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Social Justice Dept. to Send Team to Reassess Status Of Rehabilitation

Thousands of tribals and peasants from the Narmada valley have concluded the Manav Adhikar Yatra ( Human Rights March) with a resolve to intensify their struggle against the unjust displacement and for the right to life, on Thursday ( April 8). This was preceded by the decision by the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment to send a high ranking team of the officials to reassess the status of rehabilitation and the land availability for the oustees of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP).

"This has vindicated our stand that the governments of Center and states have lied in the Supreme Court regarding the status of rehabilitation and displacement in the SSP", said Jagannath Kaka Patidar, senior activist in the Narmada Bachao Andolan while addressing the concluding session of the two days dharna in Delhi. The people in the valley will closely monitor the proceedings of the committee and would see that the government would present the ground realities in the apex court.

A delegation of the from the march met the Minister , Ms. Menaka Gandhi on 8th April. The people expressed their displeasure over previous day's incident of police highhandedness and the attitude of the Minister. They challenged the claims by the governments about the complete rehabilitation of all the oustees coming under the submergence at 90 meters. After the discussions, the Minister appointed two joint secretaries of the department and one from the Rural Development Ministry for reassessing the claims of rehabilitation and the land availability. The officials were told to start their mission within two days and would directly report to the Minister.

It was thus indirect confession on the part of the government that it has submitted false affidavits in the Court and the and non-consideration of the data about the ground realities provided by the Andolan.

The Human Right's March was started in Badwani, M.P. and was welcomed in number of towns and villages including Shahada, Dhule, Malegaon, Niphad, Nashik and Thane en route Mumbai. They were welcomed by hundreds of organisation and movements of tribals, Dalits, fishworkers, urban poor, backwards, minorities, workers, trade unions, environmental and human rights organisations. The organisations of those affected by the dams and other development projects too supported the Andolan's issues and programmes. The struggle against the displacement has emerged as a political consensus among the various organisations and sections of population. This, according to them, was important in the days of the globalisation, liberalization and the onslaught of the national-international capital on the right to life and resources of the people.

The people arrived in Delhi on April 7th and held dharna in the premises of the Social Justice Ministry (Shastri Bhavan) in the early hours. The people invited the Minister to come down to meet the people who traversed hundreds of kilometers to come to Delhi. Despite the rude response by the Minister , the Andolan did prepared a memorandum and was awaiting a dialogue in the closed meeting. Baba Amte, the veteran social worker, Kishan Patnaik, senior Socialist thinker and activist, number of organisations in Delhi were present at the meeting. The police, however, changed their decision and arrested the women and men in very highhanded manner. Number of protesters, including Medha Patkar, were dragged and received minor injuries. Swami Agnivesh was also picked up. They were later released. Baba Amte too was not spared. He was forcibly packed up in the waiting police ambulance and was told that he was under arrest. Later, in one of the Delhi hospitals, he was brought and abandoned by the police. The doctors too neglected him. Baba had a small request : the police must return him back from where they brought him. But police disregarded his request. Baba and Mrs. Amte did not take food as a mark of protest against this treatment. On Thursday, after the government expressed its regrets, he withdrew the fast.

Meanwhile, number of prominent social and political activists and organisations protested against the grave injustice against the people's movements and demanded a space for people to put forward their cause. Senior Socialist leader and president of Samjwadi Jan Parishad, Kishan Patnaik, Surendra Mohan, senior ideologue of Janata Dal, Ram Dheeraj of Azadi Bachao Andolan, Swami Agnivesh, Nikhil Dey of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Thomas Kocherry of the World Fishworkers Forum and National Convenor of National Alliance of People's Movements condemned the behavior of the police.

Sanjay Sangvai