As the central government has decided to stock the water in Sardar Sarovar Dam till it's maximum capacity of 138.68 metres, the fear of thousands of people losing their homes have started coming true. In an earlier ground report from Maharashtra, NewsClick had shown the plight of the people who have been rendered homeless due to the government project. Despite their suffering, the people have not been given any compensation or rehabilitation.
Now, the minutes of a meeting of the Narmada Control Authority accessed by NewsClick has revealed the Maharashtra government’s position on this issue. In this meeting on rehabilitation and resettlement, held on July 12, the government stated, “.....they all are residing above Full Reservoir Level. Thus, no PAF (project affected families) are residing in the submergence area.” The government, therefore, declared that PAF do not have to be shifted as they do not fall in the submergence area.
However, the reality is far from what the Maharashtra government is trying to portray.
In Chimalkhedi village of Akkalkuwa teshil in Nandurbar district, a total of eight villages have been submerged till September 13. Only two out of those eight were considered as 'possibly submerged area'.
Also read: Helpless Tribals Vacate Villages Submerging in Narmada Water
House owners Ramesh Tembharya, Amarsing Kakdya, Dilyo Foujya, Kherya Foujya, Poyara Aasma, Soudya Tembharya, Veshya Tembharya and Arjun Poyara have lost their homes this month. Out of these, only Veshya Tembharya and Arjun Poyara's homes are recognised by Narmada Development Department (NDD). All other homes were not recognised as falling under ‘possible submergence’. Right now, all 8 are under water and the families living there have been rendered homeless.
This is not all. Veshya Tembharya, whose home is in the list of NDD, also possessed some agricultural land in the same village. The rule is that the land has to be acquired by the government before using it for any purpose. However, even though his land has not been acquired yet, it has now been submerged.
Another example is Soudya Tembharya, whose house has also been submerged. But that, too, has not been acquired on paper.
The one thing that becomes clear from the above cases is that the NDD is not at all concerned about the basic rules of land acquisition. In such a scenario, the Maharashtra government instead of supporting the rights of its citizens, has betrayed the citizens and stood with NDD by informing NCA that no homes fall within the submergence area.
Manibeli is the first village of Maharashtra border which has been entirely submerged by the dam. The first home on the border of the village is of Manilal Tadavi (78). One can see the spectacular Statue of Unity from his doorstep. But he along with his wife Jadiben (74) have been left without proper rehabiliation. Even though he did get some land in Gujarat for building his house, but there is a nallah (sewage canal) in the middle of the plot. He has been requesting NDD to either change the plot or do something about that nallah. However, all his requests have fallen into deaf ears and now the water is swallowing his only home. "Nobody came to help me from government side. Our house belongings are not yet shifted to the temporary shades given by authorities. At this age of 78, how would I be able to take all this with me through the water to a new place?", he asked.
Also read: MP: 38 of 52 Districts on Heavy Rain Alert, Narmada Flowing Above Danger Mark
Almost all the villagers from these villages in Maharashtra are tribal, many of them illiterate and extremely poor. It was the government’s duty to stand with its citizens at this time of need. But as Nooraji Vasave of Chimalkhedi village said, "Maharashtra's leadership is first worried about their chair. So they is not ready to fight for us with their party's leadership. Everyone knows this. To save their chair, they ignoring our basic rights. We are left to survive on our own."