Sunday, April 19, 2015

Narmada dam oustees withdraw agitation after Maharashtra govt agrees not to shift them to Gujarat for rehabilitation

NBA-led agitation for Narmada oustees at Nashik
By Our Representative
The Narmada dam's tribal oustees of Maharashtra have withdrawn their four-day agitation after the state government agreed to look into their demand of identifying land for their resettlement within the state. Led by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), the oustees' main contention was, as against the need for about 2,500 hectares (ha) of land for about 1,200 oustees, the Maharashtra government had set aside just 202 ha in the state, which is “grossly inadequate”.
Their further contention was, another about 404 ha of land was being offered to them in Gujarat, but of the 1,200 oustees not more than 30 oustees were interested in moving to Gujarat. An NBA release said, under the agreement with the oustees, the state officials have agreed to hand over land under the forest rights Act. The agitation was being held at Nashik divisional commissioner's office.
Meanwhile, the NBA warned that if the state government did not comply with the agreement, the oustees would be forced "kickstart a new agitation" in the name of Jal-Zameen Satyagraha. About 400 adivasis of the Satpuda mountain range from the Narmda river bank had gathered for the agitation to demand land against land as part of the rehabilitation package.
The NBA said, “During four days dharna (sit-in) by adivasis and supporters, the commissioner and the collector, Nandurbar district, agreed to carry out a hectic schedule of village-wise programme to show agricultural land after much debate. It was agreed that the programme would be carried out before monsoon, between April 28 and June 15.”
During the discussions, “Lal Singh Vasave of village Chimalkhedi and Jalma Nukatya of village Manibeli told the Commissioner that they “could not survive without land and would die if evicted without land-based rehabilitation”, the NBA said, adding, “The NBA proposed to have an urgent meeting of planning committee which they are members so as to arrive at a complete rehabilitation plan locating new sources for land.”
Before withdrawing the agitation, the NBA said, it “posed a challenge to the government that if there is any “further illegal submergence, beyond what has already occurred, then the people in the valley would face it through a Jansatyagrah.” It added, the NBA has “decided to have land rights satyagraha if the government fails to give land and continues offer cash against law and rehabilitation policy.”
NBA alleged, “It is noteworthy that the Maharashtra government for the last few years has begun inciting the adivasi oustees to give up their right to land and accept cash in lieu of land. However, a large majority of oustees has rejected the offer and none who accepted the offer has been able to purchase land.”
The agreement with the state officials also required the state officials to consult the tribals likely to be affected by the eight dams planned as part of the a Narmada-Tapi river link project on the eight tributaries of Narmada in Maharashtra, NBA said. “It was contented that when all the Gram Sabhas of the affected villages denied approval of the project, the government must preview the same”, it added.

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