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

Narendra Modi finds a friend in Digvijay Singh for illegal increase in Sardar Sarovar height and for displacing Madhya Pradesh villagers with cash

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The Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh, seems to be out to help the fascist regime in Gujarat, headed by the infamous Narendra Modi, to wriggle out of the communal mess. While the Leader of Opposition Party, Congress Smt. Sonia Gandhi is leading the campaign in and out of Parliament for the ouster of Modi, here is her trusted lieutenant, bailing out Modi by endorsing the increase in the height of the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). That too, by displacing the project affected Adivasis and peasants of his own state without alternative land and through patently illegal means of cash compensation.

This reality was sharply brought out by the dharna and demonstrations by about 250 village representatives fro the Narmada valley, from April 22, in Bhopal. They protested in front of the office of the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA), demanding just process with a full stop on the illegal practices in rehabilitation and the threat of unjust submergence. Despite the grave issues they were raising, the state government officials have been dodging the issue and even the Chief Minister tried to brush aside the core issue regarding the displacement and resettlement process. In his meeting with the Narmada Bachao Andolan(NBA) representatives on April 28, 2002, he falsely asserted that rehabilitation upto 90 meters was complete. When the people asked the state government to ascertain the facts and legalities- with the participation of was done in Maharshtra- he glibly pointed out at the weak-kneed Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA).

The Fraud of Displacement

Modi has been fervently trying to wriggle out of the infamy of presiding over the massacre of the Muslims, by harping on the Gujarat's ‘asmita’ (honour). As a part of that strategy, he is eager to highlight the Sardar Sarovar (Narmada) Project (SSP) issue by increasing its height from present 90 meters, by hook or crook. When even the project affected families (PAFs) upto 90 meters are not fully resettled, and the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has time and again confirmed this, the two governments are literally conspiring to oust the people by illegal means. Mr. Singh has time and again declared that the state has no and for the rehabilitation of the oustees. According to the provisions of Narmada water Dispute Tribunal (NWDT), the work on the dam could go ahead only if the land-based resettlement of the oustees below the height is complete. And if any one state could not resettle the people, it can call a halt to the project.

Maharashtra Government has accepted its past mistakes and has initiated processes to rectify them. It has declared that it would not allow any adivasis' land to be submerged, without granting land rights, correcting records, comprehensive planning and full rehab with land. It has appointed a task Force to review the number of oustees, the land availability and the present state of resettlement and has appointed high power review committee and planning group with the participation of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Instead of taking cue from this, the Government of Madhya Pradesh has opted for and struck a compromise with Gujarat government, to barter the past, present and future of the lakhs of its own people. 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.

Thousands of adivasis from Jalsindhi (Jhabua) to Chandankhedi (Dhar), who are threatened with the submergence at led 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. As the M.P.Government has no land to offer, the government has taken resort to oust the people by giving cash compensation. This is illegal, against the provisions of the NWDT and against the ruling of the Supreme Court. Also there cannot be any cash compensation of the fertile land of Nimad, with crops diversity and prosperous horticulture.

The M.P.’s Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) has brought up a baseless differentiation between families affected by temporary and permanent submergence for prioritization in rehabilitation. This ‘difference is an eyewash, as so-called ‘temporary’ submergence is capable of causing complete damage to standing crops, houses and all possessions. This is also illegal since the issue has already been resolved in the Rehabilitation Sub-Group of the NCA and the Supreme Court, where it was decided that both categories must be rehabilitated at any level.

The M.P. Government is forcing the PAF’s to go to Gujarat or take cash compensation. Cash also brings with it its inseparable playmate - wide spread corruption, which ha become rampant in the Narmada Valley, thanks to the state government and officials from NVDA. Every proposal for cash compensation is accompanied by cuts to be made from lower officials and servants. Even the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) has declared the cash compensation illegal. In fact the NCA and its Sub-Groups are yet to provide official sanction for such compensation. Also, 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, where to resettle.

There are more than 30,000 project affected families in M.P. and it is not possible to resettle them with land in M.P. more than 8,000 will be affected by any increase e. Along with the most fertile lands of Nimad with its famous horticulture and other crops, the entire adivasi villages of Kukshi, Alirajpur and Badwani tehsils are threatened with any increase in the height beyond 90 meters.

Criminal Intent

The MP government, in a bid to appease the Gujarat government, has reduced the rehabilitation process to a number game played on paper in the offices of the NVDA in Indore and Bhopal. Any increase in height beyond 90 meters will be illegal and devastating. The consequent submergence will affect more than 8000 families permanently or temporarily and will devastate large and thickly populated villages in M.P alone. As no cultivable land was offered in Madhya Pradesh, there is a no certainty of livelihood sources and that will be another man-made tragedy.

The aim of the Madhya Pradesh Government is to minimize its own responsibility of rehabilitation and provision of land. Such an approach will obviously result in the destitution of the affected families and this will be no less than a planned genocide. This is nothing but state-sponsored violence; being perpetrated with the blessing of an unholy alliance struck with Gujarat.

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 offence acts. The same can be termed 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.

The illegalities perpetrated to somehow facilitate further construction come in the wake of rece dar Sarovar has always been the ‘life line’ of the Gujarat politicians. Whenever they find themselves in a political bind, they raise the bogey of ‘Narmada in Danger’ and stoke the fires of parochialism. Narendra Modi, harried by spate of rightful accusations regarding the communal violence in Gujarat, has invoked the Provincialism ( Gujarat’s asmita), to diffuse his indictment from various quarters. Increasing the height of Sardar Sarovar is one of his strategy to wriggle out of his predicament. It is here that the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh comes for his rescue. It restates the experience of the people’s struggles that, the oppressors of all hues are the birds of same feather and their interests are one.

The people in the Narmada valley, in solidarity with other such people’s struggles, are determined to confront the repression, displacement and genocide whether by Modi or Digvijay Singh.

Medha Patkar
Mohan Patidar
Geeta Chavan
Kailash Awasiya
Ashish Mandloi
Clifton D'Rozario
Himanshu Upadhyaya
Jojo John