Sardar Sarovar affected adivasis obtain right to reservoir fisheries

Struggle by thousands of fish-workers in Narmada valley to continue

14th April, 2015: After 30 years long struggle by the adivasis in the Satpudas, affected by monstrous Sardar Sarovar Dam, 300 young and old adivasis have gained right to fisheries in the reservoir. Following years of pursuit with the authorities, 5 co-operative societies of displaced fish workers in the tehsils of Akkalkuva and Akrani of Nandurbar District have been recognized by the Dept. of Fisheries, Government of Maharashtra.  The societies have been registered as part of Narmada Nav Nirman Abhiyan, which has been undertaking various re-constructive activities in the valley, including running of life-schools called Jeevanshalas, educating thousands of tribal children.

This is indeed a significant victory for the hilly adivasis who have faced the illegal brunt of submergence, many years ago ! The official recognition of the fishing rights of the displaced tribals is a vindication of their resilient struggle which echoes the slogan: “Jahaan zameen doobi hamaari, paani machli kaise tumhari”. This implies that where the lands of the people have submerged, neither the water nor the fish can belong to the State and the private contractors. The displaced persons have first rights over ‘benefits’ of the Project and this is the letter and spirit of the Rehabilitation Polices and numerous judgements of the Supreme Court as well, which guarantee a ‘better standard of living’, post-displacement.

Notably, the Commissioner, Fisheries, Dy. Commissioner, Jt. Commissioner and Officers at the local level, and officials from the Dept. of Fisheries, Govt. of Maharashtra visited the valley, held many meetings with NNNA in past and assessed the integrity and capacity of adivasis and activists. The fishers-oustees asserted that they have right to share in development benefits in various memorandums to the State and through mass actions-Satyagrahas. Siyaram Padvi and other activists diligently pursued with the concerned authorities, facilitated the paper work and even conducted the General Body meetings.

In a well-attended event by the hilly adivasis and plain area fisher-people from Nimad, M.P., the Dy. Commissioner, Jt. Commissioner and Fisheries officer of Nasik Division, visited the village Manibeli on 11th April, 2015 and distributed 5 kgs of fishing net to each of the members and assured that pick up vans and boats will be delivered to each society soon. Addressing the gathering, Medha Patkar said that harnessing fisheries is both a valuable right and a responsibility and the collective spirit should always be the paramount guiding principle

Three months ago 3 cooperatives got registered and an agreement for fishing for 5 years was signed. Today, 300 adivasis can fish freely and fearlessly and use this aquatic wealth as a source of income. A federal effort will certainly give them higher profit. The young adivasis have been very enthusiastic, with this new enterprise and are determined to carry on fishing as a collective resources-harnessing endeavour. The struggle to obtain rights to the displaced co-operatives of fish workers shall continue in the other villages of Maharashtra as also in the Narmada river–bank villages of Madhya Pradesh, where as well thousands of fisher people in the hills and plains are asserting their traditional rights.

Yogini Khanolkar            Latika Rajput                 Chetan Salve                    Vijay Valvi

Ph: 09420151384

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