By Rahul Yadav*
The agitation by the Sardar Sarovar Project oustees in Gujarat has entered the 6th day. Hundreds of adivasis from various resettlement sites as well as farmers and other oustees from Nimar of Madhya Pradesh who have shifted to Gujarat are sitting before the Resettlement Office in Keodia Colony. Not less than 50 women from affected families have taken to the relay fast from this morning along with 50 men. Women in colourful sarees with voices raised are challenging the officials and government of Gujarat against the unjust and unfair rehabilitation.
Adivasis from 19 villages of Gujarat whose land was acquired in the 1980s were compelled to leave their villages, their environs and cultures, shifted to resettlement sites and continue to fight for their rights. The cutoff date of eligibility for all rehabilitation benefits was 1987, since their land was acquired in the 1980s, whereas the date for Madhya Pradesh villages is 2000 and beyond. This difference has caused the people of Gujarat a lot of sufferings whereby even 50 year old adivasis have no right to any benefits of land and employment as per rehabilitation policy. They demand that the cutoff date should be extended to 2002.
The resettlement sites also do not have the amenities listed in the Tribunal Awards. Many of the resettlement sites are suffering from lack of drinking water. Some has no drainage system, other have no cemetery, grazing ground or no pathways to fields.
The irrigation promised to every project affected family who has been allotted land as per the Tribunal Award, endorsed by the four judgements of Supreme Court is yet to reach every site and every field. While Maharashtra government has at least taken a decision and begun to pay the amount for private tube wells of the oustees, the Gujarat government hasn’t done the same, neither have they ensured drinking water supply to the oustees and all have not received irrigation as per the legal provisions.
The oustees are also upset as the Gujarat government has prepared a list of 1000 project affected families whose land they are to take back claiming that they were given the benefits without eligibility. As the authorities started evicting people like Natwar Sama of R&R site Sandola, the people have taken to agitation. The Gujarat government is not willing to resolve their issues, nor the grievance redressal authorities of Gujarat have lent an ear.
Various people’s organisations and movements have extended support from Ahmedabad where they have congregated to discuss the paradigm of development followed in Gujarat. They have issued a statement to the effect that they will join the agitation if there is no dialogue and demands are not accepted. The people are also receiving support including political parties of Congress, JDU and Tiger Sena.
The agitation is also strengthened since the people from 6 villages affected by the Project Colony since 1961, and other 70 villages that are affected by the new tourism project have also joined the reservoir affected people.
The oustees have asserted that there should not be closing of the gates ofSardarSarovar dam and further submergence of original villages as well as villages in MP and Maharashtra where there are much larger number of families are still residing till their issues are resolved.
The oustees of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat are to participate in each other’s struggles when the jal-jameen Satyagraha is to start on 30th July at Rajghat, Badwani in Madhya Pradesh.
*With Narmada Bachao Andolan. Written in coordination with Jiku Tadvi, Balubhai, Shankar Kagra, and Champa Behn Tadvi