Narmada Samachar: 19 February 2001

Headlines


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News related to the Man project in the Narmada Valley

Madhya Pradesh government preparing to submerge Dhar tribals;
"Contractor's interests are more important to Madhya Pradesh government than Adivasi's
;
NBA Press Release - Feb 16, 2001


New additions to website

Books on the Narmada issue ;
Created a separate page with a listing of books related to the Narmada issue.
For some of these, there is additional information available about where to
purchase the book.  Also included are excerpts from some of them.
Images from the 'Nyay ki Pukar', Long March (Nov 2000) ;
In November 2000, villagers from Narmada valley proceeded from Mumbai towards
Delhi with a "Call for Justice" (Nyay ki Pukar) to expose the judgement on
Narmada issue by the Supreme Court.  The march started by exposing the claims
of the Maharashtra Government on rehabilitation.  It ended in Delhi with a
public hearing on the Narmada issue in which many jurists and experts
participated.  These are images from that march.  On this page, there are
links to the press releases from that time and also to the interim report
of the public hearing on the Sardar Sarovar Project.
Images from the Dharna in Mumbai (Jan 2001) ;
On January 2-3, 2001, representatives of various villages in Maharashtra and
Madhya Pradesh, affected by the SSP, staged a dharna outside the Secretariat
in Mumbai to highlight the plight of the oustees who will be affected this
monsoon due the raise in the height of the SSP.  These are images from that
Dharna.
Page devoted to news on Gujarat earthquake, appeals, press releases, and relief efforts of NBA, and a couple of links to relief efforts ;


Earthquake-related news

Statement on Principles and Provisions for rehabilitation and reconstruction policy in the earthquake-affected areas of Gujarat ; - Feb 12, 2001
A number of concerned citizens and representatives of various people's
organizations have prepared a document with suggested principles and
provisions for rehabilitation and reconstrucitn policy in the earthquake
affected areas of Gujarat.  Medha Patkar of the NBA and NAPM is one of
the signatories.  The document emphasizes the need for people and
community participation, minimum relocation, use of appropriate technology,
and a complete reconstruction planning that includes community amenities
like health, education, water, etc. besides housing.
Aji dam breach in Gujarat terrifies villagers ; Deccan Herald - Feb 14, 2001
...
A breach in the Aji Dam number 4 approximately 60 km east from the air and
naval base of Jamnagar has terrified villagers in the vicinity many of
which have been devastated in the killer earthquake. 
...
It is now that people who have met Medha Patkar, are convinced that she
who campaigned against the Narmada dam was right. The wise masons in this
village are aware of the dangers of bursting of a masonary structure like
a dam. More than 130 dams in Saurashtra and Kutch region in Western
Gujarat also faced the danger of damage during the killer earthaquakes.
The irrigation department of the Gujarat government claims to have checked
all the dams and have promised to repair the breached dams and weirs.
However the people are undeterred and refuse to accept anything the
government says.
...
'Government ignored NBA warnings on Gujarat quake' ; Times of India - Feb 13, 2001
...
The Narmada Bachao Andolan had warned
about the dangers of earthquake in Gujarat which the
government had ignored, NBA activist Sukhendu
Bhattacharya told TOINS on Monday. 

The NBA had submitted a supplementary affidavit on
this issue at the Supreme Court in July 1997. Hearings
on the petition, however, could not make headway as
the main case against the Sardar Sarovar Project was
defeated.

The petition was filed in the wake of the Jabalpur
earthquake of May 22, 1997. The quake had its
epicentre only 10 km from the Bargi Dam on Narmada,
following which repair and restoration cost thousands
of crores of rupees.

