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NBA Press Note                                 26th August, 1999

Massive demonstration at Dhadgaon: Protest of people against corruption and liquor; Candidates of all parties declare their support to NBA from Lokmanch platform.

More than a thousand people from the villages of Narmada Ghati and Satpuda hills had a two day demonstration and Lokmanch program at the Tehsil headquarters Dhadgaon, District Nandurbar .

The people confronted the forest and the Government officials and also invited the candidates contesting election from all parties in the Lokmanch program where all the candidates had to declare their support to the Narmada Bachao Andolan and also take up the issue of Tribal development in front of more than 1000 people.

The people of Narmada Ghati raised the first protested before the police administration. Boxes full of liquor manufactured in Madhya Pradesh was being supplied in the villages of Dhadgaon and which was being sold later in the Gujarat villages illegally. The representatives of the Narmada Bachao Andolan had confiscated these boxes and they were displayed before the administration in front of the assembled people. The names of the people involved in this illegal trade and those having liquor dens at Dhadgaon were also declared. DYSP Mr. Ingle and later in the presence of Mr. Rokde, it was assured that they will be dealing with the liquor dens- but the people also made it clear that some police personnel were also involved in this illegal trade and corruption. Havaldar More had collected some 15,000 rupees some months ago from the people with the drama of posing this trade as illegal. The people are determined to recover this money and people declared with slogans that "villages need water and not liquor." Later the issue of corruption by the forest department was also raised at length before the ranger of the forest department. People also declared their determination to recover the money collected illegally by the local forest guards and ranger from the villages. Forest department has admitted that the money taken by Mr. Kochere is illegal and will be returned back. The issue of the people getting affected by compensatory aforestation was also raised and people took a wow that they will fight against destructive development.

Later the issue of mal practises from the tehsildar office in which no action is being taken after passing a no confidence motion against some panchayats for months was taken up. Other issues of inefficiency of the tehsil office were also raised.

Election-Lokmanch

The Narmada Bachao Andolan, organised Lokmanch where all candidates contesting in the coming election for legislative assembly from all parties were invited to declare their stand and commitment to the peoples struggle against the Sardar Sarovar Project and also declare their commitment to tribal development. Four out of the five candidates contesting election came to the Lokmanch program and declared their support in front of more than thousand people. On behalf of the Andolan, Noorji Padvi, Dedlibai and Keshav Vasave presented the issue and raised questions before the candidates. On behalf of the congress candidate, the representative of Adv. Padmakar Valvi presented their position. Shri K C Padvi narrated his position and declared his position on the issues raised by the people and declared his candidature for the forth coming election. Shri. Abdul Rahim Sheikh has decided to contest as an independent from the Shahada Constituency. He said that he will continue to support the people even if he looses the election. Shri Udesingh Guruji is contesting on behalf of Shiv Sena - he too was present in the Lokmanch. Shri Kessingh for legislative and Bhuribai for loksabha are contesting on behalf of communist party. It was declared that their party is truly supportive of the tribal cause. National leader of communist party Shri Kumar Shiralkarji stated that their party is the one that is fighting against capitalist forces.

All candidates declared their support to the movement and agreed that party politics does not benefit the people much. They also narrated the support they have extended to the movement in the past. They stressed more on the issues of corruption, banning liquor, and issues of land and forest. But, complete stand on big dams was not put forward by any of the candidates.

It was clear that the villages of Narmada Ghati were not silent spectators and suppressed voters but with their collective strength can force the politicians to work for the people. Medha Patkar stressed that the real issue was not winning or losing election but how the people themselves become active and can through collective strength fight for their rights is the main test. She also stressed that on the issue of development, all the parties more or less have the same ideology and it will be the peoples organisations and movements that will expose the lack of morals of the parties and fight for right development.

Medha Patkar, Noorji Padvi, Keshav Vasave