Sardar Sarovar Oustees Demand Cancellation of Acquisition and Full Ownership of Property
While Modi government has already stepped back declaring that there will be no ‘Land Acquisition Ordinance’ anymore as a result of the strongest ever alliance of people’s movements and organizations of farmers to fisher folk and labourers , with the support from most of the political parties, the same 2013 New Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act is now resorted to by the thousands of Sardar Sarovar Affected families on the struggle path in the Narmada valley.
On the twenty second (22) day of Jeevan Adhikar Satyagraha, hundreds of farmers, labourers and fisherpersons gathered at the Collector’s office in Badwani district, Madhya Pradesh. Asserting that they all have become owners of their houses and /or agricultural land that was acquired 10-15 years ago, have become owners of the same and the acquisition is already cancelled since 1 January 2014, as per section 24(2) of the New Land Acquisition Act 2013, they have demanded that the name of NVDA, the state-level Narmada Authority in MP should be deleted and their names should be entered through mutation on the said property.
The farmers and others from village Pipri, Piplud, Chhota Barda and Bhilkheda of Badwani district and Chikhalda and Bhavaria of Dhar district, totaling about 80 have already filed their petitions before the High Court of MP, Indore Bench and got stay against dispossession of theirs, directing the State not to elicit or even drown their properties. This, the people rightfully claimed, is applicable to all, above 40,000 families residing in the submergence area of SSP, in Madhya Pradesh.
They all are confident since the section of the new Act is already interpreted by the Supreme Court in 2014 and 2015, preventing Modi government and any lower court from misinterpretation or amendment of the same. The Supreme Court has also rightly interpreted that even if the 2013 Act section 24(2) gets amended or deleted, the ownership rights already granted under the Act since 1 January 2014, cannot be compromised with.
The above said section is indeed a relief to the project affected whose lands/houses etc are acquired years or even decades ago, receiving meager compensation while rehabilitation begins much after, when the oustees become penniless. Lack of Rehabilitation Planning and no land resources make the policy, plans and promises get derailed, with oustees becoming the loser as they cannot start a new life at that time.
Same being the situation in the Narmada Valley, Sardar Sarovar affected families from village after village, have had to resort to the New Act. It is now a legal position that unless these houses and farms in the submergence area, still in actual possession of the affected families are reacquisitioned, no government can claim their right to submerge/drown the properties. The SS Dam now raised to 139 metres almost (17 mtrs above 122 mtrs, the height stayed for last 8 years) cannot lead to brutal submergence and inhuman eviction to destitution. Andolan continues its “Jeevan Adhikar Satyagraha”, awaiting challenge of raising waters i.e. by the callous corporatized governments of today.