Bhopal/Chikhalda village (Madhya Pradesh): Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activist Medha Patkar’s indefinite hunger strike demanding rehabilitation of those displaced due to Gujarat’s Sardar Sarovar Dam entered the 11th day on Sunday (6 August, 2017).
Ms. Patkar is sitting on an indefinite fast at Chikhalda village in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. She is protesting against the “forced eviction” of families to be affected by submergence once the water level in the Sardar Sarovar dam is raised beyond 122 meters.
Talking exclusively to Newsroom24x7 on Sunday, the NBA leader accused the Government of fudging the list of those to be evicted, which has been published in the official gazette. It includes names of even those who have left the place forty years ago whereas those who are still living there do not figure in this list, she pointed out.
The NBA leader drew attention to the Supreme Court order earlier this year directing payment of final compensation to all the families affected by the Narmada project. This order passed by a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, directs payment of Rs. 6 million each to the affected families. The bench has also directed payment of Rs. 1.5 million each to the 1,358 families who had received partial compensation.
The NBA leader accused the Madhya Pradesh Government of making false claims that all have been rehabilitated. Instead of land-for-land, the State Government was ready to give Rs. 5,50,000 before the Supreme Court order. In this regard, she explained that the apex court has directed the state government to pay enhanced compensation of Rs. 6 million to those who have neither accepted land nor any package.
When asked about the outcome of her meeting with a delegation of State Government officers who had come to meet her yesterday, Ms. Patkar said that they had come on behalf of the chief minister. They did not have the powers to take any decision on the spot. On a police officer being part of the team of officers sent by the chief minister, she said the Government feels it is insecure everywhere. She lapped it up by adding that their slogan is: “Sarkar humse darti hai police ko age karti hai” (the government is afraid of us that is why it keeps the police as a shield).
Briefing on the outcome of her meeting with the state government officers, the NBA leader said that they expressed helplessness saying that lack the authority to say anything on the issue of filling the dam. They talked of many announcements, besides a Rs. 900 crore package and distribution of houses.
Offering her reaction, the NBA leader said that there is a difference between announcements and the orders issued for their implementation. Today we are going to release a comparison between announcements and what people have got so far, she announced.
Focusing attention on the plight of the dam affected people, Ms. Patkar said that they have provided temporary shelters but under the law, no one’s property can be submerged without complete rehabilitation. Negating the provision of land for land, they are saying go to Gujarat and take land in that state but the Narmada Tribunal has been absolutely clear on this issue that those who do not want to go to Gujarat will have to given land here (in Madhya Pradesh). Drawing a comparison, she said that In Maharashtra, they have given land to 4000 people.
In Madhya Pradesh, they introduced a package for the dam affected villagers in 2001, which was expanded in 2005. There was lot of corruption and its implementation turned into a huge scam, the NBA leader alleged.
On the present arrangements to rehabilitate the villagers, Ms. Patkar asked: How can they live in tin sheds, where will they accommodate their belongings? The cattle population is 99,000 and there are 88,000 big trees in 38 affected villages she said adding they have manipulated and reduced the number of total villages coming under submergence to 176 on the basis of backwater. She also leveled the charge that even the list of those who were supposed to be evicted by 31 July this year, which has been published in the gazette notification by the Government, has been fudged and includes names of those who have left the place forty years ago whereas those who are living there do not figure in this list.
Ms. Patkar said that 15946 families have been compensated by NVDA but now they are saying that they do not come under the submergence area. Hence we are asking them to return them their homes.
Emphasising that water level in Sardar Sarovar should not be raised without the rehabilitation of families affected by Saradar Sarovar dam, Ms Patkar said when the lakes and reservoirs that were supposed to be filled by the water from Sardar Sarovar dam are already filled to the brim and there is a flood like situation in Gujarat, why do you want to raise the dam’s water level. They have been able to use only 30% of the water stored in the dam since 2006. Why don’t they use all that water at 122 meter. Next year again it will rain, they have huge plans to build bridges, roads and canals as a large land mass will come under submergence and new islands will be created once the dam gets filled to its full capacity. Moreover people’s houses are still to be built. They can’t be expected to live in tin sheds. Why don’t they complete the pending work before raising the water level. The Supreme Court has given clear instructions. First these have to be followed and only then comes the issue of vacating the villages.”
In a strong message to the Madhya Prasdesh Chief Minister, the NBA leader said:
“Even today you have a win-win situation. Do not become a slave of Gujarat. Serve the interests of Madhya Pradesh.”