NBA Press Release
  26 February 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Dharna of SSP Affected Adivasis in Alirajpur Enters Sixth Day

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464

The indefinite dharna of adivasi oustees affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project in Alirajpur entered its sixth day today. Yesterday saw the arrival of the Deputy Director, Narmada Valley Development Authority, Indore. The oustees went to the NVDA office in order to put their demands only to meet with the response that the NVDA would talk to the oustees individually and not collectively. This stand is a clear violation of the right of Indian citizens to organise and raise demands collectively, a right enshrined in the country's constitution. In response, the oustees refused to let him leave the office till this stand was set out in writing and given to them. The stand off continued till midnight till the official finally agreed to give his response in written form.

Today the oustees have demanded a meeting with the District Collector, who as the Chief Land Acquisition officer is responsible for the numerous anomalies and mistakes in the village lists of affected persons for a time bound, participatory process of rectification of the oustee lists.

Over the past few years, Jhabua District as well as the region as a whole has witnessed a spurt in popular mobilisation around religious issues. The Hindu Sangam organised by the RSS last year in Jhabua and the increasing hysteria sought to be created around the Bhojshala issue in Dhar more recently are clear indications of this. The predominantly adivasi population of Western Madhya Pradesh is mired in poverty due to decades of neglect by the state; forced to migrate seasonally for upto 4 months in a year in search of work. The irony is that the submergence zone of the SSP is relatively resource rich and free from migratory pressures. They are legally entitled to rehabilitation based on the principle of land for land. The very fact that over 200 adivasi oustees have been forced to agitate for 6 days now in order to raise such basic demands as rectification of the village lists of affected persons and rehabilitation on lands of their choice. Is a stark demonstration of the state administration's indifference to issues of rights and livelihood.

We believe that this indifference has partly contributed to the rise of fundamentalism in the region. The recent notes in Gujarat in tribal areas adjoining this part of Madhya Pradesh are dangerous portents for the future. People's organisations like the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna Sangath, Alirajpur and the Narmada Bachao Andolan have fought for the principles of secularism, sustainable and equitable development and adivasi rights. The state government refusal to respond to the adivasi oustees of the SSP even after a week of sustained agitation demonstrates the hollowness of the professed principles of decentralisation, people's empowerment etc. the administration is even refusing to accept as valid documents and certificates issues by the gram panchayats in the region.

Today the collector was forced to come to the dharna place and talk to the people. He acknowledged that there were serious problems with the PAF lists and land records and that mistakes were made during the land acquisition process. He agreed with the people that rectifications needed to be made but was not ready to commit to any time bound process. He also said that these were policy matters and he could do nothing else about it, apart from passing on the complaints to the concerned authorities. He mentioned that he could only make a proposal for rectification.

While there has been some discussion with the officials and the Collector with regards the rectification of PAF lists, other extremely important policy issues of land for adult sons, land records etc. have not yet been discussed with the officials, since they refuse to address these issues.

The dharna in Alirajpur will continue till the topmost echelons of the administration come down to Alirajpur and a genuine dialogue on the process and mechanism of rehabilitation begins.

Please organise solidarity actions and issue statements in support of this adivasi struggle. (Please fax copies to 07394-23341)

Vanya Suliya
Shashank Kela