NBA Press Release
  19 October 2001
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!


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Rallies, village meetings and signature campaigns marked the ^—Black Day^“, 18th October- in the Narmada valley villages and outside as a mark to protest and resolve on the first ^—anniversary^“ of the infamous verdict of Supreme Court delivered on 18th October, 2000, on the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). In a large meeting at Dhadgaon, thousands of tribals and peasants made it clear that, ^” since all the assumptions of the majority decision by the Supreme Court for allowing work on the dam upto 90 meters have proved to be false during the one year after the verdict, the Court must reconsider the decision. This is necessary to avoid future disaster, violation of people^“s rights, Constitutional values and to adhere the principles of justice and equality^‘.

The people also expressed concern over the recent decisions by the higher courts against the rights of the workers, dalits, tribals and peasants and asked the Indian Judiciary to protect the rights and life of the depressed classes and not the interests of the corporate powers.

In Nimad, in Madhya Pradesh, there were village rallies and meetings where the people resolved to confront the attempts by the government to unjustly displace them. The villagers gathered at the ^—sankalp stambh^“ ( pillar of resolve) in each village and took oath to continue the struggle against the unjust dam and displacement. They also decried the contempt proceedings against noted author Arundhati Roy in the Supreme Court and requested the Court to make them co-accused with her, as they also hold the same views expressed in her affidavit.

Activists including Medha Patkar, Pinjaribai, Ded e, while addressing the rally in Dhadgaon on Thursday (18th) , made it clear that ^” Our apprehensions about the majority judgment of the Supreme Court last year have come true as the work on the dam has proceeded and people are being displaced violating all norms and provisions of Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT). It has been proved now that there is no master plan to resettle the oustees in M.P. and Maharashtra even as over 40,000 families in the submergence areas are facing the displacement. The dam should not go ahead and the Court and also the independent organizations, experts, social-political workers must review the decision and the project^‘. They welcomed the recent decision of the Maharashtra government for the participatory planning of resettlement.

The people called for an alternative development which safeguards the rights of the tribals, dalits and common people with the respect for the Constitutional values of justice, natural resources and democracy along with a participatory planning process based on their own self-dependence and capabilities.

The oustees already displaced and ^—resettled^“ in Maharashtra resettlement sites also observed the Black Day. Hundreds of the tribals held a rally at Akkalkuwa and made it clear that the Supreme Court had allowed the construction on the dam upto 90 meters, when even those below 85 meters have not been resettled fully for many years. Pratibha Shinde of Punarwas Sangharsha Samiti (PSS), Keesingh Vasave of NBA and others demanded that there should be no further construction and displacement on the dam without resettling the already displaced people. A torch-procession was taken out in the night.

Support actions

In Mumbai activists of National Fishworkers Forum, India Center of Human rights, Sarvodaya and Peace activists alongwith the artists held demonstrations near Churchgate. In Pune also activists held pickets at the gates of the District Courts. Political parties like CPM, CPI-ML, Janata and organizations like PUCL participated in the P ations. People signed the appeal to the Chief Justice for the reconsideration of the Narmada verdict and in support of Arundhati Roy.

False Premises

It must be remembered the Court,in its decision on 18th October 2000, allowed the work based on the affidavits regarding the resettlement filed by the governments- who were the defendants in the case. A year after the verdict, all the presumptions of the Court - either regarding the cost-benefit of the large dams or the ground reality about the displacement and rehabilitation- proved wrong. The people below the 90 meters of height of the dam have not been resettled even now. The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) has confessed this reality and the Rehabilitation sub-group of NCA has not given permission for increasing height further. The Madhya Pradesh government has already declared that it has no land for resettlement and it is now trying to oust the people by giving them cash compensation- against the stipulations of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) Award. The recent report by Justice (Retd). S.M. Daud Committee has exposed that the Maharashtra government has no land for resettling the people upto 90 meters and beyond. The Government of Maharashtra has appointed a Task Force to review the resettlement upto 90 m., after the 11 day fast by Narmada activists in Mumbai in September 2001.

Even the claims of benefits and the inevitability of the SSP, the environmental and decision-making aspects are equally doubtful. The report of the World Commission on Dams, in November 2000, has put a question mark on the exaggerated claims of the benefits from the large dams. All these developments indicate that the majority judgment was seriously flawed. ^”In such case the judgment need to be reviewed by the Court itself to protect the justice, people^“s rights and its own dignity and fairness^‘, the organizations demanded.

Sanjay Sangvai