NBA Press Release
  11 May 2004
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

ALLOT LAND BEFORE ONSET ON MONSOON: FOURTH DAY OF NARMADA LAND-RIGHT
SATYAGRAHA IN - TRIBALS PREPARE FOR NEW LIFE

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

"We Will Plant Trees on Degraded Forest Land. Forest is Better Protected by Tribals"

Hundreds of displaced tribals in the Narmada valley continued the Bhoomi Hakk Satyagraha (Land-right Satyagraha) on fourth day on Monday (May 11). They are demanding the immediate implementation of the decisions by the Maharashtra government for the resettlement with land before the monsoon and subsequent submergence threatening their lives due to the raising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam upto 110 meters. They made it clear that, the Government must come forward with some piece of land where the more than 1500 families could be resettled before the onset of monsoon, in a fixed time frame. If this was not done, they declared that, "There will be no option left for us but to occupy this piece of degraded forest land, as our villages are bound to be submerged once the dam work reaches 110 meters."

The Satyagraha by over 200 families from the first villages from Maharashtra, threatened with the Sardar Sarovar dam and its imminent submergence due to the raising of dam height upto 110 m. during this monsoon, along with the activists and supporters of Narmada Bachao Andolan was launched on May 8, near the forest land between Somaval-Alivihir (Dist. Nandurbar). Despite heavy downpour for two consecutive nights and the tension created by vested political interests, the Satyagrahis continued with their non-violent agitation and they have also started preparing for constuctive work (nav-nirman).

The Maharashtra villagers were compelled to undertake this step as the state government and administration again and again failed to provide land-based resettlement, despite repeated assurances, committees and written declarations preceded by number of dharnas (sit-in), fasts, and negotiations. And the heavy downpour on 7,8 and 9th May confirmed the fear if at all needed ^÷ about the tragedy that awaits them during the monsoon. That is why, they are now resolute to get the land-based rehabilitation before the monsoon. That is why they have made clear that tjhey would be compelled to start farming on the degraded forest land, if the government did not come with suitable chunk of land ^÷ which was assured n-th time.

To allay fears of some of the environmentalists, the NBA made it clear that, "there is hardly a tree on this piece of land, which officially belongs to the Forest Department. " The trees have been chopped down long ago. The NBA has always maintained that instead of felling trees, we will plant and rejuvenate new forest, and that is why for this camp we have brought kerosene and bamboo so that we do not disturb the local ecology. The forest is best preserved, not by the Forest Department, but by the Adivasis", it asserted.

The Maharashtra police and administration paraded the some tribals from adjoining areas to oppose the Narmada tribals. These tribals, instigated by the local politician of the Bharatiya Janata Party and encouraged by the police and administration to portray the Satyagraha merely as tribal versus tribal feud. The NBA has made it clear that the Narmada tribals do not wish to fight with their tribal brethren and together they should fight with the government for the land rights and titles. " We have experienced too well the historic alienation of Adivasi lands by the government, and do not say that the people have no rights to the land because they do not have title. If there are any real encroachment claims by the local people on parts of the land, there should be negotiations, and we may shift our base to avoid conflicting with their claims" declared Medha Patkar, The state government, if it wishes, should other suitable and large chunk of land, for a community based resettlement ofall affected villagers according to the provisions of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT).

As the Satyagraha continued, the District Collector and the District Police Superintendent came and discussed the matter with the Satyagrahis. NBA made it clear that, "Cabinet has taken the decision to give land for land and identifying that with the participation of NBA. The officials have to just implement the decision by the Ministry. They should not make it a law and order issue and nor should they instigate other tribals".

Nav-Nirman

The displaced tribals are determined to get the land ^÷based resettlement at least at this juncture and establish the Narmada Jeevan Gaon (Narmada Village for Life). Veteran social worker and former bureaucrat R.V. Bhuskute started his training in land mapping, surveying and demarcation. The team of the Masum, a people^“s health organization, held the camp for women^“s health and other ailments. Activiities are going on regarding the education and house-construction. The Andolan has been trying to develop all these constructive activities on the lines of alternative view of development. Number of supporters from other parts of Maharashtra and India are joining them to help them to re-start the life. A team of activists from anti-Coca-Cola struggle in Plachmada (Kerala) and comrades from Delhi, Madhya Praedsh, Delhi and other parts of Maharashtra are with them. The villagers of Somaval resettlement site, the earlier re-settlers from the Narmada valley, have been providi ng all solidarity and support for their brethren from their own villages and are part of their struggle for gaining their rights.

Their first priority is to prepare the land ready for cultivation in this monsoon, as they lost all their crops on the Narmada-bank villages due to the repeated submergence. Even the tribals in Somaval were not satisfactorily resettled. The government of Maharashtra had ceded only 2760 hectares of land out of total 4200 ha. Deforested land for resettlement of Narmada oustees. Even out of these 2760 ha., Over 100 families from Somaval have to get the land as yet. Now the Narmada families demand land-based resettlement of these earlier ousted tribals too, along with their own immediate resettlement.

Background

Over 1, 500 from Maharashtra and 10,000 families from Madhya Pradesh are in the submergence zone of 110 m. Despite the repeated attempts by the Andolan like like dharna and indefinite fast in Nashik in May 2003 or in January 2004 at Mumbai, and inspite of recommendations by state government appointed committees like Justice Daud committee, Task Force Committee, there is practically no progress on resettlement count. Maharashtra government has avoided implementation of the Cabinet^“s own decisions taken on 21st and 28th of January, whereby the state was to update its records including the left out families and not to allow the dam height to go beyond 100m unless rehabilitation work was completed. When adequate land is not yet identified, records not updated, and roads not built, there is no way the governments could save the affected families^“ houses, villages, markets, and monuments, from drowning and devastation in this very monsoon.

Narmada valley people are determined to assert and gain their rights and to usher in the new life, alternative development. The people in the Narmada valley call unto all the people and organizations, who have faith in humanity, equality and democracy, to support them from various parts and join the new endeavour of Jeevan Gaon in the various facets of life.

Suniti S.R.

Shyam Patil

Pervin Jehangir