NBA Press Release
  28 August 2004
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Tourism Project attempts to boost sale of impending Fresh Narmada Bonds: The Six Villages Affected by Kevadia SSP Colony Facing Forced Evacuation.

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

Towards the end of July 2004, the Rajpipla Collector called a meeting of the representatives of the six Kevadia villages and told that there is no option for them but to accept the cash compensation unless policy decisions are made from 'above'. They were asked to accept cash compensation and make the decision within three months. The reason for this urgency is now revealed in the upcoming tourism agenda.

The impending fresh issuing of Narmada Bonds is timed with the announcement of the Tourism Project. The government seeks to sell more bonds even when they are not in a position to pay back earlier bonds. This indiscriminate issuing of bonds is already criticized by none other than the Comptroller of Auditor General of India. Out of the nearly Rs.18000 spend so far on the Project, 22% has gone for just interest repayment while not even 20% of the canal network is in place. Moreover, just 4% of the total expenditure is used for rehabilitation of the affected people!

The Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd is gearing up to tap the tourist potential of the Sardar Sarovar Dam area known as Kevadia. (this is the name of one of the six original villages forcefully acquired for the project colony in 1961-62 and 1965)

Most of these project components, including a golf course with hotels and water park, are proposed to be developed on the 1,400 hectares land downstream of the dam. The land is owned by the SSNNL. The topography is undulating, with an amazing variety of plant species and wildlife, making it an excellent location for recreational and leisure activities for tourists.(Indian Express Ahmedabad News line, August 26, 04)

While SSNNL claims to "own" the said land "consisting of light deciduous forest interspersed with lakes, grassland, streams, hillocks and rivulets", what is deliberately suppressed is the story of the six villages whose people still posses much of this land as most of them have not accepted the paltry compensation offered by the Gujarat government. Moreover most of them are still staying in these original villages, cultivating the land which government has forcefully acquired for SSNNL.
The question is, where are these people supposed to go when Rs.170 crore worth tourism projects are proposed? Are their traditional house structure going to be part of the project as examples of "Tribal Culture" or are they a nuisance for the tourism vision and hence to be removed from sight?

The nearly 950 families who now live in Kevadia, Kothi, Vagodia, Gora, Navagam and Limdi (In 1960's the number of families officially recognized was much less) have been living under the threat of displacement for the last 42 years. They have been offered paltry sums of Rs.50 - 250/acre as was the custom in 1962. A few took the money but most didn't and all continued to stay on even as the project colony was being developed.

In the early 1990's, after the people joined the Narmada Bachao Andolan and staged fiery dharnas, the government increased the resettlement package to Rs.12000/acre with a maximum of Rs.36000 for 3 acre and above with 3 Gunda (1 acre is 40 Gundas) house plot. The major sons (the cutoff date to decide them is not specifically mentioned, it can be even 1962!) are to get Rs.4500 with 1 or 2 Gundas of house plots. Those who do not have land title deeds do not get any compensation. The complication is that most of the title deeds are in the name of grant fathers who are no more. So the present generation parents are major sons and their children, many of whom having their own families get nothing.

The Adivasis of the six villages are primarily demanding to recognize them as Project Affected like the Reservoir affected families and demand land-based rehabilitation as their lands and houses are taken away for the Project colony. Unfortunately the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award only recognizes the rights of the Project Affected in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh as this Tribunal was primarily for solving the inter-state dispute. Moreover officials argue that many people in Kevadia villages are now not interested in agriculture and hence do not need land. Who are the officials to decide this? Moreover, why are they then ensuring (not promising) employment for the affected?

Also, Gujarat government is afraid of setting precedence because most of the other dams in Gujarat have come up later and people affected in those projects may also raise voice for their rights if Kevadia people are given land-based compensation. Thousands of people have lost their lands and houses in various projects in Gujarat and the Narmada Main Canal alone takes away more than 25% of the titled land of 23000 families!

According to the Article V of the Indian Constitution, the lands acquired from an Adivasi family for a development purpose and not used, has to be returned to the family. It cannot be used for any other purpose than the original purpose. But the government owned SSNNL is now conniving to distribute the land acquired for the project colony for tourism development.

The six villages of Kevadia rightfully demand the return of the unused land and also to declare them as Project Affected which will enable them to have minimum 5 acres with reasonable house plots and Rs.45000 for construction of house as well as community rehabilitation and civil facilities in the site. Also, According to Gujarat Resettlement Policy for SSP oustees, the cutoff date for deciding major sons is 1987 which will benefit the people better than the present set of rules.

Dalsukhbhai, Ambaben, Kapilaben,
Philip Mathew