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Press Note July 10, 1999

M.P.'s Callousness About Resettlement and Submergence Revealed Again

As the Satyagraha, the non-violent mass action against the submergence and displacement due to the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) continued today on 21 st day in the Narmada valley, the callousness and sheer ignorance of the government machinery regarding the submergence and resettlement was once again revealed in a series of events during the period. The people of the valley have decried the attempts to impose the submergence on the people when there has not been even simple information about the extent and nature of submergence, resettlement with the government.

As the Satyagraha was on, the villages in Alirajpur tehsil in M.P., which would face the submergence this monsoon, including Jalsindhi, Ankadiya, Amba, Sakarja etc. received the first notices of submergence on June 28 - right during the month of monsoon. The notices warned the villagers that the level of submergence water would be more than 113 meters. The government did not care to inform them about the submergence and its magnitude, which it was supposed to do much before, that too after the people were fully resettled. Here, the government of M.P. acted in contravention of the stipulations of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) and the orders of the Supreme Court about the rehabilitation and resettlement. Once again it was proven that the state government did not have land to resettle people who were going to be affected by the submergence in the monsoon of 1999. And yet, the GOMP had claimed in the affidavit in the Court that 14,000 families wanted to resettle in Gujarat and adequate land is available in M.P. for the rest of the people affected by this year's submergence. This false affidavit had paved the way for the permission by the Supreme Court for the resumption of the work on the dam in February 1999, despite the fact that even the people hitherto displaced could not be resettled fully.

These notices also have put the responsibility on oustees to inform about the submergence to the oustees below the level of their houses. The notices did not contain how many houses and whose houses were going to be affected . Agitated over this gross failure on the part of the government, the people on Satyagraha took out a rally and demonstrated in front of the camp of the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) on July 1 and confronted the officers there. As a result, the camp officials handed over an ad hoc plan of submergence on July 4 in Jalsindhi. However, it did not contain any information about the submergence of agricultural land. There was wrong information about the houses to be submerged. In Jalsindhi, Gulab Singh Shankariya's house was shown submerging thrice and there was no mention ion Luhariya's house, which is situated at the lowest level in village. Many of the people showed in the list from the villages like Sugat, Kakrana have either been shifted earlier or were non-existent.

The people on Satyagraha were agitated on this callous and careless attitude regarding the serious issue of submergence and displacement. While the submergence is likely to occur at any time, the government has no information regarding the houses and farms to be submerged. All this belies the claim of the state governments in the court regarding the resettlement.

Major Meeting on July 11

Meanwhile, the Satyagraha that was launched on June 20 continued on its 21 st day. The fast by nine main activists entered the seventh day. A number of people from various organisations like the National Fishworkers' Forum, Pennurimai Iyakkam, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Students' Christian Movement, Hawkers' Union, Shramik Sangathan, Rashtriya Yuva Sangathan, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Nari Samata Manch, Majlis and the National Alliance of People's Movements activists from Bengal, Maharashtra, Bangalore, Kerala, Tamilnadu, Delhi, organisations and activists from Gujarat participated in the various programmes of the Satyagraha. From the valley, people from the villages in M.P., Maharashtra and Gujarat resettlement sites in Maharashtra and Gujarat, canal, colony affected people in Gujarat also participated in the action.

On July 11, there will be a major meeting in Domkhedi (Maharashtra) where the next step of the Satyagraha will be announced to intensify the struggle. The Satyagrahis of the 'Samarpit Dal' (Dedicated squad) have been in the lowest hut in Domkhedi and Jalsindhi to confront the waters if the submergence comes.

The people in the villages and the supporting organisations have mourned the death of Lata Vasave (7), the girl who died due to the silt deposits near Domkhedi as she was approaching the river Khad, a tributary of Narmada on July 6. This was the first known victim of the massive siltation on the banks of Narmada due to the submergence since 1993.

In another development, representatives of NBA and other organisations met the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Narayan Rane, on July 10 and demanded that the state government must present the reality of the displacement and resettlement before the Supreme Court in the next hearing. They also urged the state government to review its stand of blindly supporting the Gujarat government at the cost of the state and the life, resources of its own tribals. Like the Government of M.P., the Maharashtra government too must seek the review of the NWDT and demand no further work on the dam.

Meanwhile, the preparations are on for a 'Rally For The Valley' with the initiative of renowned literateur Ms. Arundhati Roy and her colleagues, in which a number of artists, prominent persons and organisations would be participating. The rally would start from Indore on July 30 and would cover the Maheshwar project affected and Sardar Sarovar affected area before it reaches the Jalsindhi Satyagraha place on August 2.

Sanjay Sangvai