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PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 9:12 pm 
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NARMADA DAMS
Construction, at any cost


http://www.indiatogether.org/2010/apr/env-pandey.htm

Many of the conditions under which the Narmada dams were erected remain unfulfilled, but this does not deter the government from pushing for further construction. Shripad Dharmadhikary reports.

14 April 2010 - A fresh controversy is brewing around the Sardar Sarovar Narmada project, with the Ministry of Environment appearing to have given a go-ahead for further construction at the dam. This goes against the recommendation of its own committee set up to assess the compliance of the Sardar Sarovar and Indira Sagar projects with the environmental safeguards they were supposed to meet during earlier construction. The committee had recommended that there should be no further filling of the reservoirs or construction of canals until the projects first comply with their existing obligations.

The committee's report was considered at a meeting of the Environment Sub-Group of the Narmada Control Authority (ESG) on 26 March 2010, but apparently the meeting was inconclusive. It is reported that during this meeting, the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh questioned the legitimacy of the committee itself. Subsequently, another meeting was held on 1 April 2010. There are also indications that intense pressure was mounted by the states at the political level in the interim period, and unofficial sources say the ESG has cleared further construction of the dam during the second meeting.

What is significant is that neither the ESG, nor the MoEF has issued any official statement regarding its decision on the report of its committee and on the clearance to further construction. The MoEF also did not respond to my email queries. Given that the findings and recommendations of the committee report are unequivocal and strong, the entire episode appears to be another instance of a weak environmental monitoring mechanism succumbing to political pressure. This is of concern, as it could be a huge setback to the efforts of the Minister to give some teeth to the blunted environmental governance regime and change the image (and reality) of the MoEF being a mere rubber stamp.

The MoEF report under discussion is the Second Interim Report by the expert committee, headed by Former Director-General of the Forest Survey of India Dr. Devender Pandey. The report has highlighted the failures in the environmental safeguard measures at the two projects in the strongest terms, concluding that "the project authorities (SSNNL and NVDA, Government of Maharashtra) have grossly violated stipulations in respect of catchment area treatment, flora, fauna and carrying and command area development causing irreversible loss to the environment." These are the very measures that the MoEF had mandated as conditionalities when the projects were originally given environmental clearance in 1987 - 23 years back.

It has also recommended that "no further reservoir filling either at SSP or at ISP be permitted till the catchment areas of both SSP and ISP are fully treated and all the outstanding requirements to protect and conserve flora and fauna including preparation of master plan and creation of wildlife sanctuaries are put in place." The committee has also called for a halt to all construction on the canal network till the environmental measures become pari-passu.

The Pandey Committee

The expert committee was set up by the MoEF, on the decision by the Environment Sub Group (ESG) of the Narmada Control Authority. The NCA is the interstate body mandated to implement the award of the Narmada Tribunal. It set up two sub-groups, one on environment and another on resettlement and rehabilitation to monitor these two aspects. Among the tasks of the ESG is also to monitor the compliance and implementation of the conditions of clearance of the projects. In 2000, the Order and judgement of the Supreme Court in the Sardar Sarovar case further strengthened this arrangement as the Supreme Court directed that the two sub-groups would need to first clear any further construction, following which the Narmada Control Authority would accord the final go-ahead.

The 45th Meeting of the ESG, held in April 2008 discussed and allowed a request of the Gujarat government for the construction of piers at the SSP dam. However, in the next meeting in June 2008, this clearance was put on hold pending a detailed assessment of the implementation of the environmental safeguard measures as envisaged in the clearance given by the MoEF. It was then decided to constitute an expert committee to carry out this review. This committee - the Devender Pandey committee - was constituted by the MoEF on 9th July 2008.

It is significant that one of the strong complaints against the ESG has been that it has functioned essentially as a desk-top monitoring group, basing its work on the data submitted by the respective state governments. Thus, the implementation has mostly been monitored based on the data submitted by the implementing agencies themselves. Only occasionally has the ESG set up independent teams for field verification of the implementation.

One of the most serious violations documented by the Pandey Committee relates to the catchment area treatment. Treating the catchment area of the reservoir is important to control silting and for regulating the inflow of water. The MoEF clearance to the SSP and ISP imposed the condition that the catchment area would have to be treated ahead the filling of the reservoir. The committee found that "The compliance by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) in Madhya Pradesh has been highly unsatisfactory." In case of the SSP, only 38 per cent of the catchment to be treated has been done by the state while for the ISP only 9 per cent has been treated. On the other hand, the impoundment of ISP has been almost completed with the dam being constructed to its full height, and in SSP the impoundment has been to the tune of 80 per cent.

The committee reported that "The condition on ... CAT [Catchment Area Treatment] works has been partially fulfilled by Gujarat and Maharashtra, but grossly violated by MP." (Emphasis in original)

Another important part of the environmental safeguard measures mandated was an approved Environmental Action Plan (EAP) for the command area. This includes the drainage plans which are crucial. When a canal network is constructed, two impacts occur. One, the canals can cut across, block or divert natural drainage channels. This can lead to accumulation of rain water leading to floods. Second, canals bring to an area huge quantities of water - usually in excess of the capacities of its natural drainage which has evolved over centuries adapting to the local precipitation levels. Thus, canal irrigation can lead to waterlogging. To address both these issues, a drainage plan is particularly important.

The environmental action plan for the command area should have been ready before the start of construction of the canal and should have been implemented ahead of the start of irrigation. "But this has not happened in both the projects (SSP &ISP) and in all the three states [Gujarat and Rajasthan for SSP and MP for ISP]", says the report, adding that "all the three states have violated the stipulations and not complied on EAP." (Emphasis in original).

Circumventing clearances?

The Gujarat Government has been actively considering a piped network for the distribution of irrigation water, instead of the canal network. The ostensible reason for this is that farmers are not ready to part with the lands that need to be acquired to build the canals.

However, there may be another motive as well. Recently, the Chairman of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited, Gujarat's agency to implement the project, was quoted as saying "The Narmada Control Authority keeps bothering us about environmental clearance in the command area by raising the bogey of hindrance to the natural flow of water during monsoon due to the canals. Now, no environmental clearance for the command area will be needed, as the pipelines will go on an average three meters deep below the farmers' fields".

Violations are par for the environmental course

The Report once again brings out gross violations of environmental conditions and safeguards at the SSP and ISP. This is not an exception, but rather just one more episode in a continuing saga. It may be recollected that the Minority judgement by the Supreme Court in the Sardar Sarovar case had found such gross violations in the environmental studies, plans and implementation and had asked the project to seek clearance once again. This report of the expert committee, coming almost ten years later shows how little things have changed.

