This appeared in AID News on August 28 2001.
Notes of Jeevan Yatra meeting with President
23 August, New Delhi
A delegation of children from the Narmada Valley comprising representatives
from the tribal areas of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh as well as the
plains of Nimad affected by the SSP as well as a representative of the Mann
project on Mann river a tributary of the Narmada went to the office of the
President. Due to the President’s ill health the President appointed his
Chief Secretary Mr. Sharif to meet the children. Mr. Sharif welcomed the
children in Rashtrapati Bhavan and conveyed to them that the President K.
R. Narayanan was very eager to meet the children but regretted that due to
ill health this was not possible and instructed his secretary to receive
them and hear them.
The children presented a handmade greeting card as well as a hand-painted
tapestry and conveyed their wishes to the President for a speedy recovery
to good health and invited him to visit their villages in the Narmada
Valley. The children presented a bouquet comprising a variety of grains
which are grown in the Narmada Valley.
Doorsingh (9th class) from village Domkhedi where people are facing
submergence in Satyagraha explained all the grains in the basket and
discussed the bountiful resource base on which the adivasi communities
lived. Rajendra ( 5th class) from Savariya added to this that in his
village one did not need to go to the city for anything other than salt and
clothes, and that all required resources were available in the villages.
However now their homes, farms, forest and school would be submerged and
asked whether such a life as they were accustomed to would ever be
available anywhere. He stressed that the government should not force them
to go to the cities.
Honorable Secretary Mr. Sharif told the children that he had served as the
SDM in Thana Jilla, Maharashtra and was able to understand the children
speaking in their own native languages of Pavri and Bhilali as well as
Marathi. He listened keenly to the children’s stories of their experience
in the Andolan as well as their mode of education. He asked each child from
what village s/he came. All were pleased and noted that even the government
officials in Nandurbar and Alirajpur often complain that they cannot
understand the tribal language but here in Delhi in the office of the
President they met someone who could understand them.
Siyaram (9th class) from village Chimalkhedi discussed his childhood
experience in the very first jeevanshala which opened in Chhimlakhedi in 6
August 1992 and was submerged in 1994. The children physically prevented
bulldozers from entering the village by lying down in front of them and
remained on the roof of the school as the water rose on all four sides. The
school was later continued in the neighboring village of Manibeli and those
who completed 4th standard continued their education in Malegaon and
Dhulia. He also stressed that they had never done wage labour nor ever
asked any one to do so.
From Nimad Sapna Kanera (B.A. 1st year) explained that she was born into
the struggle for saving the Narmada as her parents were both deeply
involved and she can still hear the sounds of the police outside her house
when she was only 4 years old. She recounted the atrocities committed upon
the women of her village and appealed to the President o use his authority
under the 5th schedule of the constitution to save the Tribals and Dalits
and pleaded that this authority should not simply remain in the books but
must be utilized for the protection of the people of the country.
[ To be continued ]