The illegal submergence in the densely populated villages of Nimad region in the last week of August has spurred a series of mass actions by the Sardar Sarovar project-affected families - hundreds of poor landless labourers, fish workers, potters, adivasis and other farmers who have not yet been ensured complete rehabilitation with alternative land, house plots, amenities at resettlement sites, alternative livelihood etc. This is a complete violation of the Narmada Tribunal Award and Supreme Court's Judgements.
After more than 500 families gheroed the Badwani Collectorate, the oustees in three Tehsils of Dhar District – Manavar, Kukshi and Dharampuri took out huge rallies and stormed into the offices of the SDM / Tehsildar, demanding answers for the sudden and illegal release of reservoir waters from the upstream dams, leading to inhuman submergence of their farms with standing crop, houses, household items, fodder, food grains, fishing nets etc. They also questioned the virtual lack of relief services and disaster preparedness of the administration and challenged the fake claims of rehabilitation by the Narmada Valley Development Authority.
On 2nd September, at Manavar Tehsil the SDM and Naib Tehsildar had to face a volley of questions from the women and men, who came in hundreds from the villages of Ekalwara, Semalda, Gangli, Kavthi, Perkhad etc. It was only when the Naib Tehsildar finally agreed that Panchanamas would be recorded that the oustees returned, after a severe warning to the authorities that if action would not follow, struggle shall intensify.
On 4th September, at Kukshi, almost 800 oustees, largely women from the villages of Chikalda, Nisarpur, Karondia, Kothada, Koteshwar, Gehelgaon, Khaparkheda, Bajrikheda, Malwadi, Bodhwada etc. grilled the SDM, Tehsildar and R&R Officer for almost 5 hours and exposed the rampant corruption in the R&R process. As arguments became heated, the MLA, Mr. Mukam Singh Kirade also arrived at the spot and spoke to the Collector. After this, the SDM assured that video-recording of the affected houses and properties would be the done, administration will consider the process of recording Panchanamas and 50 kgs of food grains will be given to all the affected families immediately.
On 6th September, at Dharampuri, almost 500 women and men marched through the main streets and reached the office of the Tehsildar, where the Asst. R&R Officer was also called and the due not only listed to the woes, but also faced the wrath of the women, who said that to this day (since 23rd August) their kitchen fires have not been lit and the Government, which has been making hollow claims of rehabilitation, did not care to even visit the villages when water was released in the midnight !
In response to the illegal position taken by officials that since all the properties (lands and houses) in question, have been ‘acquired’, Panchanamas cannot be recorded, the oustees shot back by saying that, “Mere land acquisition is not rehabilitation. As per the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award, until rehabilitation is complete, no properties can be submerged and the oustees have every right to continue to reside in their original villages, cultivate the lands and the State must compensate them for any illegal submergence that occurs before complete lawful rehabilitation.
At all the three Tehsils, the oustees also issued Legal Notice to the SDM, Tehsildar and R&R Officer and also another Legal Notice to the Collector, District Dhar to immediately ensure that the Panchanamas of all losses / impacts are duly recorded as per the Revenue Book Circular (RBC) Rules and the oustees are duly compensated. The oustees have issued an ultimatum to the authorities that if their demands are not met soon, the struggle would be intensified and cases would be instituted against the officials in Courts.