| NBA Press Release
|| 01 June 2003
Third Day of Medha Patkar's Indefinite Fast; Dam Oustees Organizations in Maharashtra to join Dharna for Jun 5; Police, Officials Start Threats and Extorts Adivasis.
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
The indefinite fast by Medha Patkar for the immediate rehabilitation of the tribals of the Sardar Sarovar Project on war footing has entered in third day on Sunday (June 1), with eight organizations of the dam-oustees in different parts of Maharashtra have warned to join the indefinite fast, thus spreading the issue of displacement and resettlement to all parts of the state.
The Irrigation Ministry of Maharashtra government had invited the organizations of the oustees of the large dams in the state including those in Jayakwadi, Tapi, Gosi Khurd, Lower Penganga, Sapli, Pench, Upper Wardha, Wang-Marathwadi, Totladoh, and Punarvasan Sangharsha Samiti along with Sardar Sarovar affected people, for a discussion on the issues pertaining to displacement and resettlement, on June 4. However, the organizations informed that such ameeting should be held at Nashik Dharna place only. Immediately afterwards, the state government cancelled the meeting on the pretext of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday. The organizations wrote a letter to the state government asking that the meeting be held as per scheduled by May 5, failing which all of them will be joining the indefinite mass action at Nashik dharna.
Of Threats and Extortion
While the Nashik mass action for the just resettlement is still, the Maharashtra police tried to intimidate the tribals in the Chimalkhedi village in Akkalkuwa tehsil on May 29,on a flimsy pretext. The police also threatened the people that they will be forced out of their villages by demolishing their houses on the banks of the Narmada. Earlier, the government had issued notices through police, warning them to vacate the villages in the wake of submergence. Now the police is amassing at the Molgi Police station for any eventual onslaught on the villages. In a strongly worded protest letter to the Rehabilitation Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Vilas Kaka Patil, the tribal leaders of Narmada Bachao Andolan- Noorji Padvi, Keersingh Vasave along with Medha Patkar condemned these intimidatory tactics and warned of real confrontation in the villages.
The NBA also alleged that the Resettlement officer in Taloda has extorted bribes of Rs. 10,000 each from many farmers willing to sell their barren lands for the resettlement, at Tarhawad resettlement site. It seems that the Gujarat pattern of rehabilitation with bribe will be repeated here. The farmers are ready to sell off their uncultivable lands for the resettlement of Narmada oustees. This is but gross injustice. It is also reported that the Forest department officials and employees are exhorting over Rs.4000-5000 from each oustee family for transporting their belongings to the resettlement site. Without the money, the officials do not issue passes. The NBA warned that the fraud and extortion should stop with immediate effect.
Meanwhile, the indefinite dharna and fast is receiving increasing support from the number of organizations and movements from Nashik and adjacent region. Number of senior activists from Maharashtra involved with the Anti-superstition Movement participated in dharna on Saturday. The tribal Member of Parliament from the region, Haribhau Mahale assured to take up the issue at center and state level. The Nashik-based people's organizations will have a campaign of corner meetings in entire city and compel the government to initiate the immediate actions for the just resettlement.Sanjay Sangvai