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Medha on fast as project-affected are yet to be resettled

By Meena Menon

THE DISPLACED: A rehabilitation camp at Varchil in Nandurbar district of Maharashtra. — Photo: Vivek Bendre

JAVDA, (Nandurbar district), Maharashtra, Aug. 3. The Narmada Bachao Andolan leader, Medha Patkar, is on an indefinite satyagraha since Monday at Shahada, in Nandurbar district, to protest against the Government's inability to resettle project-affected people in time.

She has been joined by hundreds of farmers from the submergence zone of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) in Maharashtra. Just two weeks back they had been shown land at Javda village in Akkalkuwa taluk for their resettlement.

In mid-July, villagers from Bharad, Atthi, Keli, Thuvani, all in Dhadgaon taluk, arrived in Javda in two dumper trucks. These are some of the 33 villages in Maharashtra that are affected by submergence this year as the dam height has already reached 110.64 metres. District officials briefed them about the procedure to accept the land.

Yet, a fortnight later, people have realised that the Government is yet to buy the land at Javda to resettle them. The Rehabilitation Secretary, K.S. Vatsa, said that orders to buy the land were issued some time ago but the land was not bought as there are standing crops on it. However, the purchase would start from today, he added.

Submersion threat

Heavy rains in the last four days in Maharashtra have increased the threat of submersion in villages such as Bharad, Domkhedi and Nimgavhan. In Bharad, the school run by the NBA is expected to be submerged soon, an NBA spokesperson said.

"The demand for the land at Javda came only in May and we did whatever we could to expedite the process. We had initially decided to resettle them at Vadchhil and other places but people were not keen on that," said Mr. Vatsa. About 172 families affected by submergence this year have already been allotted land at Vadchhil and other sites but more people are still being declared as displaced and the process is going on.

After a dharna in Mumbai last month which was called off, following a Government assurance to resettle people on a war footing, the NBA took part in a meeting of the Planning Group of the SSP on July 22. However, the spokesperson of the group said that the Government had not carried out what had been agreed upon. The crucial issue of people not being declared project-affected was being tackled by the Government only now.

Most of the affected villages are over 50 km away from Javda and it is an overnight journey to go there and choose land. Dedia Pechra from Atthi village has already identified land in this village. "Mine is one of the three houses in the hamlet affected at 110 metres. My lands are in water, I have no choice but to accept the land in Javda," he says. There are 400 people living in Atthi but some 100 families have yet to be declared as project-affected families. All the agricultural lands were submerged in Atthi last year.

Vanya Perva from Bharad village says all the old houses were submerged and now people have moved to the top of the village. "For the first time, the Government is serious about buying the land which we have approved. This year we have to move," adds Perva. About 80 families have been declared as project-affected, with about 39 remaining to be declared. Murji Shitiya Padvi from Keli village says, "My father is not declared as project-affected and we are four brothers who are also not yet officially accepted as project-affected. My lands are already submerged."

In Vadchhil village in Shahada taluk, families affected by the project have been resettled on 650 hectares of land, 300 hectares of which has been allotted. The entire village of Surung has shifted out and even the families who are not officially recognised by the Government have come to Vadchhil and resettled there.

`Families left out'

Kewalsingh Vasave from Nimgavhan village says that 27 families have moved to this new site but there were over 100 families awaiting official recognition. "The checking is all faulty and many families are being left out of government records," he says. Last year 27 houses submerged in the villages and over 50 houses are surrounded by water, with lands being submerged most of the time. According to the Nandurbar District Collector, Sanjay Khandare, in the 33 villages in the submergence zone, there are 3,640 families who are affected. Of them, 3,081 have been given land and plots for their houses, he claims.

Now 559 families remain to be allotted land. Javda alone would provide adequate land to settle 200 families.

Despite the Government-appointed task force to survey the people who were not granted project-affected status, many villagers are still left out.

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