NBA Press Note

March 22, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

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

Asked for rehabilitation but received jail!!!
Day 2: Project affected adivasis still lodged in jail.

The arrest of the project affected adivasis from the Man project site yesterday has brought into limelight the actual situation of people displaced by large projects in the State. According to the State's rehabilitation provisions, these adivasis should have been already rehabilitated before December 31st 2000 itself. In fact this is the demand that they have been making time and again. Even yesterday they demanded that the construction of the dam be suspended till all the affected families received cultivable agricultural land in rehabilitation. Instead they have been forced into jail! These 250 representatives of all the displaced persons in this project remained in jail today, for the 2nd day. Narmada Bachao Andolan strongly condemns this shameful act of the State government and demands that all those arrested to be released unconditionally. Further NBA demands that the construction work on the dam be immediately stopped and the pending rehabilitation of the affected people be undertaken right way by giving agricultural land according to the policy.

The Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal, which was appointed by the Union of India in 1969 to arbitrate the differences between the three States regarding the sharing of the Narmada waters, very unambiguously laid down the provisions and stipulations for rehabilitation in the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award. Elaborated in the Award is the principle of rehabilitation revolving around the land for land policy. Further the Award adds that community resettlement of villages should be done. On the basis of this the State of Madhya Pradesh prepared a rehabilitation policy in 1989 for all the Narmada Valley development Projects of which Man is one. In 1990-91 when cash compensation was distributed in the Man project affected villages (however few people accepted), the adivasis were not informed about their legal entitlements of being entitled to receive agricultural land as per the Award and state policy. Instead they were threatened and coerced into accepting cash by the officials who misled them saying that whatever little was being offered to them is the only compensation they would ever receive and if they refuse this they would not receive anything at all! Can this process of threatening and coercing people to accept paltry amounts of money denying them agricultural land, their only source of livelihood, be termed as rehabilitation? Is it possible for communities living together for generations of the fruits of their forest, land and water ever be able to provide the same futures for the coming generations?

The rehabilitation policy states that if any project affected person desires cash compensation in lieu of agricultural land, then that person would have to petition this intention in writing. If this affected person is an adivasis then the adivasis would have to certify in writing to the Collector, who would then have to give in writing that this decision of the adivasis to avail of cash compensation is not detrimental to the adivasi. The fact is that not a single adivasis affected by the Man project has ever petitioned the Collector to this effect nor has the Collector ever issued any needed certificate. Who is then responsible for these violations of the rehabilitation policy? Will the State government bother to answer this important question?

According to the official report of the government, 993 families are going to be affected by submergence this year, meaning 4000-5000 adivasis will be submerged. The fact is that none of them has been rehabilitated according to the State policy. There are serious doubts regarding the actual extent of submergence and the scale of displacement. It is pertinent to remember that in the Bargi dam, on the Narmada river, the government stated emphatically that 101 villages would be affected, but when the dam gates were closed and the reservoir filled up, 162 villages got submerged! Under the chairmanship of the Deputy Chief minister, Shri Subhash Yadav a meeting was held on 20th February where the affected adivasis raised questions regarding the incomplete rehabilitation in Man project. However, the meeting was called off halfway without even a proper discussion on this. In this meeting nor were the adivasis allowed to place the entire issue pertaining to their futures nor was any fruitful discussion held. Narmada Bachao Andolan challenges the government to an open public discussion on the status of rehabilitation in the Man project.

Faced with impending submergence 3 months away, the worried adivasis from all the affected villages decided to stop the cause of this submergence and demand for proper rehabilitation and the State's response to this is arresting them and putting them into jail. 142 men and 75 women are in jail now. Some of the women are carrying their small suckling babies with them in jail. 50 children who decided to be part of the dharna on the dam site were also arrested and brought to the jail along with the others. However the senior officials refused to take them into prison and released them last night itself. Those arrested have been charges under sections 147, 151, 294, 323 and 341. Eight have been additional charged under section 353. They include Chittaroopa Palit, Bhuwansingh, Sarpanch of village Khedi, Govindbhai Rawat, Bondribai and 5 others. The tactics of harassment of the State are very clear for all to see.

The adivasis locked up in Dhar jail insist that if it is impossible for the government to provide us land in rehabilitation then it should rehabilitate us in jail itself. Narmada Bachao Andolan warns the government that if the arrested adivasis are not immediately released unconditionally and if the work on the dam is not stopped besides taking up rehabilitation work by providing agricultural land then we will be forced to take this struggle to the level of the State and the Country and bring into the open the real anti-adivasis policies of the government.

Alok Agarwal
Govindsingh Ravat