Introduction to this website
SARDAR SAROVAR
THE MAHESHWAR DAM
Links To Press Clippings
Other Resources On The Web
Read the latest NBA Press Releases
Images
Contact Information

Return To The Front Page

THE NARMADA HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVER TEAM'S VISIT FROM JULY 2 TO JULY 8, 1993

The team members comprised

1. Gautam Vohra, Chairman, Development Research & Action Group
(DRAG)

2. Satyendra Ranjan, Secretary, PUCL, Delhi Unit

3. N.D. Jayaprakash, Joint Secretary, Delhi Science Forum

The team visited the following villages/sites in Gujarat and Maharashtra:

i) Rehabilitation (Resettlement) sites: Pansoli and Simaliya in Daboi taluka, Golagamdi in Sankheda taluka and Kamboikuva and Chametha in Naswadi taluka of Baroda district, Gujarat.

ii) Submergence-zone villages: Vadgam, Gulwani (Khalwani), Gadher in Nandod Taluka (or Rajpipla Taluka), Bharuch District, Gujarat. Manibeli, Dhankhedi, Chimalkheri and Sindoori in Dhule district, Maharashtra.

iii) 4 Canal-affected villages: Shamsherpura and Garkoi in Nandod taluka, Bharuch district, Gujarat.

iv) (Kevadia) Colony-affected villages: Kothi, Gora and Kewadia (Nichalaya Phaliya) in Nandod Taluka, Bharuch district, Gujarat.

The team visited rehabilitation sites, and the submergence zone with officials of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL); it went to rehabilitation sites, submergence zone villages, canal and colony affected villages with members of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).

The team encountered violation of human rights at the rehabilitation sites submergence zone villages canal-affected villages colony-affected villages

VADGAM (GUJARAT)

Police high-handedness was evident in the way members of the Gujarat State Home Guards forced their way into the huts of the villagers ostensibly to record their possessions that might be lost in the Narmada waters, Vadgam being among the first villages to face submergence. It is located right next to the Sardar Sarovar Dam.

Bachubhai Raghunath, among the 24 families that have returned from the rehabilitation site at Vadgam, put it succinctly "They (the police) pointed the gun at me and noted the goods in my house; then they asked me to sign under the list they had made".

Members of the 24 households, Tadvi tribals, were resettled in Malu in 1989. After three years of trying to make a living there they have returned to Vadgam. Amritbhai Tadvi captures the prevailing sentiment among them when he says "I'll rather drown than move back to Malu".

Shankar Kagde related a typical experience of the Malu returnees: "My elder brother was farming the plot of land given to him. The landlord turned up and said "Pemabhai I'll take the crop of your field". The landlord had not been compensated by the government for the land he had surrendered to the resettlers. Hence like others in a similar situation, Pemabhai approached the rehabilitation centre in Kewadia which immediately gave the assurance that all will be set right. Nothing was done then; the situation remained unchanged for the duration of their stay at Malu.

Another incidence of the indifference that demonstrates the attitude of the administration was the collousness of the police when the oustees reported the theft from their residence. About a dozen armed dacoits looted their belongings, taking all the gehana (jewellery) they could lay their hands on. Dhirubhai Zeena (of Kaked hamlet of Vadgam) said they told the police that they did not want to be killed, they rather leave if they did not receive protection. The police reacted strangely. First they wanted the oustees to describe the dacoits who had come in the middle of the night. Then they suggested "Why don't you say they looted the honour of your women, then you'll be compensated well by the government".

The various hamlets of Vadgam had 700 families. Now but for 33 families (of which 24 have returned from Malu), Vadgam is deserted, its residents resettled in 28 villages, father in one, son in another, and other extended family members in yet another.

CHIMALKHERI, SINDOORI, DHANKHEDI (MAHARASHTRA)

Like several villages in the submergence zone that the team visited, the villagers can be said to fall into three categories:

i) Those who will not move, no matter what, and are willing to do samarpan if necessary

ii) Those who are willing to be resettled but have not been shown any site

iii) Those who have been taken to several locations for rehabilitation but have not liked them.

