DECCAN HERALD Saturday, September 30, 2000

MP deputy CM declares war on NBA

BHOPAL, Sept 29 (DHNS)

Madhya Pradesh`s Deputy Chief Minister Jamuna Devi has declared a war on the ''Narmada Bachao Andolan`` (NBA).

The campaign to ''expose the true face of the NBA`` would be launched with a massive rally at Badwani on October 10. The rally would be led by the tribal leader.

The district headquarter town of Badwani is the hub of the NBA`s activities in the submergence zone of the Sardar Sarovar dam on river Narmada and the organisation`s central office in the State is