NBA Press Note

November 13, 2000

Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

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Thousands confront the World Bank President in Delhi; Dharna continues with vigour

Around 2500 representatives of various people's movements and individuals from various walks of life from around the country have taken a massive rally from Rajghat (memorial of Mahatma Gandhi) to World Bank office in New Delhi, in protest against the anti-people policies, patronized and pushed ahead by the World Bank. Prominent among them were Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, Ekta Parishad, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Adivasi Shramik Sangathan, AIPRF, Kisan Adivasi Sangathan, Jagrut Mahila Sangathan, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Azadi Bachao Andolan, National Alliance of People's Movements, Dalit Mahila Chalwali, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Aruna Roy, Arundhati Roy, Medha Patkar and others from West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, Bihar, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and others.

Thousands of people who were stopped by the police from entering the Bank premises and who are camping at the gates were told by the Bank officials that the President has agreed to meet a delegation. But the people refused that and insisted on the President coming before the people and address their issues. They were determined not to move out from there till this meeting was held. According to message just received, the President agreed to come before the people in a short while.

The recent pronouncements of the Bank President, Mr. James Wolfensohn, in respect to various projects around the country has once again made it clear that the Bank has not learned any lessons from past experience of grave human rights violations, environmental degradation, dis-empowering people and pushing people to destitution. In particular, the President has said, in a meeting with the Gujarat Chief Minister, that the World Bank had made a mistake in withdrawing from the Sardar Sarovar Project, and indicated that the Bank may be willing to get involved in the project once again. The willingness to put money again into such disastrous projects like Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) after an independent committee (Morse Committee) constituted by the Bank themselves (in 1991-'92) had severely criticized not only the project and the Bank's funding of the same but even the callousness by which the Bank had flouted its own social and environmental guidelines.

Representatives from Madhya Pradesh Forestry Project have, in their speeches made clear that the 800-crore Phase I of the project that got over in 1999 has devastated the natural resource base of the adivasis and other communities whose life and livelihood is dependent on it. Due to the strong opposition of the people, Phase II was cancelled. But according to reliable sources the Bank is trying for a covert back door entry in to this project. In an open letter by various organisations from Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh to the President, they have warned that they will not tolerate Bank's trespassing and looting of Indian forests. Corporatisation of natural resources land, river and forest will be the last thing the people will allow to happen.

Bank's approval for $450 million for SSP in 1985 came when even the mandatory clearances were not obtained from the concerned ministries and authorities. The loan has only encouraged the power-holders to further violate the existing laws and take the least care for human right values. Rather it was used to pressurise the Ministries to provide the required sanctions, in the initial stages. According to Bank's own norms, it has a responsibility to monitor the project till the loan is repaid. In the case of SSP, this is not done. Rather than trying to correct past blunders, by honestly monitoring the Project, the plan to provide more funds is unethical and against all national and international legal - human conditions. The people will oppose this tooth-and-nail. To save their land and houses, they will go to any non-violent extent.

Dharna at Rajghat

The Dharna (sit-in) which began on the 11th with over 2000 people who reached Delhi as a culmination of the Call for Action for the Long March, (that began on the 6th November) has entered the 3rd day today. Hundreds of people are joining from different parts of the country. Numerous eminent persons, including Admiral Ramdas (Retd. Chief of Navy, Jst.(Retd) Rajendra Sachchar, Jst.(Retd)Ravi Kumar Jain, Rabi Ray (former Speaker Lok Sabha), Jst.(Retd) Ram Bhushan Meharotra have visited the Dharna and extended full support to the protest.

Large number of representatives from Tawa, Man, Veda, Bargi and Maheshwar dam area (all on Narmada), Ekta Parishad, Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, Adivasi Shramik Sangathan, Punarvasan Sangharsh Samiti, Adivasi Kisan Sangathan, Mazdoor Kisan Sakti Sangathan, National Council of Churches India, Progressive Students Union, Jagruti Mahila Sangathan, Dehli & Veerchak project affected and others have joined the Dharna.

The struggle of the people from the Narmada valley has reached a critical stage today with a shocking verdict of the Supreme Court wherein its majority (2:1) judgment allows the Sardar Sarovar dam to go ahead, beyond 88 mts to 90 mts and with approval of the state authorities alone, to the final height of 139 mts. The govt. has also failed to protect the land rights, rehabilitating just 25% of the Project affected in over 20 years, are in a way permitted to go ahead and flood the houses and fields of not less than 3500 families by the coming monsoon, and atleast 30,000 more, of recognized families and an equal number of unrecognized oustee families. The most valuable and exactly opposite minority judgment of Jst. Bharucha, one can't forget, directed immediate stoppage of dam work until a fresh clearance for SSP was obtained based on complete impact-assessment and feasible mitigatory plans.

Joe Athialy
Shripad Dharmadikhary