.

“By then hopefully the Prime Minister would have realised the huge mistake he is making. If not then the issue will become crystal clear and we will plan a huge satryagrah in the valley during the monsoon,” the NBA activist said.

CPI general secretary A B Bardhan, social activist Swami Agnivesh and several high-profile supporters like writer Arundhati Roy and noted Supreme Court lawyers Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan and Indira Jaisingh were present at the protest site.

Ms Patkar, who had been shifted to AIIMS a few days ago after her condition worsened in the wake of the hunger strike, was taken back to the hospital after she ended the fast.


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