News Excerpt
The Supreme Court recently asked the Government not to transfer “invaluable” community resources like village water ponds to a few powerful people and industrialists for commercialisation of the property as many areas of the country perennially face water crisis and access to drinking water is woefully inadequate.

•    Protection of village commons is essential to safeguard the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of our Constitution.
•    These common areas are the lifeline of village communities, and often sustain various chores and provide resources necessary for life.
•    The judgment came on a plea by an activist-lawyer against the transfer of village ponds’ sites of Saini Village in the National Capital Region to some private industrialists by the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority.
•    Excavators and other heavy machinery were attempting to take over a common pond used by the villagers for a century.
•    Though the National Green Tribunal refused to intervene on the issue, the apex court ordered the authorities and the industrialists to remove all obstructions and restore the water bodies within three months.

    The state cannot divest villagers of their existing source of water promising them with an alternative site where the water body can be replicated.
    Such an attitude would display “a mechanical application of environmental protection”.
    There is no guarantee that the adverse effect of destroying the existing water body would be offset and people would be compelled to travel miles to access the alternative site.

Since time immemorial, certain common resources had been vested in village communities for collective benefit. Such protections, however, remained on paper. Powerful people and a corrupt system had appropriated these resources for personal aggrandisement. Hence, this judgement is a welcome step in protecting the lifeline of village communities by linking it with fundamental rights under Article 21.

Community Resources, NGT, Article 21