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Medha Patkar's health deteriorates as anti-Narmada dam protest fast enters ninth day; solidarity action in Delhi

By Our Representative
The health of prominent Narmada Bachao Andolan(NBA) leader Medha Patkar, on indefinite hunger strike along oath 11 of her colleagues for the ninth day in Chikhalda village of Kukshi tehsil, is said to have deteriorated. An official communique by NBA said, her supporters spent "sleepless night" on Thursday, as the situation of Patkar and three others turned "critical."
In an early morning statement on Friday, NBA has asked all those who stand by her "cause" of seeking full and final rehabilitation of an estimated 40,000 families who, it is alleged, might face submergence in case the Narmada dam's waters are taken to the full reservoir level of 138.64 meters by closing its 30 gates, to "pressure" governments of India and of Madhya Pradesh to open a dialogue with her.
The statement comes amidst Medha supporters beginning protest hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, in which those who participated include well known political scientist, Swaraj India'sYogendra Yadav, top Gandhian and Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey, Aam Aadmi Part's Alok Agrawal, senior environmentalist Soumya Dutta, and activists Dr Sunilam, Kamla Yadav and Kailash Awasya.
A rehabilitation site offered to oustees
Amidst reports that those who have declared solidarity with her include senior RTI activist and Magsaysay awardee Aruna Roy, Gujarat Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and others, hundreds of oustees from Narmada Valley have reached Jantar Mantar demanding "just" rehabilitation.
Dr Sunilam, who has begun indefinite solidarity fast in support of Patkar, said their struggle is against "illegal submergence and forced eviction", adding, he challenges ministers of the Madhya Pradesh government to go and live in the rehabilitation sites for 24 hours in tin shades offered to "forcefully resettle the people of Narmada Valley."
Alok Agarwal, referring to the claims of the Madhya Pradesh government about electricity generation from the Narmada dam, and of the Gujarat government of providing water to parched lands, said, Madhya Pradesh is "already a surplus state in terms of electricity generation. And, around 200 people have already died from flood in Gujarat due to negligence of Gujarat in planning and construction of decentralized water reservoirs."
He added, "Neither Gujarat is deficient of water nor Madhya Pradesh of electricity."
Yogendra Yadav said that NBA has challenged the discourse of "so-called development causing huge displacement and taking away people’s rights of life and livelihood", adding,"More than 15,000 people affected from Sardar Sarovar project have been able to get the land for land due to consistent struggle led by NBA."
Toilets without gates at a rehab site
However, he said, "The government is insensitive and producing false affidavit in the Supreme Court causing injustices. More than 40,000 families in Narmada Valley are still waiting for rehabilitation not the submergence."
Sandeep Pandey spoke about the achievements of the NBA and plight of the people, adding, "Development cannot be done at the cost of people and their democratic rights. The government has neither done development nor been able to protect the fundamental rights of people till now."
Others who spoke on the occasion included activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Rajendra Ravi, Faisal Khan, and Madhuresh Kumar, who talked the attempt of forceful eviction that the government is trying consistently in the valley without ensuring the rehabilitation of the Narmada dam affected people.
They criticized the game of implicating NBA activists and villages into false cases of abducting officials, pointing out that the health of 11 people of Narmada Valley and Medha Patkar sitting on fast was deteriorating as the indefinite continued.
Solidarity action in Delhi
Around 30 children from the Nav Jagriti Collective from Madhya Pradesh joined the indefinite solidarity fast and talked with officials about NBA and its struggle and achievements.
Others who joined the Jantar Mantar protest included Prof KB Saxena, Advocate Sanjay Parikh and activist Manoranjan Mohanty, Annie Raja of the National Federation of Indian Women, AAP spokesperson Ashutosh, and Swaraj India general secretary Navneet.

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