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NBA dharna outside Shastri Bhavan (Delhi)

• NBA dharna outside Shastri Bhavan (Delhi)
• NBA delegation meets Dr. Meira Kumar, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment
• Increasing the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam from 119m up to 121.92m is complete
• Directions of the Prime Minister that further construction be undertaken after completion of balance R&R, thrown to the dustbin

Today (2/1/07), the NBA began dharna outside the Shastri Bhavan, which houses the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and met with the Dr. Meira Kumar, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment. The NBA delegation was accompanied by Swamy Agnivesh and Shri Praful Bidwai. In a long meeting with the Minister, the NBA delegation updated the Minister on the developments with regard to the dam and rehabilitation of project affected persons. The Minister promised to look into issues raised by NBA and get in touch later. The Minister, however, stated that since she has visited the Valley as part of the Three Member Ministerial Committee constituted by the Prime Minister last year, she was aware of the problems in the resettlement process. NBA resolved that the dharna would continue until the demands were met.

NBA informed the Minister that the Sardar Sarovar dam was raised from 119 mts to 122 mts, the height that was approved in March 2006, but was, after a long struggle, investigations and continuing legal action, stayed. While the submergence caused by the 119 mts dam itself drowned and devastated adivasi families in the mountainous communities of Jhabua and Badwani (Madhya Pradesh), and Nandurbar (Maharashtra), there are altogether about 35,000 families, i.e. 1.5 lakh and more people living, even today, in the affected area of 122 mts.

It is the 21 year long struggle and its continuation that has resulted in about 11,000 families getting land based rehabilitation, notwithstanding the numerous problems still being faced by them. Despite this, more than two lakh people continue to reside in the submergence area of full dam height which is 138.68 mts, with the gates planned to be erected above the wall of 122 mts. Rehabilitation of all these as per law and court judgments is not in sight since the state governments have raised a cry of “No cultivable land available”. In lieu of land, Madhya Pradesh government is trying to pay cash through corrupt officials-middlemen-politicians nexus illegally. This nexus has grabbed crores of rupees from the public money in the exchequer, permitted by NO MONITORING by the Centre.

Prime Minster’s promise to the apex court never kept intact, instead, the process of promises and violation, fraudulent and false affidavits has been on. The weak report by the Shunglu Committee (Oversight Group) brought out the fact that thousands of families are far from rehabilitated. The Committee, however, expects all this to change by the end of this financial year i.e. March 2007! The Prime Minister had assured the Court in July that the dam construction would not be taken beyond 119m without a review in October, and importantly, until R&R was completed.

The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) and its R&R Sub-group, both held meetings and directed the State government to complete works at R&R sites to ensure that the affected get land as per eligibility, that all grievances are redressed and thousands of families shifted to the R&R sites, upgradation of the 49 average/poor R&R sites, etc. These are yet to be done. Yet again, even the Shunglu Committee has failed to ensure that R&R sites are established for the adivasi villages in Jhabua, where as of today, there are no R&R sites. Thousands of families thus do not have any place to shift.

In Maharashtra, the situation remains unchanged for those hundreds of affected families facing submergence year after year but awaiting to be “declared” as affected persons and those who are declared but not yet rehabilitated. The problems of those affected families who still remain in their original villages in Gujarat, falls on deaf ears. The thousands of complaints received by the Grievances Redressal Authorities of these two states, points to the problems faced by even those who have shifted to the R&R sites.

Despite all this, the dam was taken up to 122m! This is murderous. This is an utter violation of legal and human rights guaranteed by the law of the land and against the ethos of our constitution. Are the Courts watching?

And on the top of it all, these sacrifices of huge displacement and burial of thousands of years old culture and cultural habitation went in vain. The speculated benefits from the very dam in terms of generating electricity, distribution of drinking water and irrigating of drought prone area still remain a distinct utopian dream.

• Drinking water could have been supplied to all the 8200+ villages even at dam height 110m itself, but has not materialised. Only about 1/4th of these received some water and of these, 10% have received water with some regularity.
• Irrigation potential at 110m was claimed to be an area of 5.5 lakh hectares but only 58,000 hectares was covered. Instead of taking action to cover up the rest of the target area first, what is happening right now is raising of the height of the dam from 110m to 122m by putting up the same target potential. Needless to add that the work on the canal network is lagging behind.
• Power to be generated at 122m is only about 50% of what the official statements claim. The main power-house will stop producing power once irrigation potential in Gujarat and from Indira Sagar in Madhya Pradesh are realized within few years.

The people will have to challenge this state of affairs and this State! The dharna at Delhi will continue till all demands are met.

Ashish Mandloi Kamala Yadav Noorji Padvi Medha Patkar