Modi dedicates Sarovar Dam to the nation even as lakhs displaced still in limbo

Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar holds protest in Chikalda, Nisarpur and Chota Bharda. Jalsatyagraha called off

Photo Courtesy: NBA
Photo Courtesy: NBA

Ashlin Mathew

Despite passing disparaging remarks against Jawaharlal Nehru, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his attempt to appropriate Nehruvian legacy, inaugurated and dedicated the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat’s Kevadia Colony, to the nation on his 67th birthday. Not so ironically, the foundation stone for the Sardar Sarovar Project was laid by the country’s first Prime Minister.

Amidst Bharat Mata Ki Jai chants and in the presence Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, BJP national president Amit Shah, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and several religious leaders, Modi remembered Sardar Patel and BR Ambedkar, for their emphasis on irrigation and waterways. The chief ministers Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra – where protests against the dam are being held too- were conspicuous by their absence.

The police on Saturday detained dozens of families who have been protesting in Kevadia Colony for eleven months against the “poor” facilities provided to them in the rehabilitated colonies. “They have been moved and they will be released once the Prime Minister’s event is over. Every time there is a programme in Gujarat of this nature, key activists of movements are detained and after 24 hours, they are released. This happened even during the Nirma Cement Plant agitation,” said an agitated Madhuresh Kumar of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM).

“In Madhya Pradesh, Medha Patkar and some of her colleagues went into hiding at night as soon as they were informed that the police wanted to arrest them. In the evening, protest meetings were organised by Medha Patkar and the Narmada Bachao Andolan activists in the villages of Chikalda, Nisarpur and Chota Bharda. The Jalsatyagraha has been called off ,” said Kumar.

“The Prime Minister’s dedication is a farce. A dam is not just a wall – it affects the lives and livelihoods of many families. We do not want the water to be released in these villages unless a rehabilitation plan has been finalised. When the water level will be raised, it will submerge 192 villages and affect the lives of more than 2 lakh people. We plan to continue our protest unless we meet any official from the government. The people of the village have decided to not leave their homes,” asserted Patkar, who has been spearheading the NBA protests for more than 30 years.

The Prime Minister is claiming that all the work related to the dam has been completed, but, “43,000 kms of the canal network still incomplete. Why?” questioned Patkar.

“We will declare our plan based on what the Prime Minister says. There are more than 1,000 people protesting with us and around 50-60 people will remain in water to protest. The water has increased to 29 metres. It has submerged Rajghat and Nisarpur. They haven’t announced how much water will be released. There is no schedule, no plan. Member of the National Disaster Management Authority came on Friday. They are here even now,” pointed out Patkar, who began the jalsatyagraha at Chota Bharda on Friday.

“As a result of the jalsatyagraha, the skin has started shedding and many have begun bleeding too. But officials have turned a blind eye to their plight,” added Kumar.

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Published: 17 Sep 2017, 4:29 PM