October 16, 2008

life in general: india's democracy: only for a few

In a genuine democratic country the government will not wait for people to come and seek their basic rights of justice and fairness. It will hand out these rights automatically and quickly. But in India it does not work like that. Rights are automatically granted only to the moneyed, influential and crony capitalists/socialists/communists. Physically violent sections and religious fanatics also bulldoze their ways into extracting favours for themselves for no adequate justification. But the non-affluent and those staying in remote areas do not get to have their say without much effort and fight.
Here is what right so-called 'development' project-affected people are forced to do (come all the way from their far-away home to Bombay) to seek protection of their basic human and economic rights. The Bombay police force that acts meekly against violent politicians like Raj Thackeray and Bal Thackeray acts rough against the protesting villagers and their NGO-organisers.

Date: 2008/10/15
To: nbapresslist@lists.riseup.net

A Wing First Floor, Haji Habi Building, Naigaon Cross Road
Dadar (E), Mumbai-400 014 Ph. No-2415 0529 E-mail: napmindia@gmail.com
Thousands of displaced and affected people of various dams and projects;adivasis, dalits, farmers, fish workers, farm labourers, unorganized and skilled workers and basti dwellers and hawkers assembled at Mumbai, rising
their demands for justice and rehabilitation and against the current paradigm of destruction and displacement in the name of development. The uprooted displaced, combating displacement, deceit and half cooked rehabilitation, if any, are agitating and raising their demands with the Govt. of Maharashtra, calling the State to provide concrete and ultimate solutions.
Yesterday morning, all the displaced marched towards and assembled peacefullyon the footpath before the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee. Even as the protestors were agitating in a non-violent manner and trying to engage in a dialogue with the Congress President, the agitators were forcibly removed from there by the police, who indulged in lathi charge and taken to Azad Maidan. We strongly condemn this action of the Police and the Government. The agitators did not budge and continued to raise slogans for justice. It is also unfortunate that the Congress leadership not only did not pay a patient hearing but also allowed use of police force, which we condemn. It is a success of the struggle of the thousands that we made the same police to provide free water, lighting and other facilities at the morcha venue.
Yesterday evening, the Home Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Shri R.R. Patil met a delegation of ours, who gave us a patient hearing and promised that all the issues would be broached at deliberated upon in today’s Cabinet Meeting.
A detailed memorandum has already been sent to the Government. We also welcome the decision of the Minister to withdraw all the cases against
Gandhian activist Bhau Buskute and 47 other Satyagrahis who were unlawfully arrested and detained while agitating for the demands of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway displaced, upon the consistent campaigning and demand by Medha Patkar and NAPM.
The State Rehabilitation Minister, Shri Patang Rao Kadam met a delegation of the dam affected, project affected (PAF) and SEZ affected people, along with Medha Patkar, Ulka Mahajan, Simpreet Singh, Yogini Khanolkar, Suniti S.R. Bhavar Baba, Niketan Palkar, Prasad Bagve, Sampat Kale and others including those from Maval, Mulsi, Tata, Morba, Sardar Sarovar affected, and others, today afternoon at the Mantrayala and assured that he will positively look into all the demands and issues. The following decisions were arrived at:
- A high level Committee comprising of the Secretary of the Dept. of Revenue, Mr Dangre; Additionsl Secretary, Ms. Leena Satyanarayan and Secretary, Irrigation Dept. and Directors Maharashtra Krishna Khore Valley Development Corporation, Mr. Kolavale along with the District Collectors of Pune and Western Region Divisional Commissioner would deliberations the issues of various PAFs in Pune.
- The Minister promised that all lands that were acquired in excess for the Pavna and Tata dams would be returned back to the farmers and respective dam – affected people. He assured that Mr. Kolavale has already transferred 1011 acres of land to the Revenue Dept. for the purpose of rehabilitation. It is significant to note that the Minister agreed to the fact that rehabilitation is a public purpose, and therefore excess land must be being given to the original land owners or be used for their rehabilitation.
- A detailed field visit and investigation would be made by the aboveCommittee in the first week of November in four villages of Pavna and Tata dam affected areas, along with the village community.
- The Minister also promised that he would personally visit
The State Revenue Minister, Shri Narayan Rane met a delegation of the displaced urban basti dwellers. Upon the demand of the basti people of Mandala that they should get their promised and rightful share of 50 acres land in Mandala at the rate of Rs. 40 per acre, which is infact 40 times higher the price that was paid by elite builder Hiaranadani, the Minister promised that he will go into all the details of the land deal and ensure that justice is rendered to the people of Mandala.
People are firm that they would not budge from Azad Maidan, before concrete guarantees in writing are given to them on all their demands and unless the other related Ministers such as those of the Forest, Irrigation, Agriculture and Food & Civil Supplies Departments agree to meet them. The Tribal Development Minister will meet a delegation of activists and displaced from the Narmada valley tomorrow morning.
All the displaced have resolved not to budge an inch as long as Govt., of Maharashtra does not take concrete decisions, guaranteeing their rights, but in fact to intensify the Andolan at this very place. “This is just the beginning; we have come with questions and will not go back without answers and solid promise, backed with credible action” they all say in unision.
Mukta Srivstava Suniti S.R. Lal Babu Roy
(09969530060) (9423571784) (09987272484)

