Saturday, August 23, 2014

Activists' "fact-finding" tour of MP, Gujarat, Maharashtra to survey plight of 2.5 lakh Narmada dam oustees

NBA's Medha Patkar during the Samvaad Yatra 
By Our Representative
About 150 supporters from 15 states across India began their three-day Narmada Adhikar Samvaad Yatra, interacting with hundreds of Sardar Sarovar affected from Khalghat, Chhota Barda and Pipri. They observed “flawed backwater levels, corruption and lack of rehabilitation” against the backdrop of the decision of the Government of India to raise the Narmada dam. The anti-dam Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) said in a statement that the the intensive fact-finding tour will go to “various Sardar Sarovar Project affected villages in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat” and made a declaration at the end.
The team includes a hydrologist, environmentalists, farmer's leaders, trade unionists, lawyers, academics, researchers, architects, social work students, representatives of various social movements and organizations, as also some supporters from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Activists mainly consisted of representatives from the Polavaram Dam struggle, the Mahaan Sangharsh Samiti, the Kudankulam anti-nuclear struggle, and movements associated with National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM). A few environmentalists from Gujarat also participated.
The NBA statement, signed by its leader Medha Patkar and others, said, “The visit has been organised in the context of the recent illegal decision by the Narendra Modi government to increase the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam by 17 meters”. It claimed, this would “submerge the farms, homes and hearths of more than 2.5 lakh people living in 245 thickly populated affected villages.”
In their visit to village Khalghat (tehsil Dharampuri) in Madhya Pradesh, the Yatra participants observed how Khalghat and 55 other villages “suffered because of submergence”, and most of the families which faced the brunt were “poor workers and fisher people”, who faced submergence in the monsoon of 2012 and 2013.
“A large gathering of more than 500 people saw vibrant expression of support responding to the reality exposed by the oustees”, the statement contended, adding, “The support also came in from former MLA Panchilal Meda who admitted that not just in Khalghat but in numerous villages in the Dharmpuri area, thousands of families are yet to be rehabilitated.”
The statement said, “The women in particular, who were present in large numbers, expressed a resolution to intensify their struggle in the days to come. Similar was the situation in villages Chhota Barda and Pipri where rallies were organised and hundreds expressed their support to the legitimate demands of the NBA.” The team halted at the tribal village Mandil which is has been severely affected by the excavation by the Indira Sagar canals.
On August 24, a massive rally is scheduled to be organized at Badwani, where the people affected by submergence would participate. They will make a new declaration for the future course of action, the NBA said, adding, “On the third day the supporters would visit hilly adivasi village at Manibeli after a road and boat journey.”

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