NBA Press Note

March 21, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

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

Hundreds of adivasis affected by the Man project capture the dam site
Indefinite dharna at dam site begins today

Today, early in the morning, hundreds of adivasis affected by the Man Project in Dhar district, stormed and occupied the dam site stopping any further construction of the dam. The affected families have 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 will not be permitted. Representatives from the Sardar Sarovar and Maheshwar projects on the Narmada are also present in the ongoing dharna.

The affected families of the Man project have being struggling for their rights for the past 4 years. In spite of the fact that there exist government orders besides a clear State policy laying down the principles of rehabilitation, the government, ignoring all these rehabilitation guidelines, began construction of the dam last November without carrying out any rehabilitation whatsoever. On 24th January 2001, the affected families held a demonstration in front of the District Headquarters in Dhar demanding the immediate stopping of the construction of the dam. They also demanded that the land for land policy be followed in the rehabilitation process. On 30th January 2001, the government, while admitting that no rehabilitation had been done, ordered the immediate stoppage of construction work on the main center portion. However on 1st February without any informing or consulting the people, the construction of the dam was commenced yet again. Even in the first meeting of the 'Punarvas Ayojan Samiti', the voice of the affected people was suppressed without giving due consideration to the concerns they raised regarding rehabilitation. According to the information provided by the government in this meeting, 993 families will be affected this year if the construction of the dam continues. In other words, about 5000-6000 adivasis are slated for displacement with all their legal rights violated and no rehabilitation provided.

The affected families have decided in order to safeguard their rights, to capture the dam site and prevent further construction of the dam. From late last night men and women from the submergence villages began to gather together. At 7.00 o'clock in the morning, under the leadership of Smt Chittaroopa Palit of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Shri Bhuwansingh, Sarpanch of village Khedi, Smt Bhondribai of village Khanpur, Urmila Patidar and Mangat Verma from Maheshwar dam and Shri Bhagwan Mukati from the Sardar Sarovar region, about 1000 project affected people captured the dam site and began a dharna there. At the time of writing the press note, the Dhar Collector and a large police force had already arrived at the dam site, while the will of the people grows stronger as they sing and dance in their struggle for their rights.

The Man project is one of the 30 large dams envisaged in the Narmada Valley Development Project. 17 adivasi villages are going to be affected by this project. In spite of there being a clear policy of land for land in rehabilitation, in 1990-91 the government without informing the project affected families about their legal rights or the provisions of rehabilitation, threatened and coerced few families to accept small amounts of cash as compensation. In 1997 the affected families were issued notices ordering them to clear out of their villages. At this instance the affected families decided to organize themselves under the banner of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and fight for their rights.

In this time of intense struggle by the people, during which the Andolan undertook an indefinite fast forcing the government to dialogue with the project affected and recognize their rights. Consequently the State government passed an official notice ordering the formation of the 'Punarvas Ayojan Samiti' constituted by People's Representatives, Government officials, activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and representatives from the affected villages. In this official order it is unambiguously stated that the rehabilitation of the affected families slated for submergence should be completed by December 31st of the previous year. Post 1999 not a single adivasis family has been rehabilitated and this violation of the order is being pursued with the further construction of the dam. Till today only 22 families have been given land, that too which is either encroached land or uncultivable. From village wise surveys it is clear that the government figures of the number of affected families is a gross underestimate.

In 1984 this project was given a conditional clearance by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. According to the pre-conditions laid down the State is bound to adopt a land based rehabilitation policy. However since the State of Madhya Pradesh tried to adopt the policy of cash compensation instead, the Ministry of Environment and Forests placed this project on its Black List in 1994.

Even the projected irrigation gains from the project have been proven to be an illusion. In 1998 when the 'Task Force' investigated the existing situation in the command area of the Man project it was found that 54% of this area was already irrigated while the remaining land was undulating and not suited for irrigation. Surprisingly 1891 hectares of the proposed command area is already irrigated while the remaining 1186 hectares of land is not suited for irrigation. It is clear that more than 50% of the proposed command area has irrigational facilities and around 1200 hectares can be irrigated by efficiently utilizing the existing irrigation facilities, so the area proposed to be irrigated this year by this project equals the area of land to be submerged this year.

Our Hon'ble President Shri. K.R. Narayanan in his republic Day address to the entire nation elaborated on the indiscriminate displacement of adivasis in river valley development projects and took a strong position against the same. It is a pity that the evil he spoke of is being repeated in the Man project.

In the Dhar district the State government has been boasting about the ways the internet and the Gyandoot project are being used to help in the development of adivasis, while in the same district the reality of the Man project and the violations of the adivasis' rights and the failure in rehabilitating them paints the real picture of the true face of the State government. The dharna at the dam site will continue to ensure that the affected families are not displaced without rehabilitation. The affected families have warned the State that such submergence of thousands of adivasis and their rights, the violations of the policy and government order will not be permitted anymore.

Alok Agarwal
Govindsingh Rawat
Village Khanpura

Latest News - Arrests at Man

The Man project affected adivasis who had captured the dam site and were sitting on a dharna there have been arrested and brought to the Dhar Jail. The police had used considerable force to arrest the protestors and in the process badly manhandled Anitha, Sunitha, Saida and Badhi besides others. In fact most of the young girls who were very vociferous in their demands for justice were particularly ill-treated. The latest news is that the police is yet to bring these girls and others who were moved out of the dam site in two police vehicles to Dhar Jail. About 350 people were arrested in all. They have been charged under Sections 151, 147, 294, 341, 323.

Alok Agarwal
Clifton