Citing experts' opinion, it highlighted "the need to take
the seismic risks in the valley far more seriously than
has been done so far". The whole of Narmada valley is
known to be seismically active, and large dam
construction involves enormous risks, which are not
merely economic.
...
Stop tampering with nature: Anna Hazare ; Deccan Herald - Feb 15, 2001


Koel-Karo and other related issues

The dynamics of change ; Ravinder Kumar; The Hindu - Feb 18, 2001
The last two decades have seen many successful grassroots movements led by
the intelligentsia. And Dalit politics has its own concerns and objectives.
The success of a future secular alliance would depend to a large extent on
the integration of these movements into formal politics, says noted
historian RAVINDER KUMAR in this concluding part of his three-part essay. 
A million mutinies now: Lesser known environmental movements in India ; Smitu Kothari; Humanscape
For every well-known people's movement for the environment (such as the
Narmada Bachao Andolan) there are dozens of smaller movements across India
where communities are struggling against destructive development and for
the right to control resources and decisions that affect their lives.
Why are these lesser-known movements important? Why does this issue of
Humanscape focus on them? Because they provide a crucial window into the
range of aspirations that communities and groups at the base of our society
feel and act on. They are a powerful microcosm of both the problems and the
resolutions that India society faces.

Koel-Karo dam: Response of the Jharkhandi people to police firing in Koel-Karo

"We will give our life, but we will not give our land" ;

After the unethical and inhuman judgment of the Supreme Court giving green
signal to the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada, the
BJP-led government of Jharkhand has emboldened itself to commence work on
the Koel-Karo Hydropower Project. The to-be-affected adivasi people have
through their own people's movement by the name of Koel-Karo Jan Sangatan,
resisted it for more than three decades.

The government's action is unethical because it involves the life of one
and a half lakh persons who will lose all their economic, social and
cultural base for a project in which they will have no benefits. It is
against Law because the recently enacted Law on Adivasi Self-Rule (The
Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act,1996)
stipulates that "the Gram Sabha or the Panchayat at the appropriate level
shall be consulted before making the acquisition of land in the Scheduled
Areas for development projects and before re-settling or rehabilitating
persons affected by such projects in the Scheduled Areas"[4.i.]

Here are some facts about the project: 

   - 256 villages will be wholly or partially affected, of which 135
      villages will be completely submerged; 28 in Ranchi Dt., 76 in Gumla,
      31 in W.Singhbhum. 
   - 16,350 families comprising 1,50,000 persons will be displaced
      90% of them are indigenous (adivasi) people; 
   - 66,000 acres of land will be submerged, of which 33,000 acres are land
      under actual cultivation, and the rest are forest land over which the
      indigenous people have their traditional rights; 
   - 152 places of traditional religious worship (sarnas) and 300 and more
       places of burial places (sasandiris) will be inundated; 

This is in the background of the overall displacement of Jharkhandi people
and alienation of their land. A very conservative estimate is as follows:

                  Displacement in Jharkhand (in lakh persons)
            Mines              25.50
            Major irrigation   16.40
            Factories          12.50
            Animal sanctuaries 11.00
            Total              65.40


                  Alienation of Land since 1960 (in acres)
            HEC Ranchi               7,711
            Bokaro Steel Co.        34,227
            Damodar Valley Proj.    28,837
            Adityapur Ind. Estate   34,432
            Total                 1,05,207

      (source: "Alienation, Displacement and Rehabilitation"  by Sanjay Basu Mullick)

Unofficial estimates indicate that apart from the above mentioned specific
projects, as much as 22 lakh acres of land has been alienated from the
Jharkhandi people for townships, railways, roads, minor irrigation
schemes.

The unfortunate fact is that all this displacement of people and
alienation of their land have been done in the name of ?national
development?, but really at the expense of people. To give but one telling
instance, in 1941 Jharkhand region had 12.5% of its land under irrigation;
by 1981 it came down to 4.5%. Yet during the same period, 104 major &
minor irrigation schemes were undertaken involving an expenditure of Rs.
9000 crores!

In short, the Jharkhandi people have been at the receiving end of the
?development drama? of the State. Also, only one-third of those displaced
were given some monetary compensation. Absolutely no one has been
rehabilitated as it implies social, cultural and communitarian dimensions.

Now at long last, the Jharkhandi people have reached certain levels of
awareness and motivation, and therefore they are no more willing to
believe the government or its assurances of rehabilitation. And hence
their resolve not to allow themselves to be displaced yet again, nor let
their land which is the sole means of their existence be alienated. The
slogan which rings loud and clear in the villages 'jan thenge, magar zamin
nahin thenge' ("we will give our life, but we will not give our land")
says it all.  Because their land is their life.
  

