For a second time in just over two months, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar and many persons affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam have launched an indefinite protest demanding relief. The protest that began on Saturday has continued after the state government failed to put on record any assurances to help the oustees by bringing pressure on the Gujarat government.
“We want the people in MP affected by Sardar Sarovar Dam built in Gujarat should be provided relief, and rehabilitated according to the book,” Patkar said on Sunday evening. The protests would continue, the NBA said.
“Those ousted are living a miserable life. We will continue our protest till our demands are met. Hundreds of families have been ruined by the filling of Sardar Sarovar Dam in the catchment area of the reservoir in Madhya Pradesh,” she said.
Most protesters spent the chill dewy Saturday night under the sky, wrapping themselves up with blankets, making a poignant sight.
The previous BJP government had, on oath, presented a misleading picture of rehabilitation efforts before the Supreme Court to help Gujarat government to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam reservoir, Patkar said, adding that the fate of 32,000 families in Madhya Pradesh has been hanging in balance due to previous Shivraj Singh Chouhan government’s “deceit” and Gujarat government’s “insensitivity”.
A much larger area than projected in the MP government’s plans has come under submergence. As a result, the areas marked for rehabilitation have also been inundated, ruling out resettlement of the project-affected people.
The Kamal Nath government had in September agreed to review the rehabilitation issue afresh as the pre-condition for the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Patkar to end her indefinite fast. Patkar, who had ended her fast on September 3, held talks with the state government and secured assurances for early resolutions to the issue. Things have, however, not gone according to the activists’ understanding with the government.
The NBA activists have been in touch with the authorities to expedite the rehabilitation process without further losses to the oustees. The government, on its part, is prepared to persuade the Gujarat government but said it is not in a position to offer any written assurance.
“Gujarat Chief Minister and all officers raised the level of water in the dam to 139-metre height only for the sake of celebrating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday. We damn the celebrations on his birthday. Wish him a long life. But he should understand his duty and responsibility to let people live,” Patkar had said after Gujarat government ignored the Madhya Pradesh government’s request to keep the reservoir level lower than 139 metres.