Fresh indications have emerged that the cash-again-land scheme, “worked out” for the Narmada dam oustees of Mahdya Pradesh (MP) as rehabilitation package by Gujarat government a decade ago allegedly to get over the “scarcity of land” problem in MP, has boomeranged. The National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM), an apex body of tens of civil rights groups across India, has informed that “hundreds of adivasis and farmers, representing the oustees affected by the Sardar Sarovar and Jobat dam projects in the Alirajpur district of Madhya Pradesh stormed the office of collector NP Deheria and engaged in a day-long protest, demanding the immediate of 40 adivasis, including six women.”
Gujarat government provided the “cash against land” scheme framework in the hope that the oustees’ problem would be resolved, and it would be able to begin further raise the Sardar Sardar Narmada dam’s current height from 121.94 metres to the full reservoir level, 138.64 metres, early. Under the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award, it is obligatory to complete rehabilitation of the oustees before the dam’s height is raised at every stage. Clearance for raising the dam comes from the inter-state body, Narmada Control Authority (NCA) only after ascertaining that the rehabilitation has been completed.
But, apparently, this has not succeeded, and a dispute has broken out in MP’s affected areas. In a statement, the NAPM said, “the protesters were arrested on January 5 from the site of the Zameen Haq Satyagraha at Jobat”, adding, “They were stopped at the gates of the collectorate by a large contingent of armed police brought in from Alirajpur, Badwani, Dhar and Thandla, while the women, men, elderly and youth tried to barge inside for a dialogue with the collector. The women demanded that their family members must be immediately released, otherwise they would sit on an indefinite protest at the collectorate.”
The district collector, who came down to talk with the protesters, kept repeating that as “the oustees did not want land, they were being paid compensation”, the NAPM said, adding, contradicting the claim, provided by the Narmada authorities of the Madhya Pradesh government, the oustees’ representatives said, the “illegal submergence in the hilly villages of Sardar Sarovar began in 1994 and submergence in Jobat began in 2003. Till date, cultivable, irrigable, suitable and un-encroached land has not been provided to the affected families.”
Pointing out that “the only land offered to the SSP-affected adivasis was bad, uncultivable, encroached land, which is in utter violation of law and orders of the Supreme Court”, the statement added, “The Jobat Satyagraha is one of the longest non-violent, occupation struggles in recent history and has been resorted to by the oustees after umpteen attempts of petitioning, court cases and mass action by the adivasis. The oustees have been cultivating the land and have also reaped three harvests on this land.”
Over the last two weeks “notices were being issued to the oustees to vacate the land, else they would be forcibly evicted”, the statement informed, adding, “Replies to these notices and appeal for a concrete dialogue were not responded to by the authorities and a brutal eviction drive ensued.” Even Afroz Ahmed, director, rehabilitation, NCA, and Kantilal Bhuria, former tribal affairs minister, Government of India also visited the satyagraha and engaged in dialogue with the oustees.”
“Ahmed assured to raise the matter with the rehabilitation sub-group, Delhi, after which a direction was issued by the sub-group in its meeting on September 12, 2013 to the Madhya Pradesh government to offer government farm lands in rehabilitation”, NAPM said, adding, “The arrests have been made seemingly under Section 151 Cr PC. i.e. ‘causing disturbance to peace in the area’, while the oustees were in the farm land and there was absolutely nothing they did to disturb peace in the locality.”
“While in Sardar Sarovar, many hilly adivasis have not accepted any cash compensation, most of the Jobat Dam advasi oustees being illiterate, their signatures were taken on affidavits and were paid very meagre cash compensation, many years ago and the’, the NAPM said, adding, “The oustees have submitted a police complaint under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 demanding legal action against all the concerned officers for arresting the adivasis, evicting them for the land, causing destruction of the standing crop at the Satyagraha and submergence of their lands and homes, without lawful rehabilitation.”