Money, instead of land, for Narmada refugees in MP
The Madhya Pradesh government tweaked a rehabilitation law recently to enable it to compensate thousands of families, mostly farmers, facing displacement by dams being constructed on the Narmada river with money instead of land.
This overturns the fundamental ‘land-for-land’ principle of the 1979 rehabilitation policy that many believe is essential to ensure alternative livelihoods to people whose lands would be submerged by the irrigation project. The Supreme Court has also upheld this principle.
In 2001, the Madhya Pradesh government shifted the onus of buying land to the displaced, instead of making land allotments. Its latest tweak allows displaced landowners to file declarations saying they no longer depend on farming for their livelihood and don’t want land as compensation. This will make them directly eligible for a cash award.
The state government amended the rules after being pushed last November to investigate hundreds of fictitious land allotments under the rehabilitation process.
In March, the Narmada Valley Development Authority — the agency which is building the dams and is responsible for rehabilitating 38,000 displaced families in Madhya Pradesh — claimed the rehabilitation process was complete.
The body now faces a case filed by the Narmada Bachao Andolan in the Jabalpur High Court, asking for a central probe into the corruption and action against officials found guilty.
The state government probed 2,800 cases and found officials had registered 750 fictitious sales.
Adil Khan, spokesperson for the Narmada Valley Development Authority, said: “The amendment is meant to help families who are unwilling to own farm land any more.”
But critics say the state is trying to legitimise fictitious sales. “To cover up one wrong, it’s now committing more wrongs...,” said Ashish Mandloi, a Narmada Bachao Andolan activist. Timeline.
While the police have filed more than 300 cases against farmers in past months, no officials or brokers had been booked.
“The records show the same piece of land being sold six to eight times over,” said Ranvir Singh, a bespectacled farmer in his sixties from Badwani district.
Villagers like Singh travelled to scores of villages over six months with documents obtained under the Right to Information Act. The fraud, it emerged, took many forms: in some cases, the landowner was fictitious. In others, the land was non-existent. In yet others, the landowners — in some instances, the government itself — were unaware that their land was shown as having been sold.