Gandhinagar: At least seven adivasi families have been kept under house custody by the Gujarat Police and administration, since yesterday charged Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar late Sunday night.
In a statement Ms. Patkar said, in Kevadia village which is just 7 kms from the Sardar Sarovar Dam site and already affected by the project since the decade of 60’s, women asserting that their agricultural land and houses should not be grabbed for Bharat Bhavan, without they getting the package of alternative land and an amount of Rs.5 lakhs for each adult major son in the family were arrested by the police and taken to Tilakwada about 50 kms away. While the women were released after a pressure was mounted by the crowd and media media covering the incident, JCB machines were brought to carry on the eviction work by destroying even the standing crops of ‘Tuvar’. The destructive action continued through the night, trampling upon the rights of the adivasis (tribals) who have been fighting for their survival since 1970’s and loss of livelihood since 1961 itself.
Ms. Patkar has pointed towards the plight of the people from six villages, including Kevadia, stating they lost their land that was acquired for the Sardar Sarovar and the project colony at a meager rate of compensation in 1961 and all the adivasi (Bhil Tadi) families either became landless or were left with small chunks of land. The land they lost was used for nine kinds of government guest houses, staff quarters, and colony, bazaar as well as tourism centers while some of it has been used for storage of material of the contractors, illegally diverting the purpose of acquisition itself.
Originally there were 300 families struggling against the injustice in the Kevadia area but the number of such families gradually went up to 900. Only a few of these have got work at the dam site or the project office – mostly as temporary wagers. A package of Rs. 36,000 in lieu of has been given to only 300 families, many of whom have rejected this meager amount since it is grossly inadequate for purchasing alternative source of livelihood, Ms. Patkar has asserted.
According to the NBA leader, the Gujarat government in 2013 took cognizance of the opposition to any further acquisition of land amongt the adivasis in the Kevadia region and promised land for land as a package for the Bharat Bhavan project in Kevadia. However, these families who have already lost more than 100 acres in the 1960’s and another 20 acres for Bharat Bhavan were shown land at a few sites but they refused to accept alternate land since what was being offered was scatetred and in small patches. Suddenly, in these circumstances, the police and administration chose to adopt oppressive action to grab the tribals’ land
Ms. Patkar has alleged that the Gujarat government with the support of the Centre, is behaving in an unjust manner and committing atrocities on the tribals. The fight for the tribals’ rights will continue till justice is attained, she has asserted.
On October 31, 2014, Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel laid the foundation stone near Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada River near Kevadia Colony for the construction of the “Shrestha Bharat Bhavan”, which will be a multidimensional centre for research and tourism and is part of the Statue of Unity project – #StatueOfUnity project.