Sunday, January 12, 2014

Narmada dam oustees told: They would be offered land against land, instead of cash, as compensation

By Our Representative
In a major breakthrough for the Narmada oustees of Madhya Pradesh’s Alirajpur district, the state government has agreed to hand over land to them instead of paying compensation in cash to those who lose land because of the Narmada dam, currently stationary at 121.92 metres in Gujarat. The Gujarat government wants the resettlement issue of the Narmada oustees to be solved urgently in order to take the dam's height to the full reservoir level (FRL), 138.64 metres, at the earliest.
The district collector, Alirajpur, agreed, following agitation by Narmada oustees, that the rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) officer would begin “showing land to the oustees starting on January 20, and would ensure before that date that the land to be shown is cultivable and free of encroachment”, a statement issued by National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), an apex body of tens of civil rights bodies across the country, said.
While it is not known whether this means end of the “cash cash land” scheme, worked out for the neighbouring state by the Gujarat government in order to “expedite” thousands of Madhya Pradesh oustees’ “resettlement”, this is for the first time that land was being consciously offered instead of cash. Faced with large number of farmer and tribal oustees to be resettled in Madhya Pradesh, most of them owning quality of cultivable land, the Gujarat government worked out the “cash for land scheme” as a panacea, which Madhya Pradesh accepted in mid-2000s.
The scheme was worked out because there was a distinct feeling in Gujarat government that unless R&R of Madhya Pradesh oustees was “completed”, it was not possible to get a nod for raising the height of the Narmada dam from the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), the inter-state body, which responsible for implementing the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) award. The Narmada project, including the dam, require NCA nod at every step.
The NAPM statement further said, “Surrounded and questioned by hundreds of adivasis for a second time on January 10 at the gates of the collectorate, Alirajpur, district collector NP Deheriya announced that he would immediately withdraw the charges of Sec 151, 107 and 116 (3) of Cr PC filed against 40 adivasis, including many elderly and 6 women, on the alleged and completely unsustainable ground of ‘breach of peace’ at the site of the Zameen Hak Satyagraha, Jobat.”
It added, “Joined by Akhilesh Jha, SP, and aitaram Sastiya, additional SP, the officials finally conceded that there was no disturbance to the peace by the oustees at Jobat. As the end of four hours long debate and dialogue with the Collector, the oustees and Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar convinced him that the occupation of government land at Jobat Farm was not in any way to disturb the peace of the locality, but was a measure undertaken, as a last resort, to assert the right to land and rehabilitation, which has been seriously affected, since more than a decade, when they have been facing the severe impacts of submergence.”
Other commitments made by the district collector include:
· House plots will be offered in lieu of Rs. 20,000 given many years ago, without consent.
· Surveys to be conducted in all the 13 villages once again to assess the actual and left our affected persons and properties.
· Immediate registration of the proposed co-operatives of the displaced fish workers from Machliya, Umda, Bhiti and Chhota Khattali villages.
· Assistance for irrigation facilities in the original villages by grant of 100 per ent subsidized motor pumps.
The oustees representatives informed the authorities that the charges in the FIR of November 2011, such as destruction of public property, are completely false and fabricated and “we shall fight this out in the court and also claim compensation for the losses caused due to crop destruction at the satyagraha”, the NAPM statement said, addig, “They asserted that this was the beginning of their struggle and expect the officials to keep up their promises, otherwise a massive Jail Bharo Andolan would start from February 2014”.

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