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

Indefinite hunger strike enters its fifth day
Madhya Pradesh state government resorts to lies, flouts its own resettlement norms

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

The dharna of the Man dam affected entered its eleventh day in Bhopal today, while the four activists, Ramkuwar, Mangat Verma, Vinod Patwa, and Chittaroopa Palit, have been on a hunger strike for five days now. Meanwhile, the government continues to spin lies about the status of rehabilitation of the Man dam affected oustees. According to the Collector of Dhar, most of the 1,298 families who will be affected by the Man dam have been resettled, whereas the fact is that only about 22 families have so far been provided with land-based resettlement. Given this, the Narmada Bachao Andolan challenges the government to publicly substantiate its claims regarding the extent to which rehabilitation has been carried out in accordance with the government's own resettlement norms.

The Dhar Collector has also claimed that oustees have been resettled in Aamkheda, Junapani and Kesur. But only a few families are currently living in Junapani and Kesur, whereas there is not a single home built in Aamkheda nor a single affected person living there. In fact, the affected people have been demanding cultivable agricultural land for the last five years without any success, Thus in no way can the claims of the state government that the oustees have been rehabilitated be substantiated. According to the Collector, the oustees have been provided with a grant of Rs.1,70,000 for each hectare of land purchased by them. Yet, neither in Dhar district nor anywhere else in the state is irrigated land sold at such low prices. If the state government is able to purchase land at this price, then it should take the responsibility for buying such land on itself and distribute this land to the oustees.

According to the state government, the Man Project will irrigate 15,000 hectares of land. But government data has shown that 54% of the command area of the Man dam already has access to irrigation, while most of the remaining 46% is too hilly to allow for irrigation. In actual fact then, only 25% of the command area will actually benefit from the dam.

It is not surprising that the state government has responded to the movement of the oustees who have understood their rights and the rehabilitation policies by saying that the oustees are being instigated because the state government has a long track record in violating these same policies in displacing the affected people of Bargi, Tawa, Barna, Pukta, Kolar, Matiyari, Sardar Sarovar and Indira Sagar over the last two decades. Is the government suggesting that the Man dam oustees should not expect the government to follow its own norms for resettlement and that they should silently accede to the repressive tactics of the government and not struggle against patently unjust displacement and impending impoverishment?

According to the Deputy Chief Minister, Shri Subhash Yadav, the rehabilitation norms of the Madhya Pradesh government are so good that oustees' lives show marked improvement after resettlement. The Andolan challenges the government to establish an enquiry by an independent body like the Human Rights Commission, to ascertain whether oustees' lives have improved or worsened after their displacement and rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, the state government is also claiming to be sending water tankers to the affected villages. This claim is not just false, it also raises questions about the credibility of a government which on the one hand has deliberately destroyed handpumps in the Man dam affected villages in order to forcibly remove people from villages, and on the other claims to be supplying them with water through special tankers!

The Andolan demands that the state government realize the seriousness of the situation and that it resettle oustees on the basis of land for land, so that the livelihood of the oustees is not destroyed, before the villages are submerged by the dam.

As the dharna continues it is drawing support from a wide range of organizations. Radha Bhat, a long-standing activist and Gandhian who runs Kasturba Gram in Indore, recently visited the dharna site to express solidarity with the people of Man. Other visitors have included Shri Virender Jain of the Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, Shri Pramod Pradhan who heads the Madhya Pradesh wing of CITU, Shri Arun Bhargava of Science Center, Madhya Pradesh, and Dr. Ajay Khare of the Madhya Pradesh Vigyan Sabha, and Jai Prakash of Delhi Science Forum.

The situation in the villages continues to be grave. It maybe recalled that on the 16th and 17th of May the state government embarked on a spree of cutting all trees in the villages, extracting the transformers and severing all electricity connections, razing to a rubble six medium and primary schools, and finally extracting thirteen handpumps that constitute the chief sources of drinking water for the villages. As a result since the last few days people in these villages as well as cattle are facing a water crisis. Responding to this situation several fact finding teams have visited the Man villages to assess the situation and to express solidarity with their struggle. On 22nd May a fact finding team from Bhopal, comprising Shri Krishna Modi, president of AITUC, Madhya Pradesh, Shri Virender Jain from the Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, Shobha Shinde of the Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, and Sukanya Bose, researcher at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, visited the area. On the same day, a group from the Maheshwar dam affected area, which included Kalabai, Upadhyaksh of the Maheshwar Janpadand hailing from the Maheshwar dam affected village Sulgaon as well as Suresh Verma , Antar Kewat, Radhesham bhai, Mahesh bhai and Gabru Kewat of Village Lepa also visited the area and pledged their support for the Man struggle. On 23rd May a team of senior people from Indore also visited the area. This included senior lawyer Shri S. L. Bagdi, Vasant Shintre, senior left trade unionist, Vineet Tiwari of Sandarbh Resource Centre, and Jaya Mehta, an eminent economist.

Through the release of the Final Report of the Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights on the Man Dam in Bhopal on the 24th May, the significance of the Man struggle in the face of the lies and repression of the state has come clearly to the surface. The Tribunal has criticized the total failure of rehabilitation in the case of the Man Project and has strongly recommended that the Project should not proceed till the oustees are provided with irrigated land as compensation. The IPT also called on the Madhya Pradesh government to abide by the conditions of the Government of India environmental clearance, its own rehabilitation policy, the Planning Commission clearance, the UN Charter of Rights for indigenous people, and Convention 107 of the ILO, all of which have been violated in the case of the Man dam oustees. As the report states, "It is frightening to see that development projects aimed at fighting poverty are actually causing poverty."

The Andolan demands that the state government realize the seriousness of the situation and that it resettle oustees on the basis of land for land, so that the livelihood of the oustees is not destroyed, before the villages are submerged by the dam.

Alok Agarwal
Ram Kuwar
Mangat Verma