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Press Release                                 October 01, 1999
Camp: 16, Ashoknagar, Dhule - 424001 (Ph. 02562-34519)

Medha And Others Issue Statement From Dhule

Condemning the ignorance and arrogance of the Maharashtra Chief Minister Mr. Narayan Rane, Medha Patkar and other detainees have challenged him again to prove that the land for rehabilitation of the oustees of the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is available and the project is in the interest of the state. This has come in the event of the irresponsible and scurrilous utterances of Mr. Rane about the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and Medha Patkar, which were repeated on 30th September in Nashik again. The activists issued the statement from Dhule, where they have been kept from September 23 as hundreds of the people from Narmada valley have been holding indefinite dharna outside the jail. The people have been demanding that the government must show courage to answer the basic questions of the people.

The statement issued by Medha Patkar, Dedlibai Vasave, Keshav Vasave, Ranya Padvi and Dr. Sugan Baranth from Dhule on Friday (Oct. 1). They said that "The recent statement by the Maharashtra Chief Minister Mr. Narayan Rane once again exposes his misplaced arrogance and total lack of knowledge regarding the Narmada Bachao Andolan or the status of the rehabilitation of the displaced people."

"Mr. Rane is misguiding the people of Maharashtra and has been telling an utter lie by claiming that the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is beneficial to the state and that there is enough land in for the resettlement of the oustees. This false claim is being made by him even after admitting that he did not know the facts regarding the cost benefit of the project or the state of rehabilitation, during our discussions. The Chief Minister has been bluffing on the issue of the dam and rehabilitation as he knows that he stands on a sticky wicket. For that reason alone, the Chief Minister and his government has lodged 386 of us in Dhule jail implicating in false charges and is scared of coming forward to discuss the issue with the Andolan."

"We challenge the state government to prove the cost benefit of the SSP, the benefit of the electricity to Maharashtra from the project and the availability of 2200 hectares of rehabilitation land for the people displaced according to the law. This must be proved in front of the people who have been in jail and on dharna within 48 hours, either by the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary or some such responsible and knowledgeable official in the presence of the independent experts. Such independent persons can de decided with the agreement of the NBA."

"If the state government did not come forward and accept this challenge, it will be proved once again that the state government has committed gross crime and played fraud by filing false affidavits in the Supreme Court and lying to the people about the project".

"The Chief Minister is making himself a laughing stock by claiming the availability of the land for the rehabilitation of the rest of the SSP oustees in Maharashtra, when those who already have been displaced have been clamouring for land and proper rehabilitation. The state government itself has changed the claim regarding the availability of 1239 hectares of land in Akkalkua and Taloda tehsils, made in the Supreme Court affidavit. It later claimed in the September 1998 and July 1999 affidavits that only 449 hectares of land was available. Even this land was not available, as was proved in March, 1999, when the oustees went to Nandurbar asking the Collector to show the land. The government officials had conceded that no such land was available. We put all these facts in the Court And now, where has the Chief Minister got the news that 2200 ha. of land was available? We challenge him to show us such land, the villages and survey numbers of the land and in whose possession is this land? Why has the Government of Maharashtra not submitted such information when the court has not allowed the construction of the dam beyond 88 mts.? Why did not any official apprise the Chief Minister that those who have been already been ousted and are stated to have been rehabilitated in Maharashtra and Gujarat too are opposing the dam and displacement?"

"There is no point in blaming merely the bureaucracy which has been keeping the Chief Minister in dark. The Chief Minister himself has been making himself a laughing stock by making such absurd statements. Only after this we can decide why the people in the Narmada valley and activists have been struggling to save the land, water, forests an other resources of the state for 14 years, even staking their lives in the neck deep submergence water. This would also bring to light the ignorance of the Shiv Sena-BJP coalition government and its arrogant and adamant attitude towards the people."

The Chief Minister, in his Press Conference in Nashik on Thursday (Sept.30), claimed that Medha Patkar has been continuing the movement for her own sake and the NBA has appropriated 500 hectares of land from tribals. He also claimed that the state government had 2200 hectares land for rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, the dharna against the adamant attitude of the state government has continued for an eighth day, with more and more organisations from Dhule district joining in the protest.

Sanjay Sangvai