NBA Press Note

March 28, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-33162

200 of Man project-affected adivasis who were arrested on 21st March released unconditionally
13 activists detained on false charges
Detailed examination of the rehabilitation process to be done in the next ten days

Yesterday, after a long dialogue between the Narmada Bachao Andolan, which continued till late in the evening, an understanding was reached that within the next 10 days a comprehensive meeting will be held in Dhar, to enable a detailed case-by-case examination to establish the rehabilitation status of each affected person. After the meeting all those arrested on 21st March were released unconditionally. However, 13 activists including Smt Chittaroopa Palit have been detained in jail due to false charges against them.

On the 21st of this month, hundreds of adivasis affected by the Man Project in Dhar district, stormed and occupied the dam site stopping any further construction of the dam protesting violations of their legal rehabilitation rights by the State. The affected families had declared that until the State government completely rehabilitates all the affected families by allotting them cultivable agricultural land as per the policy, work on the dam would not be permitted. 213 of them were arrested from the dam site and held in Dhar Jail. On 26th March, hundreds of Man project affected took to the streets of Dhar today, protesting the arrest of their fellow project-affected adivasis on the 21st of March. They demanded the immediate unconditional release of those arrested, stopping the construction of the dam immediately and the undertaking of rehabilitation processes as stated in the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award and the government orders. In this context, yesterday, talks were held between Shri Alok Agarwal of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and the Collector of district Dhar, Shri Rajesh Rajora, District Superintendent of Police, Shri Varun for over 3 hours. Various differences cropped up in the meeting and it was eventually decided that within the coming ten days a meeting, between the State administration and the Narmada Bachao Andolan, will be called and in this meeting there would be a case-by-case examination of the project affected families to ascertain the status of rehabilitation. Later on in the night 200 of those arrested were released unconditionally. The remaining 13 were also cleared of these charges but are still being kept in jail due to additional charges, albeit false, that have been filed against them. The State is particularly targeting Chittaroopa Palit, which is obvious since they are raking very old cases from Alirajpur, Khargone and Mandleshwar. These 13 have been arrested inside jail, on these charges. Narmada Bachao Andolan strongly condemns this shameful act of the State administration.

Narmada Bachao Andolan in replying to the accusations of Smt Jamuna Devi, Deputy Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and the local MLA Shri Karan Singh Pawar, only wishes to say that the Andolan firmly believes that no project can be built by displacing thousands of adivasis without rehabilitating them in accordance with the governing rehabilitation policy. In other words, the Andolan is not against this project but is against the displacement of adivasis without rehabilitating them. This project cannot be advanced till all the affected adivasis are completely rehabilitated according to the rules and regulations of rehabilitation, that have been framed to ensure that the adivasis atleast regain their standard of living after displacement. We warn the government not to forget that these rules and regulations, the rehabilitation policy and the Narmada Award are legally binding on the State and it is illegal for the State to violate these rehabilitation provisions. We request Smt Jamuna Devi to take the trouble of visiting the Bargi Dam on the Narmada, completed in 1990. 162 villages and the resident communities were sacrificed for this project. Today, 11 years hence, out of the proposed command area of 4.5 lakh hectares only 12,000 hectares of land is being irrigated. That is about 3%! We request her to also spend some of her energy in ensuring that the canals get built and that the remaining area is irrigated. Hopefully this will be done, atleast to ensure that the sacrifice of the 162 villages will not be wasted.

Narmada Bachao Andolan believes that in the event of adivasis getting displaced without any rehabilitation being done, there is no alternative but to involve itself in the struggle for the rights of those displaced. If the government decides to make a sincere effort to rehabilitate these adivasis, then the Andolan promises to offer its total help, support and participation. However, if the government attempts to cheat the adivasis, then the Andolan sees no other way, except intense struggle, to fight for the rights of those displaced by this project.

Alok Agarwal
Gendalal Mandloi
Govindsingh Ravat
Clifton D' Rozario
Jagadeesh B.N.