Narmada oustees still to get a home
STATESMAN NEWS SERVICE
BHOPAL, May 18. — Oustees, mostly tribals, of various big dam projects in the Narmada valley are on an indefinite sit-in, organised by Narmada Bachao Andolan, here this morning. They said the monsoon would submerge their houses and fields and the Madhya Pradesh government hasn’t given them land for resettlement.
The protesters said their villages in Dhar, Jhabua, Badwani and Khandwa districts would be submerged in the monsoon when the water level in the reservoirs of dams such as Man, Sardar Sarovar and Narmada Sagar would rise. They have no place to go as the resettlement and rehabilitation scheme was not executed in accordance with the provisions of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award.
The state government has failed to execute its own rehabilitation policy stipulating “land for land” for the displaced people, they said.
Oustees of the Maheshwar dam from Khargone too are participating in the agitation. Man, Sardar Sarovar, Narmada Sagar and Maheshwar are are part of the Narmada Valley Development Project that envisages construction of 30 big dams besides many medium and small ones.
NBA spokesperson, Ms Chittaroopa Palit, told reporters that the Rs 142-crore Man dam in Dhar would displace about 1,000 families (about 6,000 people) in 17 villages. Only 22 families have been rehabilitated in the past 17 years, while the rest were “illegally and arbitrarily” given some paltry amount by the government in early 1990s.
The NBA urged the government to immediately stop construction of Man dam and work out the R&R of the oustees first. “They must be given land...and the government should earmark at least 10 per cent of the land in the project’s command area for this purpose”, Ms Palit said.
She said this monsoon’s submergence would affect about 1,200 tribal families in Jhabua, Dhar, and Badwani and 1,000 to 1,500 families in 27 villages of Khandwa. She said the government doesn’t have any land for R&R.
The NBA has demanded that the government scrap big dam projects such as Narmada Sagar and Maheshwar. The oustees will begin a satyagraha in the villages that will be submerged.
“Given that they haven’t been rehabilitated and not given land for land, the displaced people will have... to brave the rising waters,” Ms Palit said. Echoing her statement, an oustee said: “We’ll get drowned but not leave our homes and fields.”