Narmada Samachar: 14 December 2001

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The Tehri Struggle

Testimonies from the ground: Report on Tehri Rehabilitation ;
Vimal Bhai and Preeti Sampat; - November 2001

....
Even 25 years after project construction began, no accurate data
on the number of people affected is available. The EIA for the
project from 1990 estimates 97,000 people, but current data of
THDC (2001) adds up to only about 67,500. Large numbers of
affected people are obviously not even included in the R&R package.
No socio-economic base studies were done. Land is available for
only a minority of PAPs and that land is of questionable quality
or already belongs to other communities. No information,
participation or accountability mechanisms exist and a quarter of
a century after project implementation began, still, no credible
resettlement plan exists. To top things off corruption and nepotism
are rampant in the entire resettlement process. 

PROGRESS OF RURAL R&R SO FAR: 
- Over 70% of the rural families are yet to receive basic allotment
  of Resettlement benefits. 
- Over 90% of those who are called "Partially Affected Families" are
  yet to be given resettlement benefits. 
- Over 57% of fully affected families are yet to be given land, the
  basic minimum resettlement facility. Also, the figures above do
  not include the approximately 330 families of Godi Sirai, for example. 
- Over 93% of Ex-gratia is yet to be paid.
....


PROGRESS OF URBAN R&R: 
- Even as the project authorities repeatedly threaten to submerge
  Tehri town and break off minimum infrastructure facilities available
  for the people, they have been able to achieve no more than 20%
  of resettlement (including compensation) in bare minimum terms in
  case of most of the entitlements due to them, less than 50% of
  the urban PAPs having shifted to new location. 
- Over 53% of entitled plot holders are yet to shift. 
- Over 46% flat holders are yet to shift. 
- Almost 90% of house construction assistance is yet to be given. 
....
Tehri residents begin fast ;
The Hindu - December 12

Gloom over Tehri town ;
Deccan Herald - December 11

Time bomb called Tehri dam ;
Hindustan Times - December 11

No tears, Tehri drones in anger before deluge ;
Indian Express - December 10

Water enters Tehri town ;
The Hindu - December 8

Tehri residents struggling to stay afloat ;
Hindustan Times - December 8

Diversion tunnels of Tehri project closed ;
Deccan Herald - December 7

And the Bhagirathi stopped flowing ;
Hindustan Times - December 7

Silently, Tehri slips into its key phase ;
Indian Express - December 6



Sardar Sarovar

Narmada Villagers Warn Against State Terrorism in Madhya Pradesh; Govt. Has No land, Eviction with Illegal Means and Brutal Force ;
NBA Press Release - December 4

Gujarat will need to resettle 1,597 families ;
Times of India - December 7

A staggering number of 1,597 project affected families - 1,217 in
Madhya Pradesh, 363 in Gujarat and 17 in Maharashtra - would need
to be resettled even in case the Gujarat government agrees for
a compromise to take the Narmada dam to 95 metres instead of 100 at
the next official meeting of the Narmada Control Authority likely to
take place in Delhi in a few days.
...
Will spiralling costs sink SSP? ;
Hindu Business Line - December 5



Displacement Issues

Dam oustees await rehabilitation ;
The Tribune - December 6

The general secretary of the Bhakra Dam Oustees' Rights Protection
committee, Mr Jai Kumar, while addressing media persons here today
said steps should be taken to accept their demands at the earliest.
In another resolution he demanded that the list containing the
addresses of all 784 oustees, which according to the government
still remains to be rehabilitated, should be published. 
...
Travails of displacement ;
The Daily Excelsior - December 6



Other News

Hydro 2001 to discuss big dams ;
Times of India - December 4

Ranking Study Report for the Development of Hydro-Electric Potential ;
Government of India Press Release - December 5

The Government of India is according high priority to exploit the
untapped hydro-electric potential in the country. In order to
accelerate the process of survey and investigation of the new
hydro-electric sites and to create a shelf of feasible projects
which could be taken up for execution, the Central Electricity
Authority (CEA) was asked to carry out a ranking study of the
balance hydro sites for all the six classified river basins in the
country. This information was given by the Minister of State for
Power Smt.Jayawanti Mehta in the Rajya Sabha here today in reply
to a written question.
....
Silt behind dams 'worsens water shortage' ;
BBC Online - December 4



Feature Article: Rights and wrongs - Archana Prasad

Frontline - December 8


The Tawa Matsya Sangh (TMS), a cooperative of tribal fishermen
displaced by a dam project, held a workshop at Suktawa in Hoshangabad
district of Madhya Pradesh on November 1 and 2. Economists, activists,
academics, journalists and others attended. The event highlighted the
achievements of the Sangh since its formation in 1996.

