NBA Press Note

February 22, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

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

M.P. government officials refuse to rehabilitate Man affected tribals
Lands and homes of 5000 tribals to be submerged this monsoon,
Tribals vow to fight Project till death

On the 20th of February, during the meeting of the Punarwas Ayojan Samiti or the Rehabilitation Committee of the Man and Jobat Projects ( large dams being built in the Narmada valley )Madhya Pradesh government officials refused to rehabilitate the 5000 tribal people by affected by the Man Project. The officials made it very clear that they would complete the dam by June this year, submerging the homes and lands of over 5000 tribal people in the process. The meeting was convened by the Deputy Chief Minister Shri Subhash Yadav.The meeting was attended by Shri Kantilal Bhuria , MLA of Manawar area Shri Mandloi, senior activists of the NBA- Alok Agarwal, Chittaroopa Palit and representatives of villages Khedi-Balwadi, Khanpura, and Rehtiaon, Devipura, Badlipura , Gadhaghat, Golpura and Devipura all affected by the Man Project.

Squashing all hopes of the affected people that their legal and human rights would be respected by the state government, the government officials made it amply clear that that the government officials would no longer take the responsibility of the rehabilitation of the affected people and that they intend to callously drown out 5000 tribal people from 17 villages without any compunction. The affected people were completely shocked to hear this cruel and callous, not to say anti-constitutional decision of the government. The representatives of the affected people present in the meeting warned the government representatives that they will oppose the criminal and anti-tribal action of the government to drown the affected people through non-violent direct action. Bondribai of village Khanpura said that even if they have to die fighting and the dam is littered with their corpses, they would not let this dam be built.

It may be recalled that it was during the intense struggle of the tribals affected by the Man Project and the indefinite fast in Bhopal in April 1999 that the state government was compelled to issue a government order on the 2nd of May, 1999 under which it constituted a Punarwas Ayojan Samiti for the oustees of the Man and Jobat Projects.This Committee comprised of government representatives and elected representatives on one hand and representatives of the affected people and Narmada Bachao Andolan activists on the other.

The order made required the government to rehabilitate the affected people at least six months before submergence. Therefore it stipulated that no construction could be carried out on the Project after 31st December of any year that would submerge people in the following monsoon, who were yet to be rehabilitated. But even after this strong order was passed, in the last two years the state government did not rehabilitate a single tribal family, and now the dam is being sought to be pushed forward towards completion and reservoir filling with full violation of the orders.

The officials kept reiterating during the meeting that they have a commitment to the NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) which is funding the Project to complete the dam till June, 2001.Obviously this commitment is of greater significance than any commitment they have towards the tribal people and the law. It may be noted that police are frequenting the dam and the villages in large numbers asking the people to leave their villages, and the dam is being built with police presence.

The authorities have been able to rehabilitate only 22 families out of 1227 affected families in the last decade. However the lands given to even these families are either encroached or border a nullah and are flooded every monsoon and so cannot be called rehabilitation.

The Man Project received an environmental clearance in 1984. As per the conditions of the environmental clearance of the Central Ministry which was legally binding, the affected people were to be rehabilitated with land. But the Madhya Pradesh government chose to dispense off the rights of the affected people with paltry amounts of cash compensation instead of rehabilitating them with land. The amount was so paltry that it was impossible for the tribals to buy any alternative land. As a result when the Project was appraised in 1994, the Appraisal Committee for River Valley Projects of the MoEF blacklisted the Project.

The rehabilitation policy of the Madhay Pradesh government for the oustees of the Narmada Projects clearly states that the principle of rehabilitation will be land for land and " Only if the oustee gives an application can he receive cash compensation". It also notes that for the tribal oustee even an application is not enough. The District Collector will have to carry out an investigation and certify that giving cash compensation to the affected family will not adversely affect its interests. The reality is that not a single person affected by the Man Project ever applied for cash compensation, nor did the District Collector ever carry out any investigation or give any certificates. When the tribals challenged the officials that the required procedure had never been followed, the officials were silent. The officials sought to give exaggerated claims about the area to be irrigated by the Man Project in the meeting, but it was found during the study of the command area of the Man Project in 1998, during the Task Force process- a joint process of the affected people with the state government- that 54% of the command area was already irrigated. The rest of the area was not irrigable owing to its undulating nature.

Moreover, there are tanks in the command area that have an irrigation capacity of nearly 1891 hectares, but the reality is that only 704 hectares are being irrigated. Thus an already available capacity of 1186 ha. is not being used but several thousand sof tribals are being sought to be flushed out and crores of rupees wasted to create further irrigation capacities.

It may be recalled that the President of India gave a stirring speech on the 26th of January this year in which he made special mention of the impact of river valley Projects on tribals. Yet, this is the exact situation that is being created in the Man area. Thus the government is not interested either in the interests of the command area or in the concerns of the thousands of tribals who will be uprooted. The Narmada Bachao Andolan condemns the criminal conspiracy of the state government to drown the tribals and demands that he sate government should immediately stop the work on the Man Project and rehabilitate people with agricultural land before submergence .The affected people are resolved that they are ready to face submergence but that they will not move from their lands. The people will stop all work on the dam themselves and take the struggle to the point where the anti-tribal character of the government is exposed.

Alok Agarwal