The report also raises - once again - the very serious issue of environmental accountability. The MoEF accords environmental clearance to a large number of projects, and many of these clearances include important conditions. However, there is little monitoring in terms of whether these conditions are being followed and whether environmental action plans are being implemented. More important, even when it is found - or brought to the notice of the ministry - that this is not being done, there is little action taken against the project. This absence of accountability has had serious consequences for the environment, and for the population in turn. It has also created an atmosphere that sanctions and gives legitimacy for violating environmental norms with impunity.

The apparent decision of the ESG to allow construction at SSP in face of such a unambiguous report shows that little may have changed at the Ministry of Environment and Forests, in spite of some refreshing indications earlier. ⊕

Shripad Dharmadhikary
14 Apr 2010

Shripad Dharmadhikary coordinates the Manthan Adhyanan Kendra, a centre set up to research, analyse and monitor water and energy issues.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:08 pm 
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PUBLIC FINANCE/NARMADA
The willful breaking of Narmada promises


http://www.indiatogether.org/2007/may/gov-narmada.htm

Without an iota of public debate and due process, Gujarat had increased allocation of Narmada waters for industry five fold last year, eating into the share of drought affected villages. The Comptroller and Auditor General reported this in 2007, finding it untenable. Himanshu Upadhyaya has more.

22 May 2007 - On 30 March 2007, The Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report on Gujarat (commercial) entered the public domain. The report indicted the Gujarat state government for non-accrual of stated benefits from Sardar Sarovar Project.

April is the cruelest month, wrote T S Eliot in his poem, The Waste Land. Discourse over Narmada is going through dry land this April. During April last summer, we witnessed the Sardar Sarovar dam wall rising despite protests from oustees and the courts very reluctantly listening to arguments on unfulfilled rehabilitation. Unlike that, this year we witness a deadly silence on CAG's comments.

The audit findings reported that in deviation from the Master Plan, the Gujarat Water Infrastructure Limited (GWIL) had commissioned and executed the 'Narmada Main Canal – Gandhinagar' project at a cost of Rs.39.39 crores for supplying 255 MLD water to Gandhinagar city, a thermal power station at Gandhinagar, etc. at the cost of depriving drought prone regions. Further, it was found that while going by Indian Standard (IS) code of basic requirement for water supply, drainage and sanitation, the domestic water requirement for Gandhinagar should have been 49 MLD, the city had actually received 90.10 MLD of Narmada water, i.e. almost double of standard requirement.

What is most puzzling is why no questions are being asked on what consequences would the drastic decrease in municipal and domestic allocation have on the villages that were promised Narmada water.

Four years ago, most of our media have dutifully followed Gujarat's chief minister Narendra Modi's announcing, "Narmada water has reached Kachchh." Now, comments in the audit report throw light on the holes that have started to appear in those illusive images. The audit also points out that in deviation from the Master Plan that envisaged supply of 232 Million Litres per Day (MLD) water for Kachchh, of which 45 MLD was meant for industrial use, industries in Kachchh were actually allotted 61.91 MLD water (more than one third excess allocation than what was envisaged in Master Plan) as per figures available as on 31 March 2006.

The CAG pointed this out in July 2006. Without naming individual officials, the audit report says that the management of GWIL and the Gujarat Government replied that the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited had in May 2006 increased the allocation for industrial water from 0.2 MAF (674 MLD) to a whopping 1.0 MAF (3369 MLD) from which the excess allocation would be adjusted. The increase took place without an iota of public debate. This is what the report has brought to the public eye.

During the year 2003-'04, it slowly came to be known that Gujarat had invented a mechanism to hide the costs for the realisation of 'municipal and industrial' water consumption from Narmada dam, by taking the expenditure incurred on the laying of pipelines on the books of Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board and Gujarat Water Infrastructure Limited. During the performance audit of Sardar Sarovar Canal based Narmada Drinking water pipeline for Amreli, Bhavnagar and Ahmedabad districts in the year 2003-'04 and for Jamnagar, Kachchh and Rajkot districts in the year 2004-'05, the CAG has detected a sudden shift in Gujarat's priorities. The audit revealed the grim reality that a lion's share is now being earmarked for industrial consumption, thus depriortising drinking water for drought affected villages.

Coming back to the 2006 increase, what is the rationale for such an upward revision, that too surreptitiously? As per the governing Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal award, out of 9.00 Million Acre Feet of Narmada water allocated to Gujarat, 1.06 MAF Narmada water was meant for "municipal and industrial use". But, how much within this allocation was meant for industrial consumption itself? As presentations before World Bank's Independent Review Mission headed by Bradford Morse suggest the industrial consumption was going to be 0.20 MAF. That left 0.86 MAF for municipal and domestic consumption.

What is most puzzling is why no questions are being asked on what consequences would the decrease in municipal and domestic allocation – from 0.86 MAF to 0.06 MAF – have on the villages that were promised Narmada water. Again if the decision was taken in the month of May 2006 and was being used to justify deviations from Master Plan, why was there no debate in public domain over this? Why do we witness precious Narmada water flowing to Gandhinagar, Vadodara and Ahmedabad, when propaganda repeatedly presented it as the last saviour for drought prone villages of Saurashtra and Kachchh?

It must be noted also that the number of villages promised Narmada water for domestic consumption went from zero in 1979, to 4720 villages in 1983-'84, and then to 7235 villages in 1990, and further to 8215 villages and 135 towns in the year 1992. All along this time, the figure of water allocated for municipal and domestic consumption remained stagnant at 0.86 MAF. And now even this allocation seems to have been cut into.

It were these drinking water benefits from the Narmada that were wielded around during early 90s to sweep aside criticism of the project on the social and environmental costs. That was the phase of government propaganda and its contestation. On the one hand, the state government embarked on the mission to enlist support of all the regions of Gujarat by invoking the emotive power of thirst and discourse breaking power of hate speech, while on the other hand critics raised questions on whether the stated benefits could ever materialise, given the mammoth financial vortex the project would create.

The CAG report has exposed the truth of who is actually getting the water, and in what proportion, on the backs of the original promises. Ironically, this year, even as the audit report came out, allegations against Narmada Bachao Andolan were flying high on the print space and airwaves. The report almost went unnoticed amidst this cacophony.

Discourse over the Narmada demands to be retrieved and questions need to be asked not merely on the costs and impacts front, but also on what is unfolding on benefits front. There still remain as many questions unanswered as probably were in early 90s. The costs paid by upstream catchment dwellers will soon shift to inhabitants of drought-prone regions if they fail to ask those questions now.

From October 2000 onwards, when the apex court granted a go-ahead for the dam construction, oustees and critics of the project have been pushed to the wall where they can only shout back by putting on record unfulfilled rehabilitation. On the other hand, state governments and proponents have had a free hand at using the shield of fait accompli. They do not feel answerable to criticisms on tracks other than rehabilitation. This must change.

