India Intelligence Report
 

PM Appoints Narmada Monitoring Panel

 

The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a three-member panel that will assess, monitor, and advise the Government on relief provided to those ousted by the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) across the Narmada River. He announced that J.P. Narain of Non-Governmental Organization Lok Satta and former Jawaharlal University Vice-Chancellor G.K. Chadha, both from left-leaning organizations to be part of the panel. To keep them honest, he announced that former Comptroller and Auditor-General V.K. Shunglu would chair this committee.

The panel has been charged with the responsibility of ascertaining the progress of relief work and to determine the actual number of submergence-affected families. It will confirm that affected families got their fair compensation from the Government and to verify assertions from State Governments that those who spurned the compensation did so of their own volition. The panel will also design and implement a process whereby those affected will receive fair compensation in a transparent manner.

 

This is a much-needed mechanism that should have been instituted right at the beginning. What is most interesting is the charge to determine the actual number of ousted families. While the State Governments have suggested a number, the Federal Government seems to have accepted the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) assertion that the numbers provided by the States were wrong. What would be important is to evaluate the process by which each party states their claim and confirm actually numbers by those parameters. 

In a country like India where the Government hardly has any information on even tax-paying citizens, trying to determine residential rights and history in a remote hilly tract would be next to impossible. With large amounts being offered as compensation, there may be a lot of carpetbaggers in the line trying to get a free ride.

It would be most useful if the Government should learn from this debacle and bring out clear-cut norms that will govern large development projects. This will ensure that ensuing the claims and counter claims do not impede their continued progress per schedule. More importantly, it will also ensure that people get fair treatment from corrupt local Government officials.

The NBA’s contribution would be most useful if it were to ask for such abstraction of learning.