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Tribals off Narmada celebrate Holi, receive ration cards for the first time since Independence

By Our Representative
As the rest of the country splashed in a riot of colours, more than 500 adivasis from the interior tribal villages of Narmada Valley gathered at Toranmal, tehsil Shahda, district Nandurbar in Maharashtra on Friday. While Toranmal is a well-known tourist spot, this year Holi was special here, as more than a thousand poor tribal families from villages Jhapi, Falai, Khadki, Kundiya and hamlets of Toranmal received ‘ration cards’ on Friday for the first time after independence.
Well-known anti-Sardar Sarovar dam body, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which organized the Holi function, claimed in a note, “While this brought immense happiness to the adivasis, it shocked supporters and media persons who were blissfully ignorant of the magnitude of state neglect and apathy in the interior hilly tribal belts of Narmada valley.”
“Holding the cards in their hands as entitlements to a new form of freedom, the resolute adivasis asserted their rights to land, water and forest. As the younger generation danced and sang to the drum beats and conches of the traditional Holi, the elders received the ration cards with dignity, a scenario which brought tears to the eyes of many -- a reality to witness by all those who are concerned about the disparities and injustice here”, NBA said in a note sent to Counterview.
According to NBA, “The tribals could get the ration cards only after perseverant follow up by the villagers and activists.” At the same time, it complained, “Yet thousands more remain without the right to public distribution system even today. This is only a glimpse in the unfortunate saga of the government of not having up-to-date records of these original inhabitants in spite of the Supreme Court’s order since 2011 that government must not to leave out any citizen hungry in the whole of the country.”
An NBA meet following the celebration
The occasion became point for NBA to continue its anti-dam campaign it is leading for the last over two decades on the dams being built on the Narmada river, including the Narmada dam in Gujarat. It said, “The adivasis pledged to consolidate their united struggle against the medium dams proposed to be built on the tributaries of Narmada river which would create large-scale displacement, in the backdrop of the fact that thousands of adivasi families displaced by Sardar Sarovar are yet to be rehabilitated lawfully.”
“These villages living here several decades, even generations, are yet to get their rights to land, water and forest and survive mainly only on the meager resources that they have with simple living and self-reliance”, NBA said, adding, “They are thus least dependent on government; however, the government has not even reached out to them in order to implement the laws and Supreme Court’s judgments whether it is on right to food or forest rights.”
Pointing out that they are deprived of “forest individual and community rights that were to be granted under the Forest Act, 2006”, the NBA said, “Large number of them on have received rejection orders in spite of having submitted applications for their rights to forest land under cultivation along with Gram Sabha resolutions and whatever proof they have”.
It added, “The rejection orders unjustifiably refers to the Google maps of 2006 while admitting that their cultivated lands in the hills and mountain ranges were measured with GPS machines. Huge extraction of money by the forest department employees on the other hand continues.”

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