NBA Press Release
  01 August 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Grievance Redressal Authority orders that evicted oustees be returned to the village, Maan dam oustees lift Bhopal dharna; Adivasis squat at Dhar Collectorate, NVDA dawdles over implementation of GRA order

Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-33162

In response to the complaints of the Maan dam oustees filed with the Grievance Redressal Authority about their brutal and forcible eviction from village Khedi Balwadi on the 20th of July by the police and administration, the Chairman of the GRA - Shri Ravindra Sharma has passed an order stating that the oustees may be allowed to resume their residences in Village Khedi Balwadi and that the district administration must assist them in bringing back their household belongings, grain, etc, to Khedi.

These belongings had been forcibly trucked away by the administration to camps 45 and 70 kms. away on the evening of the 20th July evening. The order states that the belongings may be kept in temporary sheds in the village and that the oustees can live in their houses, unless there is threat of submergence. The GRA has objected to the police action in the Man dam affected villages in May and once again in July this year and has ordered that the police force stationed at the village must be immediately withdrawn. The GRA has also ordered that the other villages affected by the dam must not be evicted.

With the fulfillment of their main demands, the adivasis who had been on dharna in Indore for six days and in Bhopal since yesterday have lifted their dharna and are have returned to Dhar. However while the affected adivasis have reached and are squatting at the Collectorate at Dhar since morning, the NVDA seems to be dawdling over the GRA orders received by them 24 hours ago. It may be remembered that the NVDA officials and the administration had not allowed the adivasis even five minutes to collect their children and their valuables on the evening of the 20th of July, when the waters were far way indeed, Even though the GRA has been created by a notification, and the NVDA is bound to enforce its orders, the NVDA officials have unofficially informed that they are "examining the implications of the order."

It may be noted that on the 20th of July last, the district administration had evicted and carried off the adivasi families living in Village Khedi Balwadi with an enormous amount of violence and brutality and had dumped the oustees in camps 45 kms and 70 kms. away. The oustees who had been thus dumped, mostly adivasi women and children , and who were kept there under close police surveillance , managed to escape from the camps and come to Indore where they sat on dharna for last six days. The oustees subsequently came to Bhopal where they began their dharna yesterday morning. The oustees had given a written complaint to the GRA on the 23rd of July. Once more on the 30th of July, during the dharna, nearly two hundred adivasis walked to the GRA and several represented their complaints to the Chairman, GRA during a meeting with him.

The GRA passed their order on the 30th July evening. The GRA order comments on the repression that involved incidents of tree felling, bulldozing of school buildings, extraction of hand pumps that had been perpetrated by the Dhar district administration on the 16th and 17th of July in several Maan dam affected villages. It says " It is not appropriate to forcibly evict the oustees from their homes, to withhold public services such as electricity, water, school from them and to cut standing trees and to use bull dozers."

The GRA order further comments on the incidents of the 20th of July. It quotes the letter written by the GRA to the state government on the 22nd of July " I have received the information that on the 20-21st of July, some villagers affected by the Maan dam were forcibly evicted from their houses and taken elsewhere and their houses were damaged. If this is indeed true, it is extremely objectionable, and it is inappropriate to take any such action while consideration of complaints is ongoing."

The order states that the Chairman, GRA Shri Ravindra Sharma visited the sites at Kesur, Aamkheda and the village Khedi Balwadi. It also quotes the report of the two experts (Shri B.D.Sharma, Ex- Commissioner, Scheduled Tribes and Castes, and Shri Parbhash Joshi, senior journalist ) submitted to the GRA on the 30th of July. This quote states that " In our view, this action, specially when it is clear that the proper implementation of the process laid down in the rehabilitation policy is yet to ensue, and that it is under consideration by the GRA, is a violation of the law and the constitutional arrangements that protect the interests of the adivasis. In our view, the level of water in the reservoir should not be allowed to rise to an extent that any habitation be submerged during this monsoon."

The order clarifies that the oustees along with their belongings may be taken to the temporary sheds in Village Khedi Balwadi on their demand with the help of the district administration, and that they may be allowed to stay in their homes, on the condition that they give a written undertaking that they would vacate their houses with the possibility of submergence when informed by the district administration. The GRA has ordered that with this, police force stationed at Village Khedi must be withdrawn. The order states that since no other village apart from Khedi may be submerged this monsoon, they should not be vacated. The NVDA has been asked to immediately follow these orders and report back within 3 days.

Meanwhile, the GRA has set its next public hearing in the area, subsequent to the experts report for the 7th and 8th of August to hear and then to give orders regarding the rehabilitation of the affected oustees.

Alok Agarwal
Chittaroopa Palit