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Friday, Aug 09, 2002

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Report on tribals displaced by Sardar Sarovar dam — `Govt must suitably rehabilitate victims'

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AN independent panel consisting of the former Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Dr V. Mohini Giri, the former Chief of Naval Staff, Mr Vishnu Bhagwat, Supreme Court Advocate, Mr R. Venkatramani, and law researcher, Ms Usha Ramanathan, on Thursday released a report on the plight of the tribals who have been displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Dam with the recent decision of the Narmada Control Authority to raise the height of the dam to 95 metres.

The report, titled `Along the Narmada', is based on the public hearings, where the villagers expressed their anger and anxiety about issue of rehabilitation.

"The Government has no concern for us and has increased the height of the dam without even asking or rehabilitating us. How can the Government take care of its country if it cannot take care of its people? Why should we leave our land, our forest and go somewhere else?" These were some of the concerns of the villages which has been mentioned in the report.

"The report is an effort to present the people's version. We have not reached out to officials and agencies of State, as there are sufficient documents as well as court proceedings which reveal the stand of the State authorities. In this report, we have let the people speak for themselves," Ms Giri said.

The report, according to her, brings to light issues which have to be tackled with immediate effect, acknowledging that these people are not dispensable and they can't be reduced to a mere cost in the development process.

The report has also expressed the need for a masterplan which will clearly lay out who will face submergence and when, what and where their rehabilitation will lead them to, and so on.

"This is necessary as there is no clear idea of the area to be submerged and the number of people to be rehabilitated at a certain height of the dam," Ms Giri said.

The report has also demanded the protection of the tribal communities affected by the project.

"The reduction of rights of the Adivasi communities, even to negation, is, apart from its evident injustice and inequity, also contrary to the ILO convention 107 adopted in 1957 to which India has been a party since 1958," the report said.

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