Open Letter to H.E. Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India

Delhi-Cairo-Geneva, 2 March 2004

H.E. Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Prime Minister of India
New Delhi, India
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi 110 011, India

Transmitted by Fax: +91 (0)11 301–6857 / 9545

Dear Prime Minister Vajpayee:

The Global Coordination Office and South Asia Regional Programme of the Habitat International Coalition's Housing and Land Rights Network (HIC-HLRN) and the International Secretariat of the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) would like to express our deepest concern about the latest developments concerning the Sardar Sarovar Project-affected people.

We are particularly alarmed at the possibility of raising the dam height to 110 meters at the Narmada Control Authority meeting scheduled for 4 March 2004. We would like to bring to your attention that around 12,000 families will be affected and will need to be adequately resettled and rehabilitated before the dam height is increased to 110 meters. We would also like to point out that attempts by the Government of Madhya Pradesh to scale down the number of affected people by categorising them as "temporarily" and "permanently" affected families is not only dubious but also in violation of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA) and therefore unacceptable. Any increase in dam height without adequate resettlement would mean a direct violation of the Supreme Court order of 2000, the NWDTA and the human rights to life and livelihoods of the oustees.

Besides breaching the Supreme Court's decision, the Indian authorities are also demonstrably failing to protect, promote and fulfill the rights of the affected people to security and physical integrity, land, housing, health, and the special protections for indigenous peoples. Therefore, the Indian State is violating articles of five of the six UN human rights treaties to which it is bound, in particular the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that it acceded to on 10 July 1979. The application and consequences of the Narmada Valley Development Project blatantly contradict the human right to adequate housing, including secure tenure; access to public and environmental goods and services; proper location and cultural appropriateness in the rehabilitation sites; habitability; freedom from dispossession, damage and destruction; as well as the rights to information; participation and capacity-building; resettlement; compensation; safe environment and physical security.

All of these elements of the human right to adequate housing are recognized in international treaty law and jurisprudence. We urge you to discharge your duty to respect, protect, promote, and fulfill these rights and entitlements in the Narmada Valley.

HIC-HLRN and OMCT have denounced the lack of fair rehabilitation and compensation for SSP affected persons when the dam's height reached 80m, 85m, 90m, 95m and 100m. For Project-Affected Families (PAFs) in resettlement sites, the authorities have not provided them with the minimum two hectares of cultivable land, which all PAFs are entitled to receive, with the land titles, and/or with the necessary public services. A further increase in the dam height raises serious questions about the intentions of the Indian authorities to provide the affected people with a fair solution.

We also learned that, on 16 February 2004, the Gujarat police arrested more than 150 Sardar Sarovar Project-affected people who had begun an indefinite sit-in the same day. The affected people had attempted their peaceful action near the SSP office in Kevadiya Colony, angered by years of being deprived of any fair compensation. Police repression came swiftly, beating, dragging, arresting and jailing a group of protesters in Rajpipla. Some well-known activists, such as Medha Patkar and Girishbhai Patel, were among the protesters. We also have been learned that, after this incident, the Gujarat Government has imposed orders over the entire region legally prohibiting peaceful assembly to protest the Government's continued failure to deliver to the affected people their legal entitlements.

We are very concerned by these events and the unconscionable situation that has been prevailing for years in the Narmada Valley and have been consistently raising the issue with concerned authorities. In September 2002, HIC-HLRN conducted a fact-finding mission in the Narmada Valley and issued a report in 2003, with recommendations to the Indian Prime Minister, the UN Human Rights System and the World Bank. On 15 November 2002 and 24 March 2003, the HIC-HLRN coordinator issued two letters to Your Excellency, requesting a meeting with a HIC delegation regarding rehabilitation of the oustees from the Narmada Valley project. On 8 March 2003, HIC-HLRN South-Asia Regional Program sent a letter to the chairman of the R&R Sub-Group of the Narmada Central Authority on the status of rehabilitation of the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project.

OMCT also issued an appeal requesting intervention highlighting the risk of displacement of 15,000 adivasi families on 4 June 2003, and issued another joint letter with HIC-HLRN on 5 June. On 18 August 2003, HIC-HLRN and OMCT sent urgent letters of concern to all concerned Indian authorities about the thousands of people forcibly evicted due to flooding from the dam in August 2003, calling for remedial actions in compliance with India's human rights treaty obligations. Numerous other interventions repeatedly have come from the affected communities, notable figures and organisations in India and from other international organisations. Finally, on 29 July 2003, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to adequate housing, the rights of indigenous peoples, and the right to health issued a joint letter to Prime Minister Vajpayee on the consequences of the increase of the dam height from 95 to 100m.