Bijaya Jugla, a Vasava tribal, who has represented the Valley in Norway and Britain in debates with the World Bank last November, and owns about 7 to 9 acres spread over pockets in Chimalkheri, had been shown several rehabilitation sites in the eighties but he did not care for any, hence he has remained in Chimalkheri. According to his estimate, about 50 percent of the villagers would shift if they had an alternative site to move to. He too is willing to do so provided the residents of Chimalkheri are resettled in one site, and not allocated different areas as is the current practice.

Batel Singh Ulya who, along with three brothers, owns 10 acres in Chimalkheri wanted to resettle during 1985-87 but the government did not listen to their pleas. Like Sonda Rodwa, a Vasava adivasi of Chimalkheri whose father cultivates five acres of unregistered land, he will now not resettle even if land is offered to them: they have decided to oppose the government which has treated them with callousness and contempt.

Among the handful of literates among the adivasis living in this remote region of Dhule district -- it had no road until last year when the Maharashtra government decided to construct one linking all the villages from Manibeli along the submergence zone in order to evict the villagers -- Batel Singh Ulya was an undergraduate at a Dhule college when he heard of a school that the NBA had decided to open in his village. He gave up college to teach in his village school which is one of two others that it runs: the second at Peepachuk and the third at Nimgaon in Akrani tehsil, Dhule district. The parents of the children provide the food for their wards. Of the 40 children 30 live in the school premises (an ashram school) and books, slates, equipment, sometimes foodgrains, as well as the teacher salaries, are provided by the NBA. These schools follow the government syllabus for 5-7 year olds.

Eight families from Chimalkheri have been rehabilitated in Parveta, but they are full of woes. The women in particular are unhappy for having been separated from the kith and kin of their village.

At Sindoori, the authorities landed up with vehicles to move the people, but they did not. Ganga behn, who has three daughters and a son aged 10 years, says they will not shift even if their village submerges. They have refused to see alternative sites for rehabilitation and five acres of irrigable land on offer. Along with her husband and Mathurabhai she participated in the Harsud (Madhya Pradesh) rally and the Jan Vikas Sangharsha Yatra. Ganga behn observes that "some people in the Valley are not behind her (Medha Patkar) because the greed of land has overcome them".

The position of Raju behn of Sindoori is no different to that of Ganga behn. It is not as if life is comfortable for them at the submergence village. Ten family members depend on 10 acres of land owned by Sesriya bhai, the head of the family. In any case, they have not even been shown an alternative dwelling site to move to once the village goes under.

The tragedy is that there is no land available for people who want to be resettled. And this tragedy is that of Dhankhedi: all of them are keen on rehabilitation elsewhere. The danger to their homes is proclaimed by a notice thus:

Notice of danger: Dhankhedi Patil pada and Kudrai pada are informed that the water level will be 88.2 metres in 1993 monsoon. The lowest hut of Dhankhedi village is at 75.50 metres. As these padas will be submerged, the residents should find safe places. In an emergency, the tin sheds that have been constructed can be used.

It is signed "By order of the collector" (of Maharashtra).

Such notices were also put up in Sindoori and Chimalkheri. They have been knocked down by the villagers in a show of defiance. They have no intention of leaving their homes. In Manibeli the notice was removed no sooner than it was erected on the metal stand.

Gimbia Ramji, a Vasava resident of Dhankhedi, is unhappy with the government for offering them land that they cannot possibly occupy. "They took us to Sagbara (in Gujarat) and showed us other people's land. How can we settle on it", he says. Then the land shown has been of such poor quality that no one would want it.

Gimbia has been a staunch supporter of Narmada Dharangrast Samiti, which along with the Narmada Asargrast Samiti (Gujarat) and the Narmada Ghati Navnirman Samiti (Madhya Pradesh) today forms the Narmada Bachao Andolan. But he left the Samiti a while ago since he claims it failed to support the Dhankhedi residents when the police forcibly tried to evict them and they resisted. In the process several tribals including two of Gimbia's family members were put behind bars. He has participated in the Jan Vikas Sanghrasha Yatra and says he and others are keen to re-join the Narmada Dhrangrastha Samiti.

