| IPT Press Release
|| 24 May 2002
Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights
The Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights conducted an independent inquiry on the Man Dam Project in the second week of March 2002. In June 2002, not even a month away, the Man dam affected villagers faced the prospect of complete submergence of their lands, homes and livelihoods. Yet there has been practically no rehabilitation. It was in this context that the hearing was held in order to investigatre the situation of the large-scale violation of the human rights of the adivasis of the Man area.
On the 17th of March a three-member team of the Indian People's Tribunal, comprising Justice G.G. Loney, retired from the Mumbai High Court, Dr. Nandini Sundar, Associate Professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and Advocate Vinod Shetty of the Mumbai High Court held a public hearing in the village Khedi Balwadi - the first village to be affected by the dam. All affected villagers and concerned officials of the Madhya Pradesh government were invited to this hearing. The Interim report was released on 18th March in Bhopal. Today the IPT released the final report of their independent enquiry into the violation of human rights, legal entitlements and right to natural resources of the tribals affected by the Man dam.
Far from taking heed of the conclusions in the interim release, the Government has stepped up its intimidatory tactics against the affected villagers in order to get them to leave the villages. Today's release takes place in a context where handpumps have been uprooted from the villages of Khedi Balwadi, Khanpura, Rehtiyaon, Kachauda, Badlipura, Gadaghat, Devipura, and Bhuvada, denying them the basic right to drinking water. That this is taking place in the hot summer months is doubly criminal. Six schools have also been bulldozed, and hundreds of valuable trees have been felled. People have been threatened that their houses will also be bulldozed, leaving them with no shelter from the blazing sun. The affected villagers have been on dharna for the last 10 days, since May 15th, and four people (two women and two men) have been on an indefnite hunger strike for 4 days now, since May 21st.
It is evident that this government, which prides itself on 'participatory development' and grassroots democracy, is in practice interested in no such thing. In the last few years, the affected villagers have repeatedly made attempts to meet different representatives of the 'sarkar' (the Dhar Collector, the Indore Commissioner, senior officials of the NVDA, Narmada Minister) and discuss their problems. Each time they have been told that the final decision lay only with Digvijay Singh, who has never deigned to meet with them. Instead people have net with arrests (in March 2001 in Dhar and May 2001 in Bhopal). Even a king or a colonial government would have given people a more patient hearing than the chief minister in this ostensibly democratic system.
The Man dam is one of the 30 large dams that comprise the Narmada Valley Development Projects. This dam will displace over 5,000 adivasis in 17 villages of Dhar district, Madhya Pradesh. It will submerge fertile, black cotton soils currently being irrigated by a system off wells and pumps and which have formed the basis of reliable livelihoods for the adivasis living in this region.
The IPT Report severely indicts the Madhya Pradesh government for failing to provide just and suitable rehabilitation to the adivasis who are being displaced as a consequence of the Man dam and whose lands and homes are being demanded of them in the national interest. The state government has violated the stipulation of its own rehabilitation policy, the conditions of the environmental clearance and the spirit and letter of all International Conventions concerning indigenous and adivasi peoples. The MP rehabilitation policy for the Narmada Projects (1987/1989) notes clearly that adivasis are entitled to land in lieu of land lost diue to submergence. Cash is to be given only if an adivasi family makes a specific application, and that too has to be monitored by the Collector. The standard practice, both in this case and other large projects, is to fob the oustees off with some cash at the beginning and then use this to write off their claims to rehabilitation. Even at the time it was given, the cash was inadequate to buy land in exchange for that lost. The oustees were not told of their legal entitlements and in some cases were forced into taking the cash.
The government has set up three resettlement sites. Even these are not adequate for the numbrr of people displaced, and only one (Kesur) has any land attached to it. It is unreasonable to expect villagers to move to sites where there is no work or means of livelihood available to them. The resettlement sites are deficient in a variety of ways: they have no forest resources nearby, or grazing areas for cattle. In Kesur, there are tensions with the host community since resettlement has been done on Kesur grazing lands, As the report states, "It is frightening to see that development projects aimed at fighting poverty are actually causing poverty."
The IPT calls on the Madhya Pradesh government to abide by the conditions of the Government of India environmental clearance, its own rehabilitation policy, the Planning Commission clearance, the UN Charter of Rights for indigenous people, and Convention 107 of the ILO, all of which have been violated in the case of the Man dam oustees. The Indian People's Tribunal recommends that:
1. All construction on the spillway section of the dam should be stopped and the government should consider blasting the river sluices of the dam in the manner in which it was done during the last monsoon so as not to submerge the villages before the affected people are rehabilitated.
2. To facilitate community resettlement, large pieces of agricultural land should be identified, and where required, bought from private owners. The Rs. 12 crores package announced by the Madhya Pradesh government should be used for the purpose of buying land for the affected families, with each family being entitled to at least 2 hecatres of irrigated land.
3.Financial compensation should be provided at the rates for irrigated land since the MP government R&R policy promises resettlement on irrigated land. The government must be ready to provide more than Rs. 12 crores if necessary, and should be prepared to make provisions to irrigate land that it provides to the oustees.
4. The title deed should be made in the name of both men and women, and all single, unmarried, widowed or deserted women should receive individual compensation.
5. All the sons and daughters, and other independent single women, widows, and deserted women who have reached the age of 18 years or above on 15th June 2002 should be registered as separate families and allowed separate entitlements (as was done in the case of the Bargi Project).
6. Artisans and landless people should be enumerated and rehabilitated as per the policy.
7. All trees, wells, and houses that have not been included must be enumerated and compensated.
8. Till the new resettlement colonies are fully established, all facilities on the village - school, electricity, handpumps, etc. - must be maintained so that people's rights are not violated.
9. Once land is identified, the resettlement sites should be equipped with all facilities. These lands should be free of encumbrances so that the oustees do not come into conflict with the host communities.
10. The IPT also calls on the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and Planning Commission to ensure compliance with the rehabilitation requirements and the conditions of clearance. It asks the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) that has refinanced the Man Project to review the deeply flawed nature of its refinancing loans and to take responsibility for the rehabilitation of those to be affected by the Man Project.
Finally, we call upon the Government of Madhya Pradesh to stop its current repression tactics in the villages, and to meet the demands of the people on dharna. They are only fighting for their basic right as citizens, rights to which they are fully entitled under the state government's own policies.