The Sangh was formed after a struggle under the leadership of the
Kisan Adivasi Sangathan, in response to which the State government
accorded exclusive fishing rights to a cooperative of displaced
fishermen. The federation of these cooperatives came to be known as
the Tawa Matsya Sangh.

Today the Sangh comprises 38 primary cooperatives of tribal persons
whose villages were submerged following the construction of the Tawa
dam on the Tawa river, a tributary of the Narmada, in 1975. But the
government has given indications that the lease will not be renewed
once it expires on December 23. 

There are indications from reliable sources that a memo from the
Fisheries Department has suggested that the government hand over the
marketing and procurement of fish to the Mahasangha, an apex body of
the official fisheries federation. 

For the first time in Madhya Pradesh, the TMS has attempted to provide
an alternative means of livelihood to tribal persons displaced by a
dam which was built as a part of the Narmada Project. The Tawa dam is
the third largest in the Narmada Valley Project which caused the
submergence of 44 villages. The local people, primarily Gonds and
Korkus, were cultivators and seasonal collectors of forest produce who
caught fish in order to supplement their diet. Since none of these
tribal persons was formally given fishing rights in the reservoir,
they were labelled poachers by the officials. After the construction
of the dam they took to fishing for survival in the face of little or
no rehabilitation after the submergence.

The issue of the survival of the TMS project becomes important
particularly in the context of the efforts made so far to rehabilitate
persons displaced by the Narmada Valley Project. Governmental efforts
to rehabilitate and compensate those losing their means of livelihood
and assets because of the Narmada Project have been abysmal. A recent
report of the National Commission on Scheduled Castes and Tribes
(1999) shows that though 3,000 people from the villages of Madhya
Pradesh were rehabilitated in Gujarat, attempts to resettle them have
not been successful. Some 40 per cent of those who previously owned
land have not got any land from the government and in cases where
some land has been provided, people complain that it is saline,
waterlogged or otherwise uncultivable. But the main difficulty with the
government programmes has been that they have almost no provision
for landless people or tribal persons who live in forest villages. The
TMS experiment, the main beneficiaries of which are people who have
no rights over their lands, provides a people-oriented alternative to a
government that has projected itself as one that favours gram swarajya. 

An important facet of the Tawa experience is its attempt to
democratise cooperative structures. G. Venugopal of the National
Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, explained that transparency
was the key with which the Sangh preserved the sanctity of the primary
society as the main unit of decision-making. The adoption of such a
style of functioning also has something to do with the fact that the TMS
was formed with the active intervention of a grassroots organisation,
which has been fighting for the right of local people to participate in
decision-making. 

At present the committee of directors of the Sangh consists of 13
elected members. It is the main decision-making body for the
day-to-day affairs of the TMS. These decisions are implemented by
three people who are familiar with accounting and managerial work.
The people in these managerial posts are non-tribal persons but it
should be emphasised that the main policy-making functions are in the
hands of the committee of directors that consists of displaced tribal
persons.This style of functioning has led to the empowerment of local
tribal persons. Guliabai, a prominent leader and one of the directors of
the TMS, states that people have been more aware of their rights and
the ways in which they are exploited ever since the Kisan Adivasi
Sangathan facilitated the formation of the TMS. The villagers of Kotmi
village on the banks of the reservoir say that they are prepared to fight
for their rights if the government does not extend the TMS' contract.
One senior member of the primary collection society stated that the
TMS was their own organisation and therefore even more democratic
than the existing gram panchayats that form the cornerstone of the
government's much-publicised decentralisation programme. This is
mainly because the villagers feel that they can influence the
decision-making process within the Sangh. 

Such a style of functioning is in sharp contrast to the working of the
cooperative societies that are directly under the government. These
cooperatives face problems of centralisation of decision-making as
well as a lack of transparency. In areas that do not have rights as in
the case of the Tawa cooperative, the government of the day
monopolised all fishing rights in the Tawa reservoir under the
M.P. State Fish Development Corporation (that existed before the
formation of the federation of fishery cooperatives at the State
level). Here the support price for fish procurement is decided
centrally and is more often than not influenced by the powerful
traders' lobby.

