NBA Update: the struggle Nandurbar


In a show of defiance, the tribal villagers from 33 villages in Maharashtra, evicted by the unprecedented submergence by the Sardar Sarovar dam in the Narmada valley, protested for over a week in front of the District Collector's office in Nadurbar from August 28 onwards and demanded the immediate process of joint assessment of the project affected families and procuring appropriate cultivable lands for the resettlement, as these basic requirements were not fulfilled, while raising the dam height illegally upto 119 meters.

They also protested against the false propaganda by the state government about providing the security, shelter and temporary food, health and shelter facilities to the submergence affected villagers. They demanded that the Maharashtra government must withdraw its false affidavit filed in the Supreme Court as completing all the resettlement, as that has proved to be big lie, on the ground level situation.

The Sardar Sarovar dam's height was illegally raised from 110.64 meters to 119 meters, before this year's monsoon, devastating the life and resources of thousands of tribals, thanks to the Prime Minister and Supreme Court of India. While the news of inundation in Gujarat towns and villages due to the Ukai and Sardar Sarovar, Dharoi dams made headlines for weeks together, the woes and struggle of those bearing the onslaught of the floods, backwaters and government apathy was scarcely noticed. The waters of Sardar Srovar dam reached upto Nimad in Madhya Pradesh, some150 km upstream of the wall of the dam. Thousands of tribals lost their houses and standing crops on hundreds of hectares was lost for consecutively 10 years.

The protestors in Akkalkuwa laid siege on the Distict Collector's office in Nandurbar. They started an indefinite sit-in , till the officers responded to their demands. On August 28, they handed over detailed memorandum to the Collector regarding the crass neglect of the rights and life of the tribal oustees.

*Assessment and Procurement*
Accordingly, the submergence the monsoon of 2006 has so far drowned the houses of over 150 tribal families from the tribal villages in Maharashtra, and hundreds of farms were flooded, damaging the crop for entire year. There has been no assessment (panchnama) by the state government officers, despite the express assurance to complete the assessment within two days by the District Collector Mr. Jayant Gaikwad on August 19. The assessment must include those families who have been affected in 1994, at the 80 meters of the dam, but not yet 'declared' as the project affected families (PAFs) and are living in the original villages as they could not be resettled despite the submergence and displacement.

The Collector had earlier told that the process of being 'declaration' as outees wason and many new families have been 'declared' as PAFs, while the NBA and the villagers have not got any information or notices regarding it. "It is necessary that a campaign should be undertaken to assess the number of the PAFs remained to be resettled with land in each affected village, through a joint survey by the district administration, the villagers' representative and the activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, along with those families affected in the tapu (island) villages. The PAFs, who have been facing submergence all these years, but were not resettled, shifted to the higher elevation. Officials should not treat them as 'encroachers', as they were compelled to shift higher hills as a result of failure of the government to resettle them as per the law.

Moreover, the government should immediately start the process of acquisition of the irrigable and cultivable land for the PAFs - either the government land or purchasing the private land - as per the provisions of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal (NWDT) and the orders of the Supreme Court -it is incumbent on the government to confer the titles of at least 2 hectares of land to each PAF, including the major sons.

*Withdraw Affidavit*
As it is clear now that the Maharashtra oustees are not resettled as yet and it needs a long process of assessment, declaration, procuring land, resettling the PAFs, *the state government must withdraw its earlier affidavit* which falsely claimed that the full resettlement of all the PAFs and nobody in the original villages, as it is tragically proved that hundereds of families are still in the original villages and without resettlement and yet other families are still 'declared' to be oustees.

Secondly, the government must complete the process of preparing the Panchnama in the submerged villages, recording the losses the people had to suffer. There are issues of the compensation amount to be paid since the 1994. The submergence affected people must be provided with motorboat boat transport in every village and small boats in every hamlet. The medical facilities are erratic and infrequent. They demanded that the floating hospital should visit the villages at least daily and the health worker also must have the medicines for malaria, water-borne diseases and snake or scorpion bites.

The people demanded that the submergence affected must be provided with the food security, under the Annapurna Yojana and Antyodaya Yojana. For the immediate need every family must be given 2 quintals of food-grains, 50 kilogram dal (pulses), 5 litres of kerosene urgently.

*Keval Singh, Rohan Joshi, Noorjibhai, Yogini, Chetan*