Unlike what Amita Baviskar asks in the second edition of her book, In the Belly of the River, by raising a question, "Did NBA bite more than it can chew?", the only party that seems to be taking in more than it can swallow appears to be Gujarat. Regime after regime has solely concentrated on raising the dam height, without actually taking its waters to the proverbial last man. ⊕

Himanshu Upadhyaya
22 May 2007

Himanshu Upadhyaya is an independent researcher working on Public Finance and Accountability issues.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 10:16 pm 
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Water canals, or treasury drains?

http://www.indiatogether.org/2005/mar/eco-taxdrain.htm

Large water management projects are often announced with much fanfare, but as an audit of Gujarat's implementation shows, they're more likely to steer money towards other ends, and leave the taxpayers holding the bill for the benefits that have been diverted elsewhere. Himanshu Upadhyaya reports.

8 March 2005 - In May 2003 Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi trumpeted the arrival of Narmada water in Kutch. When away from the din of the well-managed media event, D V Maheshwari, a journalist with The Indian Express, asked V T Mistry, a Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board officer, a question on the cost of bringing Narmada water through a pipeline to Kutch. In response, Mistry said, "for the first phase the money has come from Asian Development Bank's Post Earthquake Reconstruction assistance, and we do not know where the money will come from for the second phase of the project". This news story left readers wondering whether ADB funds meant for earthquake reconstruction were being diverted to justify the benefits of damming and rerouting the Narmada.

At that time, attempts to check the audited accounts of post-earthquake reconstruction works were not very fruitful; this made one wonder if - despite orders from the Gujarat High Court - corrupt practices were continuing with impunity. Audited accounts were available only till March 31, 2002. The budget session in the year 2004 also ended without the Comptroller and Auditor General's audit report for the year ending March 31, 2003 being tabled in the legislature. On the last day, opposition benches raised questions about this, but a curt reply was given: "the audit report couldn't be tabled during the budget session since the task of translating the report into Gujarati is taking much time". Those concerned about public finance and accountability tried to communicate their concerns to the office of the CAG, but the report continued to lie in some cupboard away from the public gaze.

Finally the report was tabled in the Assembly on February 22, 2005. The report, broadly critical of the rot that has set in at the irrigation department in Gujarat, makes some notable observations about canal construction. As the CAG notes, cost estimates made for most projects quickly become meaningless the proper processes are not gone through. Land is often not acquired for the necessary construction, the benefits are rerouted outside the project, and costs are not recovered through fees on industrial and urban users. As a result, taxpayers in the state are left holding the burden of having to repay money even though very little benefit accrues to them.

Consider, for instance, the Saurashtra Drinking Water Pipeline project. The CAG states that "only 44 per cent of the envisaged people received the benefits after two years of execution of the augmented project that cost Rs 464.71 crores". Further, it states that "of the 1.51 million beneficiaries covered, about 94% were supplied with water unsuitable for human consumption".

When Saurashtra faced an acute shortage of water, the government decided to provide water from the Sardar Sarovar Dam and supply it to Pariej and Kaneval tanks through the main canal system, at a cost of Rs. 48.15 crores. This included Rs. 18.33 crores spent by Gujarat Electricity Board for providing infrastructural facilities and energy charges. Witness what actually happened: while the water that was drawn out of the reservoir was 258.59 Million Cubic Metres (MCM), a meager 52.20 MCM (20.18%) was supplied to the Saurashtra Pipeline Project through Mahi Canal. The remaining 206.39 MCM was supplied for the GEB's thermal power plant at Wanakbori, the Vadodara Municipal Corporation, and industries situated in the VMC and Ahmedabad district areas. Thus the Saurashtra Pipeline Project utilised only 20.18% of the water, but GWSSB was made to bear the entire expenditure of Rs 48.15 crores. No recovery for the water charges from the corporations and industries concerned was carried out, the CAG report said.

While the water that was drawn out of the reservoir was 258.59 million cubic metres, only 20% of this was actually supplied to the Saurashtra Pipeline Project through Mahi Canal.

The report also points out that GWSSB had pumped 63.56 MCM of water from Narmada canal into Vallabhipur branch canal at a cost of Rs 19.63 lakh, although the Board was aware that there was no link established between the Narmada canal and Navda/Vallabhipur sumps. Thus, the entire expenditure turned out to be an utter waste.

These experiences appear to hold no lessons for the government, though. The Irrigation establishment continued to push for the Sardar Sarovar Project and asked for larger allocation of funds, even though irrigation projects already planned in Saurashtra continued to gather dust. Rs.176 crores were blocked in 12 irrigation schemes in Saurashtra for last five years. These schemes have stalled because the Irrigation department began construction on headworks even before undertaking surveys, and also didn't bother with the necessary land acquisition for canals. Predictably, the whole thing spiralled out of fiscal control.



Similarly, while National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) had extended financial assistance to 12 irrigation dams in Saurashtra, the investment on them yielded no results and the State treasury faced a burden of Rs.29.12 crores as interest charges on these non-performing assets. And if you think these dams remained "non-performing" due to rivers going dry in drought-prone Saurashtra, you are mistaken. The story as unfolded during audit check is as narrated below.

*

The CAG writes that during the years of 1994-1998 the government had approved eight irrigation schemes, namely Bhadar II, Demi III, Dondi, Hanol, Sodvadar, Sarvo, Utavali and Wadi. The cost of these schemes was estimated at Rs 204.90 crores. During 1995-1998 the government had extended technical approval for headworks estimated to cost Rs 111.27 crores. These works were carried out till July by incurring an expenditure of Rs 130.27 crores until that date.
*

When an audit check of accounts for Bhavnagar, Amreli and Rajkot districts were carried out, it was found that not carrying out headworks and canalworks simultaneously resulted in the time overrun of three to five years. Due to non-acquisition of land for canals, the canal works couldn't start till June 2003.
*

NABARD had extended financial assistance for these schemes to the extent of Rs 57.86 crores, but due to non-completion of canal works till March 2003, the schemes faced an interest burden of Rs 19.82 crores and the expenditure of Rs 130.27 crores remained blocked as no benefits could accrue from these schemes.
*

Further, it was seen that similarly, other four irrigation schemes - Botwa-Kharo, Limdi-Bhogavo II, Fofal II, and Und II - got administrative approval during 1996-1998 with an estimated cost of Rs 64.63 crores. The headworks for those schemes got completed at the cost of Rs 45.89 crores. In these schemes also, due to non-acquisition of land for canals on time, the canal works couldn't start till June 2003. NABARD had extended financial assistance for these schemes to the extent of Rs 43.83 crores. Till March 2003, the interest charges paid on this assistance amounted to Rs 9.31 crores.

