Narmada Samachar: 3 December 2001


NOTE: Contact info for Digvijay Singh and the Madhya Pradesh Government can be obtained at:

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Tawa Dam

The Tawa Dam is a dam that was completed on the Narmada river in 1973. After a long struggle, the displaced tribals of this dam got fishing rights in the reservoir only 5 years ago. Their contract is about to expire in a few weeks and they are fearing that the contract won't be renewed by the Madhya Pradesh government. Please refer to the appeal on the website for statistics of the fish production in the Tawa reservoir.

An Appeal by the Tawa Matsya Sangh ;

Dear Friend,

                   You may be aware that five years ago, after a long
struggle, the displaced tribals of Tawa Dam got the fishing rights in the
reservoir on cooperative basis.  Thirty three primary fishermen
cooperative societies of displaced tribals, five primary cooperative
societies of traditional fishermen and their federation ( Tawa Displaced
Tribal Fish Production and Marketing Cooperative Federation, briefly known
as Tawa Matsya Sangh), have done a miracle in these five years.  The
cooperative has performed much better from every angle than both the
earlier public sector corporation and the private contractor.

                   The fish production has grown two and a half times, the
number of fishermen has become three-fold and the total income of
fishermen has grown seven times.  The middlemen were abolished and the
money that was earlier going into the pockets of the officers, contractors
and traders, now went to the fishermen.  The Tawa Matsya Sangh
successfully marketed the fish at local level as well as in distant
markets of Howrah, Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal etc.  Along with increasing fish
production, fish seed were also stocked honestly and responsibly by the
cooperative and fish conservation rules for the reservoir were for the
first time observed properly.  The Federation also paid lakhs of royalty
to the State Government while earlier corporation used to show losses for
many years.

                 Thus the fish cooperative of Tawa displaced tribals
established a new model of successful management of reservoir fisheries
through people's participation.  There are many achievements to its
credit.  It is also a new model of rehabilitation of displaced persons as
well as an example of how local communities can best manage, use and
develop the natural resources.

                 But naturally, there are some people who do not like
this.  The vested interests are affected.  The proposal for extension of
lease of reservoir that expires on 23rd December 2001 was sent by Tawa
Matsya Sangh to the State Government in early April.  It asked for (1).
new lease of ten years, (2) reduction in royalty which is excessive,
(3)provision of infrastructure, such as an ice factory and handover of
Pawarkheda hatchery and fish seed farm to it, (4) exemption of
registration fees and stamped duty for the new agreement etc.

                     But for last seven months the State Government has
not replied to this proposal.  The Chief Minister has not given even an
appointment and hearing to them.  A review committee of three officials
has been formed, but for the last six months it has not even talked to the
Tawa Matsya Sangh.  It only interviewed some fishermen in a rude manner.  
This committee consists of the Principal Secretary of Fisheries, the
Director of Fisheries and the Managing Director of state level fish
cooperative federation.  Their hostility towards the Tawa Matsya Sangh is
not even hidden.  Meanwhile the state level federation has invented
several overdues and discovered many complaints against the Tawa Matsya
Sangh, which were not even once demanded or voiced during the first four
years.  Clearly, the purpose is to block the renewal of lease of Tawa
Matsya Sangh.  The intention of the state bureaucracy, the contractors,
and the corrupt politicians is to take away the marketing and overall
management of Tawa Reservoir from Tawa Matsya Sangh and handover to the
state level federation over which they have full control. In this manner
they want to kill a growing movement of rights of local communities,
tribals and displaced persons.  They are also apprehensive of spread of
this movement to other reservoirs.  They have already destroyed a similar
experiment in Bargi Dam on Narmada river.

                 Meanwhile, sensing that the government is not in favour
of Tawa Matsya Sangh, the local agents, contractors, fish poachers, etc.
have also become active.  Around forty bogus cooperative societies of
fishermen were formed in 1996 to intrude into this cooperative experiment
but that time the unity of displaced tribals and the presence of some good
officials in the Government, prevented their entry.  They have become
active again and are demanding their inclusion.  Certain fish poachers of
neighbouring Betul district got protection from a goonda and a state
minister.  They attacked the tribal directors and employees of Tawa Matsya
Sangh on 15th October 2001, who had gone there to check and enquire.  The
police even refused to lodge an FIR and arrested the tribals themselves.  
After dharnas and representation to State DGP and MP Human Rights
Commission, an FIR was registered after ten days.  But the culprits have
not been arrested as yet.

                 The displaced tribal and other fishermen have taken an
oath on 2nd November 2001 that they will remain united and organized and
will not allow anyone to take away their rights.  They will not allow any
outside agency other than Tawa Matsya Sangh in the reservoir.  The men and
women of the villages are signing a petition to the President , the Prime
Minister, and the Chief Minister.

                 We appeal to you to help in this struggle of displaced
tribal fishermen.  Please write immediately a letter to the Chief Minister
of Madhya Pradesh (Fax No. +91-755-540501), write articles, reports and issue
statements (please send a copy to us), and help in any other manner.  
Your support and solidarity in the struggle of displaced tribal fishermen
against the exploitation, corruption, loot and evil designs of vested
interests will be very important.  We all must ensure that truth, honesty,
justice and people's will prevail in the struggle.

