Undeterred by the biting winter cold, the Sardar Sarovar (SSP) and Jobat dam affected adivasi oustees successfully completed three full weeks (21 days) of their indefinite action at the Agricultural and Seed Production Farm, Jobat where they have occupied and been cultivating government-owned
land. Except for the Alirajpur District Collector, who has been trying to take forward the rehabilitation process, no responsible official from the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA), Narmada Control Authority
(NCA) or the state government has cared to respond till now. It is well known that there are hundreds of adivasi families affected by both the projects in Alirajpur district and Badwani district (SSP), but
none of them have been rehabilitated till date with cultivable and irrigable land as per legal and judicial stipulations. After 2 decades of litigation, dialogue with and agitation before the state and central
authorities and utter non-compliance with the binding Tribunal Award and the Supreme Court’s Judgements, the SSP oustees have resorted to this ‘Zameen Haq Satyagraha’, as a last resort, wherein they have occupied and are cultivating the seed farm land.
Fearing earlier strictures passed by the High Court for violating the ‘right to peaceful agitation’ of the oustees through brutal lathi-charge, the state government has so far not shown the temerity to use force or even any other means to ‘convince’ the oustees to vacate the land. However, the government has not been totally ambivalent as well. The administration has cut-off power and water supply within the Farm and the people have been living in the dark all through. Lack of electricity was a means for the government to frustrate the attempt of the oustees to cultivate & irrigate the land and destroy the maize and wheat crop. However, the people have innovatively decided to intensify their occupation over the land and have started cultivating native vegetables and greens which require less water.
Earlier in the week, the Chief Minister, Mr. Shivraj Singh Chauhan on his visit to Alirajpur told the press that “Law will take its own course. Land would be given where it is available and where it is not, it is ‘legal’ to give cash compensation. This is as per law and judicial orders. People have a right to demonstrate peacefully, but this is certainly not a right approach of the oustees to agitate”. After 15 years of gross neglect, illegal submergence of land, crop loss, dire poverty, hunger, malnourishment, loss of dignity and even death of a generation of elders, seeking cultivable land for years, what else can the oustees do? What other‘right approach’ do they take up ? Has the CM and the Government complied with law? Is this the treatment that will be meted out to those believe in the legal system? Is this Rule of Law?, we are compelled to ask.
Stung by the CM’s response, the oustees, asserted their right to life and right to land on the ‘Human Rights Day, and have decided to intensify their actual occupation and cultivation over the entire expanse of the Seed Farm and also to other locations, wherever cultivable government land is available. The people are always open for a meaningful dialogue and lawful rehabilitation, but can wait no more for the State to deliver by itself.
“We, the dam-affected hilly adivasis are living in sub-human conditions since a decade and a half. If this is not a gross atrocity on the adivasis, what else is,” question the women and men, who have also begun igniting their own ‘village choolas’ at the satyagraha site, as a mark of protest against the State for violating their right to food and right to life. They say, “hame kaagaz nahi, pathar nahi, kheti laayak zamin
chahiye”. People have clearly decided that they shall not vacate this land, until they are actually provided cultivable, irrigable, suitable and unencroached land, with house plots at developed resettlement sites. Earlier, the oustees took out a death parade of the NVDA through the main streets of Jobat with the effigy of the CM to symbolize the fact that the ‘Authority’ is virtually dead, in so far as the displaced persons are concerned. More than a hundred children from the Narmada Jeevanshalas (life-schools) in villages Bhadal, Bhitada, Jalsindhi are also energizing the agitation and have shifted or immolated their schools to the satyagraha sthal.
As a statutory monitoring body, the Narmada Control Authority has also totally failed in its role and has not taken any initiative till date to expedite the rehabilitation process nor has it issued stern directives to
the state government to provide land and house plots to the oustees, as per law. Shockingly, not one official from the NCA has made even a single visit to the submergence areas in the past ten years to assess the serious impact of displacement without rehabilitation that people have been facing. NCA has also not checked the legality and viability of the unilateral land offers made to the oustees, most of which is uncultivable, unirrigable, encroached and hundreds of kms away from the house plots.The NCA has relied entirely on NVDA’s false Action Taken Reports and has reported in its recent Annual Reports that there are no balance families to be rehabilitated. This is absolutely incorrect, illegal and a gross violation of the right to life of hundreds of project-affected families (PAFs).
On the other hand, the adamant stance of NVDA on the Land Bank, has once again led to a stalemate.The Supreme Court has directed in no uncertain terms that “oustees must be offered lands which are really cultivable or irrigable, along with basic civil amenities and benefits as specified in the Award”. In the background of large-scale refusal by oustees of land offered to them from the Land Bank, the Court directed in May 2011 that “The Government must continue to search for additional land than what is already available in the land bank and to find out the means of its purchase for allotment to
the oustees. The Government should also ensure that the allocated land is not encroached upon by the unscrupulous persons”.
NVDA, NCA, and even the authorities in Delhi must face the reality; accept the fact that the land bank offers are illegal and unviable and start a genuine process of identification and allotment of cultivable, irrigable, unencroached land to the oustees, beginning with the agitating hilly adivasis. This is possible and indispensible, with the participation of the oustees, as is happening in Maharashtra and Gujarat, through Land Purchase Committees.As already declared, until such a bonafide and concrete process takes-off, the Satyagraha shall continue…
...... Narmada Bachao Andolan.
The NBA has distinguished itself as a mass movement that never says die and has consequently been able to hold up the completion of many of the dams on the Narmada River.