Skip to main content

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.

Comments

TRENDING

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Did Netaji turn blind eye to Japanese massacre while in Andaman during World War-II?

Dr Diwan Singh Kalepani museum off Chandigarh By Rajiv Shah  Did Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose ignore the massacre carried out by the Japanese army in Andaman and Nicobar islands during the Second World War? It would seem so, if one goes by the account of Mohinder Singh Dhillon, who authored a book in memory of his father, 'A Titan in the Andamans, Dr Diwan Singh Kalepani'. Dr Diwan Singh was tortured to death by the Japanese soldiers in the cellular jail in Andaman in 1944.

A golden goose, GoI bent on selling LIC 'for pittance' without consulting stakeholders

By Thomas Franco*  In spite of strong opposition from all sections of the society, the Finance Minister (FM) recently asked her Ministries to speed up Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) Initial Public Offer (IPO). Does she realise that this can lead to collapse of the economy over a period of time because LIC is a golden goose which is giving golden eggs regularly to the economy, development projects and providing social security to the majority of the marginalised people of this country.

Sweden-backed study: India won't achieve 2030 UN goals, officials can't recognise SDG

By Rajiv Shah  A Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC)-sponsored study, carried out by the advocacy group Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) India, seeking to analyse the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No 12, Responsible Consumption and Production (RCP), has regretted, it is "very unlikely" India will achieve any of the targets of SDG 12 by 2030 "unless some serious measures are taken by the government to reverse the present trend."

Modi's Gujarat 'ignores' India's biggest donor of Azad Hind Fauj, Dhoraji's Habib Sheth

By Dr Hari Desai* One surely feels happy that the statue of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose is being installed near the India Gate in New Delhi. Every Indian and even Netaji’s 79-year-old daughter Prof Anita Bose Pfaff feels happy about the statue at the most important area of the capital. In an interview with an Indian TV, Anita, who is a German citizen, mentions that she thinks if not Netaji’s only Mahatma Gandhi’s statue should have been there. She may be aware that there existed a plan to install life-sized statue of the Father of the Nation at that place.  Even after differences with Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel which led Netaji to leave the Indian National Congress, Bose was the first person to call Mahtma Gandhi Father of the Nation on July 6,1944 in his Ragoon Radio broadcast, and sought Bapu’s blessings as the Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army (INA). Till 1968 there was statue of King George V at India Gate. It was removed and placed in the Coronation Park, New Del

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam* In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Why Church in India today needs a Rutilio Grande, martyred for stance on social justice

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  For the people of El Salvador, January 22, 2022 will be more than just a red-letter day. Three of their sons, Jesuit Fr Rutilio Grande and his two lay associates 72-year-old Manuel Solorzano and 15-year-old Nelson Rutilio Lemus (and Italian Franciscan missionary Fr Cosme Spessotto who was also martyred) will be beatified in San Salvador.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

'Dargah site was a temple': Claim in Gujarat following post-Babri verdict demands in UP

By Rajiv Shah  Will Gujarat also see demands to replace mosques and dargahs with Hindu temples? It would seem so, if a new fact-finding team conclusion is any indication. Apprehending the “danger” of communal conflagration, it has cited the claim on a 15th century dargah was originally a Hindu temple – allegedly quite on line with what has been happening in UP following the Supreme Court verdict on Babri Mosque.

Is it time to celebrate India's 'improved' sex ratio? Reasons to question NFHS data

By Aditi Chaudhary*  The recently published National Family Health Survey (NFHS) factsheet brought cheers amongst the public and the government. With Child Sex ratio (number of females per 1000 males in the age group 0 - 6 years) and overall sex ratio (the total number of females per 1000 males), both showing an improvement, NFHS-5 (2019-21) got applauded by all around.