The cycle appears endless. First, the government announces a plan. Then work begins without the necessary preparation. Naturally, the project stalls. Meanwhile, benefits intended for one place are diverted elsewhere. The delays escalate the cost of completion, and the government usually borrows to pay this cost. Thing adds interest charges, but the benefits are still elusive, thanks to corruption and maladministration. Governments also routinely throttle public debate on such issues. While this sweeps the issue underground, the costs must still be met. In the end, all that remains of the canal that was announced with fanfare is a drain that is securely connected to the state's taxpayers. ⊕

Himanshu Upadhyaya
08 Mar 2005

Himanshu Upadhyaya is an independent researcher working on Public Finance and Accountability issue


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 11:18 pm 
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WATER FOR KACHCHH
In the dam's waters they trust


http://www.indiatogether.org/2006/may/env-kchdam.htm

In the arid west of Gujarat, there are still those who place their faith in the Sardar Sarovar project, and its promises of water for their region. The government has paid little attention to the local water resources in the region, but this has not deterred them. Himanshu Upadhyaya reports on a petition before the Supreme Court.

06 May 2006 - On April 21, 2006 the Supreme Court issued a notice to Government of Gujarat on a petition by Kachchh Jal Sankat Nivaran Samiti (Committee to solve water woes of Kachchh), demanding the drought affected district's due share of water from the Sardar Sarovar project The petitioners had appealed to the Supreme Court after the Gujarat High Court had delivered its judgement dismissing their petition.

This is very curious; exactly three years ago, in May 2003, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi trumpeted the arrival of Narmada water in Kachchh. When, away from the din of the well-managed media event, a journalist with The Indian Express asked V T Mistry, a Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board officer, a question on the cost of bringing Narmada water through a pipeline to Kachchh, he said, "for the first phase the money has come from Asian Development Bank's Post Earthquake Reconstruction assistance, and we do not know where the money will come from for the second phase of the project". This news story left readers wondering whether ADB funds meant for earthquake reconstruction were being diverted to justify the benefits of damming and rerouting the Narmada.

Ironically, while the government was enthusiastic to divert ADB's post-earthquake reconstruction assistance towards Narmada-based pipelines, it has allowed several quake-ravaged dams in Kachchh to continue in their dilapidated status without being strengthened. As a result, in October 2003 when Gandhidham town, located very close to the Tappar dam which was filled up to its brim, reported water scarcity, since water supply schemes based on this dam were left unfunded. Meanwhile, in Bhuj, the last town to get piped Narmada water in August 2003, the dream supply lasted barely a month. The only explanation Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board officials offer to various municipalities in Kachchh was that the supply was halted because the Narmada canal up to Maliya was yet to be cement lined.

The government has allowed several quake-ravaged dams in Kachchh to continue in their dilapidated status without being strengthened.

Meanwhile, a Comptroller and Auditor General report on Gujarat (Civil) for the year ending 31 March 2005 has put under scanner the implementation of Sardar Sarovar Canal based Drinking Water Pipeline Project. The audit report covers three districts - Kachchh, Jamnagar and Rajkot – and shows that contrary to the government's claim of having covered 1342 villages and towns, the water has reached only 415, (i.e. 31 percent). Pinning the blame for this shortfall on the delay in execution of works, CAG states "the gross average daily intake during May 2003 to June 2005 was 145.17 million litres a day (29 percent) against the capacity of 500 million litres a day".

The audit scrutiny of bills raised by Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) revealed that while SSNNL had sought to charge Gujarat Water supply and Sewerage Board (GWSSB) for supply of 104622.23 million litres of water during April 2003 to July 2005, GWSSB claimed that it had drawn only 70701.74 million litres of water during this period - a difference of 33920.49 million litres of water, valued at Rs 21.71 crores. GWSSB attributed the differences to transmission loss (ranging between 27 and 38 percent) due to evaporation, seepage from the unlined canal, and theft (by the farmers). One can very well imagine what will be the fate of Kachchh farmers at the tail end of the canal network, if even mid-way there is so much loss from unlined canals and theft.

Irrigation - the false god

For Kachchhis, it looks increasingly unlikely that they will get a fair share from the Narmada, as promised. Indeed, in the region itself, and in Saurashtra, many have turned to rejuvenation of local water bodies, placing far greater trust in this than in promises of water that appear as mirages. This throws up an important question - is the only option before Kachchh Jal Sankat Nivaran Samiti is to bargain for a larger share of water from the Sardar Sarovar project, or should the money now being squandered on various large irrigation-based programs be instead used to ensure supply based on local resources?

In an earlier critique of Sardar Sarovar Canal based Drinking Water Project for Saurashtra region, it was shown that 12 irrigation projects in Saurashtra continued to gather dust due to non-construction of canal networks, even as the irrigation establishment continued to fuel more and more finances into the mammoth Sardar Sarovar Project. The recent CAG report shows the irrigation department has yet to learn any lessons from its past blunders.

*

Reporting the audit of Kaniyad Water resources project on river Utavali - that promised to provide irrigation to 764 hectares of land in Botad and Dhandhuka tehsils - the CAG states in Para 4.4.2 that "failure to take up the canal work after the period of five years since completion of dam work resulted in idle investment of Rs 8.11 crores and denial of intended benefits to the farmers".
*

Reporting the audit of six Minor irrigation Schemes that promised to provide irrigation to another 2941 acres of land, the CAG states in para 4.4.3 that "due to delayed acquisition of land for canals or dropping of canal works, benefits were not accrued" leading to expenditure of Rs 7.78 crores over headwork and other subsidiary and ancillary works.
*

Reporting the audit of Veradi II water resources project and Sabli water resources project – that promised to provide irrigation in 2425 hectares of land – CAG states in para 4.4.4 that "awarding works without obtaining possession of 75 percent of land as per codal provisions resulted in the idle investment and blockage of Rs 9.95 crores on incomplete irrigation projects, beside deprival of irrigation benefits".

There is no criticism of the rot that has set in the irrigation department, which pushes the Sardar Sarovar project, fuelling more and more funds into it, while small irrigation schemes continue to gather dust. There is no debate on these CAG reports in Gujarat assembly, either. Instead, bizarrely, we find that even as the Narmada debate has entered into a decisive moment, the Saurashtra Jaldhara Trust is joining hands with Modi, its faith still firmly in the gigantism that has already failed them so much. It seems that Kachchhis would serve the cause of finding a lasting solution for their water woes better by asking why the irrigation department has neglected the local resource base of Saurashtra and Kachchh. ⊕

Himanshu Upadhyaya
06 May 2006


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 11:39 pm 
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Narmada rehabilitation scam exposed

http://indiatogether.org/2005/apr/hrt-dampafs.htm

A simple way to claim that everyone affected by dam construction is properly rehabilitated is to make a list of affected persons - and then leave off thousands of them from the list. This has been the history of rehabilitation in the Narmada valley. Himanshu Upadhyaya notes that after many years, the game isn't quite adding up in the courts.

