NBA Press Note

April 16, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-33162

Man affected people demonstrate at Commissioner's office in Indore

Temporary govt. camps completely unacceptable; Govt. must immediately stop dam construction and give people land based rehabilitation

Nearly one hundred tribal representatives from the 17 villages affected by the Man Project in Dhar demonstrated today at the Commissioner's office in Indore demanding that the government must immediately stop all work on the dam site and rehabilitate the people with land. They also stated that the government plan of first submerging the lands and homes of the people without giving them rehabilitation and then deciding to open temporary camps was completely unacceptable to them. The gathering included representatives from villages Khedi-Balwadi, Khanpura, Badlipura, Devipura, and many other villages. They were met by the Commssioner, Indore and the Collector Dhar amidst heavy police presence.

The tribals had brought individual petitions asking specifically for land, in order to finally set at rest government evasion that it was unclear what the preferences of the tribals were. In the recent months as the Madhya Pradesh govt. has set aside all norms of a civilized society as well as the rights granted to the tribals under the Constitution including the Right to Life by rapidly increasing the construction of the Man dam being built on the Man river in Dhar with the full knowledge that over a thousand families will face submergence of their homes and lands ,it is clear that the government has responded to the people's struggle with contempt and complete lack of accountability. On the 11th of April, a meeting was convened by Commissioner, Indore where it was decided that the main focus of the government strategy in Man would be to run temporary camps for the affected people in the monsoon and that the uprooting would be `humane and within limits'.

It may be noted that as the dam wall is increasing, the extent of proposed submergence is increasing every passing day. The government is yet to give either agricultural lands or even house plots and rehabilitation sites for the 5000-6000 people to be affected by the Man Project this year. Unquestionably, it is the intention of the government that the affected villages should be submerged. Thus the government plan of setting up temporary camps in the Man Project submergence villages in the monsoon is a facade and a farce.

The affected tribals and the Narmada Bachao Andolan condemn this farcical action of the government and warns the government that the villagers will completely oppose all attempts by the government to introduce police presence in the villages posing as rehabilitation camps or the forcible uprooting of villages .The Andolan expects that if the government still cares to operate with any respect for the human and legal rights of the affected people , it must immediately stop all work on the dam and start the rehabilitation of the affected people with their participation. In a letter written to the Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh Shri Digvijay Singh, the affected tribals have warned the Chief Minster that the dance of destruction and death for the tibals of the state that is being played across the state from Mehendikheda which witnessed the killing of six tribals by the administration recently to the Man Project area will have far reaching consequences not only for the state government but for the social and political coherence of Madhya Pradesh.

The Andolan expresses deep surprise that in the recent meeting of the 11th of April that was presided over the Commissioner Mr. Ramsajivan , scores of officials were present but not a single affected person was even invited to the gathering- an example perhaps, of the famed approach of `people's participation' of the state government. When asked about this, the Commssioner advised the people to approach the `government'. Presumably then, the Commissioner does not represent the government. The demonstration ended with the Collector promising a meeting `some time' in the next few days.

It may be noted that the affected people of the Man Project area had protested on the dam site last month with the demand to halt the Project until rehabilitation was complete. The state responded by imprisoning the tribals asking for land and keeping them in jail for over a week while other activists were kept in jail upto 15 days.

As a result of the mounting pressure of the struggle, the administration had finally released the 200 tribals , and had promised to call for a meeting on the issue of rehabilitation witht the affected people and the activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan within a week of the release but such a meeting has not transpired till date. In its place the officials met on their own and took the one-sided and patently unjust decision to continue to increase the extent of the submergence and to uproot the people `humanely'.

The affected people of the area have the single request that if the Madhya Pradesh government is indeed set on callously submerging hundreds of tribals this monsoon without any rehabilitation , then it must refrain from the pretence of the `camps'.The tribals will not tolerate police force and repression in the villages in the name of these `camps'.The people are resolved that they will face the submergence that will be created by the ever increasing dam wall with courage and dignity , and on their own. Even if this means giving up their lives.

Level Singh Bondri Bai Chittaroopa Palit
Village Khedi-Balwadi Village Khanpura Narmada Bachao Andolan