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Press Release                                 October 02, 1999


As four more villagers joined Medha Patkar in an indefinite fast in Dhule jail from today ( Saturday, Oct. 2) the people in Narmada valley dared the Chief Minister Mr. Narayan Rane to prove charges of foreign funding to the Andolan. The people once again challenged the state government to prove that the land for rehabilitation of Maharashtra oustees was available within 48 hours.

Sitarambhai Patidar (Kadmal), Doorsingh Vasave (Domkhedi), Dadliya Karbariya (Domkhedi), Naharsingh PAvra (Savariya), Mahadeo Patidar ( Chhota Barda) have decided to fast alongwith Medha Patkar.

A large protest meeting was organised today near the jail. The participants challenged the Chief Minister to prove the charge of foreign funding on the NBA and invited him to elaborate the "foreign hand" behind the Narmada struggle. They also called upon Mr. Rane to prove within 48 hours that the 2200 hectares of land for the rehabilitation of Maharashtra oustees was available. Otherwise he must admit that he was lying and make an affidavit to this effect in Supreme Court. "We will expose the irresponsible utterances of the Chief Minister in and out of the court. These bureaucrats and politicians should not play with the life of us adivasis in such a manner", said Pinjari Bai, a senior activist from Akrani tehsil in the valley.

"The Andolan has been built us on our own resources, from our friends from all over India. We had not taken a paisa of the two international awards the NBA has received", said the main activist, Luwarya bhai from Alirajpur tehsil. Mansarambhai from Nimad ridiculed Mr. Rane's statement, coming from the government, which is dependent on money from the World Bank and multinatonals.

"Hundreds of the displaced families in Maharashtra have been without the houses and the allotments of land. The displaced people have been given the land which has been cultivated by other adivasis, which has led to conflict between adivasi communities" said Pratibha Shinde of the Punarvas Sangharsha Samiti. She challenged the Chief Minister to resettle the families who have already been displaced and then talk about the availability of the land and decried his plans to take away the land of the 'encroachers' in the name of rehabilitation.

Shripad Dharmadhikari of NBA has given a detailed account of the fraud that was being played by the governments, including the Maharashtra government by filing the false affidavits in the Supreme Court about the rehabilitation and land availability. The court had allowed the resumption of the work on the dam on the basis of these claims, when even the first village near the dam site could not be completely resettled. He described the abysmal state of rehabilitation of the Gujarat villages and said that hundreds of resettled families have gone back to their original villages. However, rehabilitation is not the only aspect, it is linked with the very "public purpose" of the project which NBA has been challenging through the 14 years of experience and analysis, he said.

The people's struggle in the Narmada valley has spread in other parts challenging the Maheshwar, Man, Jobat, Narmada Sagar and other such dams, raising the issue of sustainable use of the resources. NBA has also exploring the alternative water and land management patterns, which are a part of the Task Force report of the Government of M.P., of which NB has been a part, said Alok Agrawal. Rajkumar Sinha of the Bargi oustees struggle narrated the woes of the peasants ousted by the Bargi dam, the first dam on Narmada, for last ten years. The struggle in Bargi calls unto other prospective oustees not to leave their land and resources. Once you are ousted from your land, no amount of efforts and struggles could restore your life and dignity, he cautioned.

Mr.Desharath Patil, the veteran socialist, presided over the meeting. He made it clear that the Sardar Sarovar Project would not benefit the Maharashtra state, but would devour the 10,000 hectares of forest of the state, displace 5000 adivasi families in Mahrashtra. The representatives from support organizations from Nagpur, Malegaon, Kerala & Bengal also expressed the solidarity and condemned the Maharashtra government for cheating the court and the nation.

About five hundred people were present at the meeting including the college students in Dhule, the workers of Hamal Mapadi (manual workers) union, Chatrbharati, Satyashodhak Vidyarthi Sangathana, Rashtra Seva Dal, Socialist Women's Organisation and others. A band of villagers affected by Gosi-Khurd dam in Vidarbha (eastern Maharashtra) along with trade unionist Com. Ms. Chandra, Mohan Kothekar and others from Nagpur came to participate in this protest rally. Hundreds of villagers from the Nimad villages and from the tribal belt of Akrani-Akkalkuwa tehsil came despite the pressing agricultural operations.

Sanjay Sangvai