13 April 2005 - On March 15, in a judgement related to rehabilitation of the Narmada dam oustees, the Supreme Court took issue with the state government of Madhya Pradesh on the grounds that the government has not implemented the court's earlier directions on rehabilitation of submergence impacted families, in letter and spirit. The court was ruling on applications filed by the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) in two villages, Jalsindhi (Jhabua dist., M.P.) and Picchodi (Badwani dist., M.P.)

The court deplored the MP government for having diluted the list of projected affected families entitled to rehabilitation. MP authorities had introduced a distinction by differentiating between temporari;y and permanently affected people, and made that the basis for implementing legally mandated rehabilitation measures flowing from the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) award, the governing law for the dam projects. However, the Court did not recognise this distinction, and ruled on the side of the MP oustees. "Their rights are being denied. This attitude on the part of the state, as has been observed in the main judgment, cannot but be deprecated", said the ruling. The judgement came just one day after the International day of Action against dams, for rivers, water and life, March 14.

Between February 8 and May 14 2002, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) invented a distinction between temporary and permanent oustees in order to deflate the list of project-affected families (PAFs). And in the three years since then, much cement has been poured on the mammoth Sardar Sarovar Dam, raising its height from 90 metres to 95 metres, then to 100 metres, and then to 110.64 metres.

The date - 17 May 2002 - brings back memories vividly. A small bunch of activists in a small township in Madhya Pradesh were in conversation as to how to respond to the government's brutal repression of adivasi farmers affected by the Maan Irrigation project in Manavar tehsil of Dhar district, when the phone rang. A voice from the other side informed those gathered that the NCA had granted permission to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam from 90 to 95 metres. The minutes of the NCA's meeting - which took place in clandestine fashion three days earlier - weren't yet available, but the NCA had gone public with the news.

Terms of rehabilitation (the law)

Oustee: An 'oustee' shall mean any person who since at least one year prior to the date of publication of the notification under Section 4 of the Act (i.e. Land Acquisition Act), has been ordinarily residing or cultivating land or carrying on any trade, occupation, or calling or working for gain in the area likely to be submerged permanently or temporarily.

Family: (i) A family shall include husband, wife and minor children and other persons dependent on the head of the family, e.g. widowed mother, (ii) Every major son will be treated as a separate family.

I don't know how many newspersons asked for a copy of the minutes of the meeting before getting down to writing the news, but only wish they could have. Had they done so, and compared the figures of the PAFs that the NCA was publishing, they would have got their eyebrows rising over the diminishing numbers of PAFs in MP. That didn't happen. So instead of the diminishing number of PAFs - I call it sudden disappearances - it was the rising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam that became the news. In the meantime, a few kilometers away in the submergence zone of Maan Irrigation project in Dhar district, disappearances of other kinds prevailed; schools, hand pumps and transformers were made to disappear by the state authorities, unleashing distress on the affected persons there (See: Stand off at Maan river).

On February 08, 2002 the official number of PAFs at the dam’s height of 95.00 metres was 5397, within a matter of three months and six days of that extraordinary hot summer of 2002, more than 4500 PAFs disappeared. Similarly, while the number that would be affected at a dam height of 100.00 metres stood at 7913, more than 4800 PAFs disappeared from this list. More than 9300 PAFs disappearing within a span of three months and six days! (Note that lists of affected families are mutually exclusive. Affected families at the height of 95 metres are exclusive of those affected when the dam's height goes up from 95 metres to 100 metres).

So what made more than 9300 names disappear from the list of PAFs? A smart usage of the adverbs “permanently” and “temporarily” to qualify affected persons even when the statutory definitions of an “oustee” and “family” as per the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (contained in sub clause 1(1) and 1(3)) made no such distinction.

Even the insertion of these qualifiers was not so obvious in the text of the minutes of the 53rd Meeting of R & R Sub Group that was held on May 14, 2002. In a subsequent Quarterly Status Report of the NCA for the quarter ending on June 31, 2002; the diminished figure of 1883 families was marked with a footnote stating, “The GoMP has resettled only those PAFs (i) whose agricultural land is coming under permanent submergence and (ii) whose habitation is coming under permanent or temporary submergence due to a 1 in 100 years flood.” Further in the same report the number of PAFs affected at the dam height of 100.00 metres was put at 3071 and was marked with a footnote stating, "PAFs whose lands are temporarily under submergence due to 1 in 100 years flood have not been considered for R&R." (emphasis included)

To determine project affected families, authorities must estimate the extent of submergence at a given dam height. The NWDT award stipulated that authorities follow the practice of taking a 'one in hundred years flood' approach for such estimates. Before raising the Dam height to a particular level, the authorities must ask themselves, 'in the event the next monsoon flod matching the intensity of once in a hundred years flood hit the Dam, to what height will the waters rise behind the Dam'. NCA documents already project such backwater effects and the documents did not make a distinction between temporary and permanent submergence.

Facing the challenge of rehabilitating the thickly populated Nimad area in Madhya Pradesh, the NCA started drawing an imaginary and arbitrary distinction between temporary and permanent submergence.

But even here, while numbers of families at the height of EL 95.00 and 100.00 metres continued to diminish, the number of families affected at the Dam height of EL 110.00 metres was being consistently shown as 12681 through out the meetings of the NCA’s R&R Sub Group between August 29, 2001 and November 14, 2002. May be the honourable members of R & R Sub Group of NCA were waiting for an extraordinary chilly winter of 2002 with a severe cold wave to follow the extraordinarily hot summer of 2002. More deflation of the PAF lists was to follow.

As I noted earlier, the figure of PAFs affected at dam height of 110 metres was consistently held at 12681 during meetings in 2001 and 2002. But in a report dated November 14, 2002, the figure came to be marked with a footnote, "This number may change after declaration of LAQ awards. PAFs whose lands are temporarily submerged due to 1 in 100 years flood have not been considered for R & R." (LAQ - land acquisition)

In fact, within a matter of six months from November 2002, more than 7000 families disappeared from affected list at a dam height of 110 metres. The diminished figure representing the number of PAFs now stood at 5607 with a footnote marked to it stating, “tentative”. And even when the diminished figure was made to stay in a suspended animation of being tentative for the time being, the honourable members of R & R Sub Groups were not suspending their actions. Just a day after this meeting took place, on May 14th 2003, the news broke that R & R Sub Group of NCA cleared the next height increase of Sardar Sarovar dam taking its height from 95.00 metres to 100.00 metres. Again, media persons were not given an access to the minutes of the meeting and were not told that the reported PAF figure for the height 110.00 metres was tentative. Those who expected so might have forgotten that we are tentatively independent citizens of a tentatively democratic country.

