Jabalpur High Court begins hearing on issues related to Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar canal

Jabalpur High Court begins hearing on issues related to Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar canal


In a significant development in the long-drawn struggle of lakhs of farmers and adivasis whose lands are regularly acquired for the canals across the country without adequate rehabilitation and prior consultation, the Jabalpur High Court, by issuing notices to various central and state authorities, in a way, recognized, that the cause of 'canal-affected' also needs to be pursued further and tested on constitutional, environmental and rehabilitation planks.

The issue is indeed one of great 'urgency', since the fertile black cotton soil lands of farmers and the landless; thier source of livelihood is being acquired overnight for the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar canals by side-stepping the legally binding consent-consultation process of the Gram Sabhas and imposing 'urgency clause' to acquire lands, denying even the right to raise objections.

While on the one hand the struggle of the reservoir-affected by these two large
dams is still on for fair and just rehabilitation, the canal work is going on at break neck speed not just violating all environmental pre-conditions and without complying with the rehabilitation policy and due legal process, but also without finishing the command area and rehabilitation plans and tasks
which had to be completed by 1994!

It is also to be noted that those whose lands are acquired for the canals are many times more than those affected by the reservoir and yet all those who are losing more than 25% of the land are neither recognized as even 'project affected' nor is the benefit of the rehabilitation policy of giving 5 acres of cultivable, irrigable land extended to them, even as the 300 feet wide main
canal and numerous branch canals and minor canals are being built without the mandatory and pre-conditional command area plans in place, let alone execution.

With the huge pits dug and broken roads unattended, the construction of canals
is surely to create havoc this monsoon. The manner in which with excavation work is progressing is also against the spirit of the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policy, 2007 which is to promote development with minimal to nil displacement and there is a need to explore and pursue such alternatives.

The lands of small and marginal farmers and adivasis is being acquired by fraud, force and allurement of meagre monetary compensation overnight and many of these are infact irrigated lands that are already affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project. Placing these facts and basic violations before the Hon'ble High Court, Advocate Raghavendra and Medha Patkar, pleading for the petitioners stressed that no land alienation can go on in the scheduled adivasi areas, without the free, prior, informed consultation and consent of the concerned Gram Sabhas and that the M.P. PESA cannot be different from or in violation of the Central PESA Act.

Issuing notices to the Union Environment Ministry, Narmada Control Authority, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Narmada Valley Development Authority and the District Collectors of Badwani and Dhar Districts, the Bench of Chief Justice A.K. Patnaik and P.K. Jaiswal sought reply from the Respondents regarding the status of Gram Sabha consultation and the preparedness and implementation of the command area and rehabilitation plans. The matter has been posted to the 30th of June for the next hearing.

Mohan Patidar, Kamla Yadav, Ramsingbhai, Gendiyabai, Medha Patkar