NBA Press Release
  02 September 2007
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Public Hearing Conducted in SSP Affected Villages

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-222464
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Eminent Persons’ team visit Sardar Sarovar affected areas in Narmada Valley for fact finding

Public Hearings in 3 States exposes the blatant violations of law and rehabilitation policy

There was an air of investigation in the Narmada Valley when the Sardar Sarovar affected people disposed in the Public Hearings in the 3 States – M.P., Maharashtra and Gujarat, held by a team of eminent and concerned citizens of India. The panel that undertook the serious exercise if fact finding through hearings consisted of Shri L.C. Jain, former member of Planning Commission and former Indian High Commission to South Africa, Shri S.C. Behar, former Chief Secretary of State of M.P., Shri Bharat Chhaparwal, former Vice–Chancellor of Indore University, Prof. Krishna Mazumdar, Delhi University, Prof Johannes Manjrekar, M.S. University, Vadodara (Gujarat), Shri S.G. Vombatkere, Major General (Retd), Smt Devaki Jain, noted Feminist, writer and activist and Adv. N.D. Suryavanshi, Dhule (Maharashtra).

Hearing at Parveta R&R site (Gujarat)

At Parveta R&R site (Vadodara district), the Team commenced its hearing of the woes and tales narrated by the Sardar Sarovar affected adivasis of Gujarat who were resettled more than 15 years ago but were yet to be rehabilitated. Representatives from more than 25 R&R sites around Gujarat were present for the hearing to speak their minds even as a large contingent of police force made its presence felt. Raijibhai of Kamboikuva R&R site spoke about the obvious callousness and insensitivity of the Gujarat government and officials towards the oustees of Gujarat even as they boasted of national interest and huge benefits coupled with the formulation and implementation of an ideal R&R policy.

Oustees spoke of recent developments where the land of more than 150 adivasis being taken back by the government, about 15 years after it was allotted to them. Others narrated tales of destitution due to the uncultivable lands infested with dabh grass and waterlogging, while others lamented the fact that the lands allotted were still unirrigated. The women spoke of the hardships that they were facing and especially were despondent of the fact that they had been reduced to daily-wage workers in the fields of the Patels to eke out an existence. It was indeed tragic to note that those, whose sacrifice was claimed in the name of ‘water’, faced serious water problems at the R&R sites where handpumps were inadequate and/or not working for months and borewells lay defunct due to electricity load shedding. Shri L.C. Jain, on behalf of the panelists, expressed hope that the Gujarat government will listen to the people and suggested resorting to Gram Sabha resolutions to bring out the truth against official propaganda.

Hearing at Chimalkhedi, Maharashtra

The Team proceeded to the dam site and from there, along with officials of the Revenue and Narmada Departments of Govt. of Maharashtra, reached Chimalkhedi in a barge. Chimalkhedi, a place of Satyagraha this monsoon, has been affected since 1993 with the lands and houses of numerous adivasis already submerged by the dam waters. Hundreds of adivasis from about 20 submergence affected villages and 5 R&R sites in Maharashtra were present to place on record their reality. Noorji Vasave, an adivasi youth spoke of the exercise, which he termed as most critical for all, where the authorities seem to be keen to close the files and falsely claim that R&R of all PAFs affected at the present dam height (122m) has been completed. The reality is that, even at this present dam height, there remain more than 1100+ families who are yet to be rehabilitated. These villages have been affected since 1993 and yet, in violation of all principles of rehabilitation, they were not rehabilitated. The representatives of Manibeli, Danel, Bamani and Savariya stressed the fact that numerous hamlets were yet to be surveyed and identified as areas to be marooned. The history of identifying land was narrated by Noorji Padavi who insisted on compliance with the Cabinet’s decision to allot 1500 hectares of denuded forest land to the remaining oustees since very little private land, in large chunks, is available and the total requirement of land is more than 4000 hectares. Adivasis like Diwalya Lika came to the dais to establish the fact that even 70 year old persons like himself, whose lands and houses were already submerged, are left of the government lists as ‘undeclared’ and hence not entitled to rehabilitation.

