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Narmada oustees gain fishing rights in reservoir after 30 years' struggle

By Our Representative
In an important gain, thousands of Maharashtra-based Adivasis affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam of Gujarat have been able to obtain right to reservoir fishing, for which they were demanding for the last over three decades. According to information from the Narmada valley, this would help several hundred Adivasis of Satpudas alone.
As many as 300 young and old adivasis have already been given the right to fish in the reservoir. This has happened "following years of pursuit with the authorities", said a Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) statement, adding, "Cooperative societies of displaced fish workers in the tehsils of Akkalkuva and Akrani of Nandurbar District have been recognized by the fisheries department, Government of Maharashtra."
"The societies have been registered as part of Narmada Nav Nirman Abhiyan (NNNA), which has been undertaking various re-constructive activities in the valley, including running of life-schools called Jeevanshalas, educating thousands of tribal children", the NBA said.
Calling it a "significant victory for the hilly adivasis who have faced the illegal brunt of submergence, many years ago", the NBA said, "The official recognition of the fishing rights of the displaced tribals is a vindication of their resilient struggle which echoes the slogan: 'Jahaan zameen doobi hamaari, paani machli kaise tumhari'."
"This implies that where the lands of the people have submerged, neither the water nor the fish can belong to the state and the private contractors. The displaced persons have first rights over ‘benefits’ of the project and this is the letter and spirit of the rehabilitation polices and numerous judgements of the Supreme Court as well, which guarantee a ‘better standard of living’, post-displacement", NBA said.
Meanwhile, the commissioner fisheries, the deputy commissioner, the joint commissioner and and local officials of the Government of Maharashtra visited the valley, held many meetings with NNNA and assessed the integrity and capacity of Adivasis and activists.
During the meeting, the fishers-oustees asserted that they have right to share in development benefits, for which they have submitted various memorandums to the government and held mass actions.
A well-attended event took place with the participation of hilly Adivasis and plain area fisher-people from Nimad, Madhya Pradesh, with the fisheries officials of Nasik Division of Maharashtra. The officials visited the village Manibeli on April 11, 2015 and distributed five kgs of fishing net to each of the member,s and assured that pick up vans and boats will be delivered to each society soon.
Three months ago three cooperatives got registered and an agreement for fishing for five years was signed. "Today, 300 adivasis can fish freely and fearlessly and use this aquatic wealth as a source of income. A federal effort will certainly give them higher profit. The young adivasis have been very enthusiastic about the development", the NBA said.
"The struggle to obtain rights to the displaced cooperatives of fish workers shall continue in the other villages of Maharashtra as also in the Narmada river–bank villages of Madhya Pradesh, where as well thousands of fisher people in the hills and plains are asserting their traditional rights", the NBA said.

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