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The Hindu on : NBA calls off dharna after Maneka's assurance

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Friday, April 09, 1999

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NBA calls off dharna after Maneka's assurance

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, April 8.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) today called off the dharna by about 2,500 villagers at Rajghat here, following a meeting with the Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ms. Maneka Gandhi.

The Minister announced the formation of a three-member team of senior officials who would make an independent assessment of the rehabilitation and resettlement (R and R) claims of the State Governments of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh in regard to the people displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat.

Two members of the team would be drawn from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and one from the Ministry of Rural Areas and Employment. The team is expected to submit its report within four days.

``I understand your problems. I agree that injustice is being done to you,'' the Minister is reported to have told the 15- member delegation of NBA and project-affected people from Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. The delegation was led by Mr. Sripad Dharmadhikari and Mr. Sanjai Sangvai, in the absence of Ms. Medha Patkar, who had to rush to Mumbai following news of her father's death this morning.

The delegation told Ms. Gandhi that the Supreme Court had based its interim order to raise the height of the dam on the report of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Sub-Group headed by the Ministry's Secretary under the Narmada Control Authority. In fact, the Court had remarked that the role of the Ministry was to do independent assessment and monitoring of the R and R, instead of depending the claims of the riparian States.

Later, addressing presspersons, NBA activists said people in the Narmada valley would closely monitor the proceedings of the Committee so that the Government presents the true ground realities to the apex court. Of the Justice P.D. Desai Committee, set up by Gujarat under directions from the Supreme Court, Mr. Himanshu Thakkar said it was meant to be a three-member committee but the State Government is yet to appoint the other two members. Moreover, it is only a Grievance Redressal Committee and its jurisdiction is only in Gujarat.

As per official figures 33,000 tribal and rural families will be displaced by the SSP. Of these 14,000 families would be sent to Gujarat for resettlement. Of the other 18,000 families in MP, the State Government recognises the claims of only 800 families, rendering others homeless, landless and jobless.

In Gujarat, 4,500 families shall be displaced and in Maharashtra 3,300 families would be affected by the SSP.

``We are here to protest the forcible displacement under threat of submergence when the height of the dam would be raised to 85 metres. So far even people displaced by 80 metres height have not been rehabilitated, whereas the award says that rehabilitation should be six months before raising height of the dam. We are also focusing people's right to life. In Mumbai so many organisations of mill workers, dalits, backwards, peasants and trade unions identified with the problem of displacement and expressed solidarity with us,'' said Mr. Sangvai.

A very agitated Mansaram from Dharampuri tehsil in Dhar district said when they asked the Badwani District Magistrate about the availability of land for them as per the award, he said he hadn't read the award.

``The Prime Minister says Jai Vigyan. But I do not believe in Jai Vigyan, because for Bargi dam in MP, the scientific assessment was that 110 families would be displaced, but eventually 165 homes were submerged and not all are on record. Jai Vigyan is for people with mobile phones and Internet. How can I say Jai Vigyan when our village has no roads and no water.''

Police apologise to Baba Amte

Earlier in the day, the noted environmentalist, Baba Amte, who has devoted a lifetime to leprosy patients, was brought back by the Parliament Police to Shastri Bhavan from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where he was taken yesterday under police action against the demonstrators.

Baba Amte, who suffers from back problem, was on fast since the time he was deposited at the hospital. Police left no word with hospital authorities about why he was dumped there, for which they apologised to the Magsaysay Award winner today.

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