NBA Press Release
  04 October 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Thousands on Indefinite Dharana for Right to Livelihood in Maharashtra.

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464

Thousands of men and women from organisations throughout Maharashtra concerned with issues of livelihood and natural resources held a convention on 1 October 2002 in Mumbai with a resolve to Fight for Right to Livelihood and to articulate a sound development policy for Maharashtra and pursue this agenda with concerned government officials.

Chaired by Medha Patkar, the state convention of National Alliance of People's Movements was addressed by civic leaders including Rambhau Patil, Gajanan Khatu, N.D. Patil, and Mrinal Gore, and V.P. Singh.

On the evening of October 1, the people declared an indefinite sit-in until their demands on the fundamental issues of land, livelihood and survival were satisfatorily met by the concerned government departments.

On the morning of 2 October 2002, one thousand project-affected men and women from adivasi and dalit communities of Maharashtra assembled before the statue of Mahatma Gandhi near Mantralaya, Mumbai, where the Gandhi Smarak Trust had organised a function with programs by schoolchildren and address by the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. When the representatives of the government Sri Manik Rao Thakre and Sri Kripashankar from the Home Ministry arrived, people demanded to that they be allowed to question the minsiters on their series broken promises on issues of land, livelihood, and survival. After some discussion, the Home Minister gave a committment to the people that the Chief Minister would meet them on the 8th of October, and that other concerned minsters would meet them in the coming days prior to the 8th. Taking this commitment from him, the people agreed to allow the Chief Minister to proceed with the program of garlanding the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, and continued the peaceul dharana while a delegation sought the fixed appointments with the ministers concerned with the issues the people were raising.

Some of the main issues being raised with the govt are:

    1. Illegal submergence in the Narmada Valley - loss of standing crop, cattle, homes. Demand that no further submergence be allowed and that every family currently affected is rehabilitated with agricultural land according to the law. On one had crops closer to the river have been submerged, and the higher crops ont he hills are being destroyed by the forest department as these are called "encroachments."

    2. Demolition of huts going on in the tribal and dalit communities of Thane and Raigad Districts -- illegal destruction of people's jomes, calling them "encroachers" though they have the proof that they have been cultivating prior to the cut-off date of 1975.

    3. Rations through public distrubtion system not reaching intended people in a timely manner. Families who migrate for work wait up to 2 years for transfer of ration card. Huge dispute in "below poverty line" figures. Need for divorced/separated women to have separate ration card. Problem of deliberate failure to supply sufficient kerosene has resulted in a "shortage" which forces some people to buy gas stoves, thus making them ineligible for the yellow ration card which is alloted to the poorest of the poor. Thus they are deprived of other essential services that are issued to yellow card holders.

Today on 3rd October the people have met with the Food and PDS minister. Tomorrow, on 4th October they will met with Housing Development Minister Sri Syed Ahmed, Dairy Development Minister Sri Anand Devkate, and Minister for Forests, Sri Surup Singh Nayak. They will meet on October 5th with Vilaskaka Patil, the Rehabilitaiton Minister, and on Oct 7th with Sri R.R. Patil, Rural Development Minister, Sri Ramakrishna More, Education Minister, ad Sri Madhukar Pichad, Adivasi Minister. On 8th Oct the Chief Minister has agreed to meet the people. The Revenue Minister has agreed to meet the people's representatives on the 11th of October.

Participating organisations include Soshit Jan Andolan, Samajvadi Jan Parishad, Rashtriya Yuva Sanghatan, Shahar Vikas Manch, Jopdi Bachao Andolan, Textile Mill Worker's Union, Maharashtra Machimar Kruti Samiti, Samatavadi Chatra Bharati, Narmada Bachao Anodolan, and many more organisations of adivasis, dalits, workers, natural resource based communites, and project-affected people . This is an INDEFINITE dharna to continue at Azaad Maidan till satisfactory and goal oriented meetings with the concerned government officials are completed.