| NBA Press Release
|| 14 May 2002
Maan Dam Oustees on dharna in Bhopal from 15th May, 2002; Villages to be flooded within a month; People demand better financial package to ensure land based rehabilitation, stop felling of trees, state repression.
NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Most of you are familiar with the struggle of the Maan dam oustees in the Dhar district of the Narmada valley. Over 1200 Bhil and Bhilala families and nearly 5000 adivasi people live in 17 villages in this area which are slated for submergence in this coming monsoon, barely a month away. But the people here are yet to be rehabilitated. When the waters come, they will have neither alternative agricultural land nor house or villages site to go to.
As a result of their struggle and their refusal to move without rehabilitation, early this year, the state government had announced a new financial package and a special rehabilitation grant with the avowed objective of ensuring that the affected people are able to buy land, but it became clear soon enough that it was woefully inadequate, and that there was simply no possibility that the affected people would be able to arrange any land for themselves on the basis of this package. The people will be sitting on dharna in Bhopal with these issues from the 15th of May. Meanwhile the government officials along with police force have been touring the villages, abusing and attempting to intimidate the affected people in order to fell the trees in the area. They are being countered by enormous resistance by the local people, who are refusing to allow them to cut the trees.
The Maan Project is a large dam being built on the Maan river and one of the 30 large dams being built in the Narmada valley. This dam will submerge the lands and homes of several hundreds of adivasi families in 17 villages and will uproot over 5000 adivasis and submerge their homes and rich black cotton soils and lands fully irrigated with water from the river through a system of pumps and wells.
It may be noted that the Maan Project received the legally binding environmental clearance from the Central Environment Ministry in 1984. The condition of the clearance was that the affected adivasis must be resettled with non- forest agricultural land. The state government policy for the oustees of the Narmada Projects that was made in 1987 and firmed in 1992 also required that the affected people must be resettled with land for land. Despite this from 1991 to 1994, the state government completely violated the conditions of the environmental clearance and the provisions of its own policy and dispensed off the rights of the people with paltry amounts of cash compensation.
In 1997, when the oustees were given eviction notices, they organized themselves under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and raised their voices. After a long struggle, in April May 1999, the Madhya Pradesh government agreed to constitute a committee for the rehabilitation of the affected people. This committee was finally constituted in August 2001 under the chairmanship of the Narmada Minister and comprised of the affected people, elected representatives, government officials and members of the Narmada Bachao AnThe government order of 2nd May, 1999 clearly stated that no construction work could be carried out that would endanger the lands, homes and livelihoods of any affected person whose rehabilitation had not been completed. But despite this clear order, from October, 2000 onwards the state government began work on the spillway section of the dam, thus creating a situation of imminent submergence of hundreds of adivasi families who are yet to be rehabilitated. In the meeting of the Punarwas Ayojan Samiti convened by the Deputy Chief Minister Shri Subhash Yadav in February 2001, the voices of the village representatives were simply suppressed. More than 1000 Maan dam affected people then demonstrated at the Maan dam site on the 21st of March 2001 and stopped work on the dam. Their dharna was broken up with enormous police repression and 213 people were kept in Dhar jail over a week and some activists for 15 days. After coming out of jail, the people met with the district administration several times to resolve their issues, but they were told to go to Bhopal to meet the Chief Minister for the resolution of their issues.
Nearly 500 adivasis from Maan Project as well as from the Alirajpur Tehsil of District Jhabua then sat in Bhopal for seven days in May 2001 but the Chief Minister could find no time to meet them. On the seventh day, as the people gathered outside the Chief Minister's house, insisting on meeting him, several hundred adivasis were arrested and the group that was taken into the CM's house with the assurance of a meeting were also sent to jail. The few old persons and infants who had remained at the dharna site were also bundled into a police van along with the tents and taken to jail. After release, the people were brought straight to the railway station so that they could go back home.
Ignored and humiliated, the affected people announced that even if the government flouted the democratic norms of this country and refused to meet the people and accede to their demands, the people would exercise the option of satyagraha to face the waters. They asserted that there was no question of fleeing and consenting to lives as paupers on the streets. 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 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 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 land for their rehabilitation, but since the package is valued at the price of unirrigated land for the year 1997-98, there was no question of the affected people being able to buy an equal amount of irrigated, cultivable land for themselves anywhere in 2002 as the market prices are much higher. Moreover, for some strange and incomprehensible reason, the compensation for trees and wells already made are also being deducted from the given amount. Thus, clearly there is NO POSSIBILITY that the people can arrange for themselves any agricultural land and be able to restore their livelihoods.
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 11th 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 uttered other filthy abuses. One particular policeman threatened to fire at the people and put bullets in his gun in order to threaten them. The Rehabilitation officer Shri Baghela 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 people are on dharna in Bhopal from the 15th of May, 2002, with all these issues. If the government accepts their demands, there will be some possibility of beginning the process of rehabilitation. If not, they plan to remain where they are and face the waters. They anticipate that in the days leading to the monsoon and in the monsoon itself, they will have to face police repression again and again, with the police coming in under various pretexts but the actual attempt will be to evict the people themselves.
The Maan dam affected people will need all your support in the days to come, immediately and urgently, to put pressure on the state government to meet the Maan affected adivasis and to accede to their demands. They will also need your vigilant attention all through the monsoon satyagraha in the days to come, even as the monsoons threaten to come early this year and there is every possibility of an early submergence.
The dam is being built even at the moment. Normally the work on the dam site would have stopped on the 31st of December 2002, but the RIDF II (Rural Infrastructure Development Fund ) scheme of NABARD under which this dam is being refinanced has been extended to June 2002, and therefore there is tremendous pressure on the government to complete as much construction as possible before June. NABARD however has not ensured that its condition that rehabilitation must be completed before submergence has been complied with, although the Chairman NABARD had promised the village representatives who met him in February 2002 that NABARD would intervene. On the contrary, as per newspaper reports the NABARD has just given several hundred crores to the Madhya Pradesh government for this and other dams in the Narmada valley.
We would be grateful if you can join us in the dharna at Bhopal from the 15th of May onwards. We also appeal to you to write letters urgently to the Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh and to Chairman NABARD to intervene urgently and positively in this situation to protect the rights of the adivasis.
Name / Address /Phone
2. Shri Nanda Chairman, NABARD, (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai Phone : 022-6530001 Fax : 022-6530002
Chittaroopa Palit, NBA
Chandersingh, Village Khedi-Balwadi
Bondribai, Village Khanpura
Alok Agarwal, NBA