The Sardar Sarovar Dam threatens submergence of 40,000 families and a village and region rich in tradition and civilizataion. The tale of the struggle of the Narmada evacuees is, on the flip side a tale of non-compliance of Court Orders and the basic requirements of accountability and transparency and accountability in a democracy. Today, despite the robust struggle and satyagraha of the evacuees–including the 17-day fast of its leaders –the Modi regime plans to “celebrate” this kind of development, using his upcoming borthday, September 17 to inflict more systematic and real damage on a vibrant, struggling, people. In this context, the media’s relative silence and turning a blind eye to the issues behind the struggle bear serious scrutiny. The absence of the OB Van and the scremaing headlines have allowed urban India and Indians to simply brush aside the serious questions put forward by this over thirty year old struggle.
We did our little bit in ensuring fair coverage of the issue. This we will continue to do. Here is the text of the letter sent to Sabrangindia by Medha Patkar and her team:
Dear Teesta and Sabrang Team,
The struggle by people in the Narmada valley has completed one phase but entered another, more challenging and oppressive, for thousands of families.
We are extremely thankful to you for your support during various mass actions, 17 days fast and confinement in the hospitals as well as Dhar and Badwani jails, all as a part of our ‘Satyagrah’ on the path of Ahimsa, especially visiting Narmada Valley. Our various statements, letters, actions and reactions by our satyagrahis in the streets, inside the parliament, and at different fora, local to national and international too, boosted our morale, and compelled the state government of MP but not the Centre, to respond in its own way. The Centre chose to remain callous, dumb and mute.
he Prime Minister with the Government of Gujarat is to gift the Sardar Sarovar Dam to the People on September 17, his birthday, with a grand celebration spending crores of Rs, which is a mockery of development and justice both. Will it not be Jashna-e-Maut if the Dam (138.68 meters high) leads to filling of waters upto 214 kms upstream, submerging large and small village communities with houses, farmers and grazing grounds, shops, temples, mosques, panchayats, government buildings and thousands of trees too? The Dam can’t be declared as completed at this stage. When environmental compensation in varied aspects such as archeological preservation, catchment area treatment, command area development, compensatory afforestation, health too are left half way as another large Dams, how can the project be declared as completed and be gifted to the Nation?
The issue of ‘No displacement without fair and just, legal and constitutionally mandatory rehabilitation’ is still not resolved. While all the concerned state governments and the Central Authorities under the Ministry of Water Resources, Social Justice and Environment made false claims of compliance on social and environmental aspects, the ground level facts don’t indicate those. The clearances granted to affidavits filed before the Apex Court are based on the incorrect figures and falsehood. These because the basis for Modi Government’s decision, with the State Government of MP, Maharashtra and Rajasthan (from the periphery) hands-in-gloves, to complete the construction of Sardar Sarovar Dam, without rehabilitation.
There are near about 40,000 families even today living in the submergence area, including 15,946 families whom the government has excluded declaring “un affected by lowered back water level”, unscientifically after having acquired their houses and transferred those in the name of Narmada Valley Development Authority, MP. All the announcements made by the CM, MP and changed later in the official government orders have many provisions/ benefits offered which involves legal violations. The people have rejected those to a larger extent. The promises of livelihood with rights to fishworkers, potters and other landless are yet to be fulfilled. How can they be claimed as rehabilitated?
The rehabilitation sites are also far from established since the work on basic amenities, now contracted with or without tenders, costing crores of Rs is not completed. Glossy photographs placed before the Courts doe not exhibits the inadequacies and absence of basic amenities. Supreme Court packages ordered in NBA’s writ petition (February, 2017) of 60 lakhs and 15 lakhs are yet to disbursed 50% and more to the beneficiaries. All this and temporary accommodation with tin sheds, food and grass offered through contractors instead of permanent rehabilitation, thousands of families in MP for 3/4 months is absolutely against law (Narmada Tribunal Award), State Rehabilitation Policy and Supreme Court judgments.
All socio cultural and religious sites are not yet shifted and trees not fell obviously since lakhs of people are yet to be rehabilitated. The government of MP cannot even claim compliance when huge corruption by officials and agents is already concluded by Justice Jha Commission after 7 years of enquiry monitored by the High Court of MP.
It is also clear that the project is benefitting, not the drought affected and farmers as much as the corporate in Gujarat through water supply (30 lakh liters per day to Coca Cola, for eg.) with original plans changed in their favour while no water share is to be received from S. Sarovar by MP and Maharashtra, at all. Narmada is not flooded yet while Gujarat has lost about 300 lives with over flowing rivers and tanks with no need for Narmada waters this year atleast. The water available since 2006 was not even used by them beyond 30-40 percent.
The peoples’ movement in Narmada, posing strictly non violent challenge to the violent state, is being suppressed by MP and Gujarat Government, with false cases filed against hundreds of the affected, the activists and a few supporters which are being condemned and aptly challenged through legal battle with our dedicated advocates. Our case before the High Court on rehabilitation is fixed for hearing on 7th September 2017 in Indore but official replies are far from the truth.
It is in this background that Mr. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister, is to attend Narmada Yatra (September 6- 17), on the last day i.e 17th September reaching the Dam site with Ratha Yatra (80 chariots) from all over Gujarat, hundreds of Sadhus, BJP Chief Ministers of different States and crores of rupees worth celebration. No doubt, it is preparation for the upcoming elections in Gujarat and the next Loksabha ballet too, at the cost of Narmada, its people and nature.
- We just concluded our Narmada Nyay Yatra covering all affected villages and pledging to fight for human, social, and legal justice.
- Do join us in questioning this, challenging the rhetoric and politics of falsehood and political expediency.
- Do plan meetings, debates, press meets and other actions on Narmada, Displacement and Development, linking with the common issues in your area/state urgently.
- Plan a letter campaign and write to the PM, CP and CJI condemning injustice and demanding justice.
We will get back to you with more programs and appeal for support. Do suggest us strategies and programmes you may think of.Thanking you again for all your supportive actions without which we wouldn’t have achieved whatever we did. We are sure that you will be with us in the upcoming phases as well.
With warm regards,
Medha Patkar, Kamla Yadav, Rahul Yadav, Bhagirath Dhangar, Sanober Bi, Ranveer Tomar, Himshi Singh