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Anti-Narmada dam footmarch ends, satyagrahis begin indefinite protest against impending submergence

By Our Representative
Medha Patkar-led six-day padyatra along Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh has ended after activists led by her moved from village to village, through lush green fields and thickly populated bastis meeting thousads of Sardar Sarovar Dam-affected oustees, apprising them of the dangers of submergence because of taking the dam from 121.92 metres to full reservoir level of 139 metres.Called Jeevan Aadhikar Yatra, on reaching Badwani's Raj Ghat they began indefinite satyagraha with the participation of farmers, landless workers, fisher people, others both in the submergence affected villages and resettlement sites of Badwani and Dhar districts.
Over the six days, the yatra passed through 25 villages of Dharampuri, Manavar and Badwani Tehsils. A Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) statement said that "the reality that emerged from virtually everywhere was of incomplete rehabilitation, denial of cultivable land to farmer and livelihood sources to the landless workers, and fishing rights to the fisher people."
There was large-scale "corruption in cash disbursements, deplorable civic amenities at the resettlement sites, unlawful submergence without provision of resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R), and most shockingly, fraudulent change in the backwater levels,stripping 16,000 families of the R&R benefits", the statement said.
Among activists and experts who joined the yatra on different days and expressed solidarity with the struggle were Kailash Meena, Anti-Mining Activist, Rajasthan; Yashwant Bapu, Anti-Corruption Activist, Maharashtra; Satish Bhingare, Former Secretary, Water Resources, Maharashtra; Suniti S.R., NAPM and Editor, Andolan Magazine, Pune; Ramesh Kode, activist, Mumbai; students from Pune, Jharkhand, Ahmednagar and activists of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan.
Participating in the yatra, and remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki from August 6 to 9 and calling upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi-Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Chauhan duo to “Quit Narmada” on the Quit India Day and Adivasi Rights Day, "the valley exposed through numerous examples, the fraud in the entire rehabilitation process and illegality in the decision to raise the height of Narmada dam, catering to corporate interests", NBA said.
There were packed meetings "in halls, under trees and in the streets of all the villages with the participation . hundreds of women and men, from various villages", NBA said, adding, the places visited included Dharampuri Town villages Khalghat, Pipaldagadi, Sala, Nimbola, Khujawa, Khatadgaon, Hatnavar, Sulgaon of Dharampuri Tehsil; Gogawa, Malangaon, Bada Barda, Sharikpura, Perkhad, Kothada, Sarasgaon, Jalkheda of Manavar Tehsil and villages Chhota Barda, Piplud, Pipri, Avli-Segaon, Kundia, Kasaravad and Pichhodi.
On August 12, thousands of oustees from different villages assembled at Shaheed Chowk and marched towards Rajghat, pasting the main streets of Badwani, appealing to the town that their doom would not be far away, if all the surrounding villages were damned by Sardar Sarovar.
Thousands of people began an indefinite at the satyagraha at Rajghat, until the Government relents and resolves the issue. The protesters were joined by more than 200 supporters from Mumbai who, after having fought at Mandala for their right to housing recently, were now "with their brethren in the Narmada valley," NBA said.
Earlier, Patkar wrote an open Letter to the Prime Minister, calling him to "convey his Mann ki baat on the realities of Sardar Sarovar". The letter was read out in village Semalda. Drawing a poetic parallel between Uttarakhand and Kedarnath disasters, the letter warned of the impending catastrophe due to the cascade of dams on the Narmada.

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