Why the police firing?

Knowing the strength and determination of the people, the government
needed to open up space to demoralise the people and weaken their movement
which is all based on the adivasi traditional leadership and functions as
per their traditional norms. People had put up a ramshackle barricade in
1995 as part of the janata curfew, and thus a powerful symbol of their
struggle. Importantly, neither the road nor the land on which the
barricade had been constructed was government land. Besides breaking the
barricade, the police had beaten a villager mercilessly when he had tried
to question them about their actions. The people assembled in front of the
police station in Tapkara which is five km from the dam-site on the 2nd
February, were demanding that the two police officers who were present in
the jeep when the barricade was broken should be suspended; that the
person who was beaten be given monetary compensation (Rs. 50,000) and that
the police respectfully reinstall the barricade as it was before. The
assembled people waited patiently from 8.30 in the morning until 3.30 in
the afternoon for the resolution of their demands. Instead around 3.30,
the lathi charge began followed almost immediately by firing. Some people
responded to the bullets with stones even as they ran to protect
themselves. Six persons were killed on the spot and four more succumbed to
bullet injuries later. According to the testimonies of two injured
persons, the policemen tried to kill them when they found them alive in
spite of the injury. The police is also reported to have burnt a police
vehicle as well as some civilian vehicles besides destroying the police
camp as part of their strategy to plant evidence in order to be able to
claim that the assembly had turned violent and hence justified the use of
fire arms. Importantly, until date no government official has visited the
site to enquire how the people are doing nor has any action been taken to
suspend the police officials involved in the firing. Eight persons are
still missing.

The forces behind this savagery?

This action of the Jharkhand State government indicates that the colonial
power equations have not changed. The government, clearly under pressure
from Multi-National Companies and International Financial Institutions
like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to open mineral-rich
Jharkhand for their investments, is now resorting to violence on the
indigenous people in order to weaken their popular struggles fighting
against issues such as displacement.

The Jharkhandi people of Koel-Karo are not going to cow down before the
machinations of the State. They gave a honourable burial to their
?martyrs? as per their traditions, have observed a sankalp divas in which
all the Jharkhandi outfits and Jharkhandi political parties participated.
People have vowed that they will not allow the construction of the dam.
They have spelt out their demands in very clear terms:

1. A judicial inquiry be set up to probe this incident. The Chief
Minister?s assurance of setting up a 'high-level investigation' is not
acceptable.

2. The police officers and personnel responsible for this criminal act
should be identified and suitably punished.

3. A compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs to the families of those killed and Rs. 2
lakhs to those seriously injured be awarded.

4. Only adivasi police officers and personnel be appointed to police
stations in adivasi-majority areas of Jharkhand.

5. The Koel-Karo Hydro Power Project should be canceled. This project is
not beneficial from several counts. To outline just a few reasons: the
project will submerge 135 villages and displace 1,50,000 persons, 90 per
cent of whom are adivasis; 66,000 acres of land will be submerged, of
which 33,000 acres of land is under cultivation, and the rest is forest
land over which the adivasis have traditional rights; 152 sarnas (sacred
groves places of traditional religious worship) and more than 300
sasandiris (sacred graves) will be inundated.

It is now the task of conscientious persons in the rest of the Indian
polity to stand by the struggling people of Koel-Karo in support and
solidarity.

Stan Lourduswamy
Johar, Chaibasa, Jharkhand


Other news

China's leap forward ; Riaz Hasan; The Hindu - Feb 13, 2001
...
The Indian Supreme Court's recent decision to allow the Gujarat Government
to go ahead with the Narmada Scheme and to build the Sardar Sarovar Dam to
a height of 90 metres also vindicates the protagonists of mega dams
especially in India and China, the world's two most populous developing
countries. The Supreme Court makes further raising of the Sardar Sarovar
Dam conditional on how some of the concomitant environmental problems, and
specially the problem of resettlement of the displaced people, will be
addressed by the authorities concerned. These problems pale into
insignificance when viewed in the broader context of the tangible and
intangible benefits that the Narmada Scheme in India and the Three Gorges
Dam Scheme in China would bring to millions of people when completed.
...