NBA Press Note

March 23, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-33162
Email: nobigdam@vsnl.com

Nationwide condemnation of the shameful act of the Government of arresting the adivasis affected by the Man project.
All the arrested adivasis fast on the 3rd day in jail.
Big dams like the Man project are the cause of drought

People from all over the country have strongly condemned and criticized the appalling act of the State government of arresting Man project-affected adivasis on the 21st of March. A number of people including eminent personalities have written to the Chief Minister demanding the unconditional release of the arrested adivasis. They have also demanded that the government immediately undertake the task of rehabilitating the affected adivasis as per the policy. Today, the third day in jail, the adivasis, in condemnation of their arrest and the imminent submergence being forced on them by the government without any rehabilitation whatsoever, declared a total fast. In Mandleshwar, hundreds of men and women affected by the Maheshwar Project took out a rally, expressing their solidarity with the adivasis and strongly protesting the State government's callous and irresponsible attitude towards those displaced by large projects.

Today was the third day in jail for the 213 adivasi men and women arrested from the Man Project site. The callous nature of the State still persists. Filing false complaints, the government, today, booked new cases against Sushri Chittaroopa Palit, Bhuwansingh Sarpanch, Bondaribai, Urmila Patidar, Bhagwan Mukati along with 11 others. The State has also falsely reported that the adivasis had resorted to stone throwing on the dam site. This is absolutely false since the Andolan had remained peaceful throughout the protest. In protest of the harassing nature of the State, its false accusations and the fact that no rehabilitation has been taken up, the adivasis in jail decided to observe a day of fast with the warning that if they were not released unconditionally soon they would be forced to undertake an indefinite fast.

Protesting the police action on the adivasis and the treatment meted out to those displaced by the Man Project, hundreds of men and women affected by the Maheshwar project took out a rally in Mandleshwar and submitted a strong letter of disapproval to the local government authorities. They have warned the government that if the adivasis were not unconditionally released immediately then the entire Narmada Valley will be forced to rise in struggle against the State's atrocities. A similar protest has been planned in Kukshi tomorrow by Ekta Parishad and those affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project.

Eminent people, Peoples organizations and others from different corners of the country have written protest letters to Shri Digvijay Singh. Retired Justice Shri. Ravi Kumar Jain, Advocate in the Supreme Court Shri Rajeev Shukla, Ex-Commissioner of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Tribes Shri B.D. Sharma, Socialist leader Shri Surendra Mohan and Shri Kiskan Patnayak, National Secretary of 'Lok Swatantr Sanghatan' Shri Rajendra Sayal among others have written to Shri Digvijay Singh condemning the atrocities on adivasis and demanding their immediate unconditional release. They have demanded that the Man Project should be immediately stopped and land based rehabilitation of the affected adivasis be undertaken.

The government claims that the irrigation benefits from the Man Project will help a large area prosper. However the surveys carried out in the proposed command area of the Man Project, by the State government appointed 'Task Force' has brought forth surprising findings. The ' Task Force' comprised of senior government officials and experts and was chaired by Shri Sharad Chandra Behar, ex-Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh. According to the official report on Man Project, 54% of the proposed command area is already irrigated by the efforts of the local farmers themselves, while out of the remaining 46%, about half of the land is severely undulating and not suited for irrigation and the remaining 23% can be irrigated by cheaper and less damaging, de-centralized ways. For the above 'profits' is it beneficial to submerge 17 villages and their fertile lands and displace thousands of adivasis besides spending crores of rupees. Instead of adopting de-centralized projects to make drinking water and irrigational facilities available, the government insists on getting huge amounts of money stuck in large ineffectual projects such as the Man Project forcing the people to face drought.

Narmada Bachao Andolan believes that when it is proven in the world that large dams are destructive from every point of view, Social, Economic and Environmental, it is the people with selfish aims, the politicians, contractors and engineers who are pushing the ideology of big dams forward. We challenge the government to come on a common public platform to prove the so-called 'benefits' from the Man Project. If the government refuses to do so, it is clear that they do not have any facts to back them up.

Narmada Bachao Andolan reiterates its demand that the arrested adivasis should be immediately released unconditionally, the project should be stopped and the land based rehabilitation of the adivasis be undertaken immediately. If this does not happen then the struggle for justice will have to be intensified.

Alok Agarwal
Govindsingh Ravat
Village Khanpura