'Tribals pay heavy price for Sarovar project'

MUMBAI: Tribals in Maharashtra are paying a heavy price for the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). This indictment has been delivered by a committee appointed by the Maharashtra government to assess the resettlement of people ousted by the SSP project in the Narmada Valley.

The committee, headed by S.M. Daud, a former judge of the Bombay high court, has also observed that not enough has been done to resettle the victims in Maharashtra.

Stating that people have been trapped in a life-and-death struggle due to a `project of development', committee member Sharad Palav has written to chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh urging him to speedily solve the issue.

The committee's report has been prepared after three months of field visits. "The extensive personal visits gave the committee an opportunity to inspect and see for itself the serious problems confronting the project-affected persons," the report has said. Incidentally, all those affected by the SSP in Maharashtra are tribals, except for a priest.

"Denial of rehabilitation," noted the report, "amounts not only to cheating the tribals, but it is also a self-deception of all those committed to the welfare of the tribals." The committee has submitted its findings with the following statement:"It is very sad that our observations should force us to conclude in this manner:

* those who have been displaced or are likely to be uprooted and their very existence endangered because of the SSP, have not all been accounted for. In fact, a majority of them have been left out from the official lists;

* Major sons having their own young families of infant children have been denied their independent entitlements;

* The government has persisted in making an arbitrary discrimination with respect of those suffering from the same kind of hardships and loss of property and earnings, as "declared" and "undeclared" so as to accord to some and deny to many others their due entitlements under the scheme;

* (There is undue) Insistence on documentary evidence from illiterate tribals and rejection of their lawful claims for want of documentary evidence which they can hardly produce;

* Water for domestic consumption, including drinking, and irrigation have not been suitably and adequately provided for at the new resettlement sites,

* Civic amenities expected to have been provided for at the resettlement colonies are in many instances either inadequately provided, or those said to have been provided are, in fact, in a very poor condition.

"Indeed all these are problems of great severity requiring a careful and urgent consideration," the report has observed. For generations, in fact, since times immemorial, these tribals have lived with dignity and without asking for any help from outside on the banks of the river Narmada and in the surrounding forests. "To deny them now their basic legal rights and constitutional special privileges, to which they are entitled to under the laws and the Constitution of this country, is a great inequity for all the citizenry of our country," the report has said.

And to deprive them of their rights in the new resettlement colonies is a wrongful act of great oppression, the committee has strongly noted. ( TIMES NEWS NETWORK & AGENCIES )

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Referred by: Mukundan C.M.
Published on:August 9, 2001
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