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NBA Press Release                                                 28th March 2000

Hundreds of Tribals on Indefinite Dharna at Nandurbar Collectorate
Notice for Contempt of Court served to District Collector of Nandurbar for Negligence of Supreme Court order

Hundreds of tribal women and men are on an indefinite dharna at Nandurbar Collectorate. At the time of preparing this note, marathon discussions (since 6 pm) between a delegation of NBA, comprising of Noorjie Padvi, Kesav Vasave, Raniya Bunja, Medha Patkar, Pratibha Shinde of Punarvas Sangharsh Samiti and the District Collector, Mr.Asim Gupta and other officials are on.

In a significant move, counsel for NBA, Adv.N.D.Sooryavanshi served legal notice to the District Collector of Nandurbar, asking why his clients, Narmada Bachao Andolan, should not be moved to the Supreme Court against him for taking action under the Contempt of Court Act for indulging into willful disobedience of its orders in Pradip Prabhu Vs. State of Maharashtra case. Supreme Court, in 1995 have passed a verdict, in the said case, directing the State of Maharashtra to appoint responsible officers in different districts to examine the claims of Adivasis who are in possession of land and to decide their claims for regularisation. This order was never taken seriously or no sincere efforts were taken towards the implementation of it. The thousands of people, who are living and cultivating in that land since generations, are counted as encroachers and are denied of all the benefits of SSP affected - they are not even served the notice under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. They are also deprived of crop loans, subsidies and other facilities provided by the government for tribal population.

Earlier in the day the 400 odd Project Affected People of Sardar Sarovar Project and representatives of Tapi and Virchak project affected marched through the streets of Nandurbar town, before starting the dharna. To quote from the charter of demands:

  • "Tribals in Akrani and Akkalkuva tahsils have been demanding right to forest land under cultivation which is old, ie, prior to 1978. 73 villages in Akrani have a special case as no land rights are granted to them since independence. Even after survey was done (in 85-86) and records prepared jointly by revenue and forest, the rights are deliberately not granted so as to deprive many tribals of 2 hectares of land entitlement in rehabilitation. The notification was issued in '92 to grant them rights but cancelled in 1994.
  • "We want no more promises but concrete action on this issue concerning 73 villages in Akrani and also atleast 20 in Akkalkuva.
  • "We demand implementation of Supreme Court orders in Pradip Prabhu Vs State of Maharashtra case, 1995 which directed the state govt. to form distinct level committee to investigate old land cultivation and regularise (convert into revenue), those. The committee must fix up timetable for village meetings and prepare records, reply to our application - years old.
  • "Employment Guarantee: We have applied for and pursued with the district Collector our demand of employment in this drought-year. We were promised and promised again, without action. Hundreds of individual applications are filed under the Employment Guarantee Act of Maharashtra, hence:
    • "We need employment to be give with immediate effect.
    • "We have agreed to afforestation and other measures of soil and water conservation but the plans should be finalised with the consent of the communities and no outside supervisors or contractors but village representatives, unanimously selected, should be given the work-charge.
  • "Drinking Water: There is a water-crisis is many villages this time again. The wells (small and large) we could get sanctioned during last few ears (about 70) are mostly in use. People taking the work charge, not allowing outside contractors, worked well, without corruption. But some are blocked due to land slides. Other hamlets too require wells, in this drought year.
  • "We demand urgent sanctioning of wells and resolution of the water-problem.
  • "Public Distributive System: With no ration-cards given to the people, PDS is the hub of corruption in Akkrani and Akkalkuva tahsils, with the grains and other items never reaching the ration shops. At places where it is available, it is sold at a higher price than the normal. We demand immediate intervention of the authorities to lessen the difficulties of the people and make the system corruption-free."

The Collector was also reminded that the land for the people to be affected by the SSP is not going to be an easy find, with thousands of hectares of land in need. As earlier, if the administration is planning to clear-fell the forest again, that will not only be disastrous for the state, but also it will invite vibrant opposition from the people who depend on forest for their livelihood.

The injustice of suppressing the basic information of Tapi and Virchak projects also came up for discussions.

Joe Athialy