NBA Press Note

November 9, 2000

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats, Ellora Park, Baroda, Gujarat.
Telefax: 0265-382232
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Tel: 07290-22464

LONG MARCH REACHES MUMBAI - INCREASING SUPPORT ALL ALONG: NARMADA TRIBALS APPEAL TO GOVERNOR OF MAHARASHTRA TO PROTECT THEIR RIGHTS AND LIFE

Govt. Claims Of Land and Resettlement Exposed Once Again In Taloda

The Narmada valley tribals affected by the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) today met the Governor of Maharashtra and appealed to him to safeguard their right to life and resources from the unjust submergence and displacement using his Constitutional prerogative, under Schedule 5 of the Constitution. The people also have demanded that the Maharashtra government must stand by the rights of its people and interests of the state rather than blindly supporting the Gujarat government in the matter of SSP. The Governor has assured the delegation that he will look into the issues earnestly.

About 700 representatives of the affected villagers on the banks of Narmada have arrived in Mumbai on November 9 as a part of their Long March - "Call to Justice" - towards Delhi to appeal to the conscience of the nation regarding the injustice and suppression of their fundamental rights. The March held impressive demonstrations and meetings at Dhadgaon, Shahada, Taloda, Nandurbar and Jalgaon before arriving in Mumbai. Organisations and citizens in these places expressed solidarity with the cause of Narmada oustees. A 30 member group from Karnataka, representing different organisatios like Dalit Mahila Chalwali, Samvada have joined the Long March in Mumbai.

The Long March by the people is aiming to expose the legal, Constitutional and social shortcomings inherent in the recent majority judgment on Narmada issue by the Supreme Court and a call for transforming judiciary to be more truthful, committed to the Constitutional value of protecting the rights of the depressed classes and accountable. The March aims to reassert the people's rights as against the rights of the corporate interests and powerholders. There will also be a public hearing in Delhi on the Narmada issue on November 14, organized by the Indian People's Tribunal, Mumbai, in which a group of eminent people from different walks of life will form the jury. The Long March will also appeal to the President to use his powers to stop further devastation of tribals, in particular and the Valley and destitution of the people, in general.

Meeting With Governor

After arriving in Mumbai, the people from the Narmada valley went to Chaitya Bhoomi, on the shores of Arabian sea, and paid homage to the memorial of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution. Later a delegation of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and the supporters met the Governor of Maharashtra, Mr. P.C. Alexander to appeal him to use his discretionary powers under the Schedule V of the Indian Constitution to protect the rights and life of the tribals. The delegation included the senior tribal leaders like Noorji Padvi, Vestabhai Pawra, Dedlibai, Geeta Vasave (all from Maharashtra villages), Natubhai Rathwa (Gujarat), Harilal tadvi and Khansingh (Sanctuary affected, Gujarat), Jordar Pawra (Punarvasan Sangharsha Samiti, Resettlement site, Maharashtra), Surekha Dalvi (Shoshit Jan Andolan, Maharashtra), N.D.Kholi, National Fishworkers Forum and Medha Patkar of NBA.

They pointed out that Maharashtra will not get any benefit from the SSP, rather it had lost its 10,000 hectares of forest, would cause the displacement of over 5000 tribal families and would have to shell out Rs. 1200 crores for the dam. Even the drought affected regions of Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat will not benefit from the dam and would cause serious environmental and social problems in Gujarat itself.

From Chaitya Bhoomi, the people went in a rally to the Azad Maidan from Churchgate. Hundreds of activists from various organisations and prominent citizens joined the day long demonstrations. Punarvas Sangharsh Smiti, Shoshit Jan Andolan, Girani Kamgar Sangharsha Samiti, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Rashtra Seva Dal, Slum Dwellers' organisation, Footpathwasi Jan Sanghatan, Manav Mukti Morcha, Rationing Kruti Samiti and various activists came in support of the Narmada valley people in Mumbai.

Visit of Chairperson of R&R sub group of NCA: No Land For Oustees Even Below 80 Meters Proved Again

Before arriving at Mumbai, the oustees once again exposed the false claims of land availability by the government of Maharashtra, this time in the presence of the prominent persons and Ms.Asha Das, Chairperson of R&R SubGroup of Narmada Control Authority (who is also the Secretary of Union Ministry of Social Justice). On a visit to Rozva and Amlibari rehabilitation sites in Maharashtra on Tuesday (November 7), the district administration had to admit that it had no land for the oustees that would be affected by the 90 meters of the height of the dam, as ordered by the Supreme Court. It was again revealed that even the oustees displaced due to the 80 m height of the dam, have not been resettled fully till date with cultivable land.

The already displaced oustees, below the 80 meters of the dam height, were not given the land for last 4 to 7 years. There was no land for the oustees that are being affected by the increased height of the dam. "How come the Court then has ordered to take up the height of the dam upto 90 meters, when even those below the 80 and 88 m height could not be resettled in Maharashtra", the people thus questioned both the administration and the Court, which did not take into account the reality. Ms. Asha Das had no answer to their questions. The body headed by Ms.Das had given the report about the resettlement and the people asked her to show the land, which the report claimed in the previous report to be available. After hearing all serious problems in respect to proper rehabilitation of the SSP oustees, she replied, " I would verify". The people asked, " So you submitted the report, without verifying the facts?". One official even have admitted that, "thoda problem hain yeh abhi lag raha hai" [it seems now that there is some problems (in rehabilitation)], which enraged the people. "Now? And that too some problem?" The oustees who have been displaced for seven years and could not get the land, other oustees on the resettlement sites with full of complaints and the affected people from the valley confronted the officials at Taloda. Once again, it was revealed that the government has been patently dishonest with the people and with the Court. The Court too has failed to authenticate the claims made by the concerned governments and allowed further construction of the dam.

Common People's Solidarity

Hundreds of people and the number of organisations and groups in Shahada, Taloda, Nandurbar, Jalgaon, Amalner and Pachora turned to greet the Long March (Nyay Ki Pukar, Call for Justice), of the Adivasis from Narmada valley. Adivasi Ekata Parishad, Rashtra Seva Dal, Chhatra Yuva Sangharsha Vahini, Shramik Mukti Sangathan, Mahatma Phule Samta Sangahtan, Janarth, Nandurbar Bar Association and number of other organisations participated in the programmes, welcomed, fed the people in the rallies and meetings at Jalgaon, Nandurbar, Taloda, Shahada. On route to Mumbai by railway, hundreds of activists at Amalner and Pachora railway stations arranged receptions to the people from Narmada valley at the platform itself. The political parties like Congress, Nationalist Congress (Taloda), Communist Party (Marxist) and Janata Dal expressed support to the cause of the NBA. Everywhere the people and organisations criticised the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the dam construction and expressed solidarity with the struggle of the people.

Sanjay Sangvai
Joe Athialy