MANIBELI (MAHARASHTRA)

Manibeli has been submerged since the team's visit. The occupation status of its various hamlets was as follows:

Sarpanchh Pada: 6 houses
Patel Pada: 12 houses
Vami Pada: 32 houses
---------
total 50 houses

All the 35 families of the fourth pada, Kadamu, have been resettled in Parveta; seven families from Sarpanch pada have gone to Sarsinda. And many have harrowing tales to relate about life in these sites. The Sarsinda site is totally unlike Manibeli in terms of vegetation, soil and climatic conditions. When the Manibeli (Sarpanch pada) residents arrived in Sarsinda, they were unpleasantly surprised to find that they did not so much as have a tin roof to protect them from the monsoon rains. They got the tin sheds several days later, 10 feet by 20 feet, which lack proper ventilation facilities and have to be shared with their livestock. Most of them have not yet been allotted the five acres of irrigable land; in the circumstances they are unlikely to secure a crop in the coming season. Firewood remains a problem for want of tree cover in the area.

From Patel pada __ as from Kadamu __ several families have shifted to Parveta including the brothers-in-law of Vithal bhai, a Tadvi, whose hut will be among the first few to be submerged once the waters begin to rise. Though he has visited them in Parveta, he has no wish to shift as he has seen what life is like in the rehabilitation colonies. He owns two acres in Manibeli and is willing to stay there and fight for his land though his village, like Dhankhedi, Sindoori and Chimalkheri, are in the remote interior: to do their shopping the residents have to cross the Narmada into Kewadia or Gadher, both in Gujarat; the trip takes a full day.

Vithal bhai was first arrested when along with others he opposed the government as it began building the road to Manibeli. He was put behind bars again a few months ago when he tried to prevent the destruction of Narmadai, the NBAs office-cum-shelter.

He is not an original resident of Manibeli. He settled here 20 years ago when he married a Manibeli girl. In fact, for five years since 1986, he was among those willing to move to a rehabilitation site but the government took no notice of their appeals. Now they are all opposed to its plans for rehabilitation.

When the team was in Manibeli its residents were busy re- building the huts that were dismantled through police action during the end of May and early June. The story of how Keshubhai's daughter Kunta on her own confronted the police to prevent them and other members of the administration including the collector from destroying her home on June 30 is now well known. On July 3 the house was finally pulled down despite Kunta's valiant efforts. Her father Keshubhai __ the only Marathi speaking person in Manibeli __ had been "hijacked" to Kewadia ostensibly to be shown land (in Manipur, Sankheda taluka, Gujarat) for resettlement.

On June 21, Keshubhai received some of the material (from Anup Kumar, the Collector) to re-build his hut as per the conditions accepted by the government in its negotiations with NBA. But in the first week of July, the job of construction was not complete. Keshubhai, like other villagers living below the poverty line, stated that he had not received any compensation for the bakri (goat), murgi (chicken) and the wagon-load of wood that he had lost during "operation demolish". He complained "they have not even returned my water matka and chakki".

Since all the material for the construction of Keshubhai's house had not been provided, the Manibeli residents decided that they would not allow the construction of the helipad (the other one is expected to be set up in Dhankhedi). The sarpanch, Narayan bhai, said "We told the labourers - 85 in number - that it would not be correct to allow it to be built while material for a poor man's hut was not being made available by the administration. They all went away. Even the contractor did not protest".

Apart from the resettlement colonies breaking up family ties, most are disliked by the potential oustees as they are not located near forests as are most of the existing submergence zone villages. As the sarpanch explained "If land is our mother where our forefathers have lived, the forest is our father. It gives us sustenance". Hence the resettlers are not only deprived of minor forest produce, but such a basic necessity as firehood.

