NBA Press Release
  25 December 2001
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Maan dam affected tribals on the roads again
Struggle enters a new phase

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-33162
Email: nobigdam@vsnl.com

Yesterday on the 24th of December, 2001, nearly 500 tribals ^ Bhils and Bhilalas affected by the Maan dam under construction in Dhar district in Madhya Pradesh marched through the streets of Dhar ending at the Collector^s office in the city. However, despite previous intimation of the rally and even after having given an appointment, the District Collector Shri Dubey left his office as well as the city a few minutes before the rally arrived. Scores of police blocked the entrance to the Collectorate and the gates were locked. Undaunted, the people squatted outside the gates and insisted that they would wait for him no long how it takes. When it became very clear indeed that the people would not go away despite the cold and the gathering darkness, finally, at 10.00 p.m. at night, the Collector was forced to come and talk to the gathered people. At the end of the talks the Collector agreed to give responses to specific demands within ten days, i.e. by 4th of January,2002.

The hundreds of people from the villages of Khedi- Balwari, Khanpura, Golpura, Devipura, Bhuwada, Sangwi, Garhaghat, etc. who had gathered in Dhar yesterday had come to the District officials on what was probably the single most significant issue in their lives today - the impending submergence of their lands, homes, villages and livelihoods a mere five months away in the monsoon of 2002 and whether the government had any plans to restore their livelihoods. Today the situation is that in this monsoon when these villages will come under submergence, these tribals will have nowhere to go. Except to walk the streets of Indore, of Bhopal and Dhar. So the affected tribals are demanding that they be given land as per the rehabilitation policy and as is their legal entitlement and that without this their lands may not be submerged. If the government refuses to give them this land, the people resolutely refuse to leave the lands of their forefathers. They would prefer to die on their ancestral lands rather than lead lives of indignity as paupers.

It may be recalled that despite a clear land for land provision in the Rehabilitation policy of the Narmada Valley Development Department of the Madhya Pradesh government for the oustees of the Narmada Projects, the tribal people to be affected by this Project were never offered land. Kept in the dark about their full legal entitlements, the government authorities sought to dispense off their rights by distributing them a pittance in cash from 1991 to 1994. However, when they organized themselves in 1997 under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, they learnt of their full rights and entitlements and began their struggle for land based compensation.

In the process of their struggle in the course of this year, the affected people had to face arrests and beatings, were jailed for weeks, and faced government callousness on one hand and state violence on the other. However, in the absence of agricultural land and rehabilitation, the people refused to panic before the rising dam wall and be flushed out of their villages with the threat of submergence. Finally, at the onset of the monsoon, the government was compelled to blast a part of the dam wall in order to control submergence. All through the monsoon, the affected people were on satyagraha. Now with this rally, the struggle of the affected people enters a new phase.

Chandar Singh of Village Khedi Balwari said that it was clear from the rehabilitation policy that the government had to accept the moral and financial responsibility for replacing the land and resources of the tribal oustees. He said that the affected people had also identified sufficient land for themselves so the government also did not have the usual excuse of saying that no land was available. Now when there was a clear provision in the policy for land for land one hand, available of agricultural land on the other and funds from the NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) on the third, if the government still refuses to give the affected people land, it can only mean the lack of political will and an anti ^ tribal attitude on the part of the government.

The affected people said that they were tired of being told that they had themselves applied for cash in lieu of land and therefore had no rights any more. They demanded that the government show all papers including these alleged applications for cash by the affected people, the investigation papers of the erstwhile Collector as well as the necessary certification from the Collector after investigation that giving cash compensation to the affected people would not hurt the interests of the tribal family. The Collector agreed in principle to the public inspection and said that he would set a date for this after consultation with the authorities.

The affected people also demanded immediate stoppage of the dam work. They pointed out that the Narmada Valley Development Department had in its own report of October 2001 clearly stated that most of the families of even the initial villages were yet to be rehabilitated. In such a case, on the principle that the affected people have to be fully rehabilitated and resettled at least six months before submergence, all work on the spillway work of the dam will have to be stopped will have to be stopped from the 31st of December, 2001. The tribals also demanded a resurvey of the submergence levels of the villages along with the participation of the affected people, updating of the list of adult sons and daughters after increasing the cut off date upto 31 st June, 2002.

The hundreds of tribal people who had gathered at Dhar on the 24th December said that they would wait for ten days for answers to their demands. Failing which they would undertake more intense and indefinite public actions on one hand, and seek legal redressal on the other. They also said that the tribals had showed this monsoon and they would demonstrate again that they were prepared to face submergence but would not move without receiving their full legal entitlements.

Chandersingh, Village Khedi
Jagadeesha B.N.
Manglilal Gopal, Village Khanpura