| NBA Press Release
|| 25 May 2004
Third day of fast by 124 Upper Beda dam oustees in Khargone jail in Madhya Pradesh; Women spurn administration order to leave jail with surety, and without male protestors;
NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
The fast of all the 124 oustees of the Upper Beda dam in Khargone jail where they are presently confined continued for the third day today amidst the climbing summer heat and precarious health on one hand and tremendous state government reluctance to respond to the demands of the affected people regarding the provision of agricultural land for the rehabilitation for the landless and the land-owning oustees, and the exploration of alternatives to the Upper Beda dam. Succumbing however, to the mounting pressure created by the fast, by late evening today, the administration passed an order allowing the 47 women oustees to leave the prison on condition that they agree not to obstruct work at the dam site. However the women, refused to offer surety and to leave the jail without the men, and continued in their confinement. The Khargone jailer also resumed today the illegal practice of refusing any visitors to the oustees in confinement without the permission of the administration. Even a nursing mother whois in jail was not allowed to meet her infant who was brought there by her family, demonstrating not only the disregard for law but also the inhumanity of the admnistration and the jail establishment. Senior NVDA officials including the Vice-Chairman and Member Rehabilitation NVDA responded to the struggle of the Beda dam affected people by making the usual public statements about the huge benefits and slender costs of the Project, good rates to be offered for the acquisition of land, house plots, transportation grants, cash grants for the landless, and at least Rs. 20,000 for the acquisition of each house !! The NBA notes though not with surprise that the NVDA was completely silent on the central question and demand of the availability of agricultural land for the oustees with land in the submergence zone, as also the landless oustees.
It also notes that the NVDA has not responded to NBA’s charges of NVDA ‘s using fudged land figures and misleading reports in order to obtain loan sanctions and the necessary clearances for the Upper Beda Project. The NVDA officials have themselves conceded that the availability of 1323 ha. of cultivable land that they detailed in the NVDD R&R plan made in March 2002 for Upper Beda Project is not current and probably does not exist. Moreover, the NVDA has responded to the demands for land based on the Narmada land for land policy, by stating that the policy was changed in late 2002 to say that land would be provided to the oustees only as far as possible. Obviously, the policy was changed after all the sanctions and clearances were in place on the basis of the previous policy. The NVDA has also conceded in a written letter to the NBA that conditional clearance of the erstwhile Union Ministry of Social Welfare annexed to the March 2002 NVDD R&R plan was a mix-up, and therefore the implementation of the clearance condition of 2 ha. of land to the landless given by the Ministry would be a error. Clearly, the land figures shown as available for cultivation are fudged, the policy changed after the clearances, and the rehabilitation plans submitted by the NVDA to the Union Ministry of Welfare a complete misrepresentation. However the NVDA has chosen not to respond to any of these well-considered conclusions of the oustees.
The Narmada Bachao Andolan condemns this attempt by the state government to evade its responsibility. For the NVDA to call its attempt to offer mere cash disbursements and then forcibly evict affected people as a liberalized package displays its utter callousness for people’s lives. The NVDA is evicting people in Harsud and other villages of Indira Sagar with the same callousness and repressive tactics.
A delegation of the NBA along with senior activist Alok Agarwal also met the District Collector Shri Pal today and demanded the unconditional release of the oustees and agricultural land for their rehabilitation in the command area. The District Collector expressed his inability to provide agricultural land for the oustees without permission of his superiors, and indicated that the NBA should talk with the higher political establishment. Senior activists and NBA supporters Madhuri of Jan Sangharsh Morcha, Kalpana Mehta of Sandarbh and Dr. Bhagyashree of Manasi also met Commissioner Indore, Shri Ashok Das. He also expressed his inability to offer the affected people agricultural land. The district and the Divisional administration however expressed their anxiety that the oustees should not return to the dam site where they were sitting on barricades. Clearly, the chief responsibility of the administration is to secure the interest of the dam builders but not that of the affected people.
The NBA has also written to and called on the Chairperson of NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development) and the Union Minister, Central Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to constitute a joint mission of the affected people, the officials of the NVDA of the Government of Madhya Pradesh, officials of NABARD, and the Central Ministry of Social Justice officials to investigate the veracity and qualitative aspects of the land availability detailed in the NVDD rehabilitation plans, and the documents submitted by the NVDD on the basis of which the Union Ministry of Social Welfare clearance was accorded. The NBA has asked for an immediate cancellation of the NABARD sanction and the Ministry of Social Justice clearance in case the figures are found fudged and fraudulent, and the land is not found available, as well as penalties for officials responsible for the fraud. If rehabilitation based on agricultural land is not found viable, the NBA has called upon the apex rural development financial institution to finance dispersed water alternatives in the command area as ordered by the state government in 1999 rather than the proposed large dam. Meanwhile the jailed people must be unconditionally released and the dam construction and the land acquisition stopped.