Between May 14, 2003 and June 31, 2003, within a matter of one month and a half, the PAF list noticed a reappearance of more than 3800 PAFs making the number grow to the level of 8406. But, in a recent claim (December 2004) by Narmada Control Authority on its website, the number of PAFs affected and rehabilitated at the height of EL 110.64 metres had further disappearance of about 4200 PAfs. Information posted on NCA website claimed that the total families displaced after the dam was raised from 100 metres to 110.64 metres were 6708, of which 1,908 families belonged to Gujarat, 606 to Maharashtra and 4,194 to Madhya Pradesh. The information did not speak of the villages that were displaced, but it claimed that all of them have now been rehabilitated at the R&R sites in the respective states. (See RTI may check Narmada Dam).

The Narmada Bachao Andoloan had represented these figures as reported in several NCA documents in a tabular form titled as “A Game of Numbers: MP’s diminishing PAF list”. Villagers submitted these figures while filing their petition before the Supreme Court.

In its March 15th judgement, the Court quotes in full the petitioners' figures. “We may, at this juncture, notice the pattern of rehabilitation of affected families in Sardar Sarovar Project from the following chart relied on by the Applicants” and then quotes not just the data in the tabular representation even the title to that, A Game of Numbers: MP’s Diminishing PAF List. Having quoted the tabular representation in full, the honourable judges stated, "The contents of the aforementioned chart, are not denied or disputed. They are said to be supported by documents."

Limited ruling

The learned judges stopped short of saying that since the applicants who were shown as rehabilitated still remain unrehabilitated, the decisions to raise the height from 90-95 metres and 95-100 metres were in violation of the law.
(IV (6)(ii) of clause XI of the NWDT award.)
The judges went on to say that even in the stipulations of the NWDT award, which was accepted by the State of Madhya Pradesh, no distinction was made between permanently affected or temporarily affected families. The judges have pointed out that had the tribunal wished to make a distinction, the definition of ‘oustees’ would not have been so worded. "We are of the opinion that all the applicants who were both permanently and temporarily affected by submergence by reason of raising of the height of the dam to the present height would be entitled to the benefit of the rehabilitation package”, they ruled.

But the judges directed that "the parties hereto shall render all cooperation with the GRA for the purpose of finding suitable irrigable and cultivable lands for allotment thereof to the applicants of village Pichhodi at an early date", and set a recommended time period of three months from the date of the ruling for this to be completed.

Still, even after the exposure of the scam in the SC, the Ministry of Social Justice continues to state on its website that the number of PAFs affected and rehabilitated at the dam height of 110.64 metres at 8860. The ministry also clarifies elsewhere on the same website that resettled families "include those PAFs to whom either the R&R package as per their eligibility under NWDT Award stipulations and liberalised State Governments Policy has been delivered or in case of unwilling PAFs the package has been offered by the State Governments but not accepted by them as yet."
See: Socialjustice.nic.in

For two years and ten months officials continued to play a game of numbers, making large numbers of living and traumatized project affected families diminish, disappear and reappear. Whereas, one is grateful to Amarkantak for blissfully providing life giving water to the Narmada, one is not sure whom to curse for ensuring the steady pouring of the cement, steel and other construction materials, in the meantime. Now that this game has boomeranged, should we expect a freeze on the continued raising of dam height?

Having fooled all of the people some of the time, and some of the people - including the courts - all of the time, will the authorities find it much harder to fool all of the people all of the time? ⊕

Himanshu Upadhyaya
13 Apr 2005

Himanshu Upadhyaya is an independent researcher working on Public Finance and Accountability issues.


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The willful breaking of Narmada promises

http://www.indiatogether.org/2007/may/gov-narmada.htm

Without an iota of public debate and due process, Gujarat had increased allocation of Narmada waters for industry five fold last year, eating into the share of drought affected villages. The Comptroller and Auditor General reported this in 2007, finding it untenable. Himanshu Upadhyaya has more.

22 May 2007 - On 30 March 2007, The Comptroller and Auditor General's (CAG) report on Gujarat (commercial) entered the public domain. The report indicted the Gujarat state government for non-accrual of stated benefits from Sardar Sarovar Project.

April is the cruelest month, wrote T S Eliot in his poem, The Waste Land. Discourse over Narmada is going through dry land this April. During April last summer, we witnessed the Sardar Sarovar dam wall rising despite protests from oustees and the courts very reluctantly listening to arguments on unfulfilled rehabilitation. Unlike that, this year we witness a deadly silence on CAG's comments.

The audit findings reported that in deviation from the Master Plan, the Gujarat Water Infrastructure Limited (GWIL) had commissioned and executed the 'Narmada Main Canal – Gandhinagar' project at a cost of Rs.39.39 crores for supplying 255 MLD water to Gandhinagar city, a thermal power station at Gandhinagar, etc. at the cost of depriving drought prone regions. Further, it was found that while going by Indian Standard (IS) code of basic requirement for water supply, drainage and sanitation, the domestic water requirement for Gandhinagar should have been 49 MLD, the city had actually received 90.10 MLD of Narmada water, i.e. almost double of standard requirement.

What is most puzzling is why no questions are being asked on what consequences would the drastic decrease in municipal and domestic allocation have on the villages that were promised Narmada water.

Four years ago, most of our media have dutifully followed Gujarat's chief minister Narendra Modi's announcing, "Narmada water has reached Kachchh." Now, comments in the audit report throw light on the holes that have started to appear in those illusive images. The audit also points out that in deviation from the Master Plan that envisaged supply of 232 Million Litres per Day (MLD) water for Kachchh, of which 45 MLD was meant for industrial use, industries in Kachchh were actually allotted 61.91 MLD water (more than one third excess allocation than what was envisaged in Master Plan) as per figures available as on 31 March 2006.

The CAG pointed this out in July 2006. Without naming individual officials, the audit report says that the management of GWIL and the Gujarat Government replied that the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited had in May 2006 increased the allocation for industrial water from 0.2 MAF (674 MLD) to a whopping 1.0 MAF (3369 MLD) from which the excess allocation would be adjusted. The increase took place without an iota of public debate. This is what the report has brought to the public eye.

