NBA Press Release
  15 May 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Dharna of Maan dam affected people for their rights begin, Special rehabilitation package inadequate. Submergence of 17 villages imminent, People raise their voice against police repression

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

Nearly one hundred and fifty adivasis affected by the Maan Project in Dhar district began their indefinite dharna at the Tinshed premises in Bhopal today. These families who will be submerged this monsoon without any rehabilitation protested strongly against the repression and intimidation in the submergence area by a large team of police, contractors and government officials on the 12th of May, asked for an immediate halt to tree felling and police presence in the submergence zone, and demanded that the dam work should be immediately stopped, and that the affected over 1000 adivasi families be given agricultural land and their rehabilitation be done fully and fairly as per the policy.

The families belonging to 17 villages in the Maan area of District Dhar are slated to be submerged this monsoon as per the Gazette notification of the state government. There is barely a month or less left before all the 17 villages are inundated , yet there is still no possibility of the affected people?s being relocated and rehabilitated with agricultural land elsewhere.

The Maan dam affected people were given a pittance in cash compensation around 1994 without any offer of land for land compensation or information about their legal entitlements. Learning about their rights later, in 1997, the affected people grouped together under the banner of the Narmada Bachao Andolan to fight for their rights. During the struggle of the last four years, the affected people have braved possible submergence, arrests and sojourns in jail, and extreme governmental callousness and indifference, to point out that nothing less than land based rehabilitation as per the rehabilitation policy of the state government would be acceptable to them. As a result of their courageous struggle, the state government which had refused to meet the affected people when they were in Bhopal for a week last summer, were unnerved as the monsoon of 2001 approached. The resolve of the people revealed itself as not a single house was dismantled to build outside the submergence zone and not a single field remained unsowed in the first village Khedi that was slated for submergence last year. In front of the people?s resolve the government?s indifference collapsed and at the onset of the monsoon, the government blasted open the river bed sluices in order to stop the dam waters from rising to dangerous levels.

However after the monsoons, work was again restarted on the dam. As the people continued to stay in their villages, the government announced a new financial package offering a special rehabilitation grant in March 2002, in order to induce them to move. The avowed objective of this financial package was to enable the affected people to purchase irrigated land for their rehabilitation. However since the package has been valued at the price of unirrigated land in the Sakalda command for the year 1997-98,at a rate of Rs. 44,000 per acre, there was no question of the affected people being able to buy an equal amount of irrigated land for themselves in 2002, as the current market prices are much higher, at least Rs. 1 lakh per acre or more. Moreover, without reason, or logic, the compensation for trees and wells already made are also being deducted from the given amount. Thus, clearly there seems no possibility that the people can arrange for themselves any agricultural land and be able to restore their livelihoods, with the special rehabilitation grant offered in the new financial package. The net outcome will be that whatever be the avowed objectives of the special rehabilitation package be, people will be without lands or homes, and face submergence without any rehabilitation.

It may be noted that the rehabilitation policy of the Narmada Valley Development Department operational for the Maan Project oustees is based on the principle that the affected people must at least regain their standard of living after uprootment if it cannot be improved. In section 3.2 of the policy, it is stated that "Whichever family loses more than 25% of it landholding will be entitled for land for land, with a minimum of 2 hectares of land. Arrangements for irrigation will be done by the state government."

The policy pays special attention to the adivasi and Dalit oustees. It states in Section 5.4 that "If the amount of compensation as per the Award, is less than the cost of replacement land, then the difference will be made good by a grant. This entitlement will be given to all adivasi and Dalit families." Thus it is very clear indeed that the state bears the full financial and physical responsibility of rehabilitating the adivasi and the Dalit oustees with land for land.

The Section 10.1 states that resettlement sites will have to be erected for the oustees and all community infrastructure such as electricity, health facilities, schools, etc. will have to provided on the site. It is clear from the above mentioned sections of the Rehabilitation policy that the affected people must be given irrigated land in lieu of the land that they are losing (with a minimum of 2 hectares) and resettled as a community with all community infrastructure and facilities.

It is clear from the above that while the entire financial and physical responsibility of ensuring the rehabilitation of the affected people rests with the government , this has not been fulfilled . And that the affected people will have to pay the costs of this negligence very soon. Not only will the special package be inadequate to support the purchase of irrigated lands for the people, it is also clear that the government has made no efforts to even resettle the people as a community with community infrastructure as it is required to do under the rehabilitation policy.

In this context the oustees demand that

  • That since the oustee is entitled to irrigated land under the policy , the special rehabilitation package must be valued at the cost of irrigated land.
  • Since this land has to be bought in 2002, the value must be at the sale prices of land transactions in 2001-2002. (Not 1997-98 )
  • That the value of trees and wells not be deducted from the special rehabilitation grant as is being presently being done in an ad hoc and arbitrary manner.
  • That the special rehabilitation package be valued at the amount of land that every oustee is entitled to, with a minimum of 2 hectares for those losing less than 2 hectares.
  • That whether the oustee is able to purchase land on his/her own with the special rehabilitation grant after the above changes,or whether the state government provides them with the land, it is imperative that the state government and the NVDA create community infrastructure for them as laid down in the rehabilitation policy.
  • That the cut off date of adult sons and daughters is changed to 30th June, 2002, the time of submergence, as was done in Bargi by your government.
  • Inclusion, estimation and compensation of lands, houses, wells and trees and other resources that have been underestimated or excluded in some cases.

Without these crucial changes, there is NO possibility that the rehabilitation of the affected people take place. Since it is also clear that however prompt the government is now, there is very little possibility of actual rehabilitation before submergence, work on the dam must be immediately stopped.

Meanwhile the situation in the villages is grave as the administration and the contractors are attempting to fell the trees in the area and the people refuse to allow this as long as they continue to live in their villages. On the 12th of May, officials of the NVDA and the SDM Dhar as well as the DFO and the contractors came into the villages with a large police force to cut down the trees in the affected villages. When the villagers objected, the officials were very abusive. The SDM went to the extent of threatening the young adivasi girls present that he would abduct and sell them, as well as gave other unutterable filthy abuses. One particular policeman threatened to fire at the people and started putting bullets in his gun in order to threaten them. The Rehabilitation officer Shri Baghel said that this was just the beginning. Now they had come with the police to cut the trees down, in the coming days they would come with police and bulldozers to demolish the houses.

The NBA demands an immediate stop to police presence in the affected villages and tree felling with the use of force, when the people are still living in the villages, and have nowhere to go.

Alok Agarwal
Bondribai
Chander Singh