Interim Report as regards the enquiry in the context of the imminent submergence of the oustees of the Maan Project conducted on 17th March at village Khedi Balwadi by the panel constituted by the Indian People’s Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights and Law (henceforth IPT).
We, the undersigned panelists were requested by the IPT, vide a letter dated 8th March 2002 to conduct an enquiry in terms of reference which are as follows:
Accordingly we conducted an open enquiry on the lines of these terms of reference at village Khedi Balwadi.
We visited the dam site along with IPT workers and some local persons. We carefully viewed the Maan project dam site from the viewing point which is the highest point and gives the full view of the dam under construction. The main masonry wall of the dam is nearly complete, except for the central portion. Inside the reservoir earth was being collected to strengthen the wall. Stone pitching was also in progress. There was little water in the river bed. We could clearly see the area which is going to be submerged – including entire villages with their houses and fields.
We also read the statistics painted on the board near the viewing gallery at the dam site. On perusal of the statistics we found that there is very little difference between the land submerged as a result of the dam and that which will gain from irrigation after the dam. (very little difference in percentage terms between the areas irrigated before and after the dam. )
We conducted an open enquiry at village Khedi Balwadi. Due notice of the public hearing was given to the affected persons through local NGOs. Similarly the IPT had taken care to inform the concerned officers of the state government of Madhya Pradesh to attend the open enquiry and to submit their views. However, despite being intimated none from the government of Madhya Pradesh attended the enquiry. We waited for a considerable time the arrival fo the concerned government officials but till the end of the enquiry upto 6 p.m, no-one came on behalf of the Government of Madhya Pradesh. We had therefore no option but to proceed further to hear the grievances of the dam affected cultivators and residents.
It being an enquiry we adopted informal procedures and called upon the people assembled there to put forth their grievances in writing as well as to depose orally. Accordingly we examined as many as 24 persons including men and women. The list of affected persons who stated their grievances before this panel are as under:
21. Mangilal bhai, village Gadaghat
We also heard some activists who work among these people by name:
Among the affected people, Mantribai, Kamlabai, Chandarsingh, Ramkuarbai mainly stated that their entire land is going to be submerged in the dam under construction. These people stated that the dam was going to collect water by June 2002 but as yet none of them had been given alternative sites for their residence nor had they been provided with cultivable land as per the policy laid down by the Madhya Pradesh government, Narmada Valley Development Department in the year 1992.
We have perused the Government of Madhya Pradesh policy laid down in 1992 in which it has been clearly stated that the Government of Madhya Pradesh will rehabilitate and resettle the irrigation project oustees such that they can improve their living standards or at the very least maintain the standards existing before submergence. In clause h of the aforesaid policy statement it is stated that the displaced persons should be rehabilitated as a community in the same social conditions as before. In another clause g it is stated that the displaced person will be provided suitable land for their livelihood. There are other policy statements also promising oustees alternative and suitable housing sites and employment opportunities for the landless.
The aforesaid oustees repeatedly and vehemently stated before us that they have been living in such an environment where they have rich and fertile lands, ample river water to irrigate their crops and sufficient grassland to graze their cattle. They also get minor forest produce both from trees on their land and in the forest, which supplement their family income – viz. gum, mahua, fuelwood etc. They also grow vegetables on their lands near the river. They have sufficient water in their wells and borewells and fish from the river. Thus according to these oustees the natural environment which they are enjoying will be lost to them permanently once they move elsewhere.
We surveyed one resettlement site during our visit and found that their grievances were justified. The site we visited, Aamkheda has 36 plots of 60 by 90 feet each which have been allotted to families from Kachauda. However, none of these plots have been occupied so far. We are also informed that two such sites are available elsewhere. Apart from these three, no-one knew of any other sites made available by the government. The Aamkheda site has one school and one Panchayat bhavan and some tree saplings in round fences. There are three tubewells but with little water, owing to drought. There are no cultivable lands attached to these house plots. In the absence of land, it is unreasonable to expect oustees to move to this site.
Mantribai, Chandrasingh, Govindbai and Bondibai stated before us that they were mislead by government officials that only some of their land would be submerged, but according to them their entire cultivable land and houses are being submerged. No alternative land was offered to them for cultivation, occupation and survival. They were not informed they were eligible for such land under the Madhya Pradesh resettlement policy. They were given inadequate compensation about 8-10 years ago, which was not sufficient even to purchase comparable land at that stage. They have spent all the money approaching different authorities at Dhar, Indore, Bhopal and Delhi to pursue their demands for alternative land. They further stated that now the cultivable land has to be purchased at a very high price which they cannot afford.
