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Narmada dam stands like statue, not satiating Kutch-Saurashtra thirst: Medha to Modi

Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar
Counterview Desk
Commenting on the Prime Minister's recent speech in Parliament, top Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar and her colleagues* have said that Narendra Modi's statement on Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) on Narmada river is "rootless and proofless", insisting, the Madhya Pradesh government’s stand on the issue, of inability to provide more water to the dam, is "rational and realistic".
In their strongly-worded critique, they have said that the Prime Minister cannot be expected to act like the chief minister of Gujarat and be callous about lakhs of people in the Narmada valley, their nature and culture.

Text:

In his response to the President’s address in the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t forget to refer to the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), which he considers his pet project for himself and his state, Gujarat. He also boasted about the successful completion of the gigantic dam of SSP on the Narmada river.
The dam is no doubt standing like a statue, but the fact is, it has neither served the real purpose of satiating the thirst of the drought-affected Kutch and Saurashtra, as promised, nor have lakhs of people (Adivasis, farmers, fisher people, labourers and others), affected by it been rehabilitated as per the law and demands of justice.
Modi criticized all those who according to him are spreading "false news" about SSP. He was probably referring to both the people from the Narmada valley in Madhya Pradesh and from Gujarat. The latter are left high and dry since they haven’t yet received waters from SSP, which is proving to be a mirage.
As for the people from the valley, in all 30,000 families are still residing on the river bank of Narmada till date, and they certainly cannot be expected to support raising the SSP water level to 139 metres, which is the dam's full reservoir level. They still await rehabilitation, and have the legal right to stay put in their original villages till that happens.
If he is targeting farmers protesting in Gujarat, is he unaware about 481 companies that are being supplied SSP water? This is happening even as farms are still without micro network of canals, which are a prerequisite for getting irrigation water.
Modi has been craving for credit for completing the big dam, ignoring the violations of legal and human rights as also environmental laws. Is this being done unknowingly or deliberately? Does he not know how the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal (NWDT) award and several Supreme Court verdicts, as also state policies (including that of Gujarat), have provided for rehabilitation, aimed at better standard of living post-resettlement?
Is he ignorant of the fact that whatever rehabilitation has happened is due to 34 years' long people’s struggle? And yet, thousands of families are yet to receive all those benefits, for which state administrations are responsible, with Gujarat providing full financial support?
Is Modi unaware that both Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh governments are bereft of funds, which is a genuine necessity for the enormous balance work for rehabilitation, that was concealed during the legal proceedings at the Apex Court and High Courts?
Instead of taking stock of legal and mandatory responsibility and unattended environmental impacts, which remain uncompensated, too, the Prime Minister seems to be giving a push to Gujarat’s dream of filling the dam without fulfilling the mandate. Within Gujarat, too, the pull and push is more from industries than from ordinary farmers or the drought-affected people.
You, Mr Prime Minister, are no more just a chief minister of Gujarat. Please try to understand the changed position and the related duty you are expected to perform. You have to save the lives and livelihoods of Adivasis, Dalits, farmers, labourers and all who are entitled to an alternative life and livelihood with shelter and amenities, when displaced.
And you can’t call the assertion of the present Congress government of Madhya Pradesh, that they can’t fill the waters and create a grave for lakhs of people, to be irrational or political. They have to review all wrong data, decisions and lapses in execution, including corruption, left behind by your counterpart, Shivraj Singh Chouhan. They can’t and will not be permitted to take any decision against their electoral promise, commitment and public interest.
The Prime Minister can’t also hide facts regarding the distribution of benefits. Where is power from SSP, due to be supplied to Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh after investment of crores of rupees?
Why has the power generation reached the lowest in recent years, much less than the magnitude achieved at a much lower (17 metres less) dam height in 2008? Why is it that water shortage, the risk of climate change, as also issues regarding regulation and monitoring of cascade of dams on Narmada, need to taken more seriously today than ever before?
Shouldn't he take into account these factors and bring to the drawing room all the stakeholders and hold a dialogue? Why are environmental laws in the downstream not followed, assuring fisher people and others struggling for a river flowing in order to prevent sea ingress?
Can Gujarat promise 1,500 cusecs of water to be released from the dam to the downstream without any review of the water requirement in the downstream and allocation in the upstream, even as looking into the readiness by the government of Madhya Pradesh for this?
The people from the valley raise these questions for the Prime Minister to respond, as without this, he can’t just claim his big contribution through the ‘51 hours fast’, which was actually a ‘5 star fast’, only to counter 21 days' fast by us, the people from the valley.
The Prime Minister's plan appears to be aimed at violating the NWDT award, to submerge and kick out thousands of families, not follow the known policy decisions undertaken on SSP, and impose Narmada ‘tourism' on a people who have lived an honest, simple and self-reliant life along the river.
We once again pledge to stay put and to drown but not leave our motherland and mother-river without rehabilitation.
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*Devram Kanera, Wahid Mansuri, Saraswati, Jagdish Patel, Rahul Yadav, Devisingh Tomar, Gokhru Solanki

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