India
27.07.02
Urgent Interventions

India: forced eviction by the police of a village against the background of the Narmada Valley Development Projects

The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in India.


Brief description of the situation

The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by the India Centre for Human Rights and the Law, a member of the OMCT network, of the forcible eviction by the police of the members of the village of Khedi-Balwari, in the district of Dhar, Madhya Pradesh (MP), on 20th July 2002.

According to the information received, about 400 policemen armed with guns and lathis entered the village at 4 pm and forcibly evicted the villagers. It is reported that women and even children were severely beaten up, that the houses have been looted and savings, as well as cattle stolen. Indeed, according to the information received, when the villagers came out to see what was happening, the police started pulling and dragging them into vans without any warning, manhandling the women. The villagers were allegedly picked up and dumped at the so-called “resettlement” sites of Kesur (75 kilometres away from the village) and Aamkheda (40 kilometres away from the village), where they remain under the guard of the police. According to the information received, many family members of those taken to Kesur have been left behind at Khedi-Balwari, including some infants of 2,5 and 7 months, while the police is reportedly posted at the village of Khedi-Balwari in order to prevent villagers from returning.

The whole Khedi-Balwari village is now under the control of the police who are terrorising the remaining people, and have reportedly started demolishing the houses on July 21, when bulldozers were sent to the village. This event occurred as the sluice gates of the dam on the Man River had been closed, about 15 days before, and the filling of the dam had started.

Background information

The eviction of villagers from Khedi-Balwari occurs against the background of the undertaking of the Man Irrigation Project (MIP).

This project is one of the 30 major projects, which are part of the Narmada Valley Development Projects (NVDP) planned in the 1950s and 60s. The project is being refinanced through the RIDF II scheme (Rural Infrastructure Development Scheme) of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), a financing agency aimed at supporting agriculture, farmers and rural development. The NVDP includes the construction of a dam on the Man River that will cause the submersion of more than 17 villages, included the village of Khedi-Balwari, and affect about 1227 families, most of whom are Adivasis farmers, who are mainly land owning agriculturists.

As a consequence of this project’s implementation, thousands of tribal peoples will lose their livelihood by being deprived of their land and the other natural resources, such as the nearby forest, on which they depend on for a variety of needs.

A policy was defined in order to rehabilitate and resettle the displaced people. In 1979, the Narmada Waters Disputes Tribunal Award provided the overarching framework for the Rehabilitation Policy of the GOMP, by stating that the Government was required to provide fertile irrigated and cultivated lands to the farmers, and not mere monetary compensation. Likewise, when the legally required environmental clearance was given to the Man Project by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoeF) in 1984, it was granted on a conditional basis: the rehabilitation should be done on non-forest land and cash compensation should be provided only if the displaced persons specifically requested it. Moreover, on June 4 1996, an order was passed by the Narmada Valley Development Department (NVDD) specifying that the principle guiding the rehabilitation should be “land for land” and that cash compensation could be given only in exceptional circumstances. Thus, the Rehabilitation Policy of the GOMP formulated in 1987 and officially issued in 1989 provides for a package based on the “land for land” principles. Under this policy, every land holding family should be given a minimum of 2 ha. and a maximum of 8 ha. of irrigable land.

However, the use of coercion, the refusal to redress Adivasis’ grievances, the provision of misleading information to the tribal peoples on their entitlement to land and on the number of affected persons (reduced from 1227 to 864 families in the official statistics) impeded the application of the Rehabilitation Policy. Indeed, between 1992 and 1994, cash compensation was distributed to the tribal population, who had not been informed of its entitlement to land. Thus, cash compensation has been used as a way of dispensing with the Government’s legal obligations. As a result, in 1996, the tribal peoples began to organize with the help of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).

From 1999 to 2001, several demonstrations, dharnas and fasts were organized by the tribal peoples notably at Indore and Bhopal. These peaceful protests where often met by repression from the Government, involving beating and arrests. In parallel, on the 2nd May 1999, the GOMP passed an order stating that a Punarwas Ayokan Samiti (Rehabilitation Planning Committee) would be constituted by May 31 1999, which should keep in mind that rehabilitation had to be completed at least six months prior to submergence of the villages. The Committee was ultimately formed on 22 August 2000 including only two NBA representatives, and no representatives from the affected people. In December 2000, the GOMP began the work on the dam, despite little progress had been made concerning in the rehabilitation process. Thanks to a satyagraha (non-violent civil resistance) the tribal people could prevent the Government from dismantling and submerging the village when the 2001 monsoon occurred. In March 2002, the State Government announced they will offer a cash package of Rs. 12, in substitution to the attribution of agricultural land, which raised protest among the affected people. As a result, the GOMP agreed to appoint Shri B.D. Sharma and Shri Prabhash Joshi as experts to the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) for the Narmada Projects that is to ensure the full resettlement of the displaced people by 31st July 2002. While the report of the expert committee appointed by the Government has not been issued yet and the resettlement has not been performed (only 22 families have received land so far), the Government attempted to flood Khedi-Balwari and sent the police on the village on 20th July 2002, as described above.


Action Requested

Please write to the Indian authorities urging them to:

i. guarantee an immediate investigation into the circumstances of these events, identify those responsible, bring them before a civil competent and impartial tribunal and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law;

ii. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the Adivasis people and guarantee adequate reparation to all victims and their families;

iii. stop all work on the dam, open the sluice gate and postpone the submergence of the villages until the affected persons are properly resettled and rehabilitated;

iv. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards such as the provisions of Schedule V of the Constitution, the Indian Act 40 of 1996 that provides for special protection for Adivasi, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and ILO Convention No 169.


Addresses

· H.E. President K.R. Narayanan, Office of the President, Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi 110 004, INDIA Fax: 91-11-301 7290 / 7824;

· H.E. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi, India-110 011 Fax: 91-11-3019545 / 91-11-3016857; E-mail: indun@undp.org;

· Mr L.K. Advani, Home Minister of India, South Block, New Dehli 110001, India, Fax: +91 11 3015750;

· Justice J. S. Verma, Chairperson of National Human Rights Commission (NHR), Sardar Patel Bhavan, Sansad Marg, New Delhi 11001, India, Fax: 91-11-334 0016; E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

· Justice Gulab Gupta, Chairperson of the Madhya Pradesh State Human Rights Commission, Paryavas Bhavan, Arera Hills, Jail Road, Bhopal 462 001, Fax: +91 755 574 028


Please also write to the embassies of India in your respective country


Geneva, July 26th, 2002


Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
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