'Adivasi' and farmers meet MP Governor to demand justice

'Adivasi' and farmers meet MP Governor to demand justice

A delegation comprising representatives of adivasis and farmers from the districts of Badwani, Alirajpur, Khargone and Dhar met the Hon’ble Governor of Madhya Pradesh Shri Rameshwar Thakur and appealed to him to take appropriate steps to guarantee peace and good governance, as per the Constitution in the scheduled adivasi areas of the state. In particular, they urged him to ensure that the rights of the Gram Sabhas in the scheduled areas, as granted by the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) Act, 1996, which was passed by the Parliament using the authority conferred on it by Article 243-M 4 (b) of the Constitution, are safeguarded.

Before undertaking any development project in these areas, the Gram Sabhas, as per the PESA Act, are to be consulted twice, once before land acquisition and again before resettlement and rehabilitation. This right of the Gram Sabhas has been re-affirmed by the Hon’ble High Court of Madhya Pradesh through its interim order dated 01-07-2009, whereby the Court directed a status quo into the land acquisition and excavation work for the canals of Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar Projects. Unfortunately, this significant Order is not only being ignored and side-stepped but also violated by the State Government which has created a lot of furore in the villages and tahsils Badwani, Dhar, Khargone and to an extent in Khandwa as well.

While the State Government was to follow the PESA Act and bring in amendment into its Panchayat Adhiniyam of 1993 by incorporating the non-negotiable features of the Act, the GoMP has done the diametrically opposite by removing any reference to the very clause of ‘Gram Sabha consultation’. The High Court of M.P. thus endorsed the rights of the Gram Sahas (local self government) and village communities, irrespective of what has been changed or omitted in the state enactment.

The sequence of events to derail the process and deny the rights, however, began immediately after the Order was passed. Firstly, the canal excavation work continued at many villages with the giant JCB machines for the next 15-20 days after which NBA filed a contempt petition to actual ‘stay’ the work and penalize the Government and contractors for contempt. Noting the gravity of the issue, the Court extended the status quo on the 6th August.

In many cases the State Government has actively pushed unlawful resolutions at the Janpad, without a quorum or in cases even by pressuring them, which has been objected to by many Janpad members (ex from Manawar, Badwani, Nisarpur).

Unlawful attempts have also been made to make changes in the Gram Sabha
resolutions. From the ongoing happenings, it is evident that some Panchayat CEOs and Collectors are both under pressure and also pressurizing the other officials.

Meanwhile, thousands of adivasis, farmers, fish workers and others from various villages of the districts of Alirajpur, Badwani, Dhar and Khargone assembled at a huge gathering in Badwani on the 24th and submitted a detailed memorandum to the Collector Mr. N.B.S Rajpur through the Tehsildar. They burnt the Order of the state government trampling upon the rights of Gram Sabhas and gave out slogans such as ‘Lok Sabha se oopar Gram Sabha’ and ‘Hamaare Gaon mein
Hamaara Raj’. Yesterday, i.e on the 25th, hundreds of adivasis, particularly those affected and displaced for many years due to the Sardar Sarovar and Jobat dams, marched to the Collector’s office in Alirajpur district and had an intense dialogue with him on various issues including their right to rehabilitation by consultation in the Gram Sabhas and the duty of the district and state administration to implement the rehabilitation Policy and Supreme Court judgements.

In such a context it is necessary, the delegation urged the Governor, to “seriously consider the integrity and constitutionally of the Order issued by the GoMP on the 30th of July, substituting consultation with ‘Janpad’ instead of Gram sabhas; particularly in the case of Narmada valley projects and that too when the Court stay order is in vogue and that a suitable direction be issued to rescind the impugned Order and instead insist that consultation with Gram Sabhas mandatorily takes place in the V schedule adivasi areas.

Addressing a large press conference, Medha Patkar
said that in none of the projects, neither is there is any guarantee of alternative land or livelihood nor is the command area work plan and execution even half-way through. But illegality and wrong tactics seem to be way to take forward evey Project. The series of letters (July, August 2009) written by the Minister and Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Forests to the Chief Minister and State Chief Secretary on the poor environmental compliances of the Omkareshwar, Indira Sagar and Sardar Sarovar Projects are indicative of this.

CAD works are no way near completion despite the fact that they had to be
completed by 1987 and 1994 for Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar respectively. “But the state govt. does not seem to have an iota of guilt in using urgency clause to push acquisition without consulting the adivasis in the Gram Sabhas”, she rued.

“In the case of many ongoing projects be it Goi where the Gram Sabhas’ voice was suppressed and the Project imposed by the State by using the brutal force of lathi charge and a misinformation campaign or in Gomai in Pansemal where even the Gram Sabhas are not being called and false resolutions are passed, every single law in the rule book of advasi rights is being eroded, said adivasis and farmers at the Press Conference.

All this only clearly brings out the fact of poor planning and monitoring in mega projects such as the Narmada Valley Projects, squandering away crores of rupees without public accountability and public participation and the tall claims of never-yielding promises of benefits and rehabilitation on paper.

Narmada is a classic example, where even after 15-20 years neither have canals
been built properly not has rehabilitation been done, as per law. Leave along the hope of ‘Green Revolution’, destruction of irrigated and fertile cultivable land along with problems of water logging, canal breaches and salinization is only looming large.

Later in the evening, the delegation later met senior authorities at the State Election Commission, Madhya Pradesh and conveyed to them as well ongoing violations in the Narmada valley, the inconsistencies in elections at the local government level, disrespect of Gram Sabhas’ rights and conspiracy to dissolve them in many villages (Pariseeman) in the valley. The authorities promised to take appropriate steps in this regard.

The people from the valley warned the State Government to implement the law and respect the Constitution, otherwise people will have to struggle, which is what is they are doing and constitutional authorities such as the Governor have a sincere mandate to safeguard the same.

- Medha Patkar, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM)

Published in:
Citizen News Service (CNS)
Elites TV, USA
Tamil.Net, Tamil Nadu, India
National Federation of Republicans, India