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
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.