Developmental and Socio-Political Issues

Taking on Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA):

 

This is among NCCL’s most important contributions to the society. Beginning in 2000, its sustained efforts to expose the activities of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) has brought about positive changes in the lives of millions of people of Gujarat, and made a significant contribution to the realization of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), one of Asia’s largest developmental projects.

From late Eighties through early Nineties, agitations by the NBA, led by Ms Medha Patkar, had virtually brought to a grinding halt the Sardar Sarovar Project. Other multi-purpose hydroelectric power projects on the Narmada Valley, such as the Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Project, Indira Sagar Hydel Power Project and Omkareshwar Hydel Power Project, also were stymied by the NBA’s agitation.

Discovering that the NBA was motivated by egregious intentions, and that its agitation was resulting in great escalations in project costs, NCCL started off a tireless fight against it. Following is the chronology of events that punctuated this long-drawn fight, which still continues, though to a diminished extent.

 

  • September, 2000: V. K. Saxena, NCCL President, writes an open letter to the NBA leader, Medha Patkar, requesting withdrawal of the agitation, and inviting NBA to support the mainstream concepts for utilization of water resources.
  • November, 2000: NCCL launches an advertising campaign in leading newspapers of India, captioned ‘True face of Medha Patkar and her NBA’, exposing the hidden agendas behind the NBA agitation.
  • December, 2000: Medha Patkar files a criminal complaint in the Metropolitan Court, New Delhi, against NCCL President V. K. Saxena, Chief Editor of Indian Express Shekhar Gupta, and Publisher of Indian Express G R Saxena, against the above-mentioned ad campaign. This complaint is dismissed by the Metropolitan Magistrate, New Delhi, on 17th April, 2003.
  • January, 2001: NCCL President V. K. Saxena files a Defamation Suit against Medha Patkar in the Court of Metropolitan Magistrate, Ahmedabad, for levelling unfounded allegations against the former. Following this suit, a Summons Order is served on Ms Patkar on 24th April, 2001.
  • May, 2001: NCCL submits a memorandum with documentary evidence to the then Union Home Minister, Mr L K Advani, demanding a ban on the NBA under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1957, for ‘anti-national activities’.
  • June, 2001: NCCL launches a signature campaign against NBA, synergizing the view points of prominent leaders of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, on NBA’s ‘anti-national activities’. Among the signatories were four former chief ministers of Gujarat (Shri Suresh Mehta, Shri Dilip Parikh, Shri Chabbildas Mehta, Shri Shankarsingh Vaghela), the then Deputy Chief Minister of MP (Smt Jamuna Devi), the then Congress President of MP (Mr R. K. Malviya), and nine sitting MLAs from the Narmada Valley region.
  • December, 2001: NCCL files a petition in the Gujarat High Court at Ahmedabad for declaring NBA, an unregistered body led by Medha Patkar, to be declared an unlawful organization under ‘Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act), 1957’. The High Court directs the Union Government to take a decision on the petition.
  • April, 2002: Medha Patkar files a transfer petition in the Supreme Court for trasfering the criminal complaint filed by NCCL President V. K. Saxena at Ahmedabad. The Supreme Court transfers the case from Metropolitan Court, Ahmedabad, to Metropolitan Court, Patiala House, New Delhi, in September 2002.
  • By early 2003, most legal and social hurdles in the path of the Sardar Saroval Project were removed, and the project began gathering pace, rapidly moving towards completion after being in virtual limbo for over a period of fifteen years. The role NCCL played in this happy turn of events is acknowledged far and wide – by the media, by the society, and above all, by hundreds of thousands of grateful future beneficiaries of the project.
  • October 2005: A non-bailable arrest warrant issued against Ms Medha Patkar by the Metropolitan Court, New Delhi, in the defamation case filed against her by NCCL President V. K. Saxena.
 

NCCL filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court against NBA, charging the Aandolan with criminal & seditious activities. The PIL was founded on a vigilance report of the MP Government, Devas Police report and various internal correspondence of NBA. The petition was heard on 24/02/2006, by the bench of Honíble Chief Justice, Mr. Y K Sabarwal, Mr. Justice C. K. Thakkar and Honíble Mr. Justice R. V. Raveendaran. Pursuant to the hearing, the Honíble Court directed NCCL to file an additional affidavit giving details of various correspondences and other efforts made by NCCL in the past with the concerned Govt. Authorities in respect of the issue on inter-alia funding / criminal activities of NBA before coming to the Supreme Court. As directed by Supreme Court, NCCL filed additional affidavit on 02/03/06. The next hearing was fixed on 07/07/2006.

View Public Interest Litigation
 

Various Ngo, NGOs of Gujarat came together in support of SSP, and under the banner of Narmada Abhiyaan, sat on a day-long Dharna and fasting at the Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad, on 10/04/2006. This was organized as the counter-action to a hunger strike in New Delhi by Ms Medha Patkar of NBA, demanding stoppage of SSP Dam construction.