During the year 2003-'04, it slowly came to be known that Gujarat had invented a mechanism to hide the costs for the realisation of 'municipal and industrial' water consumption from Narmada dam, by taking the expenditure incurred on the laying of pipelines on the books of Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board and Gujarat Water Infrastructure Limited. During the performance audit of Sardar Sarovar Canal based Narmada Drinking water pipeline for Amreli, Bhavnagar and Ahmedabad districts in the year 2003-'04 and for Jamnagar, Kachchh and Rajkot districts in the year 2004-'05, the CAG has detected a sudden shift in Gujarat's priorities. The audit revealed the grim reality that a lion's share is now being earmarked for industrial consumption, thus depriortising drinking water for drought affected villages.

Coming back to the 2006 increase, what is the rationale for such an upward revision, that too surreptitiously? As per the governing Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal award, out of 9.00 Million Acre Feet of Narmada water allocated to Gujarat, 1.06 MAF Narmada water was meant for "municipal and industrial use". But, how much within this allocation was meant for industrial consumption itself? As presentations before World Bank's Independent Review Mission headed by Bradford Morse suggest the industrial consumption was going to be 0.20 MAF. That left 0.86 MAF for municipal and domestic consumption.

What is most puzzling is why no questions are being asked on what consequences would the decrease in municipal and domestic allocation – from 0.86 MAF to 0.06 MAF – have on the villages that were promised Narmada water. Again if the decision was taken in the month of May 2006 and was being used to justify deviations from Master Plan, why was there no debate in public domain over this? Why do we witness precious Narmada water flowing to Gandhinagar, Vadodara and Ahmedabad, when propaganda repeatedly presented it as the last saviour for drought prone villages of Saurashtra and Kachchh?

It must be noted also that the number of villages promised Narmada water for domestic consumption went from zero in 1979, to 4720 villages in 1983-'84, and then to 7235 villages in 1990, and further to 8215 villages and 135 towns in the year 1992. All along this time, the figure of water allocated for municipal and domestic consumption remained stagnant at 0.86 MAF. And now even this allocation seems to have been cut into.

It were these drinking water benefits from the Narmada that were wielded around during early 90s to sweep aside criticism of the project on the social and environmental costs. That was the phase of government propaganda and its contestation. On the one hand, the state government embarked on the mission to enlist support of all the regions of Gujarat by invoking the emotive power of thirst and discourse breaking power of hate speech, while on the other hand critics raised questions on whether the stated benefits could ever materialise, given the mammoth financial vortex the project would create.

The CAG report has exposed the truth of who is actually getting the water, and in what proportion, on the backs of the original promises. Ironically, this year, even as the audit report came out, allegations against Narmada Bachao Andolan were flying high on the print space and airwaves. The report almost went unnoticed amidst this cacophony.

Discourse over the Narmada demands to be retrieved and questions need to be asked not merely on the costs and impacts front, but also on what is unfolding on benefits front. There still remain as many questions unanswered as probably were in early 90s. The costs paid by upstream catchment dwellers will soon shift to inhabitants of drought-prone regions if they fail to ask those questions now.

From October 2000 onwards, when the apex court granted a go-ahead for the dam construction, oustees and critics of the project have been pushed to the wall where they can only shout back by putting on record unfulfilled rehabilitation. On the other hand, state governments and proponents have had a free hand at using the shield of fait accompli. They do not feel answerable to criticisms on tracks other than rehabilitation. This must change.

Unlike what Amita Baviskar asks in the second edition of her book, In the Belly of the River, by raising a question, "Did NBA bite more than it can chew?", the only party that seems to be taking in more than it can swallow appears to be Gujarat. Regime after regime has solely concentrated on raising the dam height, without actually taking its waters to the proverbial last man. ⊕

Himanshu Upadhyaya
22 May 2007

Himanshu Upadhyaya is an independent researcher working on Public Finance and Accountability issues.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 30, 2010 2:37 am 
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Drains that dewater the state exchequer

http://www.indiatogether.org/2006/oct/gov-rehabhole.htm

Monies allocated for rehabilitation of persons affected by the Narmada dams have traveled a different path than to the people. A recent audit report of the Comptroller and Auditor General has confirmed significant corruption in rehabilitation works in Madhya Pradesh and a culture of impunity amongst state officials, finds Himanshu Upadhyaya.

2 October 2006 - Even as a report by the Rehabilitation Oversight Group (the Shunglu Committee) headed by a former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), awaits intense legal arguments in the Supreme Court in the coming weeks, a review of audit reports by the CAG shows that the only basic infrastructure government agencies appear to be committed to are drains that transports taxpayers' money to groups of corrupt officials.

The audit also revealed how affected farmers' petitions before Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) challenging the faulty level survey were being converted to provide a reason to book more expenditure and spend money unauthorisedly.

Tabled in the Madhya Pradesh state assembly recently, figures from the latest audit report for state government (civil) for the year ending 31 March 2004 suggest that the Narmada Valley Development Department recorded savings of Rs.507.32 crores as against the Rs.1273.28 crores that were budgeted for. (The report came out after a considerable lapse of time.) While detailing the reasons for such savings, the audit report suggested that saving of Rs 166.56 crores was mainly due to slow progress of land acquisition and rehabilitation work in the submerged area of Sardar Sarovar. The report was signed by J N Gupta, Principal Accountant General (Civil and Commercial Audit) Madhya Pradesh and it was counter signed by the current CAG, Vijayendra N Kaul. ( PDF copy of report)

But on scratching further, deep-rooted corruption amongst Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) officials comse to the surface as the reason for the rehabilitation works lagging behind.

In 2004, during audit of the vouchers of Executive Engineer S N Saxena at Badwani, it was found that in order to escape audit scrutiny, Saxena's division (no.22) had split the payments for the works into thousands of vouchers by keeping the amount below Rs.5000 in each case. On further probe, financial irregularities indicating fictitious and doubtful payments of Rs.5.63 crores were noticed. The division is responsible to carry out land acquisition, survey of affected properties, and develop resettlement sites for the oustees.

In October 2004, Accountant General's (AG) office at Gwalior, which carries out civil and commercial audits of the state government, brought this to the attention of the government and asked it to institute an inquiry into the case. Throughout the year, the AG's office sends communications to the concerned offices on matters of grave importance regarding financial irregularities and lapses in accounts following audit scrutiny. These communications are not in public domain and are referred to as Inspection Reports. In December 2004, the AG's office decided to initiate a special audit of all NVDA field formations by scrutinising vouchers received from 36 divisions of NVDA pertaining to the period between April 2002 and December 2004.

The AG's scrutiny brought to light a rising trend in split expenditure. As mentioned above, at the NVDA Division 22 office in Badwani, payments for works were split into thousands of vouchers by keeping the amount below Rs.5000 each. Whereas in the year 2002-'03 the split expenditure worth Rs.0.4 crore was booked, subsequently in the year 2003-'04 it rose to Rs.3.78 crore and within the first half of the year 2004-'05 it rose upto Rs.2.28 crores!

