Rehabilitation of Narmada Tribal Outstees

Rehabilitation of Tribals affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project (1980-1994)

The period of 1980 up to 1987 was that of struggle for proper Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) Policy for the Project Affected Families (PAFs) of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP). The policy at the time was unjust – (1) gave meager cash compensation only to those who owned agricultural land. (2) provided no land compensation to replace the land that had been taken, (3) ignored those who did not own any land and were dependent on cultivating forest lands—which was the case for the large majority of the oustees. They were considered illegal ‘encroachers’, not entitled to any compensation. ARCH invested itself in advocating for and developing a new, humane, and just R&R policy.

ARCH organized the tribals in dharnas (protests) and approached the Gujarat High Court, the Supreme Court and also the World Bank, as it was funding the construction of SSP. As a result, the condition of proper R&R was incorporated in the Loan Agreement signed between the World Bank and the Government of India and the State Governments in concern.

In December 1987, the Gujarat Government came out with a new R&R policy, which adopted the demands of ARCH and the tribal oustees. The pressure from World Bank played a crucial role in the enactment of this policy. This was, and still is, an unprecedented historic step. It entitled each oustee family (each adult son to be treated as a separate family) to get a minimum of 5 acres (2 hectares) of irrigable land of its choice. This was applicable not only for the landed oustees, but also for so called ‘encroachers’ and landless agricultural labourers.

Thereafter, ARCH continued working for the proper implementation of this new R&R policy to ensure that it did not remain a mere piece of paper, but was actually implemented on the ground. ARCH assisted about 10,000 tribal families (4500 from Gujarat, 1500 from Maharashtra and 4000 from MP) in getting the 2 hectares of agricultural lands of their choice along with the various other benefits that they were entitled to under the new policy. This work continued until 1994.