| NBA Update
|| 10 November 2004
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
The Sardar Sarovar Mega dam Project (SSP) in the Narmada River Valley is one of the largest and most controversial of the large dams in India. For the last two decades, the people affected by the Project have been challenging many issues related to the dam, primarily displacement and lack of just rehabilitation, but also including exaggerated cost-benefits analysis and the need for alternatives.
The ‘oustees’, as the affected people are known in official documents, are organized as the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). Today, official figures place the total families affected by the Sardar Sarovar in three states at around 41,000 (and in one document it is stated to be 43,816). However, the NBA estimates the total figure to be closer to 50,000 (after adding major sons and other currently undeclared but eligible families). As of now, there are over 11,000 families yet to be rehabilitated who are affected at the CURRENT HEIGHT of 110.64 meters. Many thousands among these have already faced submergence due to the SSP, and others who are affected at the same height will face submergence at higher levels of rainfall. Hence, the current reality is that the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Project has proceeded to a height of 110.64 meters (out of a total of 138.68m), but rehabilitation has not been kept up as per the law, causing great devastation to the living communities in the Narmada Valley.
This year, submergence hit all the hilly Adivasi villages affected by the Project, in all the three states – Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat - about 60 villages. These adivasi families, living on the banks of the river, between the Vindhya and Satpura mountain ranges, who have not only fought valiantly for their rights, but have also raised questions about consumption, inequitable distribution of wealth, and about why they have to “sacrifice their lives” for the “greater common good of the country.” These families have lost most of their good fertile lands by the river-banks, and this year they all lost their standing crop. About 150 homes were submerged this year also. Though Maharashtra government has paid compensation for crops lost in previous years, they have not paid so far for this year and the MP government has never paid the compensation for this human-caused disaster.
Amongst all this, the struggle of the people continues fiercely. In the entire Adivasi belt, no family has accepted the illegal cash compensation being offered to them in lieu of land; they are all demanding land from the government, since they know that they need land in order to ensure secure livelihood. In the plains of Nimad in MP, while many families have been lured into accepting cash compensation, there are thousands of other families who have not touched cash compensation, and are still demanding a just and deserving land-based rehabilitation.
The Maharashtra government has started buying private lands in order to re-settle people. However this process is moving very slowly, while the dam height brazenly continues to be raised and the submergence keeps on increasing. For Maharashtra, it is also important to note that about 2/3 of all families living in the villages are not declared as affected people. Hence, their rights are not understood or acknowledged, and hence not rehabilitated. The NBA has conducted many dharnas and demonstrations including outside the Mumbai Mantralaya, in order for these families to be declared, and for rehabilitation to be completed BEFORE any further dam height increase.
The Madhya Pradesh government has totally subverted the legally-binding procedure of giving land for land to all affected families who are entitled to it. Till today, not a single oustee has been offered or allotted adequate cultivable agricultural land in Madhya Pradesh by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. M.P. initially presumed that all the thousands of families who are entitled to alternate land in lieu of land submerged, would go to Gujarat. However, this presumption was not based on the consent of the people. Hence it is a violation of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA) and the Supreme Court judgment of October 2000 (in the case of the writ petition of Narmada Bachao Andolan versus Union of India and others).
Currently, two villages of Madhya Pradesh, Jalsindhi and Picchodi (both 100% Adivasi villages, Jalsindhi is in the hilly region of Alirajpur taluka, Picchodi in the plains of Nimad) have taken their fight to the Supreme Court and have filed cases (Applications for Directions) in the Supreme Court, demanding that the M.P. government rehabilitate them with land immediately, since they are already affected, and Jalsindhi people have been facing submergence without rehabilitation which is illegal as per the 2000 Supreme Court judgment. The Court gave an interim order in July 04, ordering the MP government to purchase private lands and rehabilitated people with a “positive attitude”. However, the M.P. government is still trying to subvert this process.
Recently 37 NVDA officials in Badwani district were suspended from work after gross corruption was exposed during audit. While this exposes the designs of the Madhya Pradesh government to opt for giving cash compensation, the corrupt officials continue to hold their sway in other parts of the submergence zone.
