18th December, 2013
CJ of M.P. High Court resolves to address concerns
Principal Secretary, NVDD summoned to Court today and tomorrow
The new Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court, Hon’ble Justice A.N. Khanvilkar, along with Hon’ble Justice Shantanu Kemkar has been hearing two public interest petitions on the Omkareshwar (OSP) and Indira Sagar Canals (ISP) since yesterday. One of these was filed in March, 2013, on behalf of thousands of canal – affected families (CAFs) many of those are already seriously affected by the canal network. This petition raises serious issues of social and environmental impacts, lack of rehabilitation, unnecessary excavation of canals in irrigated villages, severe crop losses etc. The other petition was filed by one Mr. Virendra Patidar, complaining of slow work, illegalities by the contractor, corruption, impacts of water logging in the 1st Phase of the Omkareshwar Project.
The Chief Justice questioned the state authorities on the issue of project delay yesterday. There was a dispute over the government’s claims that 95% of work in the Right Bank Canal (RBC) and 80% work in Left Bank Canal (LBC) of Omkareshwar was complete. Since the counsel and Superintending Engineer could not convince the Court, Mr. Rajnish Vaish, Principal Secretary of the Narmada Valley Development Department, was summoned in the Court today and questioned on delay in the project work, status of overall canal works including construction. Referring to the people’s agitation being shown as a ‘barrier’, by the state, the CJ asked as to why will people agitate if their issues are solved and demands met within the framework of law.
Even the Principal Secretary, did not give a complete and correct account of the construction as also compliance on other legal measures including environmental measures and rehabilitation. We questioned the same on the basis of field level reality, upon which the CJ directed him to place his statement on affidavit tomorrow. The CJ also asked the Principal Secretary as to whether there were financial constraints and directed him to consult the Chief Secretary and file an affidavit with details.
The CJ, expressed an initiative to resolve all the outstanding issues within the framework of law such as non-compliance with the directions of the Supreme Court, recommendations of the Expert Committees of the Union Environment Ministry, lack of rehabilitation, severe crop loss in dozens of villages due to water logging and muck disposal and lack of compensation for the same, lack of dialogue and use of police force on aggrieved farmers etc. The hearing shall continue tomorrow as well in the Court of the Hon’ble Chief Justice at Indore. Medha Patkar pleaded on behalf of the canal-affected farmers. Adv. Dharmedra Chelawat appeared for the petitioner in the other case, Mr. Virendra Patidar.
Lalchand Patidar Mukesh Bhagoria
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