The Tawa Sangh has not just confined itself to the democratisation of
the polity, but has also contributed to the economic and ecological
well-being of the area. Ever since the federation started operating in
the reservoir, fish production has increased and that too in a
sustainable way. A comparison of the various phases of fishing in the
reservoir provides telling evidence of who the best managers of
fisheries are. The figures also show that management by the TMS
resulted in maximum economic benefits to the people of the area. The
catch went up from an average of 125.19 tonnes between 1990 and 1995
to 327.6 tonnes between 1997 and 2001. Further, income distributed to
the members constitutes 40 to 47 per cent of the gross sale value of
fish. On an average every fishing household gets at least Rs.1,000 a
month through the activities of the TMS - including during the two
months in which no fishing is undertaken.

The Sangh realises that the economic security of the displaced tribal
persons is closely linked to the ecological stability of the region.
Therefore it not only provides marketing facilities to the tribal persons
but also regularly stocks fish seeds in the reservoir. The amount of seeds
stocked has increased to 28.92 lakh in 2000-01 as compared with the
figure of 17.96 lakh during the time of management by the contractor.
Apart from this the Sangh has started fish seed production in two
villages and plans to start more seed production centres if its contract is
extended. The general body of the TMS has also decided not to allow
any fishing during the breeding season. Village residents associated with
the federation will police the shores to ensure that this rule is adhered
to. 

The TMS has adopted social fencing as a method of checking poaching.
All illegal activities and unhealthy fishing practices are checked by the
primary society and if someone is caught in the wrong the whole society
is fined Rs.1,000. These measures have had a positive impact on the
ecosystem. Sabulal, one of the oldest of the fishermen and the current
president of the TMS, notes that at least two new types of fish have
been found in the reservoir since the activities of the Sangh began. The
quantity of fish in the reservoir is also increasing. Fishery experts say
that the weight and number of fish of seven major varieties have
increased substantially. 

Given this record, there is no reason why the government of Madhya
Pradesh should not extend the TMS' contract. Since the government
encouraged the launch of this experiment in 1996, it should now carry it
to its logical end. The self-management of wetland resources by the
displaced tribal persons of Tawa shows how the government's
decentralisation programme may be made successful. TMS activists
argue that a committee that was set up to consider the matter was biased
and refused to acknowledge the achievements of the TMS. Not only is
the Sangh providing livelihood security to the displaced tribal persons
but they are paying regular royalty to the M.P. State Fisheries
Mahasangha, The royalty payment has increased from Rs.4.47 lakhs in
1996-97 to 15.70 lakhs in 2000-2001. This three-fold increase shows
that the Sangh is an asset and not a liability to the state apparatus. 

DESPITE this the government seems set on halting the TMS
experiment. The first objection of the officials is that non-tribal
outsiders are interfering in the affairs of the TMS. However, closer
inspection reveals that this argument is motivated by political
considerations as many socialist youths working in the TMS are
opposing the World Bank Forestry Project that is being pushed by the
government despite widespread opposition. Field visits show that so far
the work of these people has only facilitated the smooth functioning of
the TMS and aided the dismantling of the powerful traders' network.
The second official complaint is that the Sangh is not opening its
membership to non-tribal cooperatives. In response to this the
leadership of the Sangh says that the M.P. State Fisheries Mahasangha
has registered 40 non-genuine cooperatives consisting of former
traders pressing for their inclusion in the Sangh. They contend that if
this happens there is the danger of the re-appearance of an exploitative
trading network. 

The threat of non-renewal of the Sangh's contract is real as a similar
experiment in the Bargi reservoir was guillotined a couple of years ago.
Will it now be the turn of the Tawa fishermen? 

The government itself is a beneficiary of the work of the TMS. The
Sangh has been taking on the functions of providing backward and
forward linkages to the fishermen. The M.P. State Fishing Mahasangha
earlier performed the functions of storage and seed production at a
significant cost. Today the Sangh collects the fish, stores it on ice and
sells it. The main markets where it sells the fish are Itarsi, Bhopal and
Howrah. It has also started seed production. 

In the process the TMS has shown a superior way of organising
cooperatives of the poor. This in itself is significant as it can provide the
government with a path to follow to decentralise governance in a way
that is cost-effective, non-bureaucratic and corruption-free. It is
important that the M.P. government rewards and further encourages
this experiment. If it wants to prove its commitment to decentralisation
in favour of the majority of the rural poor, particularly tribal people,
then it should intervene to ensure that exclusive fishing rights are
granted to the TMS. 

Archana Prasad is a Fellow of the Nehru Memorial Museum and
Library, New Delhi.