Jal Satygraha

People around the country have been battling the issue of displacement for decades. Corporate land acquisition and large scale infrastructure projects have taken the lands and livelihoods of thousands. In Madhya Pradesh, the struggle against displacement by large dams has been central to the people’s movement. It has been a long and difficult fight to compel the government to comply with its own rehabilitation policy, and the struggle continues…

Most recently, on the evening of 25th August, 2012, 250 people affected by the Omkareswar dam entered the water and began their landmark protest – the jal satyagraha. Below is a video of the protesters followed by a press release by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).

Press note NBA th August 2012

The Omkareshwar dam affected people start their Jal Satyagrah – 250 men and women continuously standing in the rising waters of Omkareshwar Dam

Around 250 dam affected people have started their jal satyagraha, in the continuously rising water of the Omkareshwar dam. It is to be noted, that the water level of the Omkareshwar dam has been 189 meters. In spite of the fact that thousands of the affected have not been rehabilitated, the announcement to fill the dam up to a level of 193 meters was made. It was in protest of this announcement that the satyagraha in Gogalgaon has been going on since 16th July 2012. The people had pledged that they will also get submerged along with their lands rather than allow the water level to be increased. In spite of this, late yesterday evening when the water level was raised by 1.5 meters, around 250 men and women entered the water and began their jal satyagraha.

Attempt to submerge lands and drive away people without rehabilitation

It is to be noted that the High Court and the Supreme Court have both stated in their orders that, the state has not adhered to the rehabilitation policy, for the Omkareshwar dam affected people. On the basis of these orders when people submitted their complaints to the GRE, the GRE also stated that the rehabilitation policy had not been implemented for the Omkareshwar dam affected people and that affected people should be given land for land. What also stands out is that in accordance to the SC orders this rehabilitation should have been done before the construction of the dam. And also in accordance with other SC orders this should have been done 6 months before the submergence. Therefore it is clear that the government is acting in violation to all this and it is the government’s intention to drive away people without proper rehabilitation by submerging their lands. The affected people have stated that they will not give in to these tactics of the government and would rather drown than be driven away.

Lower the water level and rehabilitate all the affected people of the Omkareshwar dam

The thousands of people sitting in dharna with those 250 who have undertaken the jal satyagrah have demanded that the level of the water should be lowered and the level of the water should be lowered to 189 meter in the Omkareshwar dam and all the affected people should be given land for land and other rehabilitation rights

Neelabai and Suresh Patel of Gogalgaon, Sakubai and Girjabai of Kamankeda, Antar Singh and Santoshbai of Village Toki, Nannibai an Kailashrao of Village Ekhand along with senior NBA activist Chittarupa Palit and 250 men and women continue their Jal Satryagraha while 3000 people are sitting on dharna alongside.

NBA warns the Government that if the water level is not reduced immediately and no immediate steps are taken to rehabilitate the affected people, they will not hesitate to give up their lives and the struggle will continue in the entire Narmada valley and also the rest of the country

A similar protest was carried out by people affected by the Indira Sagar dam. Below is a brief update of the struggle at various dam sites.

BRIEF UPDATE

In Omkareshwar dam area, on the 10th of September 2012, as a result of the Jal Satyagraha undertaken by the oustees the State Government and the company NHDC Limited had to roll back the water-level of the Omkareshwar reservoir back to 189 m. The State had cleared submergence up to 193 meters, at which all 30 villages affected by the Omkareshwar dam would have submerged. The government also constituted a committee of three Ministers to look into rehabilitation grievances of oustees. Oustees have filed over 7000 grievances regarding their rehabilitation entitlements (apart from land entitlements) before this committee.

2500 land holder families had filed land claims in front of the Grievance Redressal Authority pursuant to the Supreme Court judgment of 11th May 2011. Of these, over 1500 claims have been heard and 1250 land claims have been decided in favor of the oustees. The GRA Orders state that the government has not complied with the rehabilitation policy and land entitlements of the oustees are undisturbed and has directed allotment of land on return of half of the compensation.

Some of the land-holder oustees of the Omkareshwar dam have returned their compensation to obtain their land entitlements. Others are struggling to arrange money to refund compensation paid to them in 2005, which was not sufficient for the purchase of land at that time, and which has been spent by the oustees in the passage of the years. It appears that 30% of the families may not be able to return their compensation. This is a matter of great concern for us, and we are writing to the Chief Minister to ensure that the oustees are given interest free loans which would be refunded by the oustees once they obtain and cultivate their lands.

In Indira Sagar dam area, soon after the Supreme Court passed a judgment on 24.07.2012, extending the Omkareshwar dam judgment of land for land to the Omkareshwar dam oustees, the State authorities illegally raised the water level from 260 meters to Full Reservoir Level of 262.12 meters to drown out all the 91 remaining affected villages of the Indira Sagar dam. Because of the submergence, several thousand acres of land and hundreds of houses have been submerged without acquisition/rehabilitation and allotment of alternative land. Although the people of the Indira Sagar dam also undertook Jal Satyagraha against the illegal submergence, the government did not roll back the waters here. Instead they arrested the Jal Satygrahis using police force and repression. The NBA has filed a contempt petition in the Supreme Court against the raising of water level in the reservoir. Even after the submergence, around 2000 oustees have filed their land claims before the Grievance Redressal Authority asking for land, and several thousand more are in the process of being filed.

In Upper Beda dam and Man dam areas also despite years of struggle, the oustees are yet to receive land entitlements, and justice. However, since the oustees of these dams are also covered under the same R&R Policy, with which strict compliance is required, they will have to be given land.

In Maheshwar dam in the first private power project of India, the story grows curious and curiouser. On one hand, the Energy Secretary of Government of Madhya Pradesh has announced last week that the State Government is not ready to buy any power from the Maheshwar project as it costs over Rs. 9 per unit. On the other hand, although over 85% of the oustees of the Maheshwar dam are yet to be rehabilitated and resettled by the private S.Kumars company building the dam, in May 2012, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) allowed partial reservoir-filling of the Maheshwar reservoir up to 154 meters based on the false claims of the State authorities that there is no submergence at this level, and without examining the progress of R&R. The oustees filed an appeal against this MOEF Order before the Green Tribunal which upheld the Environment Ministry order, without examining the false claims of the authorities. Review petition filed by the oustees in this regard will be heard on 30th October. Thus Maheshwar power cannot be sold and the dam has become purposeless, the affected people have not been rehabilitated or resettled, yet submergence (which is yet to take place) has been permitted. The oustees are planning a large demonstration in district headquarter Khargone in the last week of October.

In November, the oustees of the five Narmada dams, both land-holders as well as landless persons (whose demand for an increased life grant is yet to be met), are planning a massive “Land right rally” in Bhopal to raise the land and rehabilitation issue on a broader plane.

We hope we will have your support and solidarity in our coming struggles for land and justice.

Related News Links

http://www.indiatvnews.com/live-video/-jal-satyagrah-continues-at-khandwa-in-madya-pradesh-for-th-day-8308.22.html

http://in.news.yahoo.com/video/national-22564751/jal-satyagraha-protesters-win-govt-agrees-to-lower-water-level-30549575.html

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