These considerations are primarily responsible for many adivasis refusing to leave their homes for areas that can never be converted into one. Keval Singh, a Paura tribal from Nimgaon in Dalgaon taluka and Muraria Khomaria of Silakda, Dalgaon taluka, Dhule district, are now living in Manibeli working for the NBA. Like many villagers in the submergence zone in Gujarat, and Maharashtra, they too were keen to shift in the initial stages and as members of the Narmada Dharangrast Samiti for three year (1986-1989) they kept asking for land, forest land, but the government said that not one inch of forest land would be given them. It is ironical that Maharashtra has since reversed its stand and recently 800 hectares of prime forest land has been cleared in Taloda (Dhule District) to house resettlers.

In any case, in the late eighties the government was against surrendering forest land, and the alternative sites shown to Keval Singh and Muraria Khomaria as well as their village brethen were either unsuitable or inadequate to rehabilitate them. Some then visited Gujarat for land and even there they found they could not make a home. By this stage they had become aware of the kind of development the dam sought to promote. The Harsud Rally (1989), in which all the 33 villages of Maharashtra's submergence zone participated (from M.P. too thousands came, but only a few hundred from Gujarat) and the Jan Vikas Sangharsha Yatra (1990) were the turning points in their consciousness about the nature of development being imposed on them by Delhi. Since then many like Keval and Muraria have been opposing the dam, ready to drown than be shifted to an alternative site.

Keval Singh owns little land but he secured a livelihood by working in the forest (Satpura Range) near his village (Nimgaon) which has 120 households (population 600) all of whom are ready for samarpan. Muraria Khomaria, a Bhil, too owns little land and the residents of his village Silakda (150 households, 650 population) have the same approach as those of Nimgaon.

MODEL RESETTLEMENT SITES: PANSOLI, SIMALIYA, GOLAGAMDI-I (GUJARAT)

Except for the naive, no one is deceived by the model resettlement colonies that Gujarat government has created and which Maharashtra government has sought to upstage with its Somaval resettlement in Taloda forest. These are visited by MPs, MLAs, international journalists, and in the past, World Bank officials.

At first glance, the housing does appear impressive compared to the tin sheds measuring 15 feet by 20 feet that oustees have elsewhere. The homes of the resettlers such as Varsan Narju, a Rathva from Turkheda, Chota Udepur taluka, Baroda district, in Pansoli are built of brick-cum-cement with Mangalore tiled slanting roofs, and are relatively large. The land they have is in the command area, the school is in the nearby village (Kherwadi); medical facilities and electricity have been provided. The government has spent as much as Rs.1.5 to Rs.2 lakhs per Project Affected Person (PAP): Rs.75,000 for agricultural land (for five acres, the current rate being Rs.15,000 an acre), Rs.15,000 for the residential plot, Rs.10,000 as subsidy and Rs.50,000 as infrastructural facilities.

All very impressive until one has a closer look (which elected representatives and most World Bank officials on a whirlwind trip do not have the time for). For then you discover, as the team did, that as elsewhere there is not much of a life in these settlements. In Pansoli, for instance, there are 150 families from four villages: Turkheda and Hapeshwar in Chota Udepur taluka, Fekhda (Naswadi taluka) and Mokhdi.

In Simaliya, the other model village, the resettlers are from Vadgam, Mokhdi, Sekhbar and Kaked. Sixty-six-year-old Kamji bhai says of the four hand-pumps, two are not working; there are no grazing lands for the cattle of the 150 families.

His complaints are drowned by the numerous supporters of the government who have benefited after shifting to the new site. These are, after all, the show pieces. Else why would the SSNNL take visitors to them. Let us glance through the litany of praise:

* Gopal Koni, a Tadvi, who came from Vadgam in 1991 said their hut was near the Narmada, so the government served them a notice, warning them that their place would get flooded. Gopal and his family moved, so did his five brothers who had to subsist on 2.25 acres. Now each brother has five acres. They have some surplus produce left for sale. They grow cotton, tur, maize and paddy. The last is grown on land that is in the command area; not all land comes under it.

* Laxman Chunilal, ex-sarpanch of Vadgam, who has settled in Golagamdi since 1991, says that they have all been given more land than they had and hence life is comfortable in the resettled colony. His thirteen-year-old daughter, who served us water, was going to school while in Vadgam; now she has stopped doing so since "there is so much work on the fields", explains her father. One son has learnt driving, the other is in class 10. The ex-sarpanch himself has become a building contractor, "in a small way".

