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Footmarch against Narmada dam height begins, warns of "fraudulent" submergence calculation

By Our Representative
The Narmada yatra to protest the ongoing construction of the Narmada dam, which is being raised 121.92 metres to 138.64 metres, began at Khalghat in Madhya Pradesh on August 6 under the leadership of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar. Being carried out along the Narmada river, and targeting villages that come on way, padyatra participants warned villagers that the construction, when completed, will mean “watery grave” to them.
The padyatra or footmarch is being held against the backdrop of the decision of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), the official body responsible for allowing different stages of construction of the dam on the basis of resettlement of the oustees, to calculate back water level (BWL) at 144.62 metres. This would mean that only those who would face Narmada floods up to 144.62 metres at Khalghat, for instance, would be resettled.
NBA said, “As per website data of the Government of Gujarat of March 2015, the BWL of Khalghat is shown as 149.84 metres.” It believed, with this calculation, at least 16,000 people would be exposed to submergence, especially during floods.
This is “as one of the biggest frauds of our times, it said, adding, "The NCA has in the name of 'revision' of BWL unlawfully and unscientifically thrown 16,000 families 'out of submergence', all of who were previously declared as 'affected' and were to be given resettlement benefits.” 
 To reach Rajghat in Badwani -- situated about 70 kilometres away, not very far from the borders of Gujarat -- on August 12, an NBA communique on the footmarch said, “As the Government of India races ahead to complete the monstrous Narmada dam upto 139 metres, with installation of 17 metres of radial gates, sounding the death knell of 2.5 lakh people in the Narmada valley, thousands of affected villages gear up for an intense struggle to face the rising waters and the might of the state, challenging the illegal genocide in the hilly and plain areas.”
Calling it “development without rehabilitation”, the NBA claimed, the “Jevan Adhikar Yatra” was getting support of “hundreds of women, men and children”, who are coming forward to welcome the footmarchers “with banners, slogans, drum beats, jingles, songs and dance demanded the 'Right to Life', questioning the destruction being forced upon them, by the submergence of living
communities in the name of progress”.
With plans afoot to begin an indefinite satyagraha on the banks of Rajghat from August 12, Sarvodayaist Chinmay Mishra told one of the meetings on way, marking Hiroshima Day on August 8, that, thanks to pressure from the people along Narmada river, the Narendra Modi government is considering to drop its decision to amend the Land Acquisition Act (LAA), 2013. The amendment required dropping crucial consent and social impact asssessment clauses from the LAA.
Patkar stressed, “After 30 years of resilience, the present phase of the struggle is the most crucial test for the NBA and the people of the valley.” She qualified it as “a battle between justice and injustice, between truth and lies, between development and destruction”, adding, “It is a choice between life and death, and we don’t have a choice, but struggle.” She administered a vow to the oustees of the Narmada protect to fight on with waters in their hands.
Senior anti-mining activist from the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), Rajasthan, Kailash Meena, addressing villagers, stressed on the need to resist “the onslaught on the land, lives and livelihoods of the natural-resource based communities.” Chetan Salve, another activist, asked the oustees, majority of whom are adivasis, to cling on to their right to land and obtained land-based rehabilitation at resettlement sites, instead of getting cash.
The footmarch received support from volunteers of the Programme for Social Action, Delhi; Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Mumbai; and Ferguson College, Pune. During their interaction, said NBA, they “met and interacted with hundreds of farmers, landless, fish workers, shopkeepers and other oustees in the villages of Manavar and Dharampuri tehsils, encountering thousands of cases of denial of right to alternative land, house plots, alternative livelihood.”
“Most of them continue to remain in the original villages where schools, panchayats, temples, mosques, shops, countless trees exist, along with the agriculture and livelihoods. Very few families have shifted to the resettlement sites, where the civic amenities as per law are still unavailable or inadequate and many sites are still uninhabitable, with severe problems of water, health”, NBA added.

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