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

Indefinite fast for the rehabilitation of the Man dam affected people and against state terror begins at Bhopal
Adivasis face the prospect of death through thirst as State government destroys all water sources

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats
Ellora Park,
Baroda-390007
Tel: 0265-282232
Email: baroda@narmada.org

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

Intensifying the struggle of the Man dam affected adivasis, sitting on dharna in Bhopal for the last seven days four people began indefinite fast from today. These several hundred Man dam affected adivasis have been agitating against the use of state terror and the illegal and inhuman attempts of the state government to evict them and to inundate their villages without having first rehabilitated them. Those on indefinite fast include young Adivasi woman leader RamKuwar from the first village Khedi Balwadi affected by the dam, Shri Mangat Verma from the Maheshwar dam impact zone, Shri Vinod Patwa from the Bargi dam area, and Chittaroopa Palit , senior activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. At the beginning of the dharna, those who have embarked on the indefinite fast expressed their firm resolve that they would fast until the livelihood questions of thousands of adivasis affected by the Man dam are met, even if they have to endanger or lose their lives in the process.

It may be noted that all 17 villages affected by the Man dam, one of the thirty large dams in the Narmada valley, are slated for submergence this monsoon. Yet, despite the fact that the rehabilitation policy of the state government for the oustees of the Narmada Projects deems that the oustees must be rehabilitated with irrigated land in lieu of the land that will be going under submergence, the 5-6000 adivasi people who will be affected by this Project this year have not been thus rehabilitated.

The affected adivasis have organized themselves and have been struggling for their rehabilitation and their rights for the last five years. As a result, where the state government was compelled to blast out a portion of the dam in the beginning of the monsoon of 2001 in order to prevent submergence without rehabilitation, they were also compelled to announce a new financial package for the Man dam oustees in March- April of 2002. However, although the rehabilitation policy stipulates irrigated land for rehabilitation, the valuation of the special rehabilitation grant done by the government is based on the price of unirrigated lands. Moreover, the basis of the valuation is the cost of unirrigatedlands in the year 1997-98, where as it is now in 2002-2003 that the people will have to actually look for lands. Clearly thus the new financial package and the special rehabilitation grant announced by the government is woefully inadequate and there is no possibility of enabling the oustees to get land with the help of this grant. It may also be noted that while the policy clearly states that every oustee has to provided a minimum of 2 hectares of land, even if he/she is losing less than that in order to ensure a minimum viable unit of cultivation, the special rehabilitation grant does not provide for it.

The oustees have even identified some large chunks of agricultural land for themselves, on which they are willing to resettle. Their demand to the government is that these lands should be developed with irrigation facilities, and should be allotted to them immediately. While on one hand, the state government has totally failed in providing agricultural lands to the oustees, it has embarked on a reign of terror, in the last one week, in order to force the adivasis to flee without any rehabilitation. Since the last one week, government officials along with large posses of armed police and forest contractors have been roaming the area and spreading terror by abusing, intimidating and threatening to fire on the adivasis, if they resist. They have cut down large number of trees in the villages, and have in the last one week bulldozed and razed to rubble - 4 primary schools, 2 middle schools, 2 storehouses and 1 heath center in the area. The officials have also severed all electricity connections in the affected villages.

However the pinnacle of inhumanity by the Madhya Pradesh government has been the extraction, removal and bulldozing of all hand pumps in the affected villages in the area on the 16th and 17th of May. At the heat of summer, as the temperature in the districts of Western Madhya Pradesh is soaring to 47- 48degree centigrade, with the Man river completely dry , removal of all hand pumps means that the adivasis living in these villages as well as their cattle are likely to physically die of thirst. In some villages , where villagers have had to take recourse to water from disused wells to quench their thirst despite the fact that it is contaminated, the officials have warned them that they will fill these wells as well as tear down their houses from the 23rd of May. There is a tradition that even in a state of war, the water supplies of the enemy forces cannot be cut off. Unfortunately, the democratically elected government of Madhya Pradesh has thought nothing of cutting off the water supplies of nearly 5000 adivasis and exposing them to possible death through thirst. The cutting off of all life supplies, including water to adivasi communities is a complete reversal of all civilized practice and is unacceptable. The district administration has been candid about its intentions when questioned about this action, that it is only through such action that they can hope to oust the affected people. However the affected people have refused to flee, are staying in their villages , facing and confronting this state terror, and have asserted that not only would they not move in the face of this state terror, but more that they will be willing to face even the rising waters and submergence in the monsoon, unless they are rehabilitated.

It against this state sponsored terror and for the early rehabilitation of the affected people, on the lands that they have identified, that four people are commencing their indefinite fast today. The concrete demands are : That first and foremost, the water and electricity supplies of these villages must be immediately restored and tree cutting must stop. That all affected people be immediately rehabilitated with irrigated lands and community facilities as per policy. That even those losing less than 2 hectares be rehabilitated with a minimum of 2 hectares as stipulated in the policy. That if the rehabilitation is not effected before monsoon sets in, the dam must be broken in order to prevent submergence of the affected families without their rehabilitation. That the cut off date for all adult sons and daughters be extended to June 2002, at the time of submergence, as had been done in the case of the Bargi dam oustees, and that they should be given their rights of rehabilitation. That all those whose houses, wells and trees have not been enumerated should be included. That all state sponsored repression in the villages must immediately stop and that police force must be immediately removed, and the responsible officials punished.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan also takes strong exception to the threats of the state officials that their next measure will be to bull dozes the houses of the adivasis. It warns the state government that enough is enough and that if it continues to undertake repressive measures in the area and breaks the house of even a single adivasi, the Man dam affected adivasis will travel all over the state and the country to expose the anti-adivasi, anti-people character of the Digvijay Singh government in Madhya Pradesh as revealed in the Narmada valley and in the rest of the state.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan also condemns the recent permission that has been given to increase the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam to 95 m, which will cause the uprootment of thousands of adivasis without any rehabilitation. Most of these families are from Madhya Pradesh. However, the Madhya Pradesh government has resorted to differentiating between temporary and permanent submergence, in open violation of the NWDT Award, in order to consent to this submergence. The Narmada Bachao Andolan condemns this anti-adivasi, anti-people and inhuman decision and demands that all concerned governments review this decision immediately, stopping all construction on the Sardar Sarovar.

Ram Kumar, Village Khedi
Alok Agarwal, Narmada Bachao Andolan