Laxman, as a true votary of the government, is critical of the NBA for trying to prevent the construction of the dam and hence "come in the way of progress". On being reminded that in the early days when dams were being built such as the Bhakra Nangal, the oustees were not given any compensation, let alone land and had it not been for the NBA he would not have secured five acres and other benefits, the ex-sarpanch maintains a studied silence.

He is perplexed. His question reveals the reason: "When we have got so many benefits, and I and others have told journalists about them time and again, why don't they believe us, why do they believe the NBA?"

Not So Model Colonies: Golagamdi-II, Kamboikuva, Chametha (Gujarat)

Intriguingly, the Golagamdi village, or Golagamdi-II, less than a kilometre away from Golagamdi-I is anything but a show piece. The resettlers here __ 32 households __ are from Madhya Pradesh (Jalasindhi and Akadia villages of Alirajpur taluka, Jhabua district).

Sixty-year-old Ugraunia says that their village began to submerge, and since the Madhya Pradesh government did not offer them any land they came to Gujarat. The residents of this re- settlement site complain that

* The cultivable land given to them is dry land and it is difficult to grow anything on it, other than a monsoon crop.

* Their forefathers had forest land; it is hard to get accustomed to an area without trees.

* The hand-pumps work, but the water is not potable.

* All the Madhya Pradesh resettlers are still living in tin sheds unlike the Golagamdi-I residents. (Is this because the latter are (i) Gujaratis and (ii) the state government makes greater efforts to provide benefits, including those under IRDP and ITDP, to its own people on a priority basis?)

* Though they have been at the site for over two years, many have still to receive the loan and subsidy of Rs.10,000/- for laying the foundation (plinth) for their houses.

The Kamboikuva resettlement site has oustees from Gadher (46 families), Vadgam (two families), Panchmoli (two families) and Khalwani (two families).

Ambalal Dalpat, a Tadvi, came to Kamboikuva four years ago, and though he gave up two acres in Gadher to secure five acres on which he grows kapas, makai, jowar, dangar, he does not like it at the resettlement site. He had to leave Gadher as it is a full submergence village (unlike others which are partial submergence villages). In fact, most of the 1,000 odd Gadher residents, spread out over 13 villages, have left for resettlement sites. The team did, however, meet Vechan Jhina, a Tadvi, who had not left Gadher, though his three brothers had, having secured land in Daboi and Nandod Talukas. He too has secured land, but interestingly enough does not like it since it is irrigated. He maintains that it has got waterlogged as the land is in the command area adjoining the canal. Vechan will return to the resettlement site if he is given unirrigated land which will enable him to grow tur and arhad.

Ambalal Dalpat is unhappy at Kamboikuva because his kith and kin are no longer with him. They have been packed off to as many as 62 resettlement sites. What is more, he has not obtained good quality land: only grass grows on it, no crops. Nearly two out of three resettlers have secured such land.

Vikram Raiji, a 26 year old Tadvi, at least made a living at Gadher by doing mazdoori an other people's land during the monsoon. At Kamboikuva, there is no work; the Patel gives him no more than Rs.10/- a day to cultivate his land, "which just about covers the cost of my bidis and chai" observed Vikram.

Kasiram Nana, a Tadvi, who came to the Chametha resettlement site from Gadher four years ago has an altogether another sort of complaint. Like others at Chametha, he says that they have not been given five acres, but less land. And most of it is of poor quality. They have approached the SSNNL and requested it to change the land they have been given. That apart, the two-room school does not cater to the needs of their children. The davakhana is seven kilometres away at Naswadi.

CANAL AFFECTED VILLAGES

The plight of the canal affected and colony affected villagers differs from those living in the submergence zones and the resettlement colonies essentially in terms of the period of displacement. Whereas the submergence zone residents began to be shifted to the resettlement colonies towards the end of the nineteen eighties, the canal affected people lost their land in the early eighties and the Kewadia residents did so in the early sixties.

