Counterview, Jan 1 2016, Madhya Pradesh: Seven years after it began its investigation, the Justice Shravan Shankar Jha Commission, set up by the Madhya Pradesh High Court, is all set to submit its detailed report on “massive corruption” which has in rehabilitating Narmada dam oustees in the state. The Commission was tasked to investigate the issue of fake land registries and four other types of corruptions that occurred in the rehabilitation of dam-affected families.
This report, said a communiqué by the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), would reveal number of fake land registries offered in the name of special rehabilitation package to the oustees. Under the package, the oustees were given the option of choosing between land and cash, but in most cases they were forced to take cash, as the land they were shown was of poor quality.
“The question of who is to blame for this huge deception would need to be answered once the report is given to the court”, NAPM, which is the apex body of tens of people’s organizations, and is led by well-known social activist and leader of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) Medha Patkar, said.
“The number of fake registries would reveal how many farmers actually got land and how many did not because of fraudulent registries. The state government has accepted only 686 fake registries and declared the rest to be correct, but the Jha Commission findings are likely to be triple or quadruple this number”, NAPM said.
Referring to the technical team set up by the Jha Commission to investigate 88 rehabilitation sites, NAPM said, “It is expected that the Jha Commission report would expose the crores of rupees of corruption and irregularities that took place in the construction work and quality of the construction of civic amenities at these sites.”
“The report should reveal irregularities, if any, in the rehabilitation of project-affected families, including the allotment of housing plots and several basic amenities that were to be provided”, NAPM said, adding, “The report would present facts regarding fraudulently turning ineligible persons eligible into eligible beneficiaries and vice versa.”
“The report would help one conclude whether the Madhya Pradesh government claim that the rehabilitation of the Narmada oustees was completed in 2008 had any basis, even as pointing towards actual number of families that remain to be rehabilitated in 2016”, NAPM said. The Jha Commission was set up in 2008, by an order of the High Court.
“Every time the Madhya Pradesh government starved the Commission of necessary funds or other needed resources, NBA had to plead before the court for the Commission to get these resources. This went on till October 2015 in the last stages too when the state government cut the commission’s funds”, NAPM said.
“NBA has long been claiming that thousands of oustees have faced serious corruption in the rehabilitation process, thereby depriving them of their rights and rehabilitation benefits. According to one estimate, of the Rs 2,300 crore allotted to Madhya Pradesh for the rehabilitation purposes, misappropriation to the tune of Rs 1,000 to 1,500 crore took place”, NAPM said.
Douting Madhya Pradesh government intentions, NAPM said, “The question remains, after this report, would the state government, Narmada Valley Development Authority and Narmada Control Authority fulfill their responsibilities towards rehabilitation of oustees.”