27th Aug 2010
Rajendra Gunya Pawra came to pick me up at 7:00 am. We loaded a 40 litre diesel can into the side car and set off for Bilgaon. After negotiating 20 km of pockmarked and curvaceous roads we reached the hamlet. We parked the bike at a friend’s place and struggled down the valley with the diesel can to the bank of the river Uday (this further joins the Narmada). A boat that belongs to the NBA was to take us to the submerged Adivasi villages Anjanwada(30 km upstream on the Narmada) and Bhitada (15 km from Anjanwada). Shivlya the boatman (he should actually have been called Godot) arrived after my sweat drenched clothes had almost dried. We charged the boat with the diesel and began chugging on the river over submerged adivasi villages. Varvali, Busha, Sakarja, Sadri, Udadya were all now under water. The inhabitants of these villages were now all dispersed. Their rehabilitation embroiled in corruption and exploitation. After an hour and a half we reached Anjanwada. But all the villagers had gone away to offer prayers on some hill and would be back only at 3:00pm. We proceeded to Bhitada. Here we met the teacher of the Jeevan Shala Govind Guruji (Jeevan Shalas are boarding schools run by the NBA the only ones in these areas. There are 13 in all with a total strength of about1500 students. These kids receive books, uniforms, food, and education till the 5th standard. It is strange that these kind of remote villages suddenly become visible on the map of India when there are mines to be dug or dams to be built but not when it comes to providing them education or electricity or health care) The villagers gathered in the school to chat, Nagarsingh Dhansingh told me that the village has 262 households- each having alteast 10 members. In 2006 when submergence came (due to the Sardar Sarovar Dam) 32 houses and their respective farms which were on the lower slopes went under water. The village Sarpanch (headman) Manya Khumsing said these families were offered rehabilitation in the neighbouring state of Gujarat but 19 in one place and 13 in another. Rail sing Loti who was one of the 19 joined in and told us that they all returned to Bhitada after 3 years as the land that they were given was low lying and each year it would get heavily waterlogged with the rains and all their crops would get destroyed.
Tarkya Pida from the other 13 group says they will not move till they are (all 32families) rehabilitated together at some location that is livable and conducive to farming.
Lunch : bajra rotis lentils and khichri very tasty.
We took our leave and left for Anjanwada hoping the villagers would be back… they were Khajabhai Supa, his elder brother Budhiya Supa Zhanzhadiya Mangtya, Lalsing Danya and some others were in fact waiting for us. Over really sweet black tea and freshly plucked cucumbers we started talking. Their village was affected by submergence much earlier in 1998, and they lost about 100 houses . 19 families took the rehabilitation package 3 years ago, 22more have been declared ‘eligible’ and the othe remaining 60 have been left with nothing. Kanjibhai is among the 22 but has refused rehabilitation as his other 5 five brothers have been offerd rehabilitation in Madhya Pradesh and he in Gujarat. The brothers have refused to move if they are not together.
It was getting late now it wa already 4:30pm We had a 90 minute boat ride and then a 40 minute ride back on the motor cycle, I was supposed to go back to Dhadgaon, load my luggage and continue on my journey. But by the time we got back it was almost 7 and the light was fading. It was risky to attempt the ride down the mountains in the dark so I stayed back.