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All about displacement - The Times Of India

Smita Deshmukh ()
March 15, 1998

Title: All about displacement
Author: Smita Deshmukh
Publication: The Times Of India
Date: March 15, 1998

When the Maharashtra government asked Rajiv Shah to make a
documentary film on the rehabilitation of adivasis displaced by
the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam in the Narmada valley
two years ago, he didn't realise that the film would turn out to
be much more than government propaganda. The 20 minute
documentary Sardar Sarovar Punarvasan shown at the Fifth Mumbai
International Film Festival, is a gritty account of the other,
unseen side of Narmada struggle. It portrays the true account of
the adivasis who have now started living in new houses and begun
farming through modern technology. This tribe which has, for
generations, been a relic of the pre-electricity era, has now
moved closer towards modern science.

The environmental imbalance and the subsequent rehabilitation of
the adivasis has so far dominated the Sardar Sarovar project
thanks to the international media attention received by the
agitation led by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) under the
leadership of Medha Patkar.

However, Shah's documentary questions the logic of the NBA
agitation since a majority of 10,000 tribal families have been
rehabilitated. It focusses on the core issue the lack of progress
of the dam over the past three years which has cost the Centre a
whopping Rs 1,600 crores. The film brings home the point that the
worst sufferers of this delay are not the villages under
submergence, but the people of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh
which were to get 1,450 MW electrictv out of this Project. Around
15 crore people were likely to get employment.

The documentary has questioned the direction of the entire NBA
agitation since a majority of the adivasis have been resettled,
while the Union government continues to suffer a loss per day by
way of interest on its total investment of Rs 5,000 crores.

'The 1995 Supreme Court order restricts the height of the dam to
81 metres, instead of the proposed 146 metres, which means the
irrigation plans meant to cover 18 lakh hectares of land and
drinking water to 130 townships and 8,000 villages in Gujarat and
Suarashtra, including the desert of Kutch, have been on hold." he

The film also dwells on the most important, yet untouched subject
the voluntary displacement of the adviasis. On the base of
Saatpuda hills in Dhule district, five major rehabilitated
housing areas have sprung up. The revenue officers have
successfully convinced the adivasis to stay-after allotting them
no less than 4.200 hectares of farming land.

"Each family is given 502 sq metres of housing land along with
alternate land for agriculture, Rs 4,500 annually for house
expenses, Rs 750 as rehabilitation allowance, free seeds and
equipment for farming and Rs 14,500 cinder the Indira Vikas
Yojana to build their houses, informs Shah.

Shooting in .these hilly areas was a daunting ask for Shah and
his crew which survived several attacks from the NBA activists.

In fact, the non-cooperation of the sarpanch of Manibeli and an
NBA activist, Narayan Tadvi, surprised the crew the most. few
men attacked us with weapons, we had to literally run with our
equipment," says a crew member.

"Medha Patkar made a valuable contribution by forcing the
government to change its harsh rehabilitation methods. But since
the villagers have accepted new land offered to them on their own
terms, the agitation has lost its bite, explains Shah.

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