Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NBA Press Release                                                                                 August 10, 2000

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Narmada Oustees Sore About The Visit Of Grievance Redressal Authority In Maharashtra
People Once Again Expose The Rehabilitation Claims

The tribal oustees of the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) from Maharashtra villages did not feel assured with the first ever visit of the Chairman of the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA), Jusitce (Retd) S.P.Kurdukar. The people felt that the GRA treated the basic issues of land, resources and the processes regarding the rehabilitation and displacement more on technical ground, instead of on the basis of the intrinsic importance.

The GRA visited the SSP affected villages from Manibeli to Domkhedi on August 7 and 8, to know about the grievances regarding the resettlement and the overall situation regarding the displacement, resettlement and land availability etc. However, despite this attitude of the GRA, the people have brought forth number of serious and basic issues regarding the displacement and resettlement to the notice of the Authority. The GRA was appointed according to the Supreme Court interim order in May 2000, to go into the grievances regarding the resettlement of the oustees from Maharashtra. It was also asked to look into the matter of the kind of resettlement that occurred hitherto and the prospects of future resettlement and land availability. Accordingly, the GRA came to the villages to assess the situation of the resettlement and the grievances of the people.

At Kevedia colony, near the dam site, a delegation of oustees from Maharashtra, relocated in Gujarat met him. Though they were resettled in Gujarat, either the Government of Gujarat or the Government of Maharashtra never looked into their abysmal conditions at resettlement sites. However, Justice Kurdukar, the GRA for the grievances of Maharashtra oustees too refused to look into their cases, on the grounds that these were the responsibility of another state (Gujarat). He did not entertain the pleas that these oustees were from Maharashtra and their cases were not taken seriously by the host state, the state of Maharashtra and that the GRA-Maharashtra has a responsibility towards ensuring their proper rehabilitation according to the Tribunal Award and other state policies. These oustees are having several grievances like water logging of their lands, bad quality of agricultural land, non-allotment of land for cultivation, lack of irrigation etc.

However, instead of treating the issues on merely narrow technical ground, the problem of displacement and rehabilitation should have been considered in a humane and holistic manner, the people felt. People from the affected villages, like Dhankhedi, Chimalkhedi, Gaman and other villages were present at Manibeli, the first village in Maharashtra to face submergence in 1991, and whose rehabilitation is not done till date by the successive governments. They too were not happy with the experience of the Authority.

In the last leg of his tour, Justice Kurdukar was received at Domkhedi by the village elder Dadlya Karbhari. The three-week-old Satyagraha has been going on at Domkhedi . Over 500 village representatives and Satyagarhis were present at the time of his visit. Several people, including Kesav Vasave (Village Nimgavan), Vesta Pawra(Sikka), Dedlibai Vasave (Domkhedi), Noorji Padvi (Danel) made the submissions. The submissions were about the land rights issue, non-availability of land for rehabilitation, incomplete and inadequate surveys, exclusion of adult sons from the government lists etc. People also stressed the issues regarding the right to information and right to life. They made it clear that the Government of Maharashtra does not have adequate land to rehabilitate the large number of people the dam would displace, nor was it aware about the magnitude of the impacts of displacement.

Medha Patkar of NBA pointed out that the hundreds of tribals are still counted as 'encroachers', as they have not been given the land titles, as there has been no land settlement after Independence in these areas. " This amounts to be a denial of legal and constitutional rights of the tribals" she asserted.

Jst.Kurdukar also met a group of 10 people at Dhadgaon (Block Headquarters) on the 9th, to dispose off individual cases. Here it was again proved that claims regarding the land availability for resettlement were illusory and majority of those who were displaced were due to the pressure tactics by the government. It was also made clear that the government's claims that the majority of people have opted for rehabilitation and only a few are left in the villages is wrong.

Joe Athialy