The Central Government Team sent by the Union Minister for Water Resources, Shri Priyaranjan Dasmunshi this past weekend, on a tour of
the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP)- affected areas in the Narmada Valley and the corresponding resettlement sites in Gujarat have dropped
the planned tour midway and returned to Delhi, facing non-cooperation from the Madhya Pradesh government and antagonism from the
Gujarat government. The Maharashtra government was more responsive, even offering the team their government barge (boat) to visit the
interior tribal areas.
A three member team consisting of Shri Manoj Agrawal (Secretary to the Minister of Water Resources), Shri Varshneya (Central Water
Commission) and Shri Afroze Ahmed (Director of Rehabilitation, Narmada Control Authority) was to conduct a tour from December 10th to
12th 2004, which was to include the SSP-affected villages in the Nimad plains of Madhya Pradesh (Dec 10th), the villages in both Jhabua
district of M.P and Nandurbar district of Maharashtra which have already faced submergence, without rehabilitation (which lie on
opposite banks of the river) (Dec 11th), the six colony-affected villages near the Sardar Sarovar Dam site and the Gujarat resettlement
sites (Dec 12th) in order to assess the progress in rehabilitation of families affected by the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam
The team did not complete the stipulated tour and returned to Delhi early on Dec 11th, attending only one of the three days planned and
agreed to by the team itself. On Dec 10th, the team did attend three large meetings in the Nimad plains, where villager after villager
said that they are affected under the current dam height of 110 metres, but have not yet been rehabilitated! The meetings were held in
village Piplud (district Badwani), village Picchodi (100% adivasi village in district Badwani) and village Khaparkheda (district Dhar),
where speaker after speaker spoke of the vulgar corruption going on in the resettlement of oustees, for which 37 officials of the
Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA), Badwani were suspended a few weeks ago. They said vociferously that they were only being
resettled on paper and on government websites such as the NCA website where ^—zero^“ balance families are shown for rehabilitation
under 110 metres. In reality, over 11,000 families still remain to be rehabilitated even at the current dam height, which is a clear
violation of the Narmada Tribunal Award and the Supreme Court verdict of 2000. The falsity of the "zero" balance families was clearly
proved in front of the officials. Shri Khare from the NVDA was present at all three meetings but flatly refused to comment on any of
the proceedings and allegations against the NVDA, which is the body responsible for rehabilitation on Madhya Pradesh oustees.Following these meetings, the team was supposed to travel to the interior adivasi villages, but did not, and instead disappeared and
later it was found that they had returned to Delhi. Hundreds of adivasis had gathered in the villages of Jhabua and Maharashtra as well
as in the R&R sites waiting for the team to vent out their complaints.
Later, a subtly enacted "drama" came to light as Gujarat government had made extensive preparations to sabotage the tour by the
officials. Police patrol was going to many rehabilitation sites in Vadodara and Narmada districts, mentally harassing the PAFs with
unnecessary questions, as if the PAFs are doing something wrong when they raise their voices to demand their rights and to demand full
rehabilitation. Thousands of PAFs are facing serious livelihood issues in the R&R sites and government is desperately trying to
suppress PAFs genuine voices from being heard outside.
In this context, it is also interesting to note that Shri Manubhai Patel, a Gujarat-based office-bearer of an NGO had threatened to
have an agitation along with Swami Sacchidanand, against what they alleged "Medha Patkar-led team sent by Sonia Gandhi."
The reference to Sonia Gandhi appears as the team planned its trip close on the heels of a press release dated Nov 22, 2004 from the
PMO, where Dr. Manmohan Singh urges the Union Water Resources Minister to himself travel to the Narmada Valley to assess the situation
of rehabilitation. The Minister, being busy during Parliament time, decided to first send this team.
NBA condemns the pressure being put on the Central team from Gujarat, and the Centre succumbing to it. We demand that the Minister
himself should visit the Valley as directed by the Prime Minister, and assess the situation of displacement and resettlement. We
sincerely hope that the officials of Madhya Pradesh will be forced to be responsive and Gujarat be forced not to take a hostile stance
when the Minister visits.
We are surprised as to why the Gujarat government afraid of a central team^“s visit? If everything is well and PAFs are happy in the
resettlement sites (as propagated officially) then why not invite different committees to come and appreciate for themselves what the
Gujarat government has done to the PAFs of SSP? The undermining of democratic processes using emotional appeal and muscle power will
lead to authoritarianism and dissolution of peoples right to information and justice.
Shankar Kagda, Kapilaben,