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As submergence stares Narmada valley, Patkar says: With powerful in throne, we're helpless

Counterview Desk
Well-known anti-dam organization, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), plans to begin its “Resist Illegal Submergence in Narmada Valley” satyagraha on August 21 at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, amidst news that the situation in the valley is “critical”, with two persons having already died in flood-related incidents in the upstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam.
The decision to for a satyagraha has been taken amidst villages in the Narmada valley getting flooded, electricity being cut of, and authorities hell bent on filling in the full reservoir level of 138.68 metres in the Sardar Sarovar dam. The water level has already reached 133 metres, and homes and fields of people getting submerged even though "these are not supposed to be under the submergence level", claims NBA.
Meanwhile, top NBA leader Medha Patkar has issued an appeal for broader support, demanding “no submergence without complete rehabilitation”, claiming that not less than 32,000 families still reside in 192 villages and one township of Madhya Pradesh, and hundreds of adivasi settlements in the hilly region of Satpuras and Vindhyas -- all of whom are "under threat".

Excerpts from Parkar’s appeal:

Many of you may have been wondering why haven’t we rushed for relief and rehabilitation (R&R) work with the flood affected in Bihar, Maharashtra, Kerala or elsewhere in the country this time, as we did in past – tsunami, cyclone, Kosi floods, Morbi dam break or Kutch earthquake.
We, on the other hand, are sorry that you are not here in the Valley this time.
We completed 34 years of Narmada struggle on August 16 yet couldn’t celebrate it as we didn’t know whether this very day would be the “Dooms Day.” We however remember your support and contribution to the long battle.
We are stunned to know and find that the Gujarat is determined to keep the gates closed or open it only to release limited water. They are adamant on getting Sardar Sarovar filled up to 139 metres, the full reservoir level, water levels have already touched 133 to 134 meters. Their deadline is October 15 for attaining the final level as a final stroke while we are striving to hold on to our Mother River, our lifeline.
The people here, labourers and farmers, fishworkers and all are at the struggle front with a strong force of women. They have invested their soil and toil, raising issues, seeking democratic to human rights. The women have proved their perseverance, their creativity and sensitivity, pursuing the cause – not against but for true development. On the path we traversed, we did win the prizes and awards but not for ourselves, but as accreditation for the people’s social movements, our politics, our ways and means, our vision.
The displaced all over the valley and country, who are not rehabilitated fairly and justly, have always seen a hope in whatever is achieved by the Narmada dwellers in Sardar Sarovar. Yet we know, there are thousands of families, cattle, trees, and all kind of services alive in the generations old communities that we thought should not be massacred. We believed in the State’s response to be secular, socialist and sensible. 
We realised the limits of the system – lowest in compassion and capacities and the highest in corruption. All this, we learnt from, communicated and cherished as not just experiences but exhibits that can bring in education and communication across the world. The human rights to human values that form a framework beyond the constitutions and laws were the polar support for the non-violent battle in Narmada.
Not just the people but environs of Narmada formed our canvass and we did raise these aspects of the project, critically to show that the mirage of benefits and beneficially is also at the cost of the survival of the River, its bed to estuary, the riverine land to forest. All this has sustained the sources of livelihood of the lakhs of people. Thus, the death and destruction of this ecosystem needs to be prevented if the river is to deliver the promised benefits.
We have seen the Narmada reduced to a dry bed to be crossed on feet, for days on in the year. Gujarat has witnessed with us the sea ingress up to 80 km and the religious spots teeming with people become barren spots.
But today, we face the Narmada in its full fury, not only because of the rain but also because of the mismanagement and devious ways of the state power. We are in the villages and hamlets (mohallas) where power is cut off!
Pushing us in the darkness for a petty magnitude of ‘power’ is symbol of what the county is being made to face in the name of progress and development. Not just villages, but our schools, health centres, our banks, our submerging cities, our economy and politics too are being cut-off from our lives and with that the rays of hope.
We hold on to the land and our lives, not just rights, carry the burden of history, yet don’t know how much of it will be and can be saved.
Nisarpur, the largest village, its market and some mohallas are vacated as the traders were not able to bear losses beyond what they faced over years. Their alternative complex is not ready but plots are allotted to them.
Dalit mohallas in Bijasen, farmers’ mohallas in Picchodi, Avalda and Jangarva, their affected families have not yet received all R&R benefits and have no other house to go. These include some houses far away from water level, till now, and some who are excluded after conclusion that they are not affected by (unscientifically) reached back water levels.
There is an ongoing tussle between Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. The statement by the Madhya Pradesh minister for Narmada were strong but there was R&R subgroup (of Narmada Control Authority) meeting, following which there will be full NCA meeting on August 21, where decisions continue to be made. All this are just formality, giving sanctions to already decided schedule to fill water up to 134 metres by September and 139 metres by October 15, 2019. 
This too doesn’t and can’t match with the schedule for completion of R&R and practical expectations!
Hence “bina punrvas doob nahin” (no submergence without R&R), the slogan chanted by the minister for Narmada, reading our banner, recently when he heard us for three hours!
All this is fine, but the doob (submergence) is at our doorstep. The gates of Indira Sagar (12 gates) and Omkareshwar (five gates) were opened on August 16. Water would reach villages – houses, farms, temples, road, electricity poles and what not.
We plan the next steps beyond what is already. We have to reach to Bhopal, but also start indefinite action. We wait to know the plan by our supporters, in Gujarat, Delhi, Maharashtra and all over in this moment of crisis.
With the powerful at the throne, we can’t be hopeless or powerless, but we are, no doubt, helpless.

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