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Press Note - 19.2.'99

Rehabilitation Officer Admits No Land Available For Rehabilitation For SSP Oustees

Confesses The Affidavit Filed in Supreme Court is False

NBA Demands Immediate Intervention By Govt. of Maharashtra in The Supreme Court Asking For Stoppage of Construction of the Dam

In what can be termed as a somersault to their earlier position, Government of Maharashtra admitted that there is not sufficient land to rehabilitate the families facing submergence due to the rise of 5 meters of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). This was done by Mr.Vasave, Deputy Collector of district Nandurbar (Maharashtra) when the people challenged the authorities to show the land which they claimed is ready in the Supreme Court. The Govt. also admitted that the number of Project Affected Families (PAFs), shown in the Affidavit, is based on the survey of 1983-'84 (which was found to be almost one tenth of the actual number). It was on the basis of this Affidavit, that the number to be affected by the raise in the dam-height by 5 meters (from 80.3 meters) is just 184 and all arrangements for them is ready, with land and amenities, the Supreme Court allowed the construction.

One may remember that on 15th March, over thousand tribals marched towards the District Collectorate to verify the claims of the Govt. They held 4-5 hours of discussion with the Dist. Collector, Mr.Shrimali (who is also the Addl. Commissioner - Rehabilitation) where he stood by the claim that in Rehabilitation site Amli, 285 ha. of land is available for rehabilitating the PAFs falling under 85 meters. People - continuing the dharna - compelled him to depute Mr.Vasave to go with them to Amli for verification, on March 17th. On reaching Amli, the occupants of that rehabilitation site started demolishing their claims, brick by brick. Over 60 of them are there without possession of land and they demanded land if it is available. The people of Varvali claimed that they too are shown the same land for rehabilitation. The authorities were fully exposed by the people and they were left with no option but to admit the truth.

While the notices served to the affected people this year showed land to be available at atleast 4 sites - Somaval, Dekati, Amoni and Amli - the District Collector confessed that the same was not actually available even for inspection as the present local cultivators have claimed rights to the same, that are yet to be settled. In addition to the destruction of over ten thousand hectares of prime forest land (6000+ in submergence and 4000+ for resettlement sites), Govt of Maharashtra has asked for release of more forest land for resettling the people. But no approval has come yet for the same. The promise of buying private land for rehabilitation is yet find light. In another revelation, the District Collector said that the official Government Resolution (GR) is yet to come and the exercise will begin only after that. The experience in Gujarat in buying private land for rehabilitation proved to be a Himalayan blunder, stuffed with umpteen number of problems.

People also made them oblige with their demand that the information regarding the submergence, backwater level, their list of affected people etc. should be made public.

In a similar action, in Alirajpur too (Dist.Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh) people questioned the authorities on the availability of rehabilitation. The officials, admitting the falsehood, expressed helplessness. The agitated people marched towards Bhopal to appraise the government and the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) of the reality.

NBA position that the Maharashtra Govt. doesn't have enough land to rehabilitate the people affected and the Affidavit filed in the Court is utter falsehood stands vindicated. Maharashtra Govt. and the central Narmada Control Authority misinformed the Court stating that only 184 families are remained to be resettled. The fact now exposed is that the construction that is on at the SSP-site today is to submerge atleast 25 villages (in Maharashtra alone) in which 527 families are already served with notices informing them of the possibility of their lands/houses getting submerged during the coming monsoon itself. In violation of all conditions of the Tribunal Award, Court's directions and natural justice, no arrangements for rehabilitation are made for these families. Court's condition that all arrangements for the people coming under 85 meters should be made and the people should be properly rehabilitated before the construction, thus stands dishonoured.

NBA demand that the Govt. of Maharashtra should reveal this to the Court and should ask for an immediate stoppage of the construction. Criminal proceedings should be initiated against the officials who mis-guided the Court and mortgaged people's lives for an ill-conceived project - pushed ahead in a hurry without compiling with the necessary conditions.

NBA will hold number of mass actions to bring out the campaign of falsehood and are determined to face submergence in the coming monsoon, imposed by the violation of Court's directions. NBA will raise this at all fori, including the Supreme Court.

Medha Patkar                                 Kesav Vasave                                &n bsp;       Noorji Padvi