NBA Press Release
  22 April 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Representatives from Narmada Valley sit-in at NVDA office in Bhopal

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats
Ellora Park,
Baroda-390007
Tel: 0265-282232
Email: baroda@narmada.org

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

Today morning more than 250 representatives from the Narmada Valley stormed and began a sit-in at the entrance of the Narmada Valley Development office in Bhopal demanding that the officials immediately stop the illegal practices in the Narmada Valley. Officials were forced to answer the queries from the people in a daylong hearing held at the entrance.

While the whole world watches with shock and agony the tragic catastrophe still unfolding in Gujarat in the name of 'religion' which is causing irreversible large scale displacement without relief or rehabilitation in sight, the Government of Gujarat continues with another unholy game of displacement without rehabilitation even in the Narmada Valley. There is authentic information indicating that the Governments and the inter-state authorities such as Narmada Control Authority are colluding to garner permission for construction of the dam from 90m upto 95m before the coming monsoon in June 2002 even when there are no plans for the rehabilitation of already affected families, not to mention those who will be affected. If the state Government agrees to this it will be responsible for the large fertile villages of Madhya Pradesh to be reduced to watery graves, this being a genocide with a difference but with same degree of callousness.

Today few hundred representatives from the Narmada Valley are in Bhopal protesting the role of the state Government in this unjust process of alienation of basic rights by the use of brutal police force, misinformation, rumour mongering, coercion and the twin threat of forcible resettlement in Gujarat or flooding and lure of cash. This kind of strategy, with illegal decision to offer cash in lieu of land and produce fake reports to push the project will only cause inhuman displacement and pauperization of these communities which cannot be any less heinous a crime than the one committed by Government of Gujarat.

Any increase in height, today, under any circumstances, will be illegal since the consequent flood affecting not less than 8000 families permanently or temporarily will imply devastation of the large and thickly populated villages in Madhya Pradesh with no cultivable land having being offered in Madhya Pradesh and hence the sure-fire possibility of no livelihood sources causing another man-made tragedy. This is state-sponsored violence; being perpetrated with the blessing of an unholy alliance struck with Gujarat. The illegalities perpetrated to somehow facilitate further construction comes in the wake of recent developments in Maharashtra where the Government has accepted its past mistakes and has initiated processes to rectify them declaring that without granting land rights, correcting records, comprehensive planning and full rehab with land it would not allow any adivasis' land to be submerged. Instead of taking cue from this, it is a pity that the Government of Madhya Pradesh has opted for and struck a compromise to barter the past, present and future of the lakhs of affected people for whatever reasons, with the Government of Gujarat. The utterly false claims of the Madhya Pradesh Government would stand exposed if examined the task that needs to be taken up here and now.

The situation with respect to the villages of Nimad, with prime agricultural land, golden wheat and best horticulture, is such that the Governments concerned must be termed criminal and their actions punishable under criminal offences acts. The same can be termed and categorized as atrocities on dalits and adivasis, who in any way are the worst affected in any project. They have always been given second-class treatment in terms of their development in their original villages, yet first on the sacrificial list of displacement and then again further pauperized by failure to provide them with proper rehabilitation. Doles of cash that will be exhausted within few months to a year time are the only entitlements they receive, albeit illegally by denying them agricultural land.

What is happening in Madhya Pradesh is clear and obvious: -

  • The Madhya Pradesh Government has no land to offer and hence no way to ensure compliance with the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA) or Supreme Court judgment for that matter.
  • This is one of the main reasons, the other being lack of desire and political will, for the fact that thousands of adivasis from Jalsindhi (Jhabua) to Chandankhedi (Dhar) are still not resettled nor have they been offered any cultivable agricultural land in the state. The same goes for the farmers, adivasis and dalits of Nimad who the Government claims resettled.
  • A baseless differentiation between families affected by temporary and permanent submergence for prioritisation in rehabilitation has been brought up by the NVDA. It is important to understand that this so-called "temporary" submergence is capable of causing complete damage to standing crops besides washing away houses with all its possessions and drowning people. This is amply evident to anyone who has seen the rage of the Narmada during floods either in 1970 or 1994 or even 1999. Further it is bound to occur several times in one monsoon depending upon the rainfall in the Narmada catchment. Any farmer would fear any flooding that would last even 3 hours since that is enough to destroy the crop or collapse the walls of a house, more so a flood lasting longer, which would only mean complete loss. This is also an illegal move since the issue has already been resolved in the R&R Sub-Group and the Supreme Court where it has been decided that both categories must be rehabilitated at any level.
  • Against the NWDTA and the Supreme Court judgment which offer the affected family freedom to choose his/her home state to resettle in and refuse to go to Gujarat the Government offers two choices - go to Gujarat or take cash compensation. This is illegal since all PAFs - more than 30000 families in the submergence area till date - would rather resettle in Madhya Pradesh itself. Further with regard to cash compensation even the Grievance Redressal Authority has declared that it is illegal. In fact the Narmada Control Authority and its Sub-Groups are yet to provide official sanction for such compensation.
  • Those who opt for resettlement in Madhya Pradesh are being forced to Gujarat by way of ex-parte allotments. This too has been rejected by the people since it takes away from them their basic rights to choose.

All in all the aim of the Madhya Pradesh Government is to minimize its own responsibility and such an approach will obviously result in the destitution of the affected families and this will be no less than a planned genocide.

Cash also brings with it its inseparable playmate - wide spread corruption. This has raised its ugly head in the Narmada Valley, all thanks to the Madhya Pradesh Government and its officials from NVDA. In fact every proposal for cash compensation is accompanied by cuts to be made from lower office-hands (punes) demanding Rs 5 for stamps to NVDA officials demanding % cuts. This sorry state of affairs is deplorable and is the creation of corrupt officials looking to bolster themselves at the cost of the affected people.

Thousands of people have chosen a different path- to struggle for the rights and prevent any illegal submergence. They have been doing so for the past 16 years and continue. The Government will be exposed and this modern-day mindless displacement without even any rehabilitation will have to be stopped. The time is now and the place is here.

Medha Patkar
Kailash Awasiya
Mohan Patidar
Jagdish Patel
Komlu Yadav
Clifton D' Rozario