Resettlement and rehabilitation for the people displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam project has lagged severely behind the otherwise fast-track progress of dam building. "Dozens of families from these villages remain without land because titles haven’t been updated, the untitled but traditional landholdings of Adivasi farmers haven’t been respected, and the government has been slow to update its list of Project Affected Families (PAFs)", reported Mike Levien about the Maharashtra government in his earlier (August 2004) article on India Together.

But for a family to get rehabilitation benefits, it must first make it to the state's PAF list, compiled by government officials. In January 2004, the state government agreed to check and update its PAF list, which could have resulted in around 1000 families getting relief. But the process has slowed down and so far, only one-third of the families in the original villages (impacted by submergence) have been rehabilitated. Why?

Mike Levien recently spent a year in the Valley researching the project and the Narmada Bachao Andolan. He answered questions from India Together.

The GoM made promises to the affected people that they will update the PAF list. Were these made in writing? And at what level of the government did the promises come from?

In the January 2004 dharna outside of Mantralaya, the state's Cabinet Ministers signed a written agreement saying they would meet a number of rehabilitation demands, such as updating the PAF list, providing land, and not increasing the dam height until this was done. This last part of the agreement was blatantly violated two months later.

Once a family makes it to the PAF list, what steps does the government need to take?

The government has to show them land, both irrigable and cultivable, where they can be resettled as a community. As per the law, they have a right to settle in their home state, and a right to reject land offered if it is no cultivable.

Photo feature: What the government has done at Vadchil

Why is the PAF list updation process going slow? Are procedures requiring data validation (land re-surveys, regularising land titles for prospective PAFs) very cumbersome or is it merely lack of will?

It seems to really be lack of will, in both implementation and policy. It would take sometime to resurvey the areas, but it is not as if the government has plunged into it. If they were doing it slowly and steadily, fair enough. But, that’s not happening with due efficiency in Maharashtra and it takes dharna after dharna to nudge the authorities along.

(In MP, the state government doesn’t even accept the need for a resurvey, so there it’s also a policy issue.)

Are families not making it to the PAF list only because they are not having regularized land titles?

There are situations where people have land titles, and they’re just not updated. But there are a number of other reasons why people aren’t on the PAF list. Sometimes major sons of a family are not counted because they are lacking age certificates. There’s also faulty surveys, which show one house as not affected, even though houses above it are. (Lower level land holders are subject to displacement sooner than that higher level owners).

Which government offices (district revenue head quarters or taluka/sub-district office/panchayat office) maintain the PAF lists? Are specific officials designated to follow up on the government's promise?

PAF lists are generally the domain of district level officials. The state has a Rehabilitation Commissioner in Nasik who has responsibility as well as district officials. But current involvement in this process has gone all the way up to the Mantralaya (seat of government). Out of 1030 families who were supposed to be rechecked, 700 remain undeclared. Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar is hoping that this will move forward, but sees the government dragging its feet, as indicated by the need for dharna after dharna.

Did the original January promise include a commitment that some senior local citizens (NBA associated or otherwise) will help the government officials in preparing and actually verifying the PAF list updates?

In Maharashtra, the government was supposed to do it with the NBA.