NBA Press Note

January 2, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

B-13, Shivam Flats,
Ellora Park, Baroda

Sardar Sarovar Oustees 'Seize' Mumbai Ministers Support the cause of Narmada Bachao Andolan Rehabilitation Minister Agrees to meet the People Tomorrow

Representatives of various villages in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, affected by the monstrous Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSP), gave a surprise to the Mumbai administration by 'capturing' the garden near Mantralaya (state Secretariat) in Mumbai. This was to highlight the grave state of rehabilitation of the oustees who will be affected this monsoon by the raise in the SSP height.

Shri.R.R.Patil, Minister for Rural Development, Shri.Ganpatrao Deshmukh, Minister for Employment Guarantee, Shri.Dutta Patil, former opposition leader of Maharashtra Assembly and Shri.K.C.Padvi, MLA had to come to the Dharna place. They discussed the issues with the people and have extended support to the struggle by the people of Narmada Valley. Shri.Patil has reiterated that the issues raised by Narmada Bachao Andolan are genuine and need to be investigated independently. Shri.Padvi, who is representing the affected region of Narmada Valley in the state Assembly, has once again restated that he agrees with the issues and supports the struggle. Meanwhile, Rehabilitation Minister Shri.Vilasrao Patil has agreed to meet the people tomorrow to discuss the issues related to the abysmal condition of rehabilitation.

Several representatives of various people's movements, trade unions and student organisations visited the dharna and have extended support. They include National Alliance of People's Movements, Samajvadi Jan Parishad, National Fishworkers Forum, Shoshit Jan Andolan, Chattrabharati, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Enron Virodhi Jagran Manch, Harit Vasai and others.

The dharna, which was held at the foot of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, was also an appeal to the civil society to understand the ground reality and judge for themselves whether justice is in minority or majority.

With the Supreme Court permitting the continuation of construction on the controversial dam, the increase in the height of the SSP up to 90 meters would hit 3500 tribal families in the next monsoon, while there is no land available with the government as was clarified by the Narmada Control Authority. The Maharashtra government must resist the pressures and should not allow the work on the dam beyond 90 meters to protect the interests and rights of the tribals in the state.

The land records in the natural resource rich dam affected tribal communities of Maharashtra are incomplete, outdated and unjust. Project affected families in the forest villages are deliberately kept deprived of the land rights and treated as 'encroachers', so as not to be given full land benefits under the rehabilitation policy. The tribals who have been ousted for last 4-5 years have yet to be given the land. The claims of land availability in the resettlement sites have turned out to be fictitious. Yet the state government had made false claims in the affidavits submitted in the Supreme Court about the land availability even for the oustees below the 110 meters' of height.

During the many encounters with the Government officials local as well as state and central it was established that not only the condition of the already displaced population is dismal, but also there is no land available for the rehabilitation of thousands more who will be affected by taking the dam to the full height.

After the Verdict

Situation did not change after the verdict of the Court. After the four weeks' time given by the Supreme Court for preparing the Mater Plan for the dam, the rehabilitation aspect has been given a short shift by leaving the columns of the land availability blank. Moreover, even the oustees below the 90 meters' height in Madhya Pradesh have not been served the notices under the Land Acquisition Act. After the verdict of the Supreme Court, the resettlement officials in Maharashtra have become further callous and arrogant as they are dismissing the people with impunity. They are taking the advantage of the court decision permitting to raise the height of the dam, to trivialize the serious issues regarding the displacement, legal provisions and the land availability.

The Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA), headed by the Justice (Retd.) Kurdukar has failed to protect the interests of the tribal oustees. Jst.Kurdukar did not see the records regarding the land availability and has contemptuously dismissed the tribals and activists without listening them fully on the issue of the land availability. It is not possible to expect any justice at the hands of this GRA and we demand that Jst.Kurdukar should step down. Instead, we demand for a special review committee of independent experts to verify the claims of the government and ground reality.

Seeing the result of the talks with the Rehabilitation Minister tomorrow, the future course of action will be declared.

Noorji Padvi
Keshav Vasave
Medha Patkar