By Latika Rajput*
After three decades of struggle and battling administration’s apathy finally on April 1st 2016, Atya Devji Padvi, along with 300 other project affected persons took the actual possession in survey no. 32 in Khedle Shiwar, Tehsil, Taloda, District Nandurbar, Maharashtra, as part of the land allotted to them as their due resettlement benefit as per Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) award.
Atya Devji Padvi’s story is a very common story in the R&R process of Sardar Sarovar Project history. After 30 years, Atya Devji Padvi had not been rehabilitated and, like many other “Project Affected Persons” (PAP), he only received land on paper. Since, the government didn’t inform of the land allotted to him, he found about this on his own 10 years after the Government had issued an allotment order for it. Even then he couldn’t take actual possession of the land in survey no. 9 in Borad Shiwar by the Government, since authorities never purchased it.
When Atya Devji Padvi finally realized the reality four months ago, he wrote a letter to the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) and suggested an alternative and irrigable plot of land in survey no 32, Khedle Shiwar, Tehsil Taloda, District Nandurbar, Maharashtra to be allocated to him. However, that land was in possession of Munglya Thawrya, another PAP who, because of irregularities in the rehabilitation process, had been allocated land in Gujarat, even then he was in possession of the land in survey no 32.
Narmada Bachao Andolan had raised the issue before the Deputy Collector, and also approached the relevant authorities in Gujarat, based on which the Deputy Collector in Gujarat issued a letter stating that the Munglya Thawrya had already been allotted land there. Based on that letter, Maharashtra authorities should have immediately annuled the property entitlement in Maharashtra, but, instead, they decided to set up a hearing on March 29th.
In the meantime, because no action was taken by neither the GRA, the Additional Collector or the Deputy Collector, regarding Atya Padvi’s situation, NBA’s Activist with 150 PAF’s protested before the Deputy Collector’s office on March 11 in Taloda. After two hours discussion the Mr. Vinay Gosavi, Deputy Collector, gave a written commitment to resolve the issue in 21 days. However, things didn’t move and NBA was forced to protest again, this time Deputy Collector had a meeting lasting 8 hours with the PAPs and asked for another 11 days time to resolve the issue. NBA made it clear that if nothing comes out in 11 days then people will take the possession themselves. And hence, on April 1st people took possession on their own in survey no. 32 of Khedle Shiwar, Tehsil Taloda, District Nandurbar, Maharashtra, for Atya Devji Padvi. Thus after sustained struggle and perseverance of the NBA activists at the age of 70 Atya Devji Padvi finally got his due.
In another instance, on 1st April, thanks to sustained mobilization and pressure from the Andolan three other land related issues of Gonya Nayka Vasave, Wadgya Gardya Vasave and Khetya Atya Vasave was resolved too.
In 2011, the possession letter of 3 hectares of land out of survey no. 42 in Waghoda Shiwar, Tehsil Shahada, district Nandurbar was given and the concerned land was allotted to them. The actual possession of the land was however not given, as the original owners of that land, Manoj Patil and Murar Bhai, contested the transfer of ownership to the Government before the court. They challenged it on the basis of the fact that the Government had only paid them 95% of the total cost of the land. Hence they approached the court with a plea to return 95% of the money and continue to own the land. Authorities on their part didn’t take any action to facilitate the land to the PAPs on the ground that the case with the original owners was still pending before the court.
Recently, the court ordered in favour of the government and directed original owners to give up their possession and allot the said land to the project affected people along with the standing crops. However, when the NBA Activists and PAPs arrived to take possession of the land on April 1st, original owners of the land burned the crops, cut the electricity and destroyed the bore well. NBA activists argued that the possession had to be given with electricity and water facilities. Possession receipts of these two pieces of land were eventually given to the PAPs by Mr. Khairnar, Nayab Tahsilar, Shahada of Revenue department.
In third instance on April 1st in survey no. 165 in Jawde Shiwar, Saydi Jerma and Mehandi bai Jerma took the actual possession of their land by hoisting the flag of the NBA. Mr. Khairnar, Nayab Tahsilar, Shahada of Revenue department gave the possession receipts to them.
There are many such instanced where land has been allotted to the PAPs on paper, or in reality but the administration has failed to provide the actual possession to them. NBA has been following each of these cases and continue to put sustained pressure on the authorities so that justice be done. In Maharashtra alone, 1200 PAPs are still to be rehabilitated in the Sardar Sarovar submergence villages. Our fight has continued for 30 years and will continue until everyone gets their due and justice is done.
*Prepared with the help of Orsing Patle, Vijay Valvi, Chetan Salve, Kirsing Vasave, Kantilal Pawra, Punya Vasave, Kirta Pawra, Jahangir Vasave, Dudhibai Vasave and others