Much ado about nothing

  • 30/07/1992

Much ado about nothing THE ENGLISH say that the month of March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. The same may be said about the much awaited Morse Report. The findings are strong and declare that all is definitely NOT well with the SSP. The recommendations are, to put it mildly, utterly disappointing and hollow.

The report has very disquieting things to say about the project and the World Bank's role in it. It has criticised the SSP on every possible score. It has been critical of the bank for not following its own rehabilitation and resettlement policies, set in 1980 and 1982. The committee fears that Gujarat will not be able to resettle all the oustees of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh and that at least 60 per cent oustees will suffer from further impoverishment. Similar doubts have been cast on the efficacy of the environmental programme.

Yet the recommendations contain hardly anything to write about. The only unequivocal recommendation is about the resettlement, as per the 1985 agreement, of six villages displaced by the Kevadia colony.

The recommendation with regard to affected persons downstream is that "the bank should develop a policy to deal with (their) plight" which is more like an exhortation.

The recommendations on the two remaining issues are even more curious. The review committee piously urges the bank "to use their good offices" with the government of Gujarat for two purposes: to secure resettlement for canal-affected persons and to ensure that public health is protected from water-borne diseases. Since when have "good offices" had any teeth?

The activists are pleased while Gujarat is displeased. The president of the World Bank, Lewis Preston, has virtually rejected the report. Everyone has behaved true to type. Now that the excitement is over, we may as well go back to taking up the issues as we have always seen them, report or no report.

---Vasudha Dhagamwar, a legal activist, is the executive director of the Multiple Action Research Group, New Delhi.

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