NBA Press Note

February 16, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, M.P.
Telefax: 07283-33162

Madhya Pradesh government preparing to submerge Dhar tribals
"Contractor's interests are more important to Madhya Pradesh government than Adivasi's livelihoods"

Exposing completely its callous attitude towards the tribal populations of the state, the Madhya Pradesh Government has increased the pace of the work on the spillway section of the Man Project, so that several hundreds of tribal families will lose their homes and lands to the waters this monsoon itself. It is noteworthy that the hundreds of tribal families who the government intends to flush out like rats this monsoon-are yet to be rehabilitated and will have no where to go when their homes and lands are submerged. Police is being deployed in large numbers at the dam site and is also entering the affected villages and are threatening people and asking them to leave their villages.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan condemns the repressive and completely unconstitutional and illegal actions of the Madhya Pradesh government and demands that work on the spillway section of the dam must be immediately stopped and the affected tribal families must be resettled with agricultural lands. In the event that the government continues with the construction, unmindful of the imminent submergence of the tribals, the affected people will be forced to intensify their struggle for their rights.

The Man Project is a large dam being built on the Man river and one of the 30 large dams being built in the Narmada valley and will submerge the lands and homes of several hundreds of tribal families in 17 villages that include Khedi- Balwadi, Khanpura, Rehtiaon and others. It may be noted that the Man Project received the legally binding environmental clearance from the Central Environment Ministry in 1994. The condition of the clearance was that the affected tribals must be resettled with non- forest agricultural land. The state government policy for the oustees of the Narmada Projects that was made in 1987 and firmed in 1992 also required that the affected people must be resettled with land for land. Despite this from 1991 to 1994, the state government completely violated the conditions of the environmental clearance and the provisions of its own policy and finished the rights of the people with paltry amounts of cash compensation.

As a result, in 1994, the Appraisal Committee of the Central Environment Ministry blacklisted the Man Project for complete violation of the conditions of the environmental clearance. In 1997, when the oustees were given eviction notices, they organized themselves under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and raised their voices. After a long struggle, in April –May 1999, the Madhya Pradesh government agreed to constitute a committee for the rehabilitation of the affected people. This committee which was constituted under the chairmanship of the Narmada Minister comprised of the affected people, elected representatives , government officials and members of the Narmada Bachao Andolan – Shri Rehmat and Chittaroopa Palit.

The government order of 2nd May, 1999 clearly stated that no construction work could be carried out that would endanger any affected person whose rehabilitation had not been done. But despite this clear order, from October, 2000 onwards the state government began work on the spillway section of the dam ,thus creating a situation of imminent submeregence of hundreds of tribal families who are yet to be rehabilitated . The Man affected tribals then held an impressive rally in Dhar on the 24th of January this year demanding immediate stoppage of work and rehabilitation of the affected people . Subsequently after representations to the NVDA ,the work on the spillway section of the dam was stopped by a government order of 30th January. But on the initiative of the Chief Minister Shri Digvijay Singh , as per public statement given by local Congress MLA Shri Karan Singh Pawar, the work was again restarted. It is clear that contractor’s interests matter more to the Chief Minister than the survival concerns of the tribals. Knowing the complete lack of rehabilitation of the Man oustees, the elected representative then contended that most of the people affected by the Man Project have been rehabilitated in Gujrat, a statement that is completely untrue and laughable .

It may be noted that the Madhya Pradesh government has showcased the District of Dhar by publicizing the Gyandoot Yojna – a program to provide information access to the tribals through the use of computers. It received the Stockholm Challenge Award for this scheme and this was the sole entry of the MP government in this year’s Republic day parade in Delhi. But the reality of the concern and the responsiblity of the state government towards the tribals of this district is evident by the attempt of the government to uproot the tribals with the use of police and water.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan reiterates its condemnation of the repressive and callous attitude of the state government , and demands that all work on the spillway section of the dam should be stopped , an emergency meeting of the Rehabilitation Committee should be held and the work of the rehabilitatoion of the affected tribals should be started in earnest. The Narmada Bachao Andolan and the affected people have already informed and petitioned the Central Ministry of Environment , Social Welfare Ministry and the National Commission of Scheduled Tribes and Castes during the last week ,in this regard. The Andolan alerts the government that if it still continues with its criminal actions , the affected people will be forced to stop the dam themselves and enter an intense struggle for the protection of their right to life.

Govind Rawat,
Alok Agarwal,
Chittaroopa Palit