Cashless and Landless: Tribal oustees of Narmada worry about their future

The Sardar Sarovar Dam has displaced over 41,000 families from the banks of Narmada across Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, since 1985. The Sardar Sarovar Punarvasvat Agency (SSPA) was constituted in 1992, for implementing the Resettlement and Rehabilitation for affected families, but little action has been taken to offer the displaced communities, the promised compensation. Various reports  suggest that the SSPA has failed to comply by the compensations suggested by Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal and Supreme Court's judgements directing there shall be no submergence without compensation.

Millions of marginalised communities are yet to be rehabilitated as promised due to the scarcity of land in Maharashtra as well as Madhya Pradesh. The residents of Bhilkheda in Bhadwani, Madhya Pradesh were promised to be compensated with cash instead but the promise has remained unfulfilled since a decade now, as most farmers of the village have received only one tranche of the compensation amount in 2005. "As a partial tranche, I received Rs. 2,79,000 of the compensation. But just that much is not enough for purchasing a land. Land prices today are Rs. 10,00,000 per acre," Sunil confides in Pawan Solanki, a community-member and a community correspondent for Video Volunteers. Pawan's video report also discovers that just like Sunil, his extended family and many other community members of the village have received only part-compensation, crushing their hope of ever owning a land and farm again in their lives. In the case of Ram Singh, he was able to buy a land, by making a partial payment, promising to pay the remaining amount when he received the final tranche. However, he had to return the land, as he never received it. These compensations hold a lot of value for the communities because it is their only occupation and source of income. "I don't know what we will do and where we will go when our lands get submerged and we are evicted," worries Bhagira Talav. 

The concerns of the residents are not misplaced. Many families which have been rehabilitated have cried foul for various reasons – the land they have received under rehabilitation is uncultivable or water logged in hundreds of cases. Many have not been given sufficient land, more have wrongly been given privately owned lands. 

The farmers of Narmada banks are soon losing hopes of a decent livelihood. Proud farmers once, if they don't find agrarian land, they will be reduced to being landless labourers or worse, migrant workers.  

Call to action: Help the farmers of Bhilkheda by calling V S Gova, the rehabilitation officer of the district on +91-9425260521. Request him that the farmers are compensated with land. 

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