Country’s biggest rehabilitation scam
Posted September 20, 2010on:
The Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh, or the Narmada valley to be precise, has all the ingredients for the growth of naxalism of the most militant kind. If the thousands of the poor tribal families have continued to suffer without allowing some of them to take to the arms (and adding to the headache of Palaniappan Chidambaram), the credit must go to the dedicated band of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists like Medha Patkar, Alok Agrawal, and Chittaroopa Palit, who have for decades been fighting a relentless but peaceful war at various levels in the cause of the tribals. They have been ridiculed, maligned, accused of being foreign agents, slapped with frivolous criminal cases, frequently thrashed by the police and indulged and reprimanded alternately by the higher echelons of the judiciary. The important thing is that they have not forfeited the faith of the tribals.
Their struggle is bearing fruit, inasmuch as the massive corruption in relief and rehabilitation of the families uprooted for the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) stands exposed. This could be the country’s biggest rehabilitation scam. Whether the guilty will be punished and the victims recompensed is another matter.
Around 3000 displaced families have complained to the judicial commission, constituted by the Madhya Pradesh High Court on a directive of the Supreme Court, that they have not received a paisa from the government by way of relief and rehabilitation, though the government records show that they have all been adequately compensated. For decades, the NBA had been bringing to the notice of the High Court and the Supreme Court how the politicians and IAS officers of Madhya Pradesh had been defrauding the poor people whose ancestral lands had been acquired for the SSP. The Supreme Court judges sometimes heard the NBA patiently and at other times relied on the fictitious affidavits of the State government and chided the NBA. Eventually, the apex court ordered constitution of a Grievances Redress Authority (GRA) but it could not unshackle the stranglehold of the IAS in the State.
Forged sale deeds
Eventually, the Madhya Pradesh High Court ordered in October 2008 constitution of a one- man judicial commission to be headed by Justice Shravan Shankar Jha to inquire into all aspects of corruption in rehabilitation of the SSP-affected families. Later on, the High Court amended its order and directed the Jha Commission to also inquire into (a) Fraudulent payment of compensation to the ineligible / fake persons and properties, (b) Irregularities and corruption in house plot allotments, (c) Corruption in payment of livelihood grants to the landless oustees with fake claims of purchase of productive assets, and (d) All cases of excluding eligible persons referred to in the various interim applications filed by the petitioner (NBA)
The High Court rejected the State government’s assertion that the GRA was already looking into the grievances of the displaced families, with the observation that the GRA had no investigative machinery of its own and it had not been taking cognisance of corruption, irregularities, illegalities as well as grievances related to land acquisition. The Narmada Control Authority (NCA), a body authorised and empowered by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA), itself pleaded that it was incapable of taking any action against the State government in the cases under consideration.
Shivraj Singh Chauhan and his corrupt minions were, naturally, not happy with the constitution of the Commission. The State government’s recalcitrant attitude was reflected in its denial of necessary funds to the Commission to start work. On the written submission of the secretary of the Jha Commission that even the budgeted and approved funds were not being released by the government and that the amount disbursed was not sufficient even to cover the salaries of the Commission’s staff, the High Court directed that the budgeted financial resources for the Jha Commission should be placed with and routed through the Registrar General of the High Court.
Six months after the constitution of the Commission, the Supreme Court issued the directive that “no rehabilitation grant – whether by cash or cheque-based, shall be given without the scrutiny of the Justice Jha Commission”. The Supreme Court directive was incorporated in a High Court order pronounced by a division bench of (then) Chief Justice A.K.Patnaik and Justice Ajit Singh that “the Justice S.S. Jha Commission shall, according to the directions of the Supreme Court, keep up its role of monitoring and scrutiny in the disbursal of every kind of rehabilitation grant and shall immediately begin investigation and take appropriate action on all the cases of irregularities and corruption pointed out by NBA to this Court”.
The Jha Commission has been asked to submit its report to the High Court by October this year but it may not be possible in view of the gigantic dimensions of the corruption. The Commission will have to examine around 3000 sale deeds (which the claimants say are forged), examine thousands of witnesses and inspect the scores of sites which the State government claims have been developed for the rehabilitation of the affected families. The preparation of thousands of fake sale deeds and the loot of thousands of crores of rupees could not be possible without the active participation of the top bosses in various departments involved, like the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA), the stamps and registration department and the revenue department. The wrong-doers have to be identified.