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Fishermen 'protect' ecosystem, yet have no right over water bodies: NAPM meet told

By Our Representative
India's top civil engineer rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), which held its 12th national convention on completion of its 25 years in Puri, Odisha, with the participation of over 1,000 people's representatives, saw Lakhan Musafir of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat, taking strong exception to the world's tallest Statue of Unity, saying, it has led to tribals losing their agricultural land and fodder for their cattle.
Started with a human chain in a show of strength of the people’s movements at Puri's famous sea beach, Musafir further told the meet, "Loss of land has forced us to become bonded labourers. Instead of addressing this crisis, the state government is forcefully evicting us from our lands because they want to construct some colony there."
"On the other hand", he added, "There is humongous corruption in the Sardar Sarovar dam project in Gujarat as you will not find any details of the earning and expenditure of the project available for public scrutiny. We are slapped with false charges whenever we protest against this corruption”.
Participating in the session on ‘Political Economy of Fascist State: Our Resources, Our Constitution, Our Struggles’, Kailash Meena from Rajasthan apprised participants of the struggle to protect air, water and natural resources in the Aravalli region of the state, pointing towards the role of women in this, while Aloka Kujur from Jharkhand said, for the past several years, there has been a struggle against the corporate plunder in the state, stressing on the need for change in strategy to fight repression.
Kujur said, now the government no longer uses guns and batons to crush a people’s movements. It crushes people’s movements by abusing the Constitution. In the ongoing Pathalgadhi movement in Jharkhand, about 3,000 people have been charged with treason.Contemporary Jharkhand has become a synonym for mob lynchings. About 21 cases have been reported so far.
Satyam Mahar of the Niyamgiri Sangharsh Samiti, Odisha, said that the Niyamgiri movement has been going on peacefully. The Supreme Court in an order had insisted that mining should be stopped in the region. But ever since the Modi government came to power in 2014, false cases are being registered on many activists who are associated with the movement.
Mahar added, many people have been picked up from road and put in jail for a long time without any information provided to their families. Whenever there is an event for the movement, the administration does not allow such programmes to be held, instead it puts the organizers of the event in jail by accusing them of being Maoists.
Manshi Asher from Himachal Pradesh said that communities living in the Himalayan region have been suffering from landslides. In these areas the forest is spread on a very large scale and people's lives are depend on forests. Along with this, rivers are also an important resource here. But today all these resources are being looted.
Asher added, the British took away forests from us by saying that we do not know forest management. Today, about 30 percent of the forested area consists of pine forests that catch fire. The same British system continues. Today, the government is displacing forest dwellers by calling them encroachers.
Pradip Chatterjee from West Bengal, who is fighting for the rights of small fishermen, said that there are about six million of them in this country, yet unfortunately the country does not yet have a policy for them. Fishermen do not pollute water bodies. They protect the water ecosystem, as their livelihood is dependent on catching and selling fish.
Yet, he regretted, these fishermen have no rights over water bodies. Farmers own land but fishermen do not have their own water. Currently, many water bodies are being used for big projects, tourism and river linking projects. Many water bodies are being destroyed by the Union government by implementing industrial projects.
Kiran Vissa, who represents Rayathu Swaraj Vedike, Telangana, said that the farm sector is in a big crisis. The biggest challenge is to save the land for farming. For this, we have to wage a strong fight against displacement. Along with land, seed is also an important part of agricultural resources. At present in India due to the corporatization of agriculture many indigenous varieties of seeds are in a position of extinction.

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