Saturday, July 30, 2016

Huge anti-Narmada dam rally in Badwani, MP, against "illegal" submergence, Gujarat oustees participate

Medha Patkar leads rally in Badwani
By Our Representative
A large number of Narmada dam oustees from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat thronged on the banks of river Narmada next to the Mahatma and Kasturba Gandhi Memorial in Badwani district of Madhya Pradesh on Saturday to protest against the alleged injustice meted out to them the name of rehabilitation.
Begun under the banner Narmada Jal, Jangal, Jameen Haq Satyagrah on July 30, 2016 morning with a rally, the protesters highlighted how the Modi government, on coming to power in 2014, took a decision to “impose illegal submergence” by authorizing to complete the dam to its full height 138.68 meters.
This, they said, was in “violation” of the Supreme Court ruling that any “expedition of construction is has to precede complete rehabilitation of the dam oustees.”
The participants included adivasi oustees from different resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) sites, who have started an agitation and a relay hunger strike next to the Narmada dam site at Kevadia Colony. They are demanding basic facilities in their sites.
Senior activists from 15 states, including Karnataka, Kerala, UP, Odisha, Bihar, Jharkand, Uttaranchal, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, Haryana, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Delhi participated in the demonstration. 
Prominent among them were Biju Krishnan of Bhumi Adhikar Andolan from Karnataka, senior Gandhian Kumar Prashant who is associated with Gandhi Shanti Pratishthan, Delhi, Dr Sunilam of the Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and Vimalbhai of Matu Jansangathan, Uttarakhand.
Pointing towards how the proposal to close the Narmada dam’s gates would permanently displace more than 45,000 families, mostly adivasis, across 244 villages and Dharampuri town in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, they said, they faced “the grave risk of submergence of their farms and households”.
Speaking ahead of the satyagraha, water and dam specialist Major General Sudhir Vombadkere, from Mysore said, “The long struggling people’s movement has been deprived of legislative, governmental, and bureaucratic support. I have written to the Prime Minister, but have received no response.” 
Gujarat activist Bharatsinh Jhala, a land rights activist, said, “It was told that all the Gujarat villages will get irrigation. We haven't seen it being provided to any villages or farmers. Water is available only to industries. Water may have reached till Kutch, but only for industries, not for farmers, or adivasis.”
Jhala added, “2000 plus villages in Gujarat have seen full droughts and partial droughts repeatedly in the last few years but Narmada water has not reached them. We now understand that Medha Parkar is not anti-Gujarat, but the development model of the government is actually anti-Gujarat.”
Referring to the Justice Jha commission report, which is said to have exposed thousands of crores worth of corruption in rehabilitating Madhya Pradesh oustees, BR Patil, independent Karnataka MLA and ex-deputy-speaker, regretted it has not been made public. “It needs to be discussed in the assembly and among the general public”, he said.
Referring to the response from the Government of India to her letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) said she was disappointed to see it was a “regurgitation of a report from year 2000”, adding, “It even states that the dam will get completed in 2004! This is the degree of apathy with which the government is treating such grave problems in the lives of 45,000 families.”
The protesters said the claims about irrigation and drinking water benefits have proved untenable, with only 30-35 per cent irrigation canal network built in Gujarat.
Other issues highlighted included the decision to decommand four lakh hectares (ha) of land of the 18 lakh ha the proposed Narmada command area, how this was being done to favour industrial and investment activities in the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), and how the state government had agreed to supply 30 lakh litres of Narmada water per day to Coca Cola and 60 lakh litres to car industries.

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