NBA Press Release
  14 May 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Increase in SSP Height - A Corrupt Politics : Digvijay, Shinde Submit to Modi’s Wiles

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Once again, the Indian State has betrayed the Adivasis and farmers in the Narmada valley by its cruel and presumptuous decision to impose the submergence and destitution on its own people. It is nothing but intra-border terrorism by the Indian state on its own people. It will be not merely a doob (submergence), but a doom unleashed on the innocent civilians.

In yet another atrocious and illegal step, the Indian government has decided to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar Project from 95 meters to 100 meters, threatening the lives of over 12,000 tribal and farmer families in the Narmada valley with no hope of resettlement. Along with the nefarious designs of the infamous Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the anti-people role played by the two Congress Chief Ministers- Sushilkumar Shinde of Maharashtra and Digvijay Singh of Madhya Pradesh- has also been equally hideous.

No less than 12,000 (twelve thousand) tribal and peasant families on the banks of the Narmada will be compelled to face submergence due to this decision. The fact was well established through repeated surveys and government appointed fact-finding missions. Knowing this fully well, the bureaucrats and political bosses in the governments of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have connived to bring in flood and devastation beyond last years’ calamitous submergence to make the people destitute. With hardly any progress on rehabilitation with land, as provided for in the policies, this rising of the height and consequent submergence is illegal, an unjust and a clear contempt of Supreme Court’s Judgment 2000.

It will be literally a kind of water war in the Narmada Valley, before it is witnessed by the world, as more than one hundred villages thickly populated villages in Nimad (Madhya Pradesh) and twenty-six in Maharashtra, that will be affected at 110 meters cannot be vacated and people cannot be resettled by any means before the flooding occurs in the coming monsoon. The people will face it and the Governments too will have to face nationwide and worldwide infamy for yet another genocide – perpetuated in the name of Gujarat this time by its Chief Minister and, fully supported by the so-called secular Governments! The decision is an absolute deception on behalf of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh Governments, as they have submitted outright before the all-powerful Modi, who could impose his will even on the Prime Minister’s office.

The Central government, the Madhya Pradesh and the Maharashtra governments along with the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), which has given the ‘conditional’ consent, have violated every single provision, norm, law and even the Supreme Court order of October 2000 regarding the resettlement of displaced people. The land-based resettlement is a cardinal provision of Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal (NWDT), to which the state governments had sworn allegiance. The land-based resettlement was endorsed by the Supreme Court verdict in October 2000. None of the states have resettled the affected people.

Betrayal by Singh

The two Chief Minister – Shinde and Singh - know fully well that they have no land for the resettlement of over 3000 tribal families in Maharashtra and atleast over 5000 more families in Madhya Pradesh, which will face submergence due to the 100 meters dam (+ 3 meters of humps). This 103 m. height will engulf all the 33 tribal villages in Maharashtra, and large and well settled villages in the plains of Nimad, like Nisarpur, Bhavanriya, Chikhalda, Chhota Badada.

Everyone concerned knows that, it is practically impossible even otherwise the resettle the Nimad villagers, with fertile land and large, well-settled villages bustling with agrarian, commercial and social activities. There is simply no cultivable land available to resettle them. The so called 5000 hectares land, identified by the state government, had already been rejected by the people three years back, after a joint inspection along with the officials, as it was totally uncultivable. The M.P. government was in fact resorting to the illegal means of forcibly disbursing cash compensation to the oustees – which is a clear violation of the NWDT and Supreme Court order.

Even very recently, Digvijay Singh had committed in his written reply to our letters that his state would ensure strict compliance with the Tribunal Awards and the Supreme Court Judgment. But his acquiescence for further construction without resettling his own people exposes the rhetoric and absolutely inhuman attitude by the media savvy and so called Green Chief Minister. This is the height of dishonesty and betrayal by the Digvijay Singh Government with his own people. It is the same government, which had filed a separate suite in the Supreme Court in 1998, for decreasing the height of the dam. It had then claimed that it wanted to save its fertile Nimad land, had no land to resettle all these people, the state has no money and no benefit from the dam.

Maharashtra’s Duplicity

The previous Vilasrao Deshmukh government in Maharashtra had at least maintained that it had no land for the resettlement of the tribal oustees of the state. It had also appointed a joint Task Force, in September 2001, with the participation of Narmada Bachao Andolan and other organizations, to assess the extent and magnitude of the displacement, the status of the resettlement of tribals in Maharashtra. The Task Force had finished its job in 2002 itself and had come out with shocking revelations.

However, there has been no complete resettlement of the oustees even below 90 m. Over 800 oustees shifted to the ‘resettlement sites’ are yet to be fully rehabilitated. This alone will require 4000 hectares of land for their land-based resettlement. Thousands of tribals are still to be resettled and there is no land available for their resettlement. Nor there is any plan ready for their resettlement. Also, there is an urgent need to revise the estimates and lists of the project-affected persons (PAPs), declaring the left-out families (undeclared) as the PAPs, to identify over 4000 hectares of land for their resettlement, and to expedite the process of Planning Committee of NBA and the government.

The NBA and other organizations had a meeting with the Chief Minister Mr. Shinde, on April 29 and again on May 8, where he announced that Maharashtra will not allow increase in the height, until the people below that height are resettled according to the NWDT. He agreed that the people would be shown land and will be fully rehabilitated before any increase in the dam height. But he seemed to rely more on his officials and was audacious to set aside the Task Force recommendations for updating and revising records of oustees, on the basis of the official resurvey done by a Task Force involving the NBA. Without doing all this, the state has allowed flooding of the lands and houses, bringing in destruction, much beyond last years’ submergence.

The Maharashtra bureaucracy has been hostile to the tribals in Narmada valley and it wants to ‘teach a lesson’ to the valiant tribal villagers who have made their life miserable by insisting on the law, their rights and entitlements. Mr. Shinde made a choice against the tribals, in favour of bureaucracy- and Modi. It is shameful for Maharashtra and for the nation that a Chief Minister, who flaunts his being a Dalit (depressed caste) on his sleeve, to agree to the destruction of life and livelihood of his tribal brethren.

It is obvious for both the Congress Chief Ministers (as also Gehlot, Chief Minister of Rajasthan), that they will gain very little benefit, uncertain electricity benefits -especially when Gujarat has taken away water beyond original plans through lower level bypass tunnel- and not a drop of water from Sardar Sarovar Project. Yet, they have decided to sacrifice their people for the political and financial benefit of Modi Government and his mainstream Gujarat, not the people from the drought affected region of Kutch and Saurashtra.

The people of Saurashtra and Kutch in Gujarat, will have to wage a battle against the giant urban-industrial elites and the capitalist powers, like the people in the valley have been struggling for last 18 years. Beyond all of this, the nation will have to reconsider about the investment of thousands of crores of rupees in such an unviable and disastrous project (total cost 44.000 crores), with rampant corruption. The Sardar Sarovar Project will prove to be a great social and economic disaster for Gujarat and India. Drowning people will not drown the truth, nor can it wipe out the people’s struggle.

The Narmada struggle is a test case for all of us to see that the people’s rights are upheld. For the governments and the petty bureaucracy also, it is a test case – nay matter of prestige – to see that people do not assert their rights. What we are going to choose?

As far as the NBA is concerned, we will keep fighting against the injustice, oppression and fraud – symbolised by the Sardar Sarovar.

Medha Patkar