NBA Press Note

March 10, 2001

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, M.P.
Telefax: 07283-33162
Email: nobigdam@vsnl.com

Man Project affected tribals storm NABARD office
NABARD officials agree not to give additional money to the Man Project if rehabilitation conditions are not met
Nearly two hundred tribals affected by the Man Project

One of the thirty large dams in the Narmada valley demonstrated recently at the NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) office in Bhopal on the afternoon of 27th February. This was the latest of the series of direct actions that these tribals have been compelled to undertake as they face imminent submergence this very monsoon as the government continues work on the spillway section of the dam in violation of all rehabilitation policies and clearances, and the tribals fight with their backs to the wall.

Entering the multi-storeyed office of the NABARD on the afternoon of the 27th February, the affected people climbed up to the fourth floor despite security. Taken aback and initially resistant to talk with the tribals, there was hand-to-hand fighting for a few minutes as officers of the NABARD tried to physically oust the tribals from the office, until they finally agreed to talk with them. Amidst heavy police force called in by the NABARD officials, the representatives of the Man dam affected people: Sarpanch of Village Khedi Balwadi Shri Bhuwansingh and Bondribai of Village Khedi as well as activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan Chittaroopa Palit informed the NABARD officials that NABARD credit to the Madhya Pradesh government was being used for the construction of the Man Project that will submerge over 1200 tribal families in the monsoon of this year without any land-based rehabilitation or even resettlement. They challenged the NABARD officials that they will have to accept the responsibility of this.

Responding to the anguish of the Man-affected tribals, senior officials of NABARD stated that NABARD money had been given only under stringent conditions of rehabilitation of the Project affected people, and committed themselves that if these were not being met, NABARD would refuse to give the government of Madhya Pradesh the second trache of money. They said that they had already released about 50% of the total credit this year based on the M.P government's information that all arrangements for rehabilitation had been completed. The officials promised to write to the Madhya Pradesh government the very next day demanding an explanation for non-compliance with conditions. The tribals asked the NABARD officials to visit the affected villages to see the reality for themselves and to make their own assessment of the situation.

It may be recalled that the Man Project is a large dam being built on the Man river and one of the 30 large dams being built in the Narmada valley and will submerge the lands and homes of over 6000 tribals in 17 villages of Dhar district that include Khedi-Balwadi, Khanpura, Rehtiaon and others. This Project received the legally binding environmental clearance from the Central Environment Ministry in 1984. The condition of the clearance was that the affected tribals must be resettled with non-forest agricultural land. The state government policy for the oustees of the Narmada Projects that was made in 1987 and firmed in 1992 also required that the affected people must be resettled with land for land. Despite this, from 1991 to 1994, the state government completely violated the conditions of the environmental clearance and the provisions of its own policy and finished the rights of the people with paltry amounts of cash compensation.

As a result, in 1994, the Appraisal Committee of the Central Environment Ministry blacklisted the Man Project for complete violation of the conditions of the environmental clearance. In 1997, when the oustees were given eviction notices, they organized themselves under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and raised their voices. After a long struggle, in April-May 1999, the Madhya Pradesh government agreed to constitute a committee for the rehabilitation of the affected people. This committee, which was constituted under the chairmanship of the Narmada Minister, comprised of the affected people, elected representatives, government officials and members of the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

The government order of 2nd May, 1999 clearly stated that no construction work could be carried out that would endanger any affected person whose rehabilitation had not been done. But despite this clear order, from October 2000 onwards, the state government began work on the spillway section of the dam, thus creating a situation of imminent submergence of hundreds of tribal families who are yet to be rehabilitated. The Man affected tribals then held protest actions in Dhar on the 24th of January this year demanding immediate stoppage of work and rehabilitation of the affected people. Subsequently after representations to the NVDA, the work on the spillway section of the dam was stopped by a government order of 30th January. But on the initiative of the Chief Minister Shri Digvijay Singh, as per public statement given by local Congress MLA Shri Karan Singh Pawar, the work was again restarted. The tribals now intend to stop the work on the dam themselves if the government does not stop it.

In the two-day rally of all major people's organizations of Madhya Pradesh as well as the hearing of the People's Court in Bhopal on the 26th and 27th of February, the affected people took out a float that told their story of deliberate and cruel uprootment as well as testified before the Commission.

Chittaroopa Palit