NBA Press Release
  24 April 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Government Starts Talks with People on dharna

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

RIGHT TO LIFE agitation

Press Release Mumbai 24th April, 2003

Hundreds of adivasis, project affected people, slum dwellers, footpath dwellers and mill workers continued their struggle today also and also constructed another hut inside the Nehru Garden. This was the second one, the first one being erected already on the 22nd.

Yesterday the discussions were held with the Maharashtra Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde which was also attended by the rural development Minister Sh RR Patil. Apart from that today discussions were held with the Food and Civil Supplies Minister Sh Sureshdada Jain. The CM said that work on the Sardar Sarovar dam would not be allowed to proceed further until rehabilitation of all the oustees is completed. He promised to hold detailed discussion on all the questions raised by the Narmada Bachao Andolan on 8th May. The discussions by the people’s movement were led by the respected Smt Mrinal Gore along with Smt Medha Patkar, Smt Vidya Chavan, Smt Pratibha Shinde, Smt Ulka Mahajan and Smt Itta Uswalkar.

Later on, in the day, the Planning Committee and the Overview Committee meeting with respect to the Task Force were also held. The Meeting was attended by the Rehabilitation Minister Sh Vilaskaka Patil, Minister of State for Rehabilitation Sh Ramraje Nimbhalkar, Prof. Denzyl Saldanha (TISS), Sh Anand Kapoor, Smt Surekha Dalvi, Smt Medha Patkar, Smt Pratibha Shinde, Sh Keshav Vasave and Sh Noorji Padvi among various others.

Heated discussions took place in the meeting. The government has been trying to reduce the figures with respect to the number of people to be rehabilitated, bought out by the Task Force. Also by threatening people with submergence they have been trying to force uncultivable lands on to them. The NBA and Punarvas Sangarsh Samiti representatives made it very clear that they will not allow this to happen. Keshavbhau explained how the whole process of showing land to people for selection is flawed and how the authorities have been misbehaving with them during the whole process.

In the end the government agreed to send the proposal with regard to the undeclared oustees so that they are not deprived of rehabilitation. Also, decisions with respect to the abolition of earlier process would be taken soon. Smt Pratibha Sinde forcefully argued that with respect to the selection and allotment of land, NBA representatives and other Planning Committee members should play an active role. The officials should prepare a proposal in this respect and place it before the CM. Until the 8th May meeting no new land is going to be allotted but purchase of cultivable land will continue.

With respect to the issue of 73 forest village’s intense discussion were held with the Revenue Minister Sh Nilengekarji. It was demanded that the conversion of these forest villages into revenue villages is completed at the earliest and that adivasis should be allowed to live there and not be displaced.

The Minister assured that the state government will not have any role to play in the effort to oust adivasis from the villages. Also he would see to it that the entire verification exercise is completed by 31st May and suitable directions in this regard will be issued to tehsildars and forest department officials. He was reminded that till now only 4000 houseplot allotment certificate out of the 13,700houseplot allotment certificate has been cleared by the Central government. Maharashtra government has taken a proactive stand in a case filed by the NBA in this respect.

Medha Patkar Ulka Mahajan Vidya Chavan Pratibha Shinde