NBA Press Release
  17 February 2004
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

SSP Affected Gujarat Adivasis and Activists Released:
Grievances Remain Unredressed, Government's Claims Exposed

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

Hundreds of Sardar Sarovar affected persons in Gujarat and activists with senior social workers including Shri. Jyotibhai Desai, Gandhian educationist, Shri. Jasbhai Patel, Scientist and visiting professor at IIT, Shri. Chinu Srinivasan, health activist, were released by Gujarat police two to five hours after their arrest and illegal detention. All those taken into custody were taken back to different tehsils while main activists including Medha Patkar and members of the panel for public hearing were left on the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Yesterday's incident has exposed the inability and falsehood of the Gujarat government. The fact that the government had administered Section 144 just four days before to prevent such a peaceful program at the office of the rehabilitation department in Kevadia Colony (the project colony), 8 km away from the dam site and used the special legal tool to arrest its own project affected and scuttled the action tells the true story. It is obvious to adivasis that without getting organized and making a joint, public move to petition the concerned officials, there will be no resolution to the years long problems, which include: the allotment of uncultivable land; names of families left out depriving them of their due entitlements; waterlogging on the allotted agricultural land and even houseplots at many sites; submergence of lands and houses still on the river bank; land not allotted to the widows in the affected families; no adequate compensation granted, nor is the extra land (acquired in the 1960s but not used) allotted to the adivasis in the six Kevadia Colony affected villages; and no implementation of the official Govt. Resolution for rehabilitation of the canal affected. These and other issues are being suppressed and the number of Gujarat PAFs not rehabilitated till date, including hundreds of those shifted out of their homes and village communities in the late 1980s or early 1990s, are not being shown on record. The feelings of the agitators were best expressed by Murji Rama, a 60-year old PAF from Vadgaon, where stands the dam, who asked, "When are the going to hear us? When will they give me land while it is 20 years since my eviction? After my death?"

It is these appalling rehabilitation conditions that seem to have made the Modi government not allow the organized oustees even a democratic right to be heard by even a local official, Deputy Collector Dungaria, himself an adivasi. This was clear from the fact that after an approximately one and a half hour long dialogue amidst strong arguments between the people on the sit-in and the police, the Deputy Collector had agreed to discuss the issues and specific petitions for each resettlement site as well as individual PAFs with a delegation of ten representatives. But just when the delegation was to enter his office, while the guest-panel would continue to hear peoples' grievances in the office premises, outside the Superintendent of Police, Narmada District, probably on line with Gandhinagar, acted with force. When the SP, Mr. Brajeshkumar Jha gave his verdict of no delegation and only submission of petition without any discussion, in front of the Deputy Collector who come out of his office, the people asked whether the Deputy Collector was to decide or a police official. Mr. Jha said it was his directive. The subversion of the system in each sector and undue, unjustifiable use of police force and state agents in every process, executive to judicial, was once again obvious.

It may be noted that the Govt. of Gujarat has been submitting plain reports at every interstate authority related to the SSP for years, showing no balance PAFs in Gujarat to be resettled and rehabilitated. Mr. Modi has been questioning the Govt. of Maharashtra showing any sympathy or making decisions to rehabilitate people first before further submergence and construction. L.K. Advani himself expressed his utter disdain over the decision of the Maharashtra Cabinet to that effect. Their politics, devoid of truthful assessment of the ground reality as about the legality of the raised and to be raised dam height, simply refuses to acknowledge the hundreds of Gujarat PAFs, not less than 1500 in Maharashtra, and about 10,000 PAFs in M.P. are still in the area to be flooded temporarily or permanently at the proposed height of 110 meters. Gujarat Govt. has, in other reports show about 200 PAFs yet to be given houseplots and about 100 still not allotted agricultural land, while there have been thousands complaining before the Grievance Redressal Authority, and Justices Majumdur and Kapadia, but with no redressal as yet.

It is Modi's electoral agenda which is to use any and every water supply project (with overlapping benefited areas as well as ill-planned, non-viable huge financial allocations and expenses that is the real reason behind pushing the Rs. 44,000 crore giant dam ahead while drowning people's voices, true facts, and unlawful designs in the flood that would also engulf (temporarily or permanently) 33 villages in Maharashtra and 135 villages in M.P. at 110 meters. At the full proposed height of the dam, not less than 248 villages, most of those with best agricultural lands, pukka houses, shops and markets, temples and mosques, are to be ousted and finished.

It is after years of violation of human rights in the case of Gujarat's own oustees that 500 Sardar Sarovar affected families gathered at Kevadia Colony, demanding just and fair rehabilitation. They, whose lifeline was Narmada--its land, forest, and fish--since generations, will continue to fight within Gujarat as elsewhere in the Valley, and assert the rights of all those threatened and face violence in the name of development

Prakash Lakhra
Ramanbhai Tadvi
Philip Mathew