Madhya Pradesh Narmada dam oustees shave their head to tell Modi: Your governance is “dead”
|Protest in Bhopal
In a unique protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday bash, scheduled for September 17 at the Narmada dam, 30 of the dam’s oustees shaved their heads in order to tell the Madhya Pradesh government that as far as they were concerned, its governance was “dead”. The birthday bash, seen as brazen by protesters, will see Modi dedicating the “completed” Narmada dam to the nation.
Part of what they called”chunauti dharna” or challenge protest, which lasted for two hours at Neelam Park, Bhopal, speakers on the occasion said, Modi would celebrate his birthday in the presence of the chief ministers of BJP-ruled states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, at a time when people living in the Narmada Valley — adivasis, farmers, dalits, workers, fisher people, artisans, women, children and others — would be fatally affected.
The people of valley and their supporters would challenge the unjustified submergence being brought to them without proper rehabilitation, they said, adding, the celebration was being organized by Modi for political gains.
|Protest in Delhi
People had come from all over the valley, and, following the dharna, it was decided to hold mass protest at Barda (near Anjad, District Badwani), where many religious places are in the submergence area, something not acknowledged in government reports.
Led by the anti-dam Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) the Chetavani rally saw an intensive dialogue with a senior Narmada official, Rajneesh Vaish, principal secretary, Narmada Valley Development Authority. Vaish told the protesters that all the oustees’ issues have “already been debated and decided upon by various courts.”
When NBA leader Medha Patkar said that the rehabilitation sites were far from complete, Vaish claimed, water supply had already been provided to all the sites. However, oustees from Nisarpur and Awalda told him true. An oustee, Rameshwar Bhilala, said, the Barwani district collector was not providing true picture of the sites.
|Protest in Mumbai
Vaish claimed, Madhya Pradesh would receive receive irrigation and drinking water from the Sardar Sarovar reservoir and there was no legal barrier for this, adding, he would ensure that the demand of getting reservoir waters to every resettlement sites were met. He admitted, some of the outstanding works would soon be completed, and tenders were in the process of being issued.
Meanwhile, reports from Nisarpur village said, the Shivling of Shiva Temple at the banks Narmada tributary, Uri-Baghni, was forcibly uprooted amidst opposition of the people. People of the village were being shifted to rehabilitation sites which were not yet equipped with adequate water, proper house plots, roads and basic amenities.
In a parallel development, a group of prominent citizens protested in front of the Ministry of Water Resources and submitted memorandum to the Secretary in New Delhi. Those were in the delegation included Hannan Mollah (former Member of Parliament, CPM); Richa Singh (National Alliance of People’s Movements), Krishna Prasad (All-India Kisan Sabha), Vimal Bhai (Matu Jansangathan), and others.
|Madhya Pradesh protesters dialogue in Bhopal
In their representation, they said, the Government of India’s response to the oustees’ problems was “apathetic, shameless and completely undemocratic.” They added, “In Gujarat, canals are incomplete, and the government has reduced the planned irrigation command area from 18 lakh hectares to mere 12 lakh hectares last year.”
“Even then they are only able to irrigate mere 3 lakh hectares”, they said, adding, “Meanwhile, The length of Narmada canal was reduced consistently and silently. From earlier planned 90,389 km, it has been reduced to approximately 71000 km, of which still they need to construct 42,000 km of canal network.”
They wondered, “By closing gates of the Sardar Sarovar dam, and submerging people of the Narmada valley, whom are they providing water without canals? Modi’s Narmada mahotsav has been planned only to highlight the government’s lies. It is merely a campaign for votebank politics.”
In a simultaneous development, Maharashtra tribals protested in Mumbai, asking chief minister Devendra Fadnavis not to participate in Modi’s birthday bash at the Narmada dam on September 17, submitting a memorandum, which said the state’s oustees’ rehabilitation issues had still not been settled.