| NBA Press Release
|| 25 June 2002
More than 1000 NBA representatives in peaceful protest in
NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Today (June 25th), more than 1000 people from the Narmada Valley affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project staged a large peaceful demonstration in front of the Grievance Redressal Authority's (GRA) office in Indore against certain statements made by the GRA to a delegation yesterday. In opposition to this 23 affected people including 17 women have sat on a symbolic one-day fast. They have demanded that the GRA would have to re-think and change its position if people are to have in the GRA at all.
Yesterday a delegation of NBA consisting of people affected at 95m dam height (currently under construction), met with the Authority's Chairman in which he made certain observations that are extremely worrying. Replying to complaints that the Narmada Valley Development Authority was not offering cultivable land to the affected people, Shri Sohoni observed that the people would have to accept whatsoever land was offered and only after trying to cultivate it would any complaints will be entertained. This effectively means that the poor adivasi farmer families must spend money and labour in attempting to cultivate unfit land in order to prove to the Authority that it is unsuitable for agriculture. This even if he knows before accepting the land itself, that it is uncultivable. Amazingly, this is contrary to what was in practice in Gujarat and Maharashtra even today and was in practice too till two years ago.
Apart from this the Chairman stated that in case of claims for inclusion into the list of Project Affected Famiies, from major sons to encroachers, the onus of providing proof lies entirely with the concerned claimant. This is particularly unfair and unjust to the adivasi areas where decades of neglect by successive governments has meant that schools do not exist(except on paper) and there is no agency/method of registering births and deaths.
The Andolan has co-operated fully with the GRA in the hope that it will force the government machienary to implement its own plans and policies. However, the experience has been a mixed one although. Retd. Jst.G.G.Sohoni, the Chairperson of the GRA has always given the oustees a patient hearing, the long delays in the process, the time taken to settle cases, the Authority's insistence on operating out of Bhopal and Indore, its refudsal to show sensitivity to the special problems of the adivasi oustees have been extremely disappointing.
The Grievance Redressal Authority was set up in March 2000 as per directions of the Supreme Court specifically to ensure compliance with the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award with regard to the resettlement and rehabilitation of families affected by SSP. The Grievance Redressal Authority was expected to look into and redress whatever problems associated with the resettlemtn process and also, to prevent any wanton violations on part of the government. In July 2000 the Grievance Redressal Authority was directed by the Supreme Court to produce a report on the status of resetlllment in Madhya Pradesh and the availablity of resources,especialy land, with the government. In its report the Grievance Redressal Authority has implicitly rejected the R&R sites being established in Madhya Pradesh as also more than 9000ha of land claimed as available. Subsequently, in an order to a particular complaint Grievance Redressal Authority rules that cash compensation is in violation of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award. However, in spite of this, even today the Madhya Pradesh government continues to establish the same R&R sites, claim the same uncultivable land as available for resettlement and continues with its cash compensation policy showing dismal disregard for the Grievance Redressal Authority's decision and orders. The failure to ensure implementation of it's own orders is a definite falling that the delegation also pointed out.
The Grievance Redressal Authority's refrain has been that the lack of infrastructure and human power prevents any field watch. Due to this, the Grievance Redressal Authority relies on Narmada Control Authority and Narmada Valley Development Authority to verify the complaints made by the affected people which have been made in anyway against the Narmada Control Authority and Narmada Valley Development Authority. So in effect the Grievance Redressal Authority places the responsibility to verify mistakes on the shoulders of the party charged with having committed with those mistakes. The modus opernadi of the Grievance Redressal Authority makes a travesty of the concept of independent monitoring.
This year thousands of adivasi oustees will brave the water of dam in the Satyagraha Jalsindhi(Alirajpur Tehsil,Jhabua District) starting firm in their resolve not to move against such injust submergence and no sight of rehabilitation. The responsibility of the situation lies partly with the GGrievance Redressal Authorityas much for it has so far completyly failed in forcing the government to rehabilitate affected people according to the set norms and regulations.