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Press Release                                                 December 18, 1999


"DETAILED DISCUSSIONS WITH PEOPLE'S ORGANISATIONS IN JANUARY"
"STATE GOVT. TO FILE AFFIDAVIT IN NARMADA CASE ONLY AFTER DISCUSSIONS WITH NBA" :
MAHARASHTRA CHIEF MINISTER

The Chief Minister of Maharashtra declared that the state government will have a detailed discussion with the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and would take cognisance of the issues and information from the NBA, before filing any new affidavit in the Supreeme Court about the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). He has also agreed to hold discussions with other organisations in the state on the issues of the rights of the adivasis, peasants, workers and backward classes. For the first time, the legislators in Maharashtra from the ruling party insisted on a state level review of the SSP and change of the government's stance in and outside the Court.

The Chief Minister gave this assurance in a meeting with the representatives of organisations and people's movements on December 17, in Nagpur. The organisations were in Nagpur for the 'Jan Vikas Parishad', held by the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) on December 16, to highlight the issues of the people's movements of the state. Tentatively, the meeting will be held at the earliest in the first two weeks of January 2000. The activists asked the state to review the cost-benefit analysis of the dam for the state, its adivasis and its interests. The state government also agreed to file a new affidavit in the controversial SSP case only after a detailed discussion with the NBA.

The deletgation included Medha Patkar, Noorji Padvi of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Ms. Kusum Karnik who has been working for the rights of the sanctuary affected, Com. Chandra (Forest Workers Union), Avinash B.J. ( Koyana dam affected people's organisation), Mahendrasingh (organisation of villagers affected by the Mumbai-Pune expreess way and megacity), Com. Harne and Mr. Vinod (oustees of Pench-Totladoh dam), Pratibha Shinde ( Punarvasan Sangharsha Samiti), Mohan Kothekar (National Alliance of People's Movement in Nagpur), Sanjay M.G. (National Co-coordiator, NAPM). They appraised him of the various basic issues in all parts of Maharashtra regarding the rights of the people to life and natural reesources. Mr. Deshmukh declared that he would hold a comprehensive meeting with the organisations in Mumbai, which will also be attended by the legislators of the concerned areas, related Ministers and highest officials. The representatives also impreessed on him the need to make overall changes in the laws and priorities in the state policies, including the policy regarding displacement, development planning, decentralised decision making etc.

In this meeting, for the first time, the legislators in Maharashtra demanded that the state government must revise its stance reegarding the Sardar Sarovar Project in and outside the Supreeme Court. Mr. K.C. Padvi (Akrani), Padmakar Valvi (Akkalkuwa), Prof. Jayant Thakre, Vasant Suryavanshi (Sakri), Chandrakant Raghuvanshi etc. have demanded in a memorandum to the Chief Minister that the Government of Maharashtra must not allow the work on the dam beyond the present 88 meters. They insisted that the state government must follow the line of the Madhya Pradesh government in the Supreme Court. The M.P. government has filed a civil suit in the early 1999, asking for the appointment of a new tribunal to review the entire issue of water allocation and the dams in the Narmada valley. The M.P. plea has also asked for the reduction of the height of the SSP and the stoppage of the work on the dam.

The legislators reminded the Chief Minister of the written assurance given by the Congress party candidates during the recent Assembly elections. The Nandurbar District Congress Committee had formally given a commitment to support the Narmada Bachao Andolan in its efforts for the review of the project and the stoppageof the work on the SSP. The two page note had also questioned the propriety of the SSP for the interests of the state. It was signed by Mr. Surupsingh Naik, who is now the Minister for Forests in Maharashtras cabinet, along with Mr. Padvi, Mr. Raghuvanshi and Manikrao Gavit who was elected as Member of Parliament. Mr. Vasant Suryavanshi hails from the Bahujan Mahasangh and Prof. Jayant Patil is a member of the legislative council. Mr. Hemant Deshmukh, one of the Ministers of State in Maharashtra cabinet, attended the 'Jan-Vikas Parishad' (People's Development Convention) of the Maharashtra organisations held in Nagpur on December 16 and assured support for the cause of NBA and other organisations. The group of adivasi legislators, particularly from Nandurbar and Dhule districts have decided to press the issue.

Earlier, on December, more than 2500 men and women representatives from over fifty organisations from all the parts of the state held the Jan-Vikas Parishad in Nagpur. They made it clear that henceforth the 'people's politics' or the non-party political process, would be be more intensified and be made effective, as the established party politics seemed not to be serious about the basic issues of the right to life and resources of the common people.The conference declared its opposition to the unjust process of the globalisation and World Trade Organistion (WTO), liberalisation and privatisation. The organisations reiterated their resolve to intensify their struggle, from village to global levels, against the onslaught on the rights, life and reesources of the people by the national and international capitalist forces. The participants included the organisations of the oustees in Koyana, Narmada, Gosi-Khurd, Pench and other dams, the self-rule movements of Mendha-Lekha, trade unions of forest workers, other unorganised workers, tribals' and backward class organisations and the groups working on the specific alternatives on energy, water, education and health. They also took out a rally to the Legislative Assembly later in the evening.

Sanjay Sangvai