ONE rainy night in 1993, around 1 am, Kesu Dedhya Tadvi saw swirling river waters rush into his hut in Nandurbar district’s Manibeli village. His was the first hut on the Maharashtra side of the Narmada to be submerged by the Sardar Sarovar dam.
Last month, Tadvi, now 85 years old, was shown a plot of land where he will be rehabilitated by the state government. Twenty-five years after he lost three hectares of farm land, his hut and cattle to the dam, the resettlement proposal holds little value, Tadvi says.
“Teen baar jo dooba hai ghar mera, uska bharpai koi nahi. (My hut was submerged three times, there is no compensation for that),” the wisened old man says, insisting that he will not accept the land now allotted to him in Akkalkuwa if there are no health facilities and road access. Like him, 65 of 200 families in Manibeli awaiting rehabilitation after losing homes continue to live on a hilly stretch overlooking the Sardar Sarovar dam.
Thirty-three villages in Maharashtra were submerged, 4,300 families displaced. According to data from the Narmada Bachao Andolan, 4,135 families were resettled over the last 25 years. District collector Mallinath Kalshetty says efforts are under way to rehabilitate remaining families. Tadvi claims that in May last year he was allotted 2 hectares for farming, weeks before the dam was slated for an official inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had lost three hectares of farm land. A month ago, state government showed him an 1,800 square feet plot of land on which to build his hut.
“Our story is one of struggle. I have gone to jail several times during the andolan demanding resettlement,” Tadvi says. Since 1993, the Manibeli village has been moved three times. Sarpanch Narayan Chima Tadvi says the original village stood at a height of 56 meters before it was submerged in 1993. “The government had informed us a month in advance that our village would be submerged. But back then they gave no option for resettlement. Where could we go?” he claims. Tadvi, the oldest in the village, says he lost 16 goats, a pair of bulls and a cow. It was raining heavily when the tribal family ran to save themselves. “In the 1990s, I earned Rs 2 lakh annually. Now it’s nothing,” he says. In 1993, the entire village moved to higher terrain on the same hill. In 1994, the village was submerged again. Tadvi moved higher again, doing farming on a small patch of land. In 2008, their village, now at a height of 90 metres, was submerged a third time. The current dam height is 138.6 metres and Tadvi lives at a height of 140 meters. The Narmada Development Committee expects that the entire hillside will be submerged once the dam reservoir reaches its full capacity.
Tadvi’s elder brother shifted to Gujarat after resettlement. “Our family was separated,” says his wife Ganda Tadvi. They remained in Maharashtra with three daughters and a son. According to documents with the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Tadvi was shown as resettled in Gujarat’s Parveta village on government papers while he continued to live in Manibeli. Parveta was the first resettlement camp set up by the Gujarat government for dam-affected people. “I was never shown any land in Gujarat. They allotted me land without asking me,” he says.
Chetan Salvi of the Narmada Bachao Andolan claims several tribal families were allotted land in ex-parte decisions by the government, allegedly in violation of rehabilitation norms. In 2011, Tadvi’s name was removed from the Gujarat files of rehabilitated people. His son Ravindra now fights his battle, looking after the little farm and visiting government offices.