To take the canal affected first, Mohan Lalu, a Tadvi, resident of Shamsherpura, lost three acres of land to the main canal, and a well, in 1981. The land, he said, had 235 trees.

He was compensated only for the land at the rate of Rs.3,200 an acre by the SSNNL which acquired it.

As many as 42 families (households) in Shamsherpura have lost their land to the canal. Of these, seven families have had to give up their entire holding to the canal and most have settled elsewhere, making a living by working on other people's land or taking up any job that comes their way.

Mohan Lalu, now that he has only half an acre left to him, survives by doing mazdoori wherever he can get it. He feels cheated for being forced to sell to the SSNNL at the paltry rate. Now his land would have fetched him Rs.15,000 - Rs.20,000 an acre.

Like him the residents of Garkoi who have had to surrender their land to the SSNNL for the canal too want to be compensated at current rates.

Devji Moti, a Tadvi, ex-sarpanch of Garkoi has lost four acres to the Narmada mukhya (main) canal. Though he has 10 acres left, five of it is on the other side of the canal and he finds it difficult to cultivate it since there is no bridge over the canal to enable him to cross it. And that is a common complaint.

He is particularly perturbed by the fact that the SSNNL acquired his land in 1981 at Rs.2,800 an acre whereas most others received Rs.3,200 an acre.

Kantilal Hira, a Tadvi, lost 8.5 acres to the canal. This land was owned jointly by four brothers, residents of Garkoi. Now they all survive on mazdoori: work on the dam sites, carrying rubble in baskets; or in the forest, planting saplings under the schemes initiated by the SSNNL to counter the criticism that valuable forests have been lost, and continue to be lost to the dam.

Sixty-year-old Manchu Ukar lost his entire two acres to the canal; he does "casual mazdoori" around Garkoi. His son is taken to the dam by truck 20 kms. away where he earns Rs.20/25 a day.

The canal-affected have formed a committee and have demonstrated on several occasions to draw attention to their demands. Last year, from zero point (the starting point of the main canal) it organised a padyatra which was stopped at the boundary of Sankheda taluka -- the beginning of the Chief Minister, Chimanbhai Patel's constituency -- and the leaders were arrested. In December 1992, 4,000 of the canal affected villagers staged a dharna in front of Narmada Bhavan (SSNNL's headquarters) in Baroda. All courted arrest.

COLONY AFFECTED VILLAGES

The canal affected residents and the colony affected residents' common experience is that they were forced to surrender their land to the State for a scheme that would not benefit them.

While the canal affected received some compensation for the land that the authorities took over, the colony affected did not receive any for the land they gave up.

They did receive some cash, but for the standing crop on their land. They were duped into parting with their land.

Balibehn Champak, a Tadvi adivasi, of Kothi lost 6.5 acres on which Kewadia colony officers' flats have been built.

In 1961, Jawaharlal Nehru visited Kewadia and told the Kothi residents that all they needed was land for a helipad. That is how the whole scheme started, and gradually the authorities acquired the land on which the residents of six villages depended.

Each person whose land was taken was paid Rs.60 to Rs.150 per acre of the standing crop. Under the guise of crop payment villagers signed away their land.

For the 6.5 acres Balibehn received a pitiable Rs.900. Her case is no different to the residents of the five other villages.

Shankar Kuber, a resident of Kewadia (Nichalaya Phaliya), had to give up his land too on the basis of the calculations made by the government on the value of his crop. His father owned 44 acres, and this was divided between Shankar and his two brothers. Since they lost the land to the colony, Shankar acquired a job with the PWD drilling section, as also his second brother, and both earn Rs.1,500 a month. The third brother is unemployed.

Shankar and his brothers are more concerned with how their children will survive. For jobs are difficult to come by and they have lost the land that had belonged to their forefathers.

