National Herald, July 4 2017, Madhya Pradesh: With elections due in both Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (MP), there is an unseemly hurry by the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) and MP Government to raise the level of the Sardar Sarovar dam by closing 30 gates even before all the oustees have been resettled as per the Supreme Court’s direction. Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in a statement says that the decision to rush through the closure is designed to allow Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to use it for propaganda before the elections.

Taking a dig at the Central Government, which has sanctioned ₹3000 crore for a statue of Sardar Patel along the Narmada river close to the submergence site, NBA pointed out that a lot less has been spent on the resettlement of oustees and possibly a lot more has been siphoned off. It points out how the Madhya Pradesh Government took no action on the disclosures of the Jha Commission which had reported rampant corruption and irregularities in rehabilitation of oustees.

The state government acknowledges that closing the gates will lead to the submergence of one town and 178 villages in the Narmada Valley. But Narmada Valley Development Authority claims that 177 of the villages will be only partially submerged while a solitary village, which is already abandoned, will be submerged fully.

Medha Patkar on Tuesday tweeted that not only are farmers, fisher folk, potters and daily wagers stand to lose their home and land but the dam also threatens to submerge ‘Rajghat’, the Mahatma Gandhi memorial in Barwani district. The memorial was built over urns carrying ashes of Mahatma Gandhi, Kasturba Gandhi and his secretary Mahadev Desai.

While the NBA claims that over 40,000 families are being displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Project in Madhya Pradesh, the NVDA puts the figure at 23,614 families. But in a report late last month, the Authority acknowledged that only 9,242 families had been rehabilitated till June, 2017. It however claimed that over 5,500 families had migrated to Gujarat.

The NBA contests the figures by pointing out that in its notification dated May 25, 2017 the Authority itself put on record that two and a half million people would have to vacate their home and land.

Condemning the imposition of the National Security Act (NSA) in the form of ‘ Rajya Suraksha Kanoon’ (RASUKA) which dubs any kind of protest illegal, the NBA points out that its worst fears have already come true.

  • The canals in Gujarat carry less than 50% of the water estimated
  • Water meant for Kutch diverted to the Sabarmati River Front and other cities
  • Water snatched from farmers and given to industry, automobile units and distilleries
  • Families resettled in Gujarat are complaining of the lack of basic facilities

NBA points out that studies have shown that the rate of siltation in 85% of the dams in India has been higher than estimated in the design. There is no reason to believe that Sardar Sarovar will be any different.