Medha Patkar & Displaced-Activists Begin Fast Against Official ‘Betrayal’
Thousands of displaced and affected people of various dams and projects from across Maharashtra; adivasis, dalits, farmers, fish workers, farm labourers, unorganized and skilled workers, hawkers and basti dwellers have been on an indefinite Dharna since 14th October at Azad Maidan, Mumbai, raising their demands for justice and rehabilitation and against the current paradigm of destruction and displacement in the name of development. While those displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam are demanding that land for land be given, without which the dam should not go ahead, the toiling urban poor from the bastis in Mumbai are demanding that land be given to them, instead of being doled out to big fat builders at throwaway prices. All those affected by the Upper Wardha, Amravati, Lower Pianganga (Yavatmal), Aruna, Sapli – Hingoli, Panshet – Pune dams, as also the Lavasa, Saptashringigad Ropeway Project and Sahara City and other Projects are also agitating for their rights and justice.
While, earlier this week, the Home Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Shri R.R. Patil and later, the State Rehabilitation Minister, Shri Patang Rao Kadam had a detailed discussion with a delegation of ours on many of the issues we had raised and took a decision to institute a high level official investigation into all the allegations of force, fraud and unlawful practices in the land acquisition and rehabilitation of the displaced in the case of many dams and tourism projects like the Hill City, including excess land acquired for many projects, doling out huge tracts of prime agricultural lands to builders, contractors, capitalists and film stars like Amitabh Bachan, as against a real public purpose, such as ‘rehabilitation’. This decision was taken in the presence of displaced farmers and adivasis and Medha Patkar, Ulka Mahajan and other activists. Shri Patang Rao Kadam also promised to personally visit the Narmada valley and hold a sitting on the issues of the Sardar Sarovar displaced in Nandurbar / Mumbai in the month of November and a detailed field visit and investigation would be undertaken in the first week of November in four villages of Pavna and Tata dam affected areas, along with the village community.
The high level Committee was supposed to have been headed by Ms. Neela Satyanarayan, Additional Chief Secretary and comprising of Shri Ramesh Kumar, Secretary, Rehabilitation; Shri Dangre, Secretary, Revenue, along with the District Collector of Pune and Divisional Commissioner (Western Region). However, the Minutes does not even have a mention of any investigation by the Chief Secretary or the Additional Chief Secretary. Nor is there any mention of the decision taken to visit the Narmada valley. There is also no mention in writing of oral admission of Rehabilitation Minister agreeing to the fact that ‘rehabilitation’ is a public purpose, and therefore excess land must be being given to the original land owners or be used for their rehabilitation and the Supreme Court verdict is in no way an impediment to this.
Taking strong exception to this backstep by the Government and the obvious lack of integrity, clarity and consistency in their promises, be it in the case of the Pune dams displaced or those affected by the Lavasa Lake city Project, five representatives of the displaced along with Medha Patkar will begin a 48 hours “Avahan Upvaas”. We are also firm to take forward the struggle if justice is not rendered.
Simpreet Singh Mukta Srivastava Geetanjali Chavan
(09969363065) (09969530060) (09423965152)