August 13, 2012
INCESSANT RAINS AND ILLEGAL SUBMERGENCE IN NARMADA VALLEY
Standing crop under waters & threat to habitats looms large
Oustees challenge utter lack of rehabilitation : 177 villages in M.P. face submergence threat at present dam height of 122 mts
8th August, 2012; Narmada Valley: As heavy rains continue to lash across the Narmada valley, the imminent threat of submergence is turning out to become true in village after village, both in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. With the gates of the upstream dams having been opened up, the oustees in the Sardar Sarovar region have been pushed into a situation of serious jeopardy by the authorities. The incessant rains over the past few days has led to submergence of standing chilli, maize, jowar, cotton and other crops in many villages in the agriculture-rich plain areas of the Nimad region, such as Pichhodi, Kasravad, Bhilkheda, Rajghat, Chhota Barda, Pendra, Amlali etc. Hilly adivasi villages in the Badwani and Alirajpur Tehsils such as Kharya Bhadal, Kakrana, Bhitada, Anjanwara and villages in Maharashtra such as Chimalkhedi, Danel etc. are also having to face the brunt of submergence, while hundreds of oustees in these villages remain to be rehabilitated as per law.
At the present dam height of 122 mts, there are 177 villages in M.P. that face the risk of submergence and not less than 30,000 – 35,000 families, dependent on farming, fishing, pottery, labour work etc. living in the thickly populated original villages. Most of these oustees belong to vulnerable adivasi, dalit and other socially and economically marginalized communities. Shockingly, the Narmada Control Authority, which is responsible for monitoring the complete and timely attainment of land and livelihood based rehabilitation of the Sardar Sarovar Project affected families, has, once again claimed in its ‘Annual Report 2010- 2011’ that the balance number of families to be resettled in the three states is ‘0’. When thousands of families await lawful rehabilitation and are now facing the risk of submergence, such irresponsible and grossly false reporting by the project and monitoring authorities is nothing short of a ‘crime against humanity’.
The oustees of Pichhodi, for instance, has been demanding alternative land at Khalbujurg, as per the Judgement of the Supreme Court, 2005. However, the NVDA has not been able to give the oustees pattas and possession of this land, due to pressure from the erstwhile owners, who have already been doubly compensated for the land acquired from them. Every year; last year, and again this year, the standing crops of the adivasis of Pichhodi have been submerged. Water has reached the doorstep. But not a single paisa of relief has been provided to the oustees by the state government. In Chhota Barda, the entire fish workers’ settlement has been evacuated, but the actual issue of alternative livelihood i.e. fishing rights in the reservoir and recognition of the fish workers co-operatives, guaranteeing the right to rehabilitation of thousands of fish workers is not yet ensured.
The present situation only betrays serious lack of concern by the authorities that are responsible for ensuring the safety, well-being and rights of the project – affected families. Field-investigations by Justice Jha Commission of Inquiry, on the other hand reveals the absolutely pathetic situation of the resettlement sites, where there are no basic amenities and alternative livelihood ready for the families to be resettled. The oustee are determined to challenge the illegality of submergence and shall not remain rats in the face of government–imposed crisis, but turn into lions for attainment of their rights.
Bhagirath Kavche, Kailash Yadav ,Pokhar Girwar, Lashyabai