April 14, 2006

Narmada Bachao "Andolan" sucks in Aamir Khan

Sardar Sarovar Dam - Symbolising the aspirations of the nation

V.P.Singh and Soz -offering cold water?
Aamir - advisable to stick to "thanda cola"?

It is really a pity that Aamir Khan, generally considered to be a sensible person, got carried away by the false propoganda of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and by being present at their dharna at Delhi, tried to add glamor to an effort to mislead the public and browbeat the Government.

Medha Patkar and her cronies have been assiduously following the Goebbelian principle of telling lies long enough to make people accept it as truth. Unfortunately for the country and its people, they have succeeded in their efforts in making people believe that their 'struggle' is justified.

As Aamir Khan spoke, it was clear that he was not fully aware of the background of issues and had unwittingly walked into controversy by lending his voice to support the cause of the NBA.

For those like him who are not fully aware of how much water has flown under the bridge (or over the dam) in this matter, there are voluminous newsreports and other material available which also show the tactics adopted and half-truths that have been spread by Medha Patkar and her colleagues over a period.

For the uninitiated, an admirable analytical viewpoint on the subject can be read here and a perspecive specifically on Relief & Rehabilitation aspects can be read here.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan has been trying its best to raise their issues repeatedly before the Highest Court in the land, i.e. The Supreme Court.

In its Judgement given in October 2000, the Surpeme Court did not accept various contentiones of NBA and gave several directions to ensure that justice was done to the displaced people and at the same time that the project was completed expeditiously.

Even subsequent to that, various interlocutary applications were made by various affected persons. In one Order dated 9.9.02, the Supreme Court stated:

"Grievance Redressal Authority having been put in place, there is no reason for this Court to interfere.

As far as the dispute raised in this petition is concerned, that is over and final with the earlier decision of this Court. In case an oustee or a person affected by the Project has any grievance, it is open to him to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority.

It is also contended that land for land has not been given. If there is any person so aggrieved or has justifiable grievance, it is open to that person to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority, failing which this Court.

It is made clear that full assistance will be rendered by the Narmada Control Authority as well as the State Governments to the Grievance Redressal Authority in the discharge of their respective functions.

This writ petition is disposed of in the aforesaid terms."

It will be noticed that the Supreme Court had unequivocally stated that it was open to a person to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority, failing which the Supreme Court.

In another Order dated 16.4.04, the Supreme Court stated, inter alia, that:

"I.A.Nos.10 & 11. The prayer in these applications is to direct the respondents not to proceed with further construction of Narmada Dam by raising its height to 110 meters till all affected people are rehabilitated. The main grievance of the applicants is the subject-matter of two I.As.(I.A.Nos.4 & 7).

Having heard learned counsel for the parties at considerable length, we are of the view that for the present, no case has been made out to stop the ongoing construction raising the height of the dam. At the same time, it is necessary to note that the matter relating to rehabilitation of outstees is required to be examined by all concerned and implemented in terms of the award made by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal, orders and directions issued by this Court from time to time, the orders and directions of Narmada Control Authority and that of Grievance Redressal Authrorities of the state concerned. Further, it has been brought to our notice by the learned counsel appearing for the applicants that the land in village Matanya, Tehsil Mahaeshwar and some of the other villages being proper cultivable land can be obtained/acquired by the State Governments and given to the oustees as a rehabilitation measure. The applicants may give concrete suggestions in this respect to the respondent-State of Madhya Pradesh. On receipt of such suggestions, the matter shall be expeditiously examined by the State Government. In case, the applicants/oustees are still not satisfied with the decision of the State Government, it would be open to them to approach the Grievance Redressal Authority. The said Authority shall also examine the grievance of the oustees as expeditiously as possible as the matter pertaining to rehabilitation of the oustees cannot be taken up or treated lightly. It may also be noticed that a positive approach has been adopted by the oustees that what they are concerned with is the proper rehabilitation and not the stoppage of the construction of the dam and they have approached this Court seeking stay of construction as they were not satisfied about the proper offer having been made to all affected parties for their rehabilitation and other related aspects of rehabilitation.

For the present having noticed aforesaid issues, we express no opinion."

Another detailed Judgement giving certain directions was also delivered on 15.3.05.

Realising that they were not succeeding in getting the Hon. Court to give Orders to their own liking, the NBA and Medha Patkar have started resorting to pressure tactics and have drawn in the news-hungry television media and publicity-hungry personalities to use them for their own ends. In doing this, they are amply demonstrating their lack of faith in the Judiciary if it does not show inclination to pass orders to suit their own agenda.

The Union Government, which has proved to be weak-kneed and worthless at times in tackling difficult issues, has apparently succumbed to the pressure tactics of Medha Patkar and others and has agreed to "review" the decision to raise the height of the dam.

It is high time the people stop supporting such uselsss 'struggles' when the development and progress of the country are thwarted. It is pertinent to note that the Narmada projects link the economic development of four states in the country viz. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajashtan and Madhya Pradesh with a total population of 264.20 million people.

But it is not a question of just these 25% of the country's population. The issue is whether a handful of objectors with their own unclear motivations can stop the progress of the country itself. What they are trying to do is to change the countours of a project that has come so far in the process of implementation during the course of which it has gone through every conceivable test including critical scrutiny of the highest judicial authority. If such agitations, by people who may be misguided or who may have their own motives, are allowed to succeed, it would lead to disastrous consequences not only for the present Narmada projects but also for any future development projects.

As for Aamir Khan, it is hoped that he would see through the game to suck him into needless controversy and, instead of sticking his neck out for the same, stick to his bollywood activities unless he feels that he has no future there.