Details of the various struggle groups, issues and demands
The agitators include those affected by the dams built by Tata like Bhushi, Valvan, Somwadi, Sirwada, Morba, (Rigad) Thokalwadi and Mulshi and those displaced by the Pavna, Andhre, Jadhavwadi, Pusane, Kasarsai, Narmada, Malwandi – Jhuto, and other projects over the past decade to even 100 years ago, which have left them landless and homeless, while there has not been a simple cash compensation, let alone the hollow promise of land for land! The tall promises made have no where led to realization of even the limited rights as per the existing laws and Rehabilitation Policy, including the right to obtain 4 acres of land per family and house plots, at the rehabilitation sites, with all the basis amenities.
Though the bull dozers razing the bastis of the poor in the cities like Mumbai have stopped for the time being, the is still a luring danger of evictions at various places. Thousands of families who have been staying together on the lands for years and generations together cannot be denied their right to these lands. During the previous election campaign, it was promised that the rights of those who have been living up to the year 2000 would be considered and a survey to that effect would be carried out. At least this should be implemented immediately. The right to self – development of Bastis like Mandala must be recognized at the appropriate level in the Government immediately as under the JNNURM. The Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP) must also be implemented effectively. When big and fat builders like Hiranadani can be given land at 40 paise per acre, against whom a case filed in the High Court at Mumbai is coming up for hearing today, even as we fight at the Azad Maidan, we question and challenge the Govt. as to why land cannot be allotted to us as well. We had infact paid Rs. 2000/- to the Govt. towards this end.
Another key issue is that beside lands that have been submerged, excess lands have been grabbed away, for various projects, than what is actually required, even if that Project had any merit. These lands were promised to be returned to the original owners. How come then that these lands are in fact sold to the brokers in Mumbai and the elite from artists to capitalist businessmen, the Singhanias’ and Amitabh Bacchans?
Those displaced in the Narmada valley due to the Sardar Sarovar Project are not yet rehabilitated and as on today the Govt. Of Maharashtra needs at least 4,500 hectares of land which they claim is not available. About 300 PAFs are not included in the list. We demand the Govt. of Maharashtra to take a clear stand that the dam will not go ahead without proper and just rehabilitation, including land for land.
We demand that the Tata Dam affected people must either be given full compensation or their lands must be returned back to them immediately. In spite of there existing alternatives to the Sapdi dam in Hingoli and Painganga dam in Yavatmal, they have displaced thickly populated villages, which is not acceptable. These and other big dams are only continuing to destroy thousands of hectares of fertile agricultural land, and thereby thousands of livelihoods. The people at the settlement at Krantinagar in Lonavla which has been there for a few decades, must be settled in the same place with due rights. The first right of fishing in the dam reservoir waters must be that of the project affected fish workers and not the contractors.
It is an absolute injustice to divert the water from the dams to the cities and industries, catering to the unjust demands of the urban elites, as against the proposed and promised claims of providing water for irrigation and drinking water purposes. Before the water from the Pavna dam goes to Pimpri Chinchwad areas, it should be made available to the dam-affected, for drinking purpose and for agriculture. Water from Warasgaon should be given to the adivasis and the farmers instead of the monstrous Lavasa Lake city, which is not thing but loot and destruction in the name of tourism. Similarly, various Project affected should be given employment wherever water has been diverted for industries and big cities. The ruling of the High Court of Mumbai (Aurangabad Bench) must be immediately and fully implemented. The state’s water policy must clearly ensure that agriculture and other traditional livelihoods are given a clear priority before industries.
A number of land transfers in the case of Lavasa and the Sahara City are illegal. They are carried out by cheating the small and marginal farmers and land owners and the tribals, most of whom are poor and illiterate. A thorough inquiry must be made into all these deals. The contractors in Lavasa and the middlemen are harassing and intimidating the villagers and locals. This should be stopped immediately and penal action initiated against any one indulging in such acts, no matter howsoever high or influential.
The’ Special Economic Zones’ are just a tool to make the rich more richer by providing them all forms of rebates and doling out huge tracts of prime agricultural lands to them. Those who are not ready to give up their houses, lands, village communities, water, fish, farms, are looted by making false promises. We oppose this blatant grabbing, in which the consent of the Gram Sabha is seldom sought, which is a mandatory requirement as per the 73rd amendment to the Constitution and the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996. The entire process of promoting SEZs at Karla, Raigad, Maval, Gorai etc. should be stopped forthwith.
Some of the representatives of the various groups of displaced persons form across the state include:
Niketan Palkar / Shivram Bhavar – Tata Dharangrasth Samithi
Banda Rama Akhade and Saraswati R. Biskute, Pavana Dam affected(Sahayadri Bachao Andolan)
Pandurang Ambe – Kasarsai Project affected
Madhukar Sable – Diwad, Maval SEZ
Sitabai Dangre – Pavana Dam affected
Pandarinath Virale – Adle Khurd , Maval SEZ
Leelabai, Lavasa Lake City project affected
Sitaram Atmaram Nagap, Aruna Prakalpgrast Sangarsh Samithi, Sindhudurg
Yamuna Bandu Roke, Ditara Project affected
Amravati Chowdhury, Mahatam Mourya, Simpreet Singh, Ghar Bachao Ghar
Banao Andolan
Chandrashekar, Gorai Bet Bachao Andolan
Yogini Khanolkar & Vijay Valvi, Narmada Bachao Andolan
Noorji Padvai, Sardar Sarovar Project Affected, Chimalkedhi, Maharashtra

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