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

Third Day of Maan Affected People's Dharna in Dhar;
Government Not Complying With the Orders of its Own Authority

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

While the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) set up by the M.P. Government itself has passed orders related to the Maan Dam oustees on 31st July 2002, these are still not being complied with by the State Government. The project-affected people are sitting on dharna in front of the Dhar Collectorate and it is the third day of their dharna today. The orders of the GRA are legally binding on the Government, and their non-compliance is not only illegal but also shows the cruel approach of the state government to the tribal oustees. The Narmada Bachao Andolan warns the state government that if the orders of the GRA are not complied with forthwith, then NBA will be forced to launch an indefinite agitation and may also move the Court against the State Government.

It may be recollected that the people of the first village to be affected by the Maan project, namely Khedi Balwadi were forcibly evicted by the Government on 20th July 2002 from their homes and dumped along with their belongings at the so called resettlement sites of Kesur and Aamkheda, 75 kms and 35 kms away respectively. In this process, many of the oustees were seriously injured and their life-time savings were also looted. The oustees managed to escape from these places and undertook a dharna for over 6 days in Indore and one day at Bhopal. The people also filed a complaint in this matter to the GRA on 23rd July and then 30th July 2002. On 31st July, the affected people went personally to meet the Chairperson of the GRA Shri Ravindra Sharma and repeated their complaint.

On 31st July, the GRA passed an interim order that said that the oustees of Khedi Balwadi village should be taken back to the relief camp set up in their village itself along with their belongings. The order also allowed the oustees to continue to stay in their houses in the main village provided they give in writing that they would vacate the houses if there was a danger of them being flooded. The Order also asked that the police should be withdrawn from the village and that the police should not disturb any other (submergence) village.

On receiving these orders, the affected people took a copy of this order to the Dhar District Collector Office and asked the Office to carry out the orders. However, the Office refused to carry out the orders stating that they had not received any instructions from Bhopal. Yesterday, the GRA sent the orders to the Dhar Collector, and asked it to do the needful. In spite of this, there is still no action on this.

The District Administration is saying that they have received instructions from the NVDA that the NVDA is filing a Review Petition in front of the GRA and hence the District administration should maintain the status quo. However, the legal position is that in the gazette notification creating the GRA, there is no provision for a review petition, and the NVDA has no authority to stay the implementation of any order of the GRA. Hence, the legal position is that any order of the GRA needs to be carried out forthwith. Not to do so is not only illegal but also a contempt of the order of the Authority.

It may be noted that the GRA has been constituted as per the Gazette Notification of the State Government dated 31 August 2001 and as per the Section (15) of this notification, "The decisions and orders of the Authority made in settlement of the complaints / problems of the affected people shall be final and binding on the Government of M.P., affected people and all their organizations, as well as all the concerned parties". This notification follows the format of the notification that constitutes the GRA for the Sardar Sarovar Project affected people as per the directions of the Supreme Court of India. In spite of being fully binding on the state Government, the disregard of the orders of the GRA is not only illegal but also shows the anti-tribal approach of the Government.

It should also be noted that during the 35 day long dharna of the Maan affected people in Bhopal in May-June 2002, the Chief Minister Digvijay Singh had said that the oustees should go to the GRA for resolution of their problems. Now that the oustees have done this, and the GRA has passed orders, the disregard of these by the State Government exposes the hypocritical nature of the Government.

The tribals who have been forcibly evicted from their homes on 20th July are now on the streets for 14 days. The Government that is so fond of making big noises about its pro-tribal approach should immediately carry out the orders of the GRA and take the people back to their village along with their belongings. If the Government does not do this, the people will intensify their agitation and will also move the courts against the state government.

Alok Agrawal
Chittaroopa Palit