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Press Release 25 March, 1999

One More Attempt To Malign the NBA : Project Authority's Efforts to Divert Attention From Real Issues Of the SSP

The press statement yesterday of one Mr. Rawal, official of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam that he was beaten up, stripped and paraded in a village in M.P. by people belonging to the Narmada Bachao Andolan is nothing but a total fabrication of his imagination, and one more attempt by the Gujarat Government to try and malign the NBA. In the last months, such attempts have been seen as the hearings in the Supreme Court draw nearer.

The factual details of the incident as follows.

On 21 March 1999, the officials of the SSNNL came into the village Chhotta Badada (Dist Badwani), one of the submergence village in M.P. along with a local person Shri Hiralal Patidar. This day was the festival of Ghangor, the most important festival of the area, and so a lot of men, women, children had gathered there. On reaching the village, Shri Hiralal and the Officials came out from their vehicles and started talking to the people using very aggressive and threatening language. They said that now the work on the dam had re-started, and now they (the people) would all have to move out. There was no choice. They told the people to take what they were getting, failing which they would be not even get that much, and would have to submergence without anything. The dam will now be built under any circumstances. Shri Hiralal indicated to the Gujarat officials and said, you can ask them to confirm whether now the dam will be surely come up or not and then you will have to run helter shelter. The Deputy Sarpanch of the Village, Shri Manohar Jat, seeing that Shri Hiralal and the officials were deliberately using threatening and instigative language, urged them peacefully to leave the village. Ultimately, they left the village.

The timing chosen by Shri Hiralal and the officials was significant. What was the need for them to go tot he village on the very day of the most important festival of the whole area? Why was there no official of M.P. with these Gujarat officials if they were on official business in the village, when the whole responsibility of resettlement of the M.P. people lies with the M.P. officials, and indeed, when the people ask for lands and other details from Gujarat, they are asked to come through the M.P. Government ? It may be noted that the person accompanying the Gujarat officials, Shri Hiralal has several criminal proceedings pending against him.

Narmada Bachao Andolan condemns this well planned and deliberate attempt by the Gujarat Government to malign the Andolan. The ridiculous allegations made by Shri Rawal as reported in the press that NBA will now give a supari on his name to have him killed in a month shows falsehood of the claims. This is not the first time that there have been such attempts to malign the NBA based on imaginary or fabricated incidents. The NBA has been asking for the facts regarding land availability and other facilities to resettle the oustees of the dam upto the height of the 85 and 90 m. Those details are not being given. It is the clear impression of the NBA these attempts to malign the NBA are begin carried out to divert attention from the real issues. It has been reported in the press that Shri Rawal has approached the Jst. P.D.Desai Grievance Redressal Authority which, being a Gujarat Government official, he knows very well has no jurisdiction over incidents in M.P. However, this attempt to take the issue to Jst. P.D.Desai clearly shows that the intention is ultimately malign the NBA in the Supreme Court. In the past too, the Government of Gujarat has tried to present such "incidents" both in and out of the Court. The NBA has appealed to the M.P. Government to take up the issue with the Gujarat Government and see that its (Gujarat's ) officials do not use threatening and instigative language while working in M.P. and follow the norms.

Shripad Dharmadhikary