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Narmada Bachao Andolan Press Release 25 May 1999

People Once Again Expose Government's Claim of Land Availability.

Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) affected tribals in Maharashtra are all out to prove the falsehood of Government that land is available for resettlement. As the monsoon get closer now, the Narmada is expected to rose and drown 2000 families with lands and houses. It has become all the more necessarily to expose the authorities, who have callously and cunningly asked to obtain the permission of Sardar Sarovar Dam height by 5 + 3 (humps) that is 8 meters. The people once again took up the challenge, proving that the state government as neither the government nor the private or the forest land available as on today for rehabilitating the oustees of about 25 villages this year.

The Government declared through village contact campaign from 12th May, by a joint team of Maharashtra and Gujarat, contacted the villages such as Sikka and Bharad in Akrani Tahsil and Manibeli in Akkalkuva Tahsil in District Nandurbar. People found they not only had their records of the PAFs wrong but they also made claims of land being available in Maharashtra sites even when they were already a few hundreds demanding land since years. As it was told to the people of Sikka that land is available at Rozva rehabilitation site which they should come, inspect, get allotted and shift out to vacate the valley to be flooded with reservoir waters this monsoon, without actually going through the process they took their thump impression on a statement which none of the illiterate tribals could read. They have in any case issued notices to all the villages to be affected asking them to shift their houses (not mentioning where) by 31st of this month itself.

The people, through Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), invited the government to Rozva on the 24th of May challenging them to show the land as per the rehabilitation policy - ready and available. The officials including Addl. Collector (SSP), District Resettlement Officer (SSP), Dy. Collector (SSP) and others couldn't avoid coming to the site. Amongst hundreds of tribals - men and women - and number of journalists and representatives of people's organisations, marathon discussions and assessment were done with maps and records and it is proved that when the officials began the claim that 48 ha. being available in Rozva rehabilitation site in the coup numbers 434, 435, 436 (originally forest land) there were 38 families who had allotment papers but no actual land for the same numbers. It was also accepted that altogether there are 148 families at the same site, shifted 3 - 7 years ago, left without actual land allotment. They said 40 ha. and is available. It is mostly rocky and already rejected by the families at the site.

While the authorities told thousands of people, in a sit-in in Nandurbar in Maharashtra, that the government would pass a Resolution and purchase private land in the area has found no initiative till date. The proposal to set 316 ha. of forest land was in a soup, they said, facing an umpteen number if questions and queries from forest department. On insistence by the hundreds in a day long 'face to face', the officials gave a statement to this effect.

NBA's stand that the claims made in the Affidavit by Maharashtra before the Supreme Court regarding availability of land to an extend of 449 ha. and readiness to raise the dam height to 110 mts. were actually baseless, has been vindicated once again. NBA's position of no displacement and situation of injustice, imposition of threat and submergence hence again stands justified. It is now remains to be see that whether the dam will be stalled at 85 mts. (excluding humps). With the Supreme Court not permitting construction of further 10 mts. during the hearing of May 7th, what stand would the Govt. of Maharashtra take on further construction on July 22nd, the next hearing.

The questions applies to Madhya Pradesh (MP) with a difference that MP has not been able to resettle not one single family in MP, while there are more than 30,000 to be resettled. MP has, however, raised the Inter-State Water dispute once again through a separate case with a prayer to have second Tribunal for a complete review of dam. Both the cases, this and NBA's, will be heard simultaneously on July 22nd. The question still remains who would be responsible for submergence, not just damage to property, but the devastation through destruction of life and resources this monsoon.

While the Andolan is ready to take up the challenge through a fight to finish, how will the Government?

Medha Patkar
Keshav Vasave
Noorjie Padvi