“NARMADA KI AAWAZ” 30 Years of Struggle
17-18 July, 2015 at Jantar Mantar
New Delhi (17th July 2015) : Hundreds of people from the Sardar Sarovar Project affected regions in the Narmada valley marched to Jantar Mantar at Delhi for a 2-day protest against raising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam and denial of the rehabilitation of the oustees. People danced to the beats of the drums, children played flutes and everyone danced in the rain while Medha Patkar announced that the ‘Dhol’ will not stop till the end of protest, the evening of 17th July.
The meeting saw Medha Patkar, several activists and political leaders including Mr. Hannan Mollah, Ms. Annie Raja, Anil Chaudhary, Swami Agnivesh, Sagari Chaabra, Kavita Krishnan addressing the rally. This year also marks 30 years of resilient struggle of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, which continues its battle to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of thousands of dalits, adivasis and other communities in the Narmada region, in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
One of the first measures of the NDA government after coming to power in May 2014 was to raise the height of SSP by 17 mts to its final height of 138.68 metres. This is in direct violation of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal (NWDT) which disallows any further displacement before complete rehabilitation in the Narmada Valley. The recent fact-finding report titled “Drowning a Valley – Destroying a Civilization” points to the grave implications of this move – set to unleash an unprecedented displacement on an estimated 2.5 lakh families in 245 villages in the 3 states.
Addressing the press, veteran activist Medha Patkar pointed out the large irregularities, manipulations and ongoing corruption in the Narmada valley; including those in disbursement of compensation to farmers and other affected people. Drawing comparisons, she said that the scams are even bigger than the recently exposed ‘Vyapam Scam’, which has already put the Madhya Pradesh government and the Narendra Modi-led NDA government under the scanner and attracted widespread attention. She continued with the demand for land in place of land for all displaced families.
The Fact Finding Report brought forth by the Central Fact Finding Committee comprising of senior political leaders, public personalities and experts such as Mr. Hannan Mollah, Ms. Annie Raja, Mr. Binoy Viswam, Dr. Sunilam, Prof. Raj Kachroo and Mr. Soumya Dutta were distributed to the press. The report prepared after their visit in the valley reveals numerous violations and non-compliance of judicial orders, inaccurate surveys, massive corruption and denial of justice to those forced to suffer for a misplaced cause of ‘development’. Furthermore, it inquires into the beneficiaries of the project, as media reports raise questions about water diversion for industrial use. This, when the stated purpose for the dam, constructed at a cost of over Rs. 90,000 crores and incalculable human and environmental loss, was to provide water to the people of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
It was pointed out that more than 6000 families today await a watery grave as their house, livestock and fertile agricultural land are soon to be submerged, even when the Supreme Court is still to give its verdict on the legality of the ongoing construction at Sardar Sarovar Dam. Following the mammoth catastrophe in Nepal and Uttarakhand, SSP-affected people from the valley have urged activists, environmentalists, policy-makers and the governments to take cognizance of maintaining ecological balance, for the lives and livelihoods of more than 2.5 lakh families, already facing massive devastation.
Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayyar lamented the lack of interest among the elected representatives of the parliament in raising these crucial issues. He expressed his solidarity with the movement and also emphasized the need for support from the various sections of the society, including the middle class intelligentsia.
Ms. Annie Raja, General Secretary of National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) stated that the people in Narmada Valley have fought on for 30 years now, not accepting compensation even under pressure and negligence from the administration, with constant ignoring of basic amenities like education and healthcare from the administration. Even after forcing large dams without consent, the people get no benefit and the water is being diverted to the multinational companies, allowing them to make extensive profits over the lives of people.
Hannan Mollah, General Secretary, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) raised the failure of the central government in addressing the issues of the farmers. Referring to the forced passing of Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill through ordinances, he said that the national alliance for land rights, Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, extends all support to the Narmada movement. The Bhumi Adhikar Andolan will continue to raise the demands for land distribution and land reform programmes for the most marginalised sections of the society, and stand firmly against corporate land grab.
SSP-affected Chimalkhedi village in Maharashtra saw a suicide on 9th June committed due to non-rehabilitation. Displacement induced huge financial distress to the families and other prominent members in the protest raised fears that a similar trend may follow across the Narmada Valley.
The Narmada Bachao Andolan plans to intensify the struggle with satygraha, yatras and other public awareness campaigns to highlight the plight of people in the Narmada Valley, the malpractices and administrative negligence, and the need for advocating the rights of indigenous people over natural resources. A delegation met the Secretary of the Social Justice Ministry and insisted that she visits the valley. She noticed the disconnect between decisions taken and the lack of rehabilitation which has been proved from the official documents.
Pemabhai, Sababehen, Noorji Padbi, Sanjeev Kumar, Vimalbhai