Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Iconic Irom Sharmila, Manipur human rights activist, backs anti-Narmada dam stir, wants Modi to rehab oustees

Irom Sharmila
By Our Representative
Some of India's top personalities, including iconic Manipur social activist Irom Sharmila, well-known right to information (RTI) activist Aruna Roy and filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to allow the Narmada dam's gates to be closed till completion of the rehabilitation of thousands of oustees.
Sharmila's decision to join the cause of the Narmada oustees is considered significant, as she – known as the "Iron Lady"or "Mengoubi" ("the fair one") was on hunger strike from November 2, 2000, to August 9, 2016, to protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives immunity to security forces from allegations of human rights violations.
Others who have signed a letter to Modi are Shankar Singh of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan; Admiral (retd) L Ramdas, former Chief of Naval Staff; Lalita Ramdas, human rights activist; Harsh Mander, bureaucrat-turned-social worker; Maj Gen SGVombatkere, VSM (retd), Mysuru; Dr Sunilam, former MLA, Madhya Pradesh; and Suhas Kolhekar, National Alliance of People's Movements.
Asking Modi to engage with the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which they say has been representing the Narmada dam oustees for the last 31 years, in a dialogue, “aiming to develop a just and complete rehabilitation plan”, the letter notes that, it is “with a heavy heart” that they want to bring to his attention the “plight of the communities affected by the Narmada dam.”
The letter says, “We are sure that you are conversant with a lot of facts about the dam, having relentlessly pushed the dam height as the chief minister of Gujarat, despite the rehabilitation far from complete, and having given clearance to complete the dam, with gates, on the 17th day of your Prime Ministership.”
“However”, it adds, “The fact is that there are thousands of families and a few lakhs of people residing in the villages, who yet to be rehabilitated”, something which either the officials are willfully concealing from him, or he failing “to take cognisance of.”
The letter underlines, “There are no less that 15,900 families who are declared to be outside the submergence zone (even after granting them part of the rehabilitation entitlements) with a stroke of a pen, that too after 30 years since the dam was planned and approved.”
Saying that this is “something which astonishes us to no limit”, the letter says, “Can the lives of our citizens be so valueless that a few bureaucrats can play around with their plight as effortlessly as this?”
“As a Prime Minister who ran an election campaign on anti-corruption plank, we expected you to take exemplary action against officials in Madhya Pradesh involved in the corruption as exposed by Justice SS Jha Commission, unearthing corruption to the tune of not less than Rs 1,500 crore in the fake sale deeds of land meant for the affected communities”, the letter says.
It adds, “Instead, we are witnessing an endorsement of the same, with you and the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh taking no action, and instead, letting to go the dam complete based on false records.”
The letter points out, “Hundreds of people displaced in 1960s because of the dam are sitting on a relay fast in Kevadia Colony since last June 15, demanding full rehabilitation and employment, yet the Gujarat government has taken no initiative for a composite dialogue.”
This is apart from hundreds of women and men affected by the dam is on a Satyagraha at Badwani, Madhya Pradesh since July 30, all of whom are also seeking to be rehabilitated, the letter says.

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