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NBA Press Note                                                 30th March 2000

Protest in front of Nandurbar Collectorate intensified -- Medha Patkar and others resort to indefinite fast - dharna continues

Mansingh, Vesta Dama and Medha Patkar had to resort to the extreme step of going for fast even without water (Nirjal Upavas) today at Nandurbar for their demands. The tribal villages who are on the banks of the river Narmada have acute drinking water problem because of heavy silting. Since the approach to the river is cut off, they have to walk miles to fetch drinking water and cattle being trapped and dying in this silt is a common phenomenon since years. It is in this context that the people were demanding wells and hand-pumps in their villages. The government never went beyond promises.

Employment guarantee programme in the drought affected villages in the Narmada and Tapi valley was another demand. The people were disturbed at there being no response from the Collector to their applications for providing employment since Nov. 99. "We want projects to be cleared and sanctioned here and now", the people were demanding.

After the extreme step of Nirjal Upavas by three village representatives and activists, the administration swung into action and started negotiations and unconditionally agreed to the demands of drinking water and that of employment. Medha Patkar and others withdrew the 10 hours of Nirjal Upavas. The Collector passed a written order for digging wells in 24 villages and concerned officials and machinery have already left for the villages for the same. But the fast continues (with only water) as the other two demands are still to be met, namely regularisation of land and showing people the land for rehabilitation, which they claimed, is available. Authorities including the Collector are still in discussions with the fasting people and others.

The indefinite dharna at Nandurbar was launched on the 27th March with the above demands and till now, the administration was dilly-dallying over the demands of the people and drove the people to the extreme step of Nirjal Upawas by not taking any concrete actions.

Since independence, no one took the trouble to regularize the forest land in the tribal villages of Akrani, which has been lived in and cultivated by the tribals since generations. Since this is not done, they are considered 'encroachers' and are denied entitlement to the benefits of any rehabilitation package of Sardar Sarovar Project and other schemes of the Government for the tribals. Even though cultivators prior to 1978 have right to get the title deeds and right over the land, it is clear that it is being suppressed only to reduce their rehabilitation entitlements. People want justice in the issue of pending land settlement in 73 tribal villages in Akrani. The Supreme Court has also directed the State Government to settle the land claims and before that "they shall not be dispossessed from the land which are in their possession". NBA demands clear directions to start a proper survey in each village and a reply to the memorandum submitted, on land settlement to be completed in Akrani, by the Commissioner, Nasik. Earlier, the NBA has issued a legal notice to the Collector, Nandurbar and Commissioner, Nasik for violating the Supreme Court order.

Kesavbhai Vasave