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Delhi trio finds relief faults, afraid to say so

Bhopal, April 8: The central team that toured Narmada valley yesterday has termed relief and rehabilitation measures as inadequate, providing fresh ammunition to Medha Patkar.

Anti-dam crusader Medha, on fast in Delhi for over a week, is now admitted at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences.

Three Union ministers ' Saifuddin Soz, Meira Kumar and Prithviraj Chavan ' returned to Indore in the wee hours today after an 18-hour interaction with people displaced by the increase in the Sardar Sarovar dam height.

Even at 12 in the night, angry crowds greeted the team in Barwani district, where over 100 villages have been affected by dam construction.

“The exercise has evoked very strong feelings. There is an element of human tragedy all around,” a minister said, adding a formal report would be submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The central team is, however, in a bit of a fix. A strong indictment of relief and rehabilitation work would politicise the issue and even show the union water resources ministry in poor light.

Should Union water resources minister Soz take a pro-Medha stance, he would face stiff resistance from his own bureaucrats. The ministry officials have been warning that any leverage to Medha and the Narmada Bachao Andolan would have a bearing on the Sardar Sarovar Dam project, which caters to the electricity, irrigation and drinking water needs of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Sources said Soz is planning to hold meetings with the Madhya Pradesh government before going public on the Narmada issue. The gesture is aimed at blunting the state BJP’s criticism that the Centre is playing “politics”.

The Gujarat unit of the BJP has already gone on the offensive, saying it will not tolerate any “interference” from the Centre. The members of the central team clarified that their “limited mandate” was to oversee functioning of the relief and rehabilitation work and not address the anti or pro big dam debate.

Sources said the decision to send in a team was taken by the Prime Minister on the request of some friends representing “civil society”. Singh’s brief to the team was to look into Medha’s allegation that many oustees have been deprived of compensation.

In March 2005, the Supreme Court had said the dam height could be raised provided rehabilitation measures for those affected were in place.

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