| NBA Press Release
|| 20 September 2001
Indefinite fast continues into the 4th day
NARMADA BACHAO ANDOLAN
B-13, Shivam Flats
62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Yesterday, in the meeting with the NBA delegation, the Chief Minister Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh has declared that a favorable decision will be taken within 2-4 days in the issue of land rights of the adivasis in the 73 villages of Akrani tahsil in Nandurbar district, which is illegally being denied due to the Sardar Sarovar project. He also declared that the Government would place the Jst Daud Committee report before the cabinet within the next 15 days. He conceded that there should not be any hesitation in accepting it but only a cabinet decision can be taken in this regard.
Contrary to the reports that the indefinite fast and the dharna has been called off, the indefinite fast continues into the 4th day today. NBA strongly condemns the distorting news that was reported. While the condition of the 7 representatives of the valley on fast, including Medha Patkar, is deteriorating, they are sound in spirit and determination. The fast will continue till a formal decision is taken on the land rights and conveyed to NBA within two days as promised.
Yesterday, apart from Medha Patkar, the NBA delegation consisted of Pratibha Shinde, Clifton D' Rozario, Shobha Wagh, Noorji Padvi, Kesav Vasave, Jordar Pavra, Manglya Pavra and others. Smt. Mrinal Gore, Gopal Dukhande, Ulka Mahajan and Adv. Shiraj were also present as observers.
Senior Cabinet Ministers, Shri. Vilasrao Patil (Rehabilitation), Shri. Ganpatrao Deshmukh (Employment), Shri.R.R.Patil (Rural development), Shri Madhukarrao Pichad (Tribal Welfare), Shri Vijay Kumar (Liquor Prohibition), Minister for state Shri. Ram Rajya Nimbalkar (Rehabilitation) and senior officials of all relevant departments and the Nandurbar Collector were present during the meeting.
The issue of land rights in the Nandurbar district is a burning one especially since the adivasis have been living here for generations while the Government still considers them as 'encroachers'. The due procedure of law including the basic settlement of land rights has been ignored in as many as 73 villages and the regularization of forest cultivations are also due in hundreds of villages. During the meeting the Chief Minister took the officials to task for their not following up the matter for so many years resulting in the denial of the basic rights of the adivasis. He ordered the Collector of Nandurbar to immediately set up the Committee to survey the forest encroachments as required by the judgement of the Supreme Court in 1995 on this issue.
During the meeting the Chief Minister accepted that the rehabilitation of project affected families falling under the present height of the Sardar Sarovar project is lacking. He clearly stated that whatever the repercussions a pro-adivasi position will be taken on the Jst Daud Committee report. The Rehabilitation minister accepted that there is no land and that the resettlement of already affected families is far from completion due to paucity of agricultural land. It was clear to all that the reports of the bureaucrats on resettlement cannot be relied upon. The Chief Minister also considered the possibility of taking the NBA's position that under the present circumstances further construction of the dam cannot be allowed in the next Inter-State meeting of the Narmada Control Authority.
Meanwhile in a letter to the Chief Minister and the Rehabilitation minister, NBA has acknowledged the position of the State in yesterday's meeting, accepting that resettlement of 90m affected families is still not completed. Before the cabinet meeting, however, there is a need for a dialogue with the Rehabilitation Ministry including Shri Vilasrao Patil and other officials to finalise its position on the Jst Daud Committee report that it will put forth to the Cabinet.
The indefinite dharna, with over 2000 representatives from the Narmada Valley, began on September 11th demanding acceptance of Jst Daud Committee report in toto and chalking out a time schedule for the implementation of recommendations besides granting of land rights. The indefinite fast by Medha Patkar, Himmatsingh Sildar Pavra from village Maal, Saisingh Khajya Pavra from Teenismaal, Narsingh Ruboji Valavi from Goramba, Tejla Rodwa Valavi from Mandwa, all from Maharashtra and Sitaramkaka from village Kadmal in Madhya Pradesh was started on the 17th of September to press the demands. During the past two days, many dignitaries visited the dharna place and declared solidarity with the people on fast and dharna. They include, the Minister of Maharashtra Government, Shri.R.R.Patil, leader of Republican Party of India, Shri.Ramdas Athawle, Socialist leaders Mrinal Gore, Gopal Dukhande, Senior leader of Maharashtra dam oustees, Baba Adhav, students from Bombay colleges like St.Xavier's and Nirmala Niketan.
The indefinite fast and dharna by hundreds of people from the Narmada Valley will continue. NBA will watch the Government and its actions on the promises made today. The future course of action will be declared depending on the developments.Joe Athialy