Sunday, September 28, 2014

"Resettled" Narmada oustees in Gujarat step up protest following govt efforts to take away their land

By Our Representative
Tens of Gujarat adivasis, threatened displacement from their Narmada resettlement site on the basis of the town planning Act for triggering industrial and urban development, sat on dharna on September 28, 2014 following clear indications that the promised meeting with the  district collector, Narmada, would not take place, as promised, for settling their grievances. The meeting was to take place to discuss the implications of the notices being given to the resettled Narmada oustees. "When a team of 15 oustees reached Rajpipla headquarters, they found that the collector was transferred overnight, and hence no dialogue was possible", the anti-dam Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) said in a statement.
"The adivasis -- Jikubhai, Karam Singh, Raman Bhai, Ratan bhai, Sumitra Ben and others -- were quite upset and desperate to make their grievances heard and justice sought", the NBA said, adding, "This forced them to begin their  fast at Devalia Chowkdi (square), putting up slogans about their demands towards full and fair rehabilitation of hundreds of families, who are evicted from original forest based villages on the bank of Narmada but have not received full entitlements."
Earlier, on September 26, they were pulled out of a state transport bus in which they were travelling to represent their case before chief minister Anandiben Patel. Patel was to reach Rajpipla, headquarters of Narmada district, for a programme. The operation of pulling down the victims was carried out by cops, according to information received by the NBA.
“In protest, they began a dharna (sit-in) at Devalia village. The action was withdrawn when they were promised a meeting with the district collector on September 27.” The town planning Act, if applied on a certain area, requires the landowners to hand over 40 to 50 per cent of their land for infrastructure development.
Signed by NBA leader Medha Patkar, the statement said, “Gujarat's adivasis resettled at the resettlement side for the last 15 to 20 years are facing displacement, as they have been asked to give away their land for town planning or canals for the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) project, with the help of Japan investment”, providing examples of how farmers are refusing to comply by the Gujarat government directive to hand over the land for industrial and town planning purposes.
“Simjibhai and others of Kukad site denied consent to give away land for canal. Bija Shankar refused to sign up papers of consent even after his house in Dabhoinada resettlement site was forcibly and illegally demolished. There are numerous examples of this type. They are all united with others from resettlement sites, who too sense the threat while they are yet to receive all their rehabilitation entitlements, as per law, even after 20 years they were shifted out.”
The statement claimed, “While hundreds of Narmada dam-affected families in Gujarat are yet to get their dues, there are others who have received land which is of no use. In Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, the story is worse. There are thousands of families who are residing in their own villages in the submergence area, and are refusing to move out despite notices handed over to them. The pucca houses, shops and market, prime agricultural land, trees and forests, temples and mosques, cannot be destroyed and lives devastated”.
The Maharashtra government, meanwhile, has declared that there are 791 families, affected by the Narmada dam, who are yet to be rehabilitated. Contesting this, the NBA said, “There are, as per records, at least 400 others whose legal applications are pending before Justice Bagga, chairman, Grievance Redressal Authority GRA). A report submitted to the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) by the Government of Maharashtra's officials earlier was fraudulent, it has been proved. Land is yet to be located, beyond some dispersed pieces which are still to be offered to oustees after removal of encroachment.”
“In Madhya Pradesh”, the NBA said, “the hilly adivasis in Alirajpur, affected since 1994, are yet not fully rehabilitated and the process of showing them land is still on under GRA's orders. Hundreds of GRA's orders granting rights to the farmers and labourers with farms and houses are yet to be implemented. At least 2,000 project affected families in Madhya Pradesh are found to be duped through fake land registries (sale deeds) and the inquiry is on. All this and much more clearly indicates that the Narmada dam’s height, if raised to 138.68 meters by erecting 17 meters high gates is be illegal and brutal”.
Tribals next to Narmada dam also feel the heat
Meanwhile, in a separate statement issued by the Sitter Gaam Adivasi Sanstha, which represents tribals of the villages surrounding the Narmada dam, said that the adivasis are feeling the heat of the Gujarat government effort to implement the town planning Act in their region. The statement said, several of their leaders, including Kalpeshbhai Tadvi of Indravarna village, Lakhan Musafir of Mathavadi village, Narendra Tadvi and Vikram Tadvi of Kevadia village, and many others, were sought to be prevented from moving next to the dam. "It was totally unprovoked. We do not understand why this happened. There is no case against us", the statement said.  

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