Hindustan Times, July 27 2017, Barwani: “Authorities are asking us to vacate our villages. If we don’t, we will be forcibly evicted,” says Jagarnath Tikam, who resides in a village on the banks of Narmada river.

His Bagud village in Madhya Pradesh’s Barwani district falls upstream of Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada and faces submergence like many others due to the project, especially during heavy rains, as is happening now.

After Supreme Court ordered residents to vacate submerged areas by July 31, district authorities are working on a war footing to evict over 8,000 people in Barwani, Dhar, Khargone and Alirajpur districts who have stayed put.

Tin sheds (10×15 ft), where people will be shifted for three months, are being constructed rapidly at 23 rehabilitation sites. At least 23 of the 367 religious structures in submerged areas have been moved to safer places. Authorities have also sought assistance of 5,000 police personnel for the final eviction.

“Of 18,063 project-affected families, 9,316 have shifted to rehabilitation sites and other places. 5,343 families have constructed their houses at the rehabilitation sites. And 8,747 will be shifted if they don’t vacate the villages by July 31,” Dr Afroz Ahmad, member, Narmada Control Authority (environment and rehabilitation), told HT.

But Tikam and others, backed by the activist group Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), are defiant. “We are ready to drown but we will not shift till we get complete relief and rehabilitation,” he says.

Issues of The Affected

Rehabilitation measures have fallen short of expectations and the villagers are staging protests and relay hunger-strike, demanding more.

Ramesh Yadav, a Dhar villager, points out the lack of basic amenities in the temporary tin-sheet sheds. “Besides, we have been provided plots (for construction of new houses) 3 km away at Khedi rehabilitation site, which means everyday we will have to walk 6 km to our farms,” he rues.

Many villagers claim they were given a paltry compensation for their houses in 2002 and are demanding higher reimbursements.

Ganesh Awasia from Pichhodi village in Barwani, said people in their village have been allotted plots at nine different rehabilitation sites, up to over 15 km away. “How can they separate villagers like this?” he asked.

In Kadmal, Bajrikeda and Khaperkheda villages of Dhar, people asked why the government did not serve a notice first.

Villagers at Khaperkheda and Kadmal in Dhar say nearly 1,700 acres of farmland will become a taapu (island) when water levels rise and rued the lack of bridges.

Fight Intensifies

NBA leader Medha Patkar, who started an indefinite fast on Thursday, said the government’s list of affected families has flaws. “Many families have left decades ago and many have been removed on the grounds of reduced back water level in the past. But they are in the list while many families still living in submergence area have been left out,” she said.

NBA also cited an excavation work to highlight the presence of oldest civilization on Narmada’s banks. However, the excavation work was stopped to save the Sardar Sarovar project, they alleged.

Minister of state for Narmada Valley Development Lal Singh Arya dismissed it as a rumour spread by NBA.

He also highlighted the generosity of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, saying 9,242 families are getting Rs 15 lakh even after they were shifted many years ago because of him.

Web: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/mission-eviction-on-war-footing-along-narmada-river/story-LwhPeXokeGSj3ZD4bYrzaK.html