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'All they gave us were
Kukra, October 24Fortyeight families from this small village were taken
to the Khanola area in Gujarat in 1993, when the first phase of relocation was being conducted by the state government of Madhya Pradesh. Except for three or
four families, nobody stayed there for more than six months, and nobody wants to go back there.
The state government had apparently "bribed" a group
of people in Kukra village and had them circulate and convince the rest of the "advantages" of moving to Gujarat. A paan (betel leaf) stall owner, Babu Singh,
said, "Bhupat Singh and Than Singh were accepting money from the government to take us to Gujarat.
They said we will get good land, but the land there
is impossible to cultivate. Bhupat and Than Singh
got good lands because they were with the government. The rest of us decided to come back."
Babu Singh even went to authorities in Gujarat to ask
for better quality land. But, he says, "Nobody listened
to me. They promised me that they would give me
better land but nothing happened."
"Some of the families didn't get any land at all. They
went there and found out that their names weren't on
the list. They stayed there for a long time waiting for
their land but nothing happened and the government people stopped talking to them after one or two months. Then they all decided to come back to Kukra," Babu Singh said.
Another villager, Suraj Singh, says, "It was not worth
it. The soil was of a very poor quality. It is impossible
to cultivate anything there. And now the government
is not returning my land in Kukra either."
Jwala Prasad feels that some of the villagers are cheats and are taking money from the government. "I am in debt for around Rs 40,000 because of the land I gave away before leaving for Gujarat. These villagers promised me the money as a loan if I helped them. Then they didn't give me the money or return my land."
Jwala Prasad's plight is even worse because his family
is still based in Gujarat. "I don't have the money to bring back all my belongings from Gujarat. I come back here every month to take back food and money to sustain us there. The land I have there is absolutely barren and nobody is interested in buying it."
The Madhya Pradesh government and its officials have been visiting these people regularly and promising them
a better time soon - only if they "relinquish their lands in Kukra and agree to do what the government wants". But everybody knows exactly what the government's motive
is and they know that all they will get is cash compensation and nothing more.
Babu Singh says, "All they do is give us false assurances. They (the government) keep saying they
will give us land and they will give us money and so on. They are not even interested in doing anything for us. Nothing will ever happen for us. If we are dislocated when the work on the dam resumes, there will be no place for us to go. The government has given some plots to the people of Gopalpura. But no land has been finalised for us or anybody else. The dam will be a doom for us."
The government has not made arrangements for numerous villages like Kukra and it is unlikely it will be able to do so in the near future. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh has already gone to record saying that his government doesn't have enough land to relocate the people. The Supreme Court has decided to overlook the problem and has given more importance to the larger needs of "development". The future of these villagers is
at the mercy of the government and of organisations like the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). But with the way things have turned out over the past few days, the
picture looks bleak for them.
Astrologer Uma Shankar Shukla
will be providing
a weekly health
guide for the