NBA Press Release
  06 June 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Dharna and Fast Withdrawn as Maharashtra Government Accepts Demands

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The Narmada Bachao Andolan has withdrawn its 12 day dharna and the seven-day old indefinite fast by Medha Patkar, at Nashik (Maharashtra), on Friday (June 6, 2003), after the Government of Maharashtra agreed to almost all measure demands of just rehabilitation for the Sardar Sarovar Project-affected tribals in Maharashtra. Despite the unwarranted repression and arrests on the indefinite dharna and fast on June 5, the tribals returned back with renewed determination to safeguard their rights and livelihood.

In a well attended meeting of tribal protestors and supporter organizations in Nashik and Maharashtra on June 6, Pratibha Shinde elaborated the demands that the Government of Maharashtra accepted and the process by which they were achieved. She said that the demands were achieved because of the legitimacy of the demands, the perseverance of the agitation and the activists who fasted and the solidarity of supporters from all over.

The main demands accepted by the Government of Maharashtra, during a meeting with a delegation with eminent persons on June 4th, followed by discussions on June 5th were:

  1. Land records of the project affected families (PAFs) to be corrected including the large list of undeclared PAFs with due search for the proof.
  2. Village-wise rehabilitation to be undertaken as against dividing the PAFs in a village as per the level of submergence, which in turn is related to the height of the dam.

  3. The record of the land acquisition will be checked and the cut-off date (1987) for defining the major sons, which should increase the number of PAFs. All the families in the villages and hamlets to be marooned would immediately be added to the list of PAFs.

  4. Rehabilitation planning and monitoring would hence be carried out only through the Rehabilitation Planning Committee and Overview Committee. The decision on further raising the damís height would not be taken unless these Committees approve completion of rehabilitation of PAFs. These and few other decisions related to rehabilitation would be put forth before the Cabinet meeting on the coming Wednesday, June 11th, and the approval will be sought.

  5. The decision is also taken to reject the resignation of the two members of the Cost Benefit Evaluation Committee and they will be ensured of furnishing the required data and documents available with the Government of Maharashtra, or obtained from the Government of Gujarat.

From May 26, the tribals from 33 SSP-affected villages Maharashtra, launched an indefinite dharna in front of the office of the Divisional Commissioner of Nashik. They were demanding the resettlement of the 3000 affected families from Maharashtra on war footing. Several support actions took place in several districts of Maharashtra, including Sangli, Kolapur, Buldhana, Nagpur,Jalgaon, Pune, Thane, Nifad, Dhule, Sandkheda and Nasik. The actions ranged from a procession to one day fasts to signing memorandums.

After Medha Patkar was released from the hospital on June 6, to join a few hundreds people in the sit-in in front of the Commissionerís Office, hundreds of supporters from Nashik included the various peopleís organizations and common citiziens gathered to celebrate the achievements. They held a public meeting during which the fast and the agitation were declared as withdrawn. Amongst the eminent persons who attended the meeting were Haribhau Mahale (Member of Parliament), Dr D.L. Karad (CPI-M), Shantaram Chavan (Hawkersí Union), Mr Gaekwad (Nationalist Congress Party) and the office bearers and activists of various Trade Unions such as the State Government Employees Union, social organizations such as Rashtra Seva Dal and others.

Mr Udit Raj, well-known Dalit leader and President of SC/ST Rashtriya Mahasangh extorted the Dalit leadership at the national level to support the Narmada movement. All the activists including Mr Karad expressed strong protest and anguish over the police atrocities during the arrest when activists like Sanjay Sangvai and Adivasi women were treated very shabbily, the tent evicted and the Andolanís baggage seized. Mr. Mahale, narrating the long list of the struggles of the displaced people including the debate in the Parliament years ago, recognized the struggleís contribution to the movement of the displaced persons all over. The Andolan veteran, Noorji Padvi said that, "the government has cheated us many times and we hope that the same will not happen this time. While we appreciate the acceptance of the demands, we warn that, if the decisions are not complied with corresponding action, we would fight to our last breath. The coming monsoon will itself be a testing period for both the government and us".

Medha Patkar in her address cautioned that though the demands had been accepted, there was still a long way to go. "The Narmada Valley would continue to watch the further processes, and is determined to fight till justice is accrued, in the face of formidable gigantic forces. If there is no implementation of the decisions up to the mark, and in case any betrayal, we would not hesitate to wage a fierce battle", she warned. During the coming monsoon, in any case, every house and farm which will face submergence would have to be compensated thereafter, declared Noorji Padvi, Pratibha Shinde and Medha Patkar declared in unison.

Medha Patkar also thanked the supporters from Nashik for the unique expression of the civil society response (Janna Sahayog), the agitation was withdrawn in full spirit demonstrated through songs and slogans.

Geetanjali Chavan
Mandar Vaidya