The officials represented by the Deputy Collector, Shri Vasave assured that the finalization of lists would be done in the villages at the earliest and the decision on more land of all categories will be taken at the appropriate level. The plight of no or irregular services – health, transport and ration shops – were presented with allegations of doctors running away, rationshop grains being siphoned off or not delivered on time, etc. respective department officials gave their reasoning and solutions were discussed by all and noted. No raise in dam height, till all the issues are resolved, was demanded by all amidst slogans when Hatibai of Dhankhedi chided the officials not to send police since help and no warning was offered when her house and belongings drowned at midnight. Advocate N.D. Suryavanshi, appealed TO THE officials to once and for all decide to resolve all differences jointly with full participation of Andolan struggling for the past 22 years.

Hearing at Badwani (M.P.)

The next hearing was held at Badwani (M.P.), where hundreds of oustees from affected villages in Dhar, Badwani and Jhabua districts attended and whose representatives exposed the sham of rehabilitation on paper being done by the MP government. Speaking first, Luharia Shankaria from one of the first submergence villages of M.P., Jalsindhi, informed the panelists that his village has faced submergence since 1994 and yet rehabilitation has not been carried out. He condemned the callous treatment of adivasis by the government that had failed to establish even 1 R&R site in M.P. for the 26 affected villages in Jhabua district.

Shri Ashish Mandloi, oustee from village Chotta Barda and activist of NBA, laid out the present situation before the panelists stating that 177 villages were affected in M.P. alone at the present dam height and that atleast 25,000+ oustee families were yet to be rehabilitated. He added that not even 5% of the affected populations at the present dam height had shifted to the R&R sites. Sajjanbehan from Pipri, speaking of the rich cultural and social history of Nimad, lamented the submergence of this. Shri Motiya from Jangarwa related the woeful tales of oustees from M.P. who were ‘resettled’ in Gujarat but forced to return to their original villages due to uncultivable lands being allotted and security reasons. Shri Devanbhai from Ekkalbara related the history of denial of land to oustees and stated that not a single oustee had been given land in M.P. to date. He spoke of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award (NWDTA) and Supreme Court judgments that made land for land mandatory and yet the government had resorted to cash compensation illegally. He also spoke of the rampant corruption in the Special Rehabilitation Package which runs into atleast 100 crores. Shri Madubahi, from village Chikhalda, spoke about the realities of the fishing and boat communities on the banks of the Narmada whose livelihood was getting robbed and yet no rehabilitation was in sight. He warned against the introduction of contractors for fishing in the Sardar Sarovar reservoir and stated that only the oustee families should be given this right.

Shri Rajeshbhai an oustee from Bargi dam on the Narmada, lamented the reality of those displaced by the Bargi dam who are, today barely surviving in the slums of Jabalpur or at the banks of the reservoir.

In conclusion it was stated forcefully before the Panel that the government cannot be allowed to get away with such blatant and large scale submergence of rights of adivasis, farmers and other communities and that no further construction can be allowed until and unless all oustees were rehabilitated in accordance with the law.

Shri S.C. Behar, speaking on behalf of the panelists, stated that even though the government had made decent R&R polices on paper, which the Supreme Court has upheld, its implementation left lots to be desired. He was especially concerned about the blatant nature of violations in Madhya Pradesh where there was no R&R sites for several adivasis villages and where there were R&R sites, no land was available! He promised, on behalf of the Panel, to raise the various problems in R&R with the respective governments and offer recommendations for solving the same and hoped that the governments would, at least now, respond to the realities on ground and, obeying the law, undertake the just and necessary rehabilitation of all oustees in the Sardar Sarovar project.

Ashish Mandloi, Kamla Yadav, Clifton, Umesh Patidar, Medha Patkar