NBA Press Release
  16 September 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

SC/ST Commission Chairman visits Narmada Valley and Rehabilitation Site in Gujarat, Assures Justice for the Affected People

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-22464
Email: badwani@narmada.org

The Chairman of the National Commission for the Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Shri Bizay Sonkar Shashtri made a two day visit to the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) affected areas in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat on 13th and 14th of September, 2003.

Shri Shashtri guaranteed the people that he will do his best to secure justice for the affected. He said that the SC/ST Commission is a Constitutional body (under Article 138 of the Indian Constitution) and has a legal entity and all the powers of a Civil Court. He, as the Chairperson, will use all the powers he has, to protect and safeguard the interests of adivasis, dalits and the other downtrodden members of society.

The Chairman also said he had thus far only heard and read a lot about the SSP and the struggle by NBA. In the past two days he had the opportunity to see the situation for himself. He also mentioned that wherever he went, he had received hundreds of petitions and memoranda from the people. He said the situation will not go on as it is and assured the people that they will see a change soon.

While talking heavily against corruption and dereliction of duty by the officers, the Chairman said that he can summon and punish the erring officials. He also questioned the attitude of the local SDM, who pretended not to know anything about the meeting at Parvetta-2. Shri.Shashtri asked the officers present to ask the District Collector, Commissioner of Rehabilitation and SP to be present at the Guest House in Baroda when he reached there. Shri. Shashtri said that he will ask the Gujarat Chief Minister, Shri.Narendra Modi to look into the matter seriously and he will also meet and talk with the Prime Minister about the plight of the project affected people.

Brief Note on various meetings: Madhya Pradesh

Shri.Shashtri's visit started at Morkatta, an affected village in Badwani District of Madhya Pradesh. People from many nearby villages like Borkhedi,Pichodi, Sondul, Amlali, Jangarwa and others gathered there. Bhailabhai,Bachrubhai, Devrambhai and others explained the shoddy work done by Madhya Pradesh Government in the field of rehabilitation and questioned the illegal distribution of cash in lieu of land - violating the Supreme Court direction and NWDT Award.

Thereafter, The Chairman visited Kadmal, another village affected by the SSP in the plains region of Nimad, Madhya Pradesh. The program in Kadmal was organised by Reva Ke Yuva, a youth front of Narmada Bachao Andolan. Large numbers of people, between 1200 to 1500, gathered at Kadmal, mainly from the Badwani and Dhar Districts. The callousness of the Government of Madhya Pradesh, where the majority of the affected people live, was brought out clearly by the speeches of Jagadishbhai Patil, Rukmini Kaki, Govindbhai and others. Even after 25 years, the M.P. government could not do a complete survey of the number of people affected by the SSP and has not rehabilitated a single family with land for land and other amenities, let aside community resettlement. Instead, it was distributing cash to adivasi farmers which most of them used up in no time. People criticised the government severely for knowingly telling lies about the status of rehabilitation.

Maharashtra

After the night halt in Badwani, next day morning Shri.Bizayji proceeded to Maharashtra and Gujarat. In Nimgavan, a submergence affected village in Maharashtra where people are fighting for the past two decades, he was welcomed with added vigour and enthusiasm. Hundreds of people from about 30 to 40 villages from the hilly region of the Narmada River gathered in Nimgavan. People from Antras, Turkheda, and others from Gujarat's 19 submergence affected villages also joined here. Many of these have returned to their original villages from the resettlement sites in Gujarat because of the bad conditions there. Bava Maharia, Kevalsingh, Dedlibai and others spoke strongly against the policies of the government. People here are facing water every year due to man-made floods and they have suffered huge losses this year also. Hundreds of people are yet to be rehabilitated even now at the present height of the SSP. There was no calculation of cumulative loss to the people.

Gujarat

The Chairman visited Parvetta-2, a resettlement site in Gujarat. Despite police intervention and harassment, more than 400 people from about 25 resettlement sites gathered there by 2.00 p.m. Due to the tight schedule and long distances, Shri.Shashtri could reach there only at 8.15 p.m. Amazingly, a very large number of people were still waiting there for him. Raiji Kaka, Dalsukhbhai, Narayanbhai, Kantibhai and Bhaiji Kaka were the main persons who explained their long pending grievances in the resettlement sites which were not redressed inspite of many complaints and petitions to various authorities, including the GRA. Almost all persons concerned are facing severe problems related to basic surviaval in these sites - right from drinking water to burial ground.

It is sad to note that, some Gujarat dailies have reported that the planned visit and meeting at Parvetta -2 could not be held as all people returned back home by 6 pm, while the truth was totally opposite!

Among others present were Shri.B.D.Sharma, former Chairman of SC/ST Commission, who spoke up for implementing Tribal Self-Rule in a real sense, Shri.Vasant Shindre, Lawyer and Trade Unionist from Indore, Smt.Leela Shah, Jyoti Kale, Sonali Jain- social workers from Bombay and supporters from various places.

Geetanjali
Narayanbhai
Pervin Jehangir