As I write this, around 1000 people are on a hunger strike in a small village on the banks of Narmada river in Badwani District, one of the most fertile and culturally rich part of Madhya Pradesh. The hunger strike which started with 5 women and leader of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Medha Patkar is now in its 6th day on Aug 31, 2019.
Saradar Sarovar Nigam Limited, in collusion with the Narmada Control Authority, Gujarat Government and the Government at the Center is filling the waters in Sardar Sarovar dam upto its full height of 138.68 meters, even as around 32,000 families, cattle, animals are residing in the submergence zone, mainly in Madhya Pradesh. Why are they still there? Why do keep facing uncertainty and high-handedness of the government?
The families are still here because their rehabilitation has not been complete in letter and in spirit. People of 125 villages are facing submergence. Filling up of the SSP to its full height has been opposed not only by the affected communities, but Government of Madhya Pradesh as well. Water has reached the 134.74 meters mark and climbing as I write. Sardar Sarovar Dam level of 138.68 m means submergence of 37,690 ha. of land, 11,279 ha. agricultural land and 13,542 ha. of forest land. And thousands of men, women and children. Just in the last 22 days, Over 16,000 people have been hastily evacuated from Dhar and Barwani districts of Madhya Pradesh, in the absence of proper rehabilitation facilities.
Which government flushes out thousands of its own farmers, shopkeepers, teachers, fisherfolk, forest dwellers people only because it can?
This same year in the summer months, nearly no water was released into the river downstream the dam. Salinity ingression in Bharuch, at the other end of the river was so serious that factories had to be shut down, thousands of fisherfolk lost their livelihoods.
A life giving river has been converted into a tool to suit the whims and fancies of the state.
With this background, a month back Narmada Bachao Andolan organized a People’s gathering and Jury in Badwani. Dam affected from all parts of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra came forward and shared their reality. Several dam affected people from older dams like Jobat, Bargi, Indira Sagar, Omkareshwar and Maheshwar shared their stories and the unmet promises. Farmers from Kutch and Saurashtra talked about their dry fields, empty promises and incomplete canals, fisherfolk from Narmada and Bharuch shared reality about lost livelihoods. And most notable past Ministers like Praveenbhai Jadeja, Ex. Minister of Environment and Forests, Government of Gujarat apologised in front of thousands of affected people for the wrong assumptions and decisions made by the Gujarat Government while erecting the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
Thousands of women, men and children gathered at Badwani in pouring rains, to take part in this rally. The sheer persistence, tenacity and spirit of the people and the movement was and is unbelievable.
A few snippets from the Rally held at Badwani on the 31st July 2019 that I attended.
All Photos: Abhay Kanvinde for SANDRP. Thanks a lot Abhay.
In a corner of our country, our fellow countrymen, women, children, trees, forests and towns are looking at rising waters now.
Take a moment and sign this petition: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfvnDo7TZdwzg7H6UhMxKjHjMBXKmnRU1a0jkZ18y3wAO5mFw/viewform
In passing, here is a tweet from the Prime Minister of the country, as over 32,000 families face submergence.
Parineeta Dandekar (firstname.lastname@example.org)