                  We shall expect a response and an early reply from you.

Yours sincerely,

Sabbulal, Chairman, Tawa Matsya Sangh
Fagram, Secretary, Kisan Adivasi Sanghatan,
Smita, Asst. Manager, Tawa Matsya Sangh
Sunil, Advisor, Tawa Matsya Sangh 
Fishy tales of displacement ;
Nilakantha Rath; The Hindustan Times - December 3

The state government conferred exclusive fishing and fish marketing rights
to the cooperatives and their federation of the tribals resettled in
villages within three kms of the reservoir boundary in the Tawa reservoir
on a tributary of the Narmada. This decision was preceded by a similar
decision in 1994 in the case of Bargi, a reservoir on the Narmada.

The encouraging experience with the working of this during the last five
years would have led not only to the continuation of the arrangement in
these two reservoirs, but also to a formulation of policy along this line
in all present and future reservoirs in the state and the country.
Surprisingly, forces are now at work in Bhopal to negate this policy: in
one, Bargi, it is already in doldrums and it is feared that the other,
Tawa, may soon suffer the same.

Sardar Sarovar Dam

Haroobhai Mehta passes away

People In Narmada Valley Lose Senior Friend in Gujarat;
Reputed human rights lawyer Haroobhai Mehta dies in road accident
NBA Press Release - December 2

Other Press Releases

Public Hearing at Kevadia colony by SSP oustees and distortion
by Media and the Government of Gujarat
NBA Press Release - December 1

State Brutality against the farmers of Narmada Valley challenged;
Digvijay Singh compromises interests of Madhya Pradesh and Party for BJP's Dam
NBA Press Release - November 27

News Clippings (previously missed)

Rajkot plans to seek Narmada waters ;
Times of India - November 23

NBA may move court against govt on loan ;
Times of India - November 19

Tehri Dam

Two tunnels of Tehri project to be shut down ;
Deccan Herald - December 1

6 Tehri dam panels closed ;
The Hindu - December 3

Bhopal Week

December 3rd marks the 17th year of the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984. Survivors and other non-profit organizations having been fighting for justice for 17 years now to bring Union Carbide to book for its role in perpetrating the disaster that killed thousands, affected many thousands more, and has polluted the soil and groundwater in that area. Please visit these pages and participate in the campaigns for justice against Union Carbide (now merged with Dow Chemicals).

Further, many actions are being planned to press for justice. On Thursday, December 6th, at 5:30 pm, there is going to be a peaceful gathering in front of the Indian Embassy in Washington DC to:
- show that you have not forgotten Bhopal
- demand the India Govt. extradite corporate criminal Warren Anderson to face charges in Bhopal courts
- demand the Indian Govt. pursue Dow Chemical Co. and its Indian subsidiaries on criminal charges
For more information and to participate, please contact Ram (

If you represent an overseas organization, then you can endorse a letter to the Indian Embassy to press for extradition of Warren Anderson by visiting the webpage at:

Feature Article: A letter comes from MP - Dilip D'Souza

Rediff on the Net - December 1

'In the past, there was no definite policy for rehabilitation of displaced
persons associated with the river valley projects in India ... [C]ash
compensation ... was the practice, which resulted in the resettlement of
displaced families becoming unsustainable due to squandering away of the
compensation money. This type of rehabilitation programmes deprived the
poor and illiterate tribals from their land, houses, wages, natural
environment and their socio-economic and cultural milieu."

Where do you think I found those lines? In a tract put out by some pinko
environmentalists, perhaps? Luddites intent on halting India's "progress"?

Nothing of the sort. These are from a written submission the Government of
India made to the Supreme Court in the Narmada case that was decided last
year. The submission quotes and explains the provisions for resettlement
and rehabilitation (R&R) in the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award of
1979. This award ended years of wrangling between Gujarat, Maharashtra and
Madhya Pradesh and determined how the waters of the Narmada river would be
shared among them. Thus it defines and is the basis for the dam projects
on that river, including the best known of them: Sardar Sarovar.

As you can see, the award was explicit about the failures of R&R in
previous river projects in India. Why? Because the NWDT wanted to contrast
those failures with the R&R package the award goes on to spell out: an
acclaimed set of measures that the three states then further liberalised.
The whole tone of the award through this section about R&R is of remorse
for past neglect and indifference ("no definite policy", no less), and
resolve for future justice. Resolve to treat some of our most vulnerable
peoples better than they have been. In fact, the first objective of R&R,
the award says, must be to "improve the standard of living or at least
regain the standard of living [displaced persons] had been enjoying prior
to their displacement".

Notice, in that light, the mention of "cash compensation" and its dangers.
In the past, governments would simply acquire land for projects, uproot
the people who used it and dole out handfuls of rupees to them. And that's
where this actually happened: there were plenty of cases where it did not.
The NWDT Award specifically recognises the dangers of distributing cash
like this, noting the way it ruined lives. This very recognition shaped
the generous R&R package the award offers.

