NBA wants Sardar Sarovar dam gates to be open until completion of rehabilitation

medha-patkar-hungerMedha Patkar started the indefinite hunger strike on August 25 at Chhota Barda in Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh

The health of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activist Medha Patkar has started to deteriorate as her indefinite hunger strike under the ‘Narmada Chunauti Satyagraha’ has entered the seventh day.

Patkar started the indefinite hunger strike on August 25 at Chhota Barda in Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh to protest “illegal drowning of people in the Sardar Sarovar dam affected area, without rehabilitation”. Ten other affected villagers joined the indefinite hunger strike on August 29 in solidarity with Patkar’s agitation.

The NBA’s main demand at this point is that the gates of the dam be kept open until rehabilitation of 32,000 affected people is completed in the submergence area. Until then the water level of Sardar Sarovar should be kept constant, at 122 meters.

Due to the indifference of the central and Gujarat government, thousands of families in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat are at the verge of submergence without adequate rehabilitation. By not taking adequate measures to control the water level, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), the agency of the Central government is deliberately trying to destroy the people of the valley, including peasant-tribal, Kewat-Kahar, cattle herders, potters and landless labourers, the NBA has said.

Rahul Yadav of NBA told THE WEEK that Medha Patkar’s health has deteriorated, but she is refusing any medical intervention. The district collector and superintendent of Barwani district met her on Saturday to persuade her to end the hunger strike, but she has refused to do so.

Several supporters and government representatives have met Patkar during the past week to show solidarity on the issue and asked her to end the fast. Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bala Bachchan met her on August 29 and chief minister Kamal Nath also spoke to her over telephone to ask her to give up her agitation. However, she has refused citing that no concrete plan for rehabilitation of the affected people has been offered.

Among the major demands of the NBA is that the permission granted by the NCA to fill the dam to the full reservoir level of 138.68 meters should be kept in abeyance until all affected people are rehabilitated.

The project affected area of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat should be rehabilitated with complete civic amenities and means of livelihood. All data and documents related to rehabilitation should be made public on the website to avoid any possibility of corruption in the process.

Also, all expenses for rehabilitation and environmental protection should be recovered from the government of Gujarat since the state benefits the most from SSD, the organisation has said.

The organisation and villagers have warned that the struggle will intensify if the government continue to increase the water level of Narmada.

At present, in Madhya Pradesh itself, 32,000 affected people are remaining to be rehabilitated. Hundreds of families in Maharashtra and Gujarat are also left to be rehabilitated. Putting the lives of thousands of people living in submerged area at grave risk is unacceptable, a NBA release said.

Although the Kamal Nath government of Madhya Pradesh has started a process of dialogue with the Andolan, it has failed to comment on the order of the Gujarat government and the NCA by which gates of the SSD have been closed and the water level is continuously rising in the submergence area, the NBA added.