The probe also revealed that these works were executed through a few contractors selected by the Sub Divisional Officers (SDO). The works were executed without inviting tenders, without sanction of estimates and without entering into any agreement. No record was kept of the progress of works though progress reports for other sanctioned works were being sent to higher authorities regularly!

Dainik Bhaskar's Indore edition of 2 November 2004 had published a short news item reporting that 1 Executive Engineer, 4 SDOs and several others (total 37) were suspended from the NVDA office in Badwani for irregularities. They were Dilip Joshi, P C Dewda, A K Gupta and another officer who has been referred to in the AG's report by just his surname, Modi.

Most importantly, the audit also revealed how affected farmers' petitions before Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) challenging the faulty level survey were being converted to provide a reason to book more expenditure and spend money unauthorisedly. It was found that as against technical sanctions of Rs.12.60 lakh for survey and Rs.7.52 lakh for grievance redressal works accorded (April – May 2003), Rs .2.92 crore and Rs.67.33 lakh respectively were spent, even when the revised technical sanctions had not been obtained.

Survey work on 25 sites said to be done through 10 contractors, was paid for through 4,747 vouchers bringing the amount paid to Rs.2.92 crores. Similarly, expenditure of Rs.55.13 lakh was shown through 1064 vouchers on supply of labourers for survey work at these sites. But that is not all, there were some 4,649 vouchers bringing the amount paid to Rs.2.32 crores for the work of filling of earth or moorum with watering and compaction of 1,96,610 cubic metres as a combined item at the high rate of Rs.118 per cubic metre. Making a scathing comment on this, the audit report comments, "Being different items, their clubbing and payment on single rate without any rate anlaysis was not justified. The execution of such item in huge quantity without specifying the exact location or site was also highly irregular and the expenditure appeared to be fictitious."

Not just this, without the sanction of a competent authority, expenditure of Rs.67.33 lakhs was incurred for providing vehicles and labourers to look into complaint cases for survey and levelling and rechecking of house property survey. Interestingly, logbooks in respect of hired vehicles were not maintained, even the registration numbers of such vehicles were not on record. This compelled audit report to conclude, "payment of such a huge amount for hiring vehicles without any record and sanction of competent authority was not only irregular but doubtful." Also, the audit scrutiny of the expenditure incurred by Badwani NVDA office revealed abnormally high expenditure of Rs.76 lakhs during April 2002 to December 2004 for petty payments such as photocopying, typing, etc.

The audit also revealed that in addition to Division No.22, the Badwani office, the PWD's NVDA rehabilitation division, Badwani had incurred expenditure of large magnitude (Rs.63 lakh) by splitting vouchers below Rs.5000 each. Similarly, by executing piece work agreements of individual values below Rs.5000 expenditure to the tune of Rs.18.08 lakh was incurred unauthorisedly. Most of the bills were prepared on simple letterhead having no reference to work orders or registration numbers of contractors. The acceptance and payment of such bills were utterly irregular. These bills were not even machine numbered and in the Badwani office, these were not even countersigned by the Executive Engineer!

How was such widespread corruption made possible? Was merely an executive engineer responsible for such a graft? May be we need to read between the lines of a paragraph from this audit report:

"Chief Engineer (PWD), NVDA, Bhopal issued a Letter of Credit (LOC) Rs 18.90 crore to Executive Engineer, Narmada development division No 22 office, Badwani without mentioning the names of various works to be taken up as required under Finance Department order dated 13 December 1984. This facilitated the division to spend the funds on works which were either not approved of for which funds were not allotted."

The logical question that should be asked is what actions have been recommended by CAG against the errant officials. The only information that is given in the said audit report is reproduced below:

Commenting on the absence of follow up action after a CAG audit report of the Manipur state government in an editorial on 8 August in the Imphal Free Press, Pradip Phanjoubam wrote:

"The Comptroller and Auditor General of India, CAG, in its report this year rapped the state government for misappropriating crores of rupees. The problem is, it did very much the same last year, and the year before that and so on ad infinitum.

"Not only this, the CAG has been castigating religiously and without fail every year, practically every state government and in fact the Union government as well for making funds do the disappearing act or else poured down the drain...

"Corruption, or public fund misappropriation if you like, is bad enough but what is equally bad if not worse, is the manner in which an important institution of the democratic establishment, meant as a vital checking and regulating mechanism of the power structure, has been systematically reduced to a caricature."
"On the financial irregularities pertaining to Narmada Development Division No 22 office, Badwani being pointed out in audit, the Government admitted (December 2004) to large scale financial irregularities in the division and said officials found responsible were placed under suspension."

But, if we scratch further, we come across para no 4.4.2 of the audit report that points out at an entrenched culture of corruption resulting in failure of senior officials to ensure accountability. When audit scrutiny by Accountant General's office finds serious irregularity, Inspection Reports (IRs) are issued by audit teams to ensure rectificatory action and ensure accountability for deficiency, lapses, etc. The Heads of Offices and their higher authorities are required to comply with the observations in the IRs, rectify the defects and omissions promptly and report their compliance to the Accountant General. Clearly, this does not happen. The culture of impunity is evident in the last sentence of an audit report which, typically, read, "the matter was communicated to concerned office/dept/ministry during the month...., there was no response till the date......".

A review of IRs remaining outstanding since 1991-'92 to the end of June 2004 suggest that "under Narmada Valley department, 201 IRs pertaining to expenditure worth Rs .464.82 crores on irrigation projects, and 48 IRs pertaining to expenditure worth Rs.97.85 crores on buildings and roads were outstanding". And because many of the IRs remain unreported, those covered in the annual audit reports appear to be a tip of an iceberg.

Now we know the path travelled by monies allocated for the rehabilitation of people affected by the Narmada dams. It will not be completely out of order for the affected persons to demand that these outstanding Inspection Reports be made public. It is also high time that ministers who visited resettlement sites in Madhya Pradesh earlier this year find ways to ensure basic amenities at R&R sites, and not just drains that so swiftly dewater state exchequer of money meant for rehabilitation. Also, given such a state of affairs on the resettlement sites, permission to raise the Sardar Sarovar dam's height to 121 metres should not have been granted. In the light of this fresh evidence from the CAG, V K Shunlgu - a former CAG himself who headed the PM-appointed Rehabilitation Oversight Group - whose report suggested that rehabilitation is complete would do well to re-examine his stand. ⊕

Himanshu Upadhyaya
2 Oct 2006

Himanshu Upadhyaya is a researcher working on Public Finance and Accountability issues and is also associated with Intercultural Resources, New Delhi.


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