That was 1979. Leap forward 22 years. In May this year, the Government of
Madhya Pradesh wrote a letter to the Narmada Control Authority that
contains these lines:

[T]he Government of MP proposes that following [clause be added to the
NWDT Award]:

[T]he displaced family shall have the option of obtaining full
compensation for settling down and purchasing land in a village of his
choice ... An option once exercised shall be final and no claim for
allotment of land can be made afterwords [sic].

In other words, Madhya Pradesh has proposed to give displaced people "the
option" of cash compensation for giving up their land. It wants to make
this explicitly a part of the award. It blithely ignores the equally
explicit language in the award that warns of the danger of doling out

What a pretty circle we tread: hand out cash compensation for years while
displacing people for "development", recognise the harm caused by and the
injustice of doing so, formulate and put in place more humane R&R
measures, return to cash compensation.

Why do you suppose the Government of Madhya Pradesh has suggested this
return to doles? Well, that letter to the Narmada Control Authority tells
us the reasons, and in doing so leaves us with a host of things to think

The GoMP has become increasingly worried about its ability to carry out
its R&R commitments in the Narmada projects. Remember that MP is the state
with the largest number of displaced people. A 1998 Sardar Sarovar Narmada
Nigam Limited publication I have says that one dam will displace 40,727
"project-affected persons" (PAPs), of whom 33,014 are in MP. Of those
33,014, nearly 14,000 are "willing to settle in Gujarat"; that still
leaves MP with the task of finding land for about 19,000 people. And
that's just this one dam that isn't even in MP. Most of the other planned
dams on the Narmada are actually in MP and will displace their own
thousands of people.

The GoMP's letter observes that the number of "project-affected families
(PAFs) is increasing day by day necessitating requirement of larger area
of land in Madhya Pradesh ... According to Government of MP, there is
paucity of cultivable government land in MP. As pointed out at various
fora, it is difficult to arrange more land for the oustees [who choose to
stay in MP]. Although efforts are on to identify and procure as much land
as possible for allotment to the oustees, past experience does not raise
hopes very high".

Quite an admission in those last eight words. Not only is MP uneasy about
fulfilling its future R&R commitments, it is far from sanguine about how
it has done in the past.

I find it difficult to imagine that anyone can examine India's -- not just
MP's -- record of R&R in our myriad "development" projects and still
believe that that first objective of R&R, as spelt out by the NWDT Award,
will be fulfilled. Regardless of how generous the R&R package looks on
paper. Because your natural tendency, as a person about to be displaced by
a dam, is to look at this "past experience" -- which the award itself
describes. If you do that, your hopes of being treated justly are hardly
likely to rise "very high" either.

Indeed, "past experience does not raise hopes very high", and that's
precisely why so many people object to these dam projects in the first

But with that admission taken care of, the GoMP's letter goes on to
further explain its reasons for amending the NWDT Award:

[The] Hon'ble Chief Minister of MP ... had very explicitly observed that,
if the PAFs are to be allotted agricultural land and arrangement of land
is to be made by the State ... then it will be very difficult to adhere to
the time frame for the resettlement of the PAFs as approved by the Narmada
Control Authority.

You see, the NWDT Award's Sub-Clause IV(7) of Clause XI, entitled
'Allotment of Agricultural Lands', which forms part of that R&R package I
keep mentioning, explicitly says that displaced families "shall be
entitled to and be allotted irrigable land". A minimum of 2 hectares of
such land per family. So the Honourable Chief Minister of MP is saying
that if the PAFs are to actually get what has only been promised to them
-- and promised to them in a package that has been repeatedly hailed as
"liberal" and "generous" -- not only will that be hard to do, but it will
also take an inordinate amount of time. So inordinate that it will
threaten the dam builders' own schedule for R&R.

And you see, this is why the GoMP wants to amend that NWDT Award. In fact,
its letter says it wants to amend that very Sub-Clause IV(7) of Clause XI
by introducing a provision on the option of the oustee to accept
compensation in full in one instalment to enable him to purchase land and
settle down as per his choice.

And in case you have any doubts, let me assure you that in suggesting this
amendment, the GoMP is thinking solely of the welfare of those PAFs. As
the letter itself says, the proposed amendment is in the interest of the
displaced family as it would enable him [sic] to settle down and purchase
land in a village of his choice at the earliest.

Small question: if the government finds it "difficult to arrange" for land
for these PAFs, how will the PAFs themselves arrange for and buy it, and
that "at the earliest"? Second small question: Just what happened to the
NWDT's observation that cash handouts "deprived the poor and illiterate
tribals from their land, houses, wages, natural environment and their
socio-economic and cultural milieu"?

Then again, who has time for small questions? There are schedules at
stake! This same letter mentions still another one. The amended policy, it
says, "will also help complete the project as schedule [sic]".

Yes sir. It is apparently "very difficult to adhere to the time frame" for
R&R. But the project itself must be completed "as schedule".

The hell with R&R, just build the dam! Here, take your money and begone!