NBA Press Release
  05 March 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Alirajpur dharna enters 13th day

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464

The indefinite dharna by the Alirajpur oustees still continues after 13 days. The people's spirit is reasonably good (although our tent is on the verge of collapsing). However, some recent developments have underlined the state governments callousness and irresponsiveness to the tribal oustees of the project.

On the 21st of February after being served with a notice on our behalf, threatening legal action, the Collector of the District arrived at the dharna site for discussions. He stated that the dam height would be raised to 100 m before the monsoon (the reservoir has been emptied - a clear signal that attempts to get permission to restart work are going on). He also acknowledged that if the land acquisition awards for these villages passed 10 years ago without people's knowledge contained inaccuracies and errors (due to which a large number of affected people have been excluded from the PAF lists) it is now the responsibility of the administration to correct them. He proposed to prepare a formal proposal based on oustees application and forward it to the state government for action. At that time we had argued that this process did not need prior permission from policy making levels - and that chief Land Acquisition offices of the district (land acquisition proceedings are carried out by the Collector's office), it was his obligation to correct all errors through a time bound participatory process.

The Collector left without giving any written reply of fixing a time frame for the information we had asked for. On the 3rd March, we demanded a written and formal response to all our petitions and squatted in front of the SDM's office, Alirajpur, preventing him from leaving it. Finally, at 12 in the night the SDM made his escape, escorted by the police. Before leaving he handed over a letter to the oustees. This is the government's official response to our demands. It states that:

  • The state is under no obligation to resettle oustees on lands of their own choice and will not do so. The oustees are free to take cash compensation and by their lands if they can. Otherwise, they must accept whatever land the state chooses to allot. (barren and unproductive as we know from inspection).
  • No rectification of the land acquisition awards can be carried out because they are over and legally binding. Therefore the PAF lists will not be updated or name of persons left out added.
  • All complaints in this regard should be addressed to the GRA in Bhopal hundreds of kilometres away. The state administration will take no steps to correct its errors.
  • Major sons will not be given land in M.P. because the Supreme Court ruling does not say so. (it clearly does according to our legal advisors)
  • As far as information is concerned, it will be given to each individual oustees on request and payments of a small fee.
    • This reply negating as it does every demand, raised by the tribal oustees of Alirajpur is a clear indication of the State attitude which can be summed up in a couple of phrases, namely: Let them drown or accept whatever crumbs we choose to offer.

      This clear and specific demand for rehabilitation according to the NWDTA and the Supreme Court ruling, has been ignored even as negotiations are underway to raise dam height.

      On the 4th, the people went to Jhabua and held a protest demonstration there. The Collector accused the Andolan of misleading people. The people told him to be a little better than a perjurer.

      The dharna continues. This is a last ditch struggle to secure a just rehabilitation that will allow people to live with dignity before the dam height is raised and the coming monsoon floods tribal villages, both in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.The dharna will end as soon as people decide they can't continue this particular programme.

      These are the people who fought the hardest and longest and suffered the greatest losses in the struggle against this unjust and destructive project which has become of the symbol and focal point for anti-displacement struggles all over the world.

      It seems superfluous to suggest actions. Please do what you can.

      On behalf of Alirajpur oustees: