NBA Press Release
  24 August 2009
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Narmada Bachao Andolan kick-starts massive Gram Swaraj Abhiyan in Narmada valley.

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Hundreds of adivasis, farmers, fish workers, potters, artisans, women and men, including various persons affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project, Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar Canal Project, Jobat Dam, Goi and Gomai Projects and many others took out a huge ‘mashaal juloos’ through the main streets of Badwani today and gathered before the Old Collector office to participate in a mass Sammelan to assert their constitutional and fundamental right to development planning within their Gram Sabhas.

People at the Sammelan welcomed the recent Order of the Hon’ble High Court of Madhya Pradesh ordering a status quo on the land acquisition and canal excavation work in the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar Canals since the concerned Gram Sabhas in the scheduled areas were not consulted before the land acquisition as per the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas), Act, 1996; which the Court said “is a legislation that has been enacted by the Parliament by virtue of the power conferred by Article 243-M 4(b) of the Constitution”.

Prominent speakers at the Sammelan included Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Former Professor of Political Science, Delhi University, Shri Kalyan Jain, Former Parliamentarian and Shri Gautam Bandopadhyay; Social Activist, Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chattisgarh. They all, in their fiery address to the people asserted the fact that the first right to plan and decide how the resources must be utilized in their regions must only taken place with the informed consultation and consent of the local people.

Bava Mahariya of Jalsindhi, Kamla Yadav, Chhota Barda (Badwani), Kesariabhai from Goi (Badwani) Devenbhai from Piplaj (Tehsil Manawar, Dhar Dist.), Mansarambhai from Kothada (Manawar Tehsil), Jagdish bhai from Gogawa (Maheshwar Tehsil, Khargone Dist) and many other representatives of the above mentioned project – affected persons from the villages of Badwani, Khargone, Alirajpur and Dhar districts also spoke in detail on how planning within their Gram Sabhas is becoming a challenge in the face of an insensitive and bureaucratic State. Nevertheless they shall struggle tooth and nail to ensure that their basic democratic rights within the Gram Sabha are not snatched away by the State. Medha Patkar and Ashish Mandloi of Narmada Bachao Andolan also addressed the gathering on the pivotal role and rights of Gram Sabhas within the constitutional scheme and called upon people not to relent in their non-violent struggle. The Sammelan was also attended by some Janpad Members from Badwani, Manawar and Kukshi Tehsils who also expressed concern that there is a need to consult the people at the Gram Sabha.

It is unfortunate and infact unconstitutional that the Government of Madhya Pradesh is making fervent attempts to weaken the constitutional mandate and democratic processes by bringing out ‘Circulars’ and ‘Notifications’ to violate the PESA Act. While the State Gram Swaraj Adhiniyam itself has omitted by the non-negotiable features of the PESA Act, GoMP has issued one more Circular on the 30th July (even as the High Court stay is in vogue) declaring that “for Narmada valley projects ‘Janpad’ will be the ‘appropriate Panchayat’ for consultation and not the Gram Sabha! The people have challenged this inside and outside the Court and today, the speakers joined the people of the valley in publicly burning off this Notification and demanded that this state-sponsored attempt to finish off the villages and Gram Sabhas in the adivasi areas would not be brooked.

The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (Section 4) makes consultation with the Gram Sabhas pre-conditional not just before land acquisition and before resettlement and rehabilitation but infact before any scheme is planned in the scheduled areas. But the Government of Madhya Pradesh is till date openly flouting this law, which is seriously compromising the rights of adivasis.

We, the nature-based communities see the Order of the High Court as a step in the just direction and an opportunity before us to really participate in the planning process in our Gram Sabhas before large projects such as dams and canals are imposed upon us by mis-information and force. While today, the lands and resources of farmers and adivasis is being looted and given at throwaway prices to huge builders, corporates and capitalists, owing to the pressure of the latter and ignoring the interests of the country’s majority, the people don’t have a choice but to fight back this exploitation and injustice and guard their common resources such as water, lands, forests, minerals and fish from going into private profiteering hands.

Towards the end of the Sammelan, the Tehsildar had to come to the people on behalf of the District Collector Mr. N.B.S. Rajput to accept the memorandum which was read out in his presence and would be reached to the Collector who would also, it was demanded, have to forward this to the Chief Minister with a detailed covering letter of his own. The hundreds of people present also took out a resolve to fully endeavour to assert all their constitutional rights, working towards the protection of human interests and the environment and stall any related destruction.

It was also declared that soon after the Sammelan; people from the valley would reach Bhopal on the 26th of August to meet the Governor Shri Rameshwar Thakur and convincingly remind him of his constitutional duty towards ‘peace and good governance’ in the adivasi areas.

With this Sammelan, thousands of adivasis and farmers have flagged off a massive campaign for democratic rights-assertion in the Narmada Valley and give a call to all fellow-organizations in the country to come together to translate our long-pending vision of Gram Swaraj into reality by demanding for a comprehensive legislation based on Article 243 of the Constitution. We also appeal to all the intellectuals and concerned citizens of the country to support this people’s struggle to achieve our constitutional goals of equality and justice.