Mangan Jiva's father surrendered 16 acres of land in Gora village to the authorities at Rs.80 to Rs.100 per acre. This land was to be shared between Mangan and his two brothers. Like Shankar, Mangan is worried about the future of his progeny, and his own, once he retires. At present he is employed as a peon in the Circuit House of the Kewadia colony. His other brothers too have found jobs in the colony, one of whom earns Rs.2,000 as a valve operator responsible for releasing water to the colony.

Mangan and his fellow residents of Gora want five acres of land for each adult, in compensation for what their families surrendered to the government. In short, they demand Project Affected Persons (PAP) status.

Not all colony affected people are as adamant about being compensated only in terms of land. But all are against the package that the government is offering: (i) Rs.36,000 in cash (ii) jobs in the colony and (iii) residential accommodation.

To begin with, the Rs.36,000 for one and all is inequitous: those who lost five acres or 40 acres to the colony will be given the same flat rate of Rs.36,000. Shankar Kuber of Kewadia (nichalya phaliya) and his wife Jasu behn say that either they be compensated for the 44 acres that their father left the three brothers, or each adult in each family be given 5 acres. They are willing to accept cash compensation at the current market rate of the land.

The residents of Gora, however, will not even accept the current market rate since they maintain, unlike others, they have no cultivable land and hence have nowhere to go. They want land, and nothing less than that.

In fact, the NBA has filed a case on behalf of the colony affected villagers. And thanks to its intervention the Gujarat government has come up with the package of compensation. This was revised in favour of the villagers in 1991 (The package mentioned above).

POLICE CAMPS

To an adivasi the government officials have been a source of harassment, whether during the Mughal era, the British period, or since India gained Independence. Whenever they have visited the tribal abode in the remote fastness of the forest, or hills, they have looted and despoiled. The adivasis have rarely gained anything from a member of the government.

Hence the police camps that are located at each tribal hamlet in the submergence zone is an affront to everything the adivasis hold dear. They are subject to harassment now round the clock.

The government's position is that the police camps, which house personnel from the health, irrigation, revenue and forest departments, are there to rescue the villagers during submergence.

The Manibeli police camp's spokesman told us that they had provided the residents with

* tyre tubes
* ropes
* loud-speaker system

Apparently these are meant for the safety of the submergence zone villagers. When we checked with the villagers, they said they had not received any of the above.

The Dhankhedi police camp was on the land of Gimbia Ramji, one of its residents, on top of a hill as it provides a good vantage point to keep an eye on the village. Gimbia said he did not want them there, they were an imposition, what could he do. And what indeed can a poor tribal do against the might of the State?

At Chimalkheri and Sindoori, the team met policemen at the camps who belonged not only to the Dhule police but the State Reserve Police (SRP). The latter were certainly not there for "water duty" as one of them flippantly described his assignment.

The wireless system in each camp is estensibly to enable the police to perform its "rescue operation", but the facilities at its command are invariably used to harass a hapless population threatened with losing their source of livelihood; indeed even their life. And in the meantime, the personnel of the police camps in the forest interior impose on its resources, felling fuelwood as and when they like, a facility that is denied the local population. In towns like Kewadia, the heavy police presence makes nonsense of a so-called free society. The team, on one occasion, counted 15 police vans at the ITI in Kewadia. In Vadgam and its environs, where the police went apparently to take a record of the possessions of its residents, the team encountered policemen swarming the place, and they were not merely from the Gujarat Home Guards. The bogus concern of the State is matched by the bogus list it has recently prepared of tribals who are likely to go under. It contains names of villagers whose huts are well above the submergence level and mentions those who do not even reside in the village.

THE HUMAN RIGHTS OBSERVER TEAM RECOMMENDS

1. All police camps should be removed forthwith.

2. Canal affected and colony affected people ought to be accorded Project Affected Person (PAP) status.

3. Land must be identified to rehabilitate all those who want to shift from the submergence zone. This task should be given priority.

4. All basic facilities need to be made available at the rehabilitation site before the resettlers are moved to it.

5. The five acres of land given to each oustee must be transferred in his name no sooner than he is in a position to cultivate it.

6. As far as possible the resettlers from one village should be re-located at the same site.



Contents copyright ©1995-8 International Rivers Network. Reproduction by permission only