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

Third Day of Alirajpur Dharna Continues

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

Over the past few months the oustees have seen land of their own choice and have spoken to prospective sellers. This choice must be the foundation of the rehabilitation process as stated by the Tribunal. Since 21st February about 200 tribal oustees of the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project have been sitting on an indefinite dharna in Alirajpur. This is the culmination of months of petitioning the Madhya Pradesh government for full and proper rehabilitation of those already affected at the current height of the dam according to the provisions of the NWDTA and the Supreme Court judgement that permitted construction of the dam with pre-condition of rehabilitation.

Yesterday, the third day of the dharna, saw a steady flow of people from the submergence zone to the dharna site in front of the tehsil office. Over the past few years, the NVDA and that State Government have persistently labelled the already affected oustees as being anti-dam to avoid the responsibility of rehabilitation. But now when the Narmada Bachao Andolan has formulated clear and concrete proposals for land-based rehabilitation for oustees affected at the present dam height, the State has deliberately chosen to ignore these demands.

On the 21st and the 22nd, oustees sitting on dharna site went to the local rehabilitation and land acquisition office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Alirajpur, with a list of their demands. This includes: 1. An immediate time-bound rectification of the official PAF lists of the submergence villages based on the principle mutually agreed between the oustees organisation and the NVDA. 2. Following this process, the State should begin buying land already identified by the oustees in both Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and transferring it to them.

The irony is that today when the oustees have come forward with concrete proposals, the NVDA and the State administration is trying to shrug them off with a specious legal plea that the appropriate forum for all the issues is the GRA. This is a complete distortion of the Supreme Court judgement that mandated the setting up of the Authority. The working of the GRA has been thoroughly unsatisfactory. But that does not absolve the State from rectifying the mistakes of its own apparatus.

Two rounds of discussions with the local administration and the NVDA have proved unsatisfactory. The NVDA has given in writing that it will only talk to the individual oustees and not the oustees' organisation. This stand is ridiculous as well as being patently unconstitutional since the right to organise and agitate collectively is enshrined in the Constitution of India.

The Collector of the district, who has so far refused to respond to a long list of complaints about the land acquisition process awards, has finally been forced to agree to come to Alirajpur on the 26th to talk to the people. The people have declared their willingness to sit for as long as necessary till a genuine dialogue on their demands begins.

Flash : Today, on 24th February - a motorcycle rally from Nimad reached Alirajpur in support of the dharna. About 60 motorcycles arrived at the dharna site even as the discussion with the local authorities came to a close. The people twice blockaded the SDM's jeep preventing him from leaving his office till the Collector gave a commitment to meet the oustees.

We appeal to well-wishers, sympathisers and concerned citizens to support this adivasi struggle.

Shahank Kela