NBA Press Release
  15 September 2001
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Illegal & Unjust Attempt to Alter SSP Oustees' Provisions for Rehabilitation
Relay Fast Continues the Second Day at Mumbai

B-13, Shivam Flats
Ellora Park,
Tel: 0265-282232

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

At a time when people from all walks of life are struggling to get the governments to formulate pro-people policies, the Government of Madhya Pradesh (GoMP) is trying to amend a pro-people policy in order to pauperize the people and deny their right to life and livelihood. In the recently held 50th meeting of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Sub Group of Narmada Control Authority (R&R Sub Group), GoMP has formally proposed an amendment to the provision for land for land compensation in the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award (NWDTA) with mere cash, for the oustees of Sardar Sarovar (Narmada) Dam.

The thousands of people who arrived Mumbai on the 11th of this month is observing relay fast for the last two days. Yesterday (14.9.2001) about 40 people representing different villages observed fast. Replacing them, a new team of 36 people are on one day fast today at Azad Maidan, Mumbai. They include, Ginda Vasave (Bamini village), Kandya Padvi (Mukhdi), Tetya Vasave (Danel), Lalsingh Tadvi (Chadsanlimal) and others.

People have declared that if their demands are not met by 16th night, a few activists including Medha Patkar will go on indefinite fast from 17th September onwards.

To quote from the Minutes of R&R Sub Group:

"According to GoMP there is paucity of cultivable government land in M.P. as pointed out at various fora, it is difficult to arrange more land for the oustee in the contingency of accepting change in their option exercised earlier…..It may be recalled that Hon'ble Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh in the meeting of RCNCA, held on 10th January, 2001, had very explicitly observed that, if the PAFs are required to be allotted agricultural land and arrangement of land is to be made by the State, and the resettlement is to be village as a unit, then it will be very difficult to adhere to the time frame for the resettlement of the PAFs as approved by NCA."
Hence they want the amendment.

The Sub clause IV (7) of Clause XI of NWDTA, which deal with the land allotment stipulates unambiguously as under:

"Allotment of Agricultural Lands: Every displaced family from whom more than 25% of its land holding is acquired shall be entitled to and be allotted irrigable land on the extend of land acquired from it subject to the prescribed ceiling in the State concerned and a minimum of 2 hectares (5 acre) per family, the irrigation facilities being provided by the State in whose territory the allotted land is situated. This land shall be transferred to the oustee family if it agrees to take it."

It is a matter of great concern that such an assurance for the oustee, who is losing his / her land for the project is flauted merely at the stroke of a pen, forcing them to destitution. No where the poor, illiterate tribals and peasants can make their lives with the meager amount paid by the state. Just an increase in the cash compensation will not help, as Arundhati Roy in her essay Greater Common Good says, "A cash compensation, to be paid by an Indian government official to an illiterate tribal man (the women get nothing) in a land where even the postman demands a tip for a delivery! Most tribal people have no formal title to their land and therefore cannot claim compensation anyway. Most tribal people, or let's say most small farmers, have as much use for money as a Supreme Court judge has for a bag of fertilizer."

This has only vindicated what Andolan has been saying all these years that rehabilitation is an impossible task, because of the magnitude of displacement and hence need for more land. The fate of the ones who are not entitled for land compensation (eg. Canal, afforestation, sanctuary affected) is even worse.

The rehabilitation policy of SSP is lauded as one of the best in the world for its land based rehabilitation policy (atleast on paper). With this, the real motive of the governments is exposed – that they want to oust the people by hook or crook, not bothering about their future.

Government of Madhya Pradesh, which is bound to rehabilitate over 35,000 families affected by the monstrous SSP, is washing off its responsibility of providing them with a decent life after displacement by this act, by which the government is going back to savagery. No civilised government will ever think of doing such a heinous crime. This is a step in the opposite direction.

This is in violation of not just the NWDTA, Supreme Court orders and International Conventions, to which India is a party to, but is against the conscience of any society based on the principles of humanity and concern for the weak and the meak.

Supreme Court pronounced its order under the presumption that the governments will provide land for the oustees. But with giving a free hand to them by the Courts, the governments are daring flouting all existing provisions to ensure proper rehabilitation. If the Court is serious about the lives of the people, they should take note of this and suo motto take steps to prevent this.

The logical step the government should take is to call a halt to the construction of the dam and sincerely search for enough land for rehabilitation. If failed, they should think of alternatives to the existing mega, destructive projects using the presently attained capacity of the reservoir. People should not and cannot be sacrificed at the false alter of 'development'. If they are driven destitutes, to whom is this 'development' for?

Not just in Sardar Sarovar, the Govt. of MP is responsible for making the lives of lakhs of people miserable in many mega dams in the state like, Bargi, Tawa, Gandhi Sagar and is in the process of displacing thousands of families in Narmada Sagar, Maheshwar, Maan and other dams, being built on river Narmada. The past lessons of the pathetic condition of the ones who are displaced and fewer benefits out of these dams should help the state to understand that in today's world, mega projects brings in mega displacement and, rising to the scientific findings of the present age, they should look out for more small, viable projects, with more benefits and less human, environmental and financial costs.

Clifton D'Rozario
Joe Athialy