| NBA Press Release
|| 28 October 2009
Thousands of oustees of Narmada Valley Dam Projects march for their rights in Khandwa
2, Sai nagar, Mata Chowk,
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Give us land or give back our villages
Over ten thousand men and women affected by the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dams held a mammoth rally on the 28th of October 2009 in Khandwa. These several thousand oustees gathered together under the aegis of the Narmada Bachao Andolan gave the government an ultimatum that the Government must ensure that every oustee family receives land, and other means of livelihood and their entitlements or face the wrath of the people. Representatives of the oustees of the Maheshwar, Upper Beda, Maan, Sardar Sarovar, Tawa, and Bargi dams, as well as different peoples' movements across the country attended the struggle program in order to offer their support and solidarity.
The streets of Khandwa resound with the slogans of the oustees
As the rally marched from Gandhi Bhavan to the Collector's office, the strets of Khandwa town resounded with slogans such as "Resettle us and give us land, or you must empty the dam!" "No dam without rehabilitation!" and "We will fight, we will win!" Thousands of women and children affected by the dam were present at the rally. The displaced people enthusiastically made their voices heard, carrying blue flags of the Andolan high. Marching through Khandwa's prominent streets, the rally gathered at the Collectorate at which point it became a meeting for all people present.
Voicing our determination and our demands
The people displaced by the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar dams said that despite clear provisions in the rehabilitation policy, that land must be given for land, and each family must be given a minimum 2 ha. of land, they have been given only pittances by the way of compensation, and have witnessed only repression, lies, betrayal, and homelessness. The situation today is that thousands of dam displaced people have no where to go and are facing great hardship and distress.
Ms.Chittaroopa Palit from the Narmada Bachao Andolan said that there is no Rule of Law for poor and working people, and for peasants and others displaced by the dams. Despite two High Court orders saying that adult sons and unmarried adult daughters of people affected by the Indira Sagar Project must be given land, the government is not implementing these orders. We have to prepare for a long, strong and collective fight, without which the rights of displaced people will not be honored. We have to prepare ourselves to face their lathis and bullets. Today 8000 adult sons and daughters are submitting their claims, another 8-10,000 adult sons and daughters will submit their claims. The Government will have to provide them land by 2nd December 2002, by the Order of the Court.
Shri. Alok Agarwal from the Narmada Bachao Andolan said that because of the profit hungry tactics of NHDC, thousands of displaced people are threatened with the destruction of their livelihoods., and are facing pauperization By neglecting the rights of the displaced people, NHDC has earned 1200 crore rupees in profits after taxes over the last four years. In the past years, the movement of displaced peoples' has had several victories because of their unity and determination, but they would have to strengthen and intensify their struggle in order to achieve their rights.
The oustees said that there is large scale corruption in the Harda area of the Indira Sagar dam and rehabilitation grants put into hundreds of personal savings accounts in the post offices and banks have been taken out and pilfered by middlemen and people related to the Company. Officers and middlemen are demanding thousands of rupees to give oustees their entitlements. The oustees also expressed shock that the NHDC has erased the water level marks in the Indira Sagar dam last month so that the public can no longer know what the water-level in the dam is. They said that this is part of a conspiracy to flood the area, and increase the water level above 260 meters which has been fixed by the High Court at the present. The oustees also stated that on one hand, the adult sons of farmers will have to be given 2 ha. of agricultural land each, and on the other the draw-down land of the dam will have to be distributed to each land-less oustee family, so that the livelihoods of the oustees are replaced. They said that all the affected villages will have to be surveyed and provided compensation and rehabilitation entitlements and they strongly oppose the exclusion of the 41 affected villages of the Indira Sagar dam. The oustees also opposed the terror being perpetrated in the area by the contractor who has taken the contract for the fisheries in the Indira Sagar dam, and his armed men. Routinely villagers are being beaten up, even if they fish only for their personal consumption. The oustees declared that they would continue to fish for their food and no Government and contractor can stop them from doing so. They also demanded that the contract for fisheries should be given tot he oustees next year, and the present contract with the private contractor should be discontinued.
Senior Gandhian leader and Socialist Advocate Shri Anil Trivedi said that the struggles of downtrodden people like the Narmada Bachao Andolan which is fighting against exploitation by the Governments and Companies and for their fundamental and constitutional Right to Life have to be made relevant and strengthened. Vimalbhai of Matu Jan Sangathan said that struggles from all over the country will have to unite to face the nexus if vested interests and the Company Raj.
Present at the meeting were: Advocate Anil Trivedi from Indore, Shri. Vimal Bhai of the Matu Movement from Uttarakhand, Madhuresh from the National Alliance of Peoples' Movements, Ms. Niti Diwan from Tarashi Sanstha Bhopal, Yogesh Diwan from Hoshangabad, Chinmaya Mishra from the Sarvodaya Press Service in Indore, representatives from Kisan Adivasi Sangathan and Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Hakim Bhai from the Bargi Dam Oustees Committee, Bachiabhai from the Jagrit Dalit Sangathan, representive from the Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, Ramkunwar from Maan project, Kadvi Bai from Maheshwar dam area, Bana Bai from Upper Beda project, Rajendra Prasad from Indira Sagar Project, Narayan Bhai from Omkareshwar Project, and Kamla Bai from Sardar Sarovar.
The thousands of people gathered together at Khandwa gave a clear warning to the State Government and the Company that either the State Government and the NHDC must provide land and the other rehabilitation entitlements or empty the dam reservoir and give back their villages. The people warned that if they are not given their rights, the displaced people will flood the city of Bhopal in protest.
Questioning the Company and the State
After the meeting, the Collector reached his office and discussed questions and answers. People demanded that their rights to rehabilitation be given immediately and that they would fight to the end for their rights.Ramkuwar Rawat