We are very disappointed to note that no Indian official, including Your Excellency, has responded adequately to these communications.

We once again urge you to seriously take into consideration the relevant recommendations that have emanated from numerous local and international sources in the past years. We remind Your Excellency of the urgent need to fulfil all legal obligations of rehabilitation and compensation for the evicted families including those evicted because of the canal network, project colony and sanctuary. Their loss and suffering are no less real, and they should be entitled to the same resettlement package as those evicted due to the reservoir. We also urge you to halt and prosecute arbitrary arrests and detention, including forced evictions through illegal submergence of houses and fields.

We thank you in advance for your careful consideration of this serious matter. We also look forward to receiving information regarding the measures taken by your Government to address this situation.

Please be assured of our highest consideration,
Habitat International Coalition, Housing & Land Rights Network (HIC-HLRN)
World Organisation against Torture (OMCT)

CC: In addition to its general circulation, the foregoing Open Letter has been forward to the following official recipients:

H.E. Abdul Kalam, President of India
Mr. Bhartendra Singh Baswan, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment
Shri Dilip Singh Judev, Minister of Environment and Forests
Shri Ramraje Pratapsinh Naik, Minister of Rehabilitation, State of Maharashtra
Shri Sushilkumar Shinde, Chief Minister of the State of Maharashtra
Sushri Umashri Bharti, Chief Minister, State of Madhya Pradhesh
Vallabh Bhavan, Chief Minister, State of Madhya Pradesh
Ajit M. Nimbalkar, Chief Secretary, State of Maharashtra
B.M. Lal, Principal Secretary Rehabilitation, State of Maharashtra
Justice Adarsh Sein Anand, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission
Shri Dilip Singh Bhuria, Chairperson, National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes
C. Gopal Reddy, Chairman, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Subgroup, Narmada Control Authority


Mr. H.E. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi 110 011, India
Fax: +91 (0)11 301–6857 / 9545

CC: In addition to its general circulation, the foregoing Open Letter has been forwarded to the following official recipients:

H.E. President Abdul Kalam
Office of the President
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi 110 004, India
Fax: +91 (0)11 301–7290 / 7824;

Justice Adarsh Sein Anand, Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Sardar Patel Bhavan
Sansad Marg
New Delhi 11001, India
Fax: +91 (0)11 334–0016

Shri Dilip Singh Bhuria, Chairperson
National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes
Floor 5, Lok Nayak Bhavan
Khan Market
New Delhi 110003, India
Fax: +91 (0)11 462–5378

Shri Dilip Singh Judev
Minister of Environment and Forests
Paryavaran Bhavan, C.G.O.Complex
Lodhi Road Institutional Area
New Delhi, India

Mr. Bhartendra Singh Baswan
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
604 'A' Wing, Shastri Bhawan
Chairman, R&R Subgroup, Narmada Control Authority
New Delhi 110001
Fax + 91 (0)11 2338–5180

Shri Sushilkumar Shinde
Chief Minister of the State of Maharashtra
Mantralaya, Mumbai,
Maharashtra 400 023, India
Fax: +91 (0)22 236–33272 / 220–29214

Shri Ramraje Pratapsinh Naik
Maharashtra Rehabilitation Minister
Phone: +91 (0)22 2288–1858 / 2288–1868

B.M. Lal
Principal Secretary Rehabilitation Maharashtra
Mumbai, India
Fax: +91 (0)22 285–5290

Ajit M. Nimbalkar
Chief Secretary of Maharashtra
Phone: +91 (0)22 220–25042

Sushri Umashri Bharti
Chief Minister of the State of Madhya Pradhesh

Vallabh Bhavan
Chief Minister
Madhya Pradesh
Fax: +91 (0)75 554–0501 / 555–1781;
E-mail: or

C. Gopal Reddy, Chairman
Resettlement and Rehabilitation Subgroup
Narmada Control Authority; BG–79
Scheme No. 74–C, Vijay Nagar
Indore, India