This event was attended by Swami Sachidandji Maharaj, Gujarat Chief Minster Shri Narendra Modi, Gujarat Pradesh Congress President Shri Bharatsinh Solanki, Gujarat BJP President Shri Vajubhai Vala, Leader of Opposition Shri Arjun Modvadia, Ex-Chief Ministers Shri Keshubhai Patel, Shri Suresh Mehta & Shri Chabildas Mehta, former Union Minister Dr Urmilaben Patel, several sitting MPs & MLAs from Gujarat, BJP & Congress leaders, representatives of farmersí organizations, top industrialists, representatives of Gujarat Chambers of Commerce, and others. It was an event that transcended all party lines & socio-political divides. More than 5000 people from different parts of the State attended the Dharna.

On the occasion, Shri Krishna Prasad, the octogenarian Gandhian, was elected President of the Narmada Abhiyaan. Shri Jay Narayan Vyas, former Narmada Minister, was elected Executive President, and Shri V K Saxena of NCCL & Shri Digant Oza of Jal Seva were elected Convenors. NCCL President V K Saxena was specially honoured, and the various participants expressed approbation for his relentless fight against Ms Medha Patkar and her NBA.

Gallery

 
Representatives of Gujarat Ngo, NGOs under the banner of Narmada Abhiyaan (Shri Jay Narayan Vyas, Shri V K Saxena, Professor Vidyut Joshi, Shri Shankerlal Guru, Shri Digant Oza etc.) met Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on 16th April 2006 at his residence, and apprised him of the significance of SSP for the future of Western India. They requested him to not halt the construction of SSP on the basis of the recommendations made by the Union Water Resource Minister, Mr Saifuddin Soz. The Prime Minister assured that the construction of SSP will not be stopped, while also pointing out that he would want to ensure that Project Affected People (PAPs) were properly rehabilitated. Immediately after the meeting, Mr Sanjay Baru, Prime Ministerís Press Secretary, confirmed to the Press that the oNgo, NGOing construction of SSP would not be stopped. This was the very first meeting that Gujaratís Ngo, NGOs had held with the Prime Minister regarding SSP, in the history of the Dam. And it yielded immediate results.
 

NCCL President V K Saxena wrote a letter to popular film icon Mr Aamir Khan on 21/04/2006, invoking him to withdraw his support to Ms Medha Patkar. The communication included documentary evidence of several criminal / seditious activities of NBA.

View letter to Aamir Khan

 

NCCL President V K Saxena wrote a letter to Prime Minister Dr Man Mohan Singh on 22/04/2006, requesting him to take action against NBA leader Medha Patkar. The letter pointed out how Ms Patkar was hell-bent on halting the construction of not only SSP, but all upcoming hydro-projects in the Narmada Valley.

In the communication, the NCCL President supplied clinching evidence of NBAís foreign funding, its violent activities and misinformation campaigns. Medha Patkar was not interested in environmental protection or proper rehabilitation of PAPs, but her game plan was to force the government to abandon such hydro-projects and starve India of water & power, he asserted in the letter.

Mr Saxena reinforced this argument with a list of the 200-plus FIRs filed against NBA activists in MP, many of which were for preventing government officials from discharging their duties (such as conducting surveys), and for preventing PAPs from accepting the rehabilitation packages.

View letter to Prime minister |  Gallery

 

NCCL President V K Saxena sent a defamation notice to Ms Patkar on 29/04/2006, through his advocate, Mr T S Nanavati, for her libelous statements on national media against him.

Ms Medha Patkar had, in an interview to INDIA TV (during its ĎBreaking Newsí programme telecast on 20/04/06), alleged that V K Saxena had been granted many contracts from the Sardar Sarovar Nigam, for which she said she had documentary proof.

V K Saxena had, in the same programme, challenged Ms Patkar to prove her allegation, and declared that he would file a defamation case against her.

In the notice sent to Medha Patkar, she was asked to provide all material documents in her possession to substantiate her allegations, failing which it would be presumed that she had none. It also demanded that she tender a public apology to Saxena for her false allegations.

View defamation notice

 
After brief hearing on 07th July, PIL filed by NCCL against NBA, admitted in the Supreme Court. The bench comprising Chief Justice Mr. Y K Sabarwal and Mr. Justice C K Thakkar, directed to issue notices to Union of India, State of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, NBA and to Rahul Banarjee, NBA’s foreign fund conduit.
 

PIL came up for hearing in Supreme Court (SC) on 2nd April. SC declined to pass any order on the plea by Counsel of NBA to restrain NCCL from approaching the media with the issues connected to the present case. NBA’s contention was opposed by NCCL’s Counsel Amar Dave, who said that it was NBA, who has been approaching media with press releases on regular basis and given the copy of one such press release to the Court. Bench comprising Mr. Justice C K Thakkar and Mr. Justice Altamas Kabir refused to pass any order and said “can it pass an order which cannot be implemented?” Judges observed that media couldn’t be stopped from reporting. Bench asked NBA Counsel to file an application alleging that so and so have gone to the press and we will decide the matter. On these observations, NBA Counsel Ms. Jaisingh however said, “she would not prefer to file an application or an affidavit as she knows it would be difficult to sustain the allegation.”

Govt. of Madhya Pradesh & Gujarat filed their reply affidavits supporting NCCL’s allegations against NBA. While Gujarat Govt. demanded high level enquiry against NBA and said that such a vide scale protest cannot be carried out without substantial funds, MP Govt. also alleged that NBA activists are getting support of foreigners in disrupting relief and rehabilitation work. The SC, on a serious note, asked the Union of India to file its reply affidavit by 16th April and posted the hearing for 23rd April.

May 2007: SC reserves verdict on PIL against NBA:
 

The SC after three days marathon hearing from 09th May to 11th May, reserves its verdict on the PIL seeking CBI probe into the illegal activities of NBA and its support groups. NBA Advocate contended that NCCL has no local standi to file the PIL and submitted that NCCL President V K Saxena has come to the Apex Court as he has personal vendetta against Medha Patkar. NCCL’s Counsel Amar Dave replying to the arguments said that “the present petition clearly raises substantial issues of public importance and having a direct impact on the society as a whole. The very foundation of the case revolves around the alleged lack of transparency in the activities of NBA as well as similarly placed support groups, including the source of funding and the consequent utilization of the same, which hence leads to mis-utilisation of such funds and diversions to the activities which are unlawful and not in the larger interest of the society as a whole.” Dave further submitted that NBA could not produce a shred of evidence or averments reflecting any personal gain or advantage to the NCCL President, V K Saxena except two press clippings showing alleged statement by Mr. Saxena where he aired his personal views against Medha Patkar. Dave further argued that NBA was aggressively lobbying in foreign countries against the projects of national importance. At the end, Court directed to file written submission of the arguments.

July 2007: SC Dismisses PIL against NBA
 
After a year-long legal battle, the Supreme Court on 10th July dismissed the PIL of NCCL against Medha Patkar led NBA. Though supported with critical documentary evidence showing how NBA is involved in criminal activities and receive foreign funding through their support groups for their obstructive activities, the bench of Mr. Justice C K Thakker and Mr. Justice Altamas Kabir deemed it a case of “personnel grudge harboured by NCCL President V K Saxena against Ms. Patkar” and dismissed the PIL. The Court also imposed a cost of Rs. 5,000/- The Court had earlier sought responses of the Center, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat Govts on the PIL. Although, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat Govts. supported the allegations of NCCL, Court found the allegations vague and without proper foundation.
October 2007: MPs urged PM to Probe NBA’s foreign links.
                         
Documents reveal attempt to woo judiciary
 
As per the newsreport of a reputed English daily “The Pioneer”, New Delhi (view) two Members of Parliament Mr. Ratilal Verma, Dr. Urmilaben Patel, both from Gujarat, have urged Prime Minister to order an enquiry into the shocking evidence suggesting NBA leader Medha Patkar tried to influence the UPA Govt. and the judiciary to obtain a favourable verdict in a case against her in the Supreme Court filed by the NCCL.

Election violence in Punjab & Bihar:
 
In June 1991, NCCL urged the then Chief Election Commissioner, Mr T N Seshan, to cancel elections in Punjab and Bihar in view of election-related violence that had broken out. Elections in 11 constituencies were already countermanded in Punjab.

The elections were postponed eventually.

Text book rectification:
 
Alarmed by the extent of factual errors and misrepresentation of historic facts in the Science Text Book for Standard VIII, published by M/s Holy Faith International Pvt Ltd (New Delhi) in accordance with the guidelines of NCERT / CBSE Syllabi, NCCL President V. K. Saxena petitioned the Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Director of CBSE, in October 2003.

In this petition, Mr Saxena pointed out that Indian students and adults were culturally tuned to accept the value and veracity of text book contents unconditionally, which reposed a grave responsibility on those who prepared the text books. Because of the circulation of this text-book was in all the central board school through out the country.

The petition quoted a whole list of errors found in the Book (‘ABC of Science & Technology’), categorizing them under: * Grammatical errors * Factual errors * Logical errors * Confusing script * Careless content / obsolete information. This lengthy list of errata was extracted from the first 26 pages of the text book, and the petition drew attention to the extent of errors that could be present in the entire text book.

 
Within a fortnight, the publishers of the book withdrew it from circulation, and communicated to Mr Saxena, assuring him that it would be replaced with a new book with accurate information. The communication also extended its appreciation of NCCL’s efforts to infuse better quality know-how into school syllabi.
 
In June 2003, NCCL put forth a proposal to the Gujarat University, to develop the 266-acre university campus on a public-private partnership basis. This campus, located in a prime location of the city, had been left vastly uncared for. The NCCL plan included renovation of various GU buildings, and turning the sprawling campus into a Green Belt, and is currently under implementation.

 

 
 
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