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Press Note/ March 24, 1999


HUMAN RIGHTS MARCH BY NARMADA OUSTEES FROM APRIL 1.
TO HIGHLIGHT THE ISSUE OF DISPLACEMENT AND FRAUD BY GOVT.


Hundreds of men and women from the villages from the Narmada valley will be taking out a `Manavadhikar Yatra' ( Human Rights March) from April 1 to challenge the state governments and the centre and appeal the people for the right to life against the displacement and destitution at large. The march will traverse some parts of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra before holding demonstrations in Mumbai April 4-5 and in Delhi to confront the government of Maharashtra and the Union Ministry of the Social Justice and Empowerment for presenting the wrong information regarding the displacement and resettlement of the tribals and peasants affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP).

Apart from the representatives of affected people from the villages in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh the affected people from the other dams in the Narmada valley - Bargi, Narmada Sagar, Maheshwar, Tawa, Man and others- will be joining the march at Delhi. Number of representatives from the people's organisations in Maharashtra will be a part of this `yatra'.

Octogenarian Baba Amte, despite his ill health, will be going to Delhi addressing the meetings on the way to raise the people's conscience against the unjust displacement and destitution. The people will move with public meetings, corner/street meetings, photo exhibition along the route. They will start from Badwani ( M.P.) and from the tribal villages in the ranges of Satpuda and Vindhya an proceed by holding major meetings at Shahada, Dhule, Malegaon, Nashik and Thane.

Despite the adverse interim order permitting the raising the height of the dam, the people in the valley are preparing for putting their issue of life an death before the nation. The valley is abuzz with preparations for the Yatra. The Bhil and Bhilala tribals alongwith the peasants in the plains of Nimad ( M.P.) will be marching in number of vehicles . In all the above places en route the organisation and support groups of Narmada Bachao Andolan would welcome the yatra and later join it. Supporters from far off places like Kerala or Bengal too will be a part of the march. The people have decided to highlight, alongwith their own issue of unjust displacement, the present and future dangers of displacement and destitution of tribals, peasants, dalits, workers, landless and backwards from all over the nation.

The people in the valley affected by the controversial Sardar Sarovar project have decided in their meting in Jalsindhi ( March 6-7) to expose the false claims of the government regarding the resettlement of the people affected by the raising of the height of the dam upto 90 meters. Though the Supreme Court has allowed the Gujarat government to raise the height upto 85 meters in its interim order on February 18. This was at a time when the states have not been able to fully resettle those who have been already displaced, nor have the lands and other resources to resettle the prospective oustees. More important, the Narmada Bachao Andolan has filed the public interest writ in the apex court challenging all the aspects of the project and demanded the complete review of the project. In the final hearing the Andolan had prayed the court to constitute the new tribunal to look into all the issues raised during the last 14 years of the people's movement.

On March 15, hundreds of people confronted the Collector and Additional Commissioner (SSP) to show the lands which were claimed in the Supreme Court to be existing. The officials could not show any land as all lands were either claimed by earlier `encroachers' or by those who were not resettled but were displaced from 1992-94 onwards. The Deputy Collector admitted clearly that there are no lands for resettlement as was claimed in the affidavits of Maharashtra government in the Court. On March 16, hundreds of tribals and peasants in Madhya Pradesh demonstrated in Alirajpur and confronted the officials about the availability of the lad in M.P. as claimed in the Court. When they did not get any satisfactory answer, they shifted to Bhopal and confronted of Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA).
" The people's movement in the Narmada valley has reached to the critical stage, the outcome of which will be decisive for millions of people fighting against displacement, unjust and unsustainable policies and projects in the name of development," says the appeal issued by the Andolan for the Yatra. The resistance to such unjust displacement becomes important in the context of the increasing onslaught on the rights and resources of the people from the national-international capital, companies and the state that has also been helping these forces. The Andolan has appealed to all the organisatons and movements fighting for the right to life and equality to join the march.

SANJAY SANGVAI