Indifference by the PMO even as 40,000 Project Affected Persons Face a Watery Grave: NBA

The fight for justice shall continue, asserts the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA)

The recent High Level meeting in Delhi chaired by the Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Mishra and attended by the Chief Secretaries of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra on May 6 was scheduled to deal with issues and fallout vis a vis the Sardar Sarovar Project. The meeting itself and its outcome reveals the deep sense of apathy and indifference of the present regime(s) –Central and respective State governments– to the plight of the thousands internally displaced persons (IDPs) and project-affected from the Narmada valley.

The NAPM (National Alliance of People’s Movements) in a detailed analysis issued from Badwani in Madhya Pradesh (MP) has said that while the state governments of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have been directed to expedite Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) process for the IDPs, the government of Gujarat (GOG), in what is believed to be a public relations exercise prior to the assembly polls due in that state in 2017, is desperate to give a favourable spin to its oft-exposed and repeated claim that the completion of the dam would immensely increase the irrigation potential within the state. The dry and arid regions of Kutch and Saurashtra expose this claim. The GOG is under additional pressure due to the simmering Patidar agitation in the state.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) has consistently reiterated that this alleged “irrigation benefit” has been directed only towards industries in the state. It appears that this trend is set to continue under the current neo-liberal regime characteristic of the infallible belief in ‘growth without limits’.

All the state governments involved in this 35 year old protest and attendant conflict have, according to the NBA, made repeated and unsubstantiated claims which include the claim that there has been a complete rehabilitation of the Projected Affected Persons. Consistently the NBA has countered these with documented on ground evidence. These have been validated by official inquiries including in the ongoing proceedings infront of GRA or the numbers (of corruption) unearthed by the Jha Commsssion. The struggle led by the NBA has been fought on several fronts, including within the courts: the truncated successes have in a sense exposed the laxity with which offending state governments are viewed and treated by even the judiciary.
The NBA has said, with documentation to back their claim, that not less than 40,000 families in Madhya Pradesh will to face the threat of watery grave this Monsoon. “Faced with this impending human tragedy, how does one counter the Chief Secretary of a state who reports ‘compliance’ and merely demands 350 crore rupeers for rehabilitation’ asks NBA?

In the recent meeting under the direct supervision with a highly placed official of the PMO, the Chief Secretary of Gujarat is reported to have claimed that “Maharashtra has only around 300 families to be resettled while MP needs to settle more – around 1200 families”; numbers which the NBA insists are nowhere even close to the actual figures.

For instance, in Maharashtra alone, there are about 791 declared families; a figure which was arrived at following jointly prepared report after a thorough check up of all documents in the Collectors office by both, activists from the NBA and the Collectors’ men over several months in 2015. This figure does not include the 300-400 yet to be declared project affected families (PAFs) who are currently at the mercy of the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) chaired by a retired High Court judge, in the same state.

The State’s brute force and its unyielding arrogance asserts itself blatantly, particularly so under the current Central Government’s disposition. The effort is nothing but a facade to cover decades of ‘destruction’ in the name of ‘development’ that seeks to hide, under a veil, the inhuman treatment meted out to the people affected by this project!

Such a falsehood, unprecedented in history, needs to be countered not before the Courts of justice but in people’s court in which about 40,000 families, communities within the submergence area need support of all those who are courageous to challenge the present paradigm of development.

[ The NBA document was authored by Devram Kanera, Kamla Yadav, Gokhru Bhilala, Kailash Awasya, Bhagirath Dhangar, Mohan Patidar, Kailash Yadav, Mudubhai Machhwara, Devisingh Tomar, Yogini Khanolkar, Noorji Vasave, Chetan Salve, Jiku Tadvi, Pemal Behan, Ramesh Prajapati, Sanovar B Mansoori, Lokesh Patidar, Shyama Behan, Rahul Yadav, Mukesh Bhagoriya, Khema Bhilala, Medha Patkar]



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