They tried to ventilate their grievances to the Collector of Dhar, Ministers, Division Commissioner, but they all said that only the Chief Minister is the authority to solve their problems. They went to Bhopal to meet the Chief Minister. However, they were not allowed to meet the CM. On the contrary, they were beaten and put in jail.
Cultivators: Their main demand is since the submergence is due in June 2002 within such a short time it is nearly impossible for them to move to other places. According to us the situation is very grim as the villages close to the dam site have no alternative site for residence or plots for cultivation. Practically, every one who deposed before us said that they were not skilled to do any other work but cultivation. Their survival depends on agriculture and allied activities such as keeping cattle or collecting minor forest produce.
Adult sons and daughters/single women headed households: A number of people represented to us that their names have not been included in the lists for the adult sons and daughters, even though they were adults at the time of the Award in the early 1980’s. Some of others also said that while they were not adults at that time, they were so now , and would have to face the difficult life after uprootment, trying to settle their families without any resources whatsoever , unless they were registered as adult sons. They asked that the cut off date of the adult sons and daughters be changed to 15th June, 2002 as was done in the Bargi dam area of the Narmada valley at the instance of the Madhya Pradesh government.
Artisans: During the hearing there were a few village artisans (kumhars making earthen pots) and they stated that as a result of displacement they would lose their traditional occupation and they will not be able to make a living from other occupations since they are not educated and skilled. They would lose their source of both raw material (free earth and water) and their market.
Landless labour: Several agricultural labourers also deposed. They have not been given any compensation for their houses or alternative house plots. Nor has any alternative employment opportunity been offered to them in new sites, as the policy envisages.
Some of the affected persons who moved to other villages like Kesur and tried to settle there narrated that the residents of those places did not accept them as part of the community. The original residents of Kesur resented the oustees because they had been resettled on their traditional grazing land. Moreover, some of the lands that have been allocated at the Kesur rehabilitation site are next to a stream and routinely submerge in the monsoons and so are not available for cultivation.
Villagers from Bhuvada stated that they had already been forcibly evicted with bulldozers when earth was extracted from their fields to make the dam.
We find that the situation in the villages which are going to be submerged by June 2002 is in urgent need of redressal. The families of 17 villages are under constant threat of losing their livelihood unless alternative land for cultivation and housing plots are urgently provided before submergence.
Clearly, it is difficult for the affected people to leave their traditional villages with their cattle, agricultural implements and other belongings unless they have somewhere concrete to go. They will be on the streets like beggars. Such a situation is contrary to the policy laid down by the government of Madhya Pradesh in Naramada Project Rehabilitation Policy.
Such a situation is also contrary to the spirit of the Vth Schedule of the Constitution which provides for special protection for adivasis.
Submergence should be postponed till the oustees are properly resettled and rehabilitated. We find it shocking that the resettlement of oustees is not an integral part of the construction of the dam and that even after 17 years of construction, their situation has been ignored.
We also find that the genuine grievances of the people are not being addressed by the concerned government officers. On the contrary whenever they make attempts to meet the government officials or CM, they are arrested and beaten up. There appears to be a feeling of gross neglect in the minds of the oustees.
In conclusion, we call upon the Government of Madhya Pradesh to take immediate cognizance of the genuine grievances of the affected families in the 17 villages and adhere to the government policy for purposes of resettlement and rehabilitation in the spirit of the Rehabilitation policy of the Madhya Pradesh government for the oustees of Narmada projects.
We were told by the oustees and the media persons gathered at the public hearing that the Madhya Pradesh government have recently declared a new cash package for the oustees. We recommend that the Madhya Pradesh government use these financial resources available to them to identlfy and then allot large chunks of irrigable land where the oustees can be resettled as communities. Cognizance also needs to be taken of special groups such as artisans, land less labor and also adult sons and daughters.
In the light of our observations, since it is not possible for the government to immediately solve the difficulties enumerated above before the monsoon of 2002, the dam construction should be halted until such time as resettlement and rehabilitation is complete. If immediate steps are not taken we apprehend that the situation may result in the most serious violation of human rights.
Dr. Nandini Sundar Adv. Vinod Shetty Justice G.G. Loney (Retired)