Along with the blatant and clear lack of rehabilitation, the NBA is also questioning the benefits being given by the dam. The push to build up to 110.64 meters was done saying that great benefits would be achieved at that height. However, only about 40 MW of power were produced, as compared to the exaggerated claims. This year, in August 2004, the main canal of the SSP in Gujarat broke in several places, each break being a gaping 50 metres wide. Hence the water impounded in the reservoir at 110.64 m, which caused such devastating submergence for people, could not even be used properly for irrigation due to the canal break.
In addition, the canal network meant for irrigation has aggravated water-logging in the command area. Most of the Gujarat oustees are relocated in the command. Not only are they already displaced people, but this year, they lost their crops even in the benefits zone as a result of severe water-logging. This was due to inadequate and improper drainage facilities set up by the government. Hence even the benefits zone turned into a submergence zone!
The struggle carries on fiercely. This year, three out of the fourteen Jeevanshalas (“schools of life”- 11 in Maharashtra, 2 in M.P. and 1 in Gujarat), run by the Andolan in the hilly Adivasi areas, were submerged, namely those at Nimgavan, Bhadal and Bharad (all Maharashtra). However, the brave children at these Jeevanshalas, who understand the displacement that their communities are facing, and participate in the struggle, moved their schools higher so that they could continue to learn even as the waters kept engulfing their villages.
Another heart-rending story is that of the six villages around the Sardar Sarovar dam site, whose lands were acquired as early as 1960-61 at a meager compensation of Rs. 80-250/acre. Due to a brave fight as part of the NBA, they managed to avoid getting evicted from their already-acquisitioned land. However, now the situation has deteriorated again. In order to ensure the safety of the hundreds of tourists visiting the dam site to see the “desi Niagara”, the adivasi people are being viewed as a "security problem" in their own homes. The government has announced that it wants to develop the areas around the dam for eco-tourism, and the 900+ families in the six villages may face forced eviction at any time. They are being offered a maximum of Rs. 36000, insufficient for buying even a single acre of land. As of now, the situation is very tense. The people are warned by the officials that anyone protesting the whims of the government may end up getting nothing. The struggle continues.
This year, because of the devastating submergence that people faced and braved, with thousands of families not giving in to cash compensation or to being sent to Gujarat, there is a severe food insecurity crisis facing the people. Hence, a process of Jansahayog was initiated by the Narmada Navnirman Abhiyan, a registered trust, to collect money to donate grains (jowar, bajra, tuvar, chawli, etc) to families in desperate need of food. About 250 families have been already distributed grain, and in fact, more families are being given food grains right now.
When 30 meters of the dam remain to be constructed beyond the current height (final height is 138.68 meters), a serious question about the feasibility of rehabilitation for the remaining thousands (land-based in the case of at least half of the balance of families) needs to be raised. It is clear that a rehabilitation master plan with correct and updated land records, final number of project-affected families and details of agricultural land and house plots to be offered to oustees, is not yet ready. Thousands of families in the hilly tribal communities of Maharashtra (district Nandurbar) and Madhya Pradesh (districts Jhabua, Badwani, Dhar and Khargone) both the adivasi areas and the large, heavily populated mixed caste villages in the fertile Nimad plains of MP as well as a few hundred families in Gujarat original villages (district Baroda, Narmada), await rehabilitation with little information and hoping against hope.
Currently, shady nexus of dam builders and bureaucrats is going on with also a few politicians involved, to get the clearance for 121.92 meters. For this they need to get the Action Taken Reports (ATRs) of the three states cleared by the Grievances Redressal Authorities and by the Rehabilitation and Resettlement sub-group of NCA. The official figure to be rehabilitated under 121.92 meters is 12000 families.
As a first step in the fraudulent process, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has, in its website, put the balance of PAFs to be rehabilitated under 110.64 m as “ZERO” (http://www.ncaindia.org/rnr_index.htm#highlights) when thousands remain in the valley at this height of the dam.
NBA stands committed to expose the evil designs prepared to complete the dam and reap the benefits without giving the Project Affected Families their due rights as per the NWDT Award and the October 2000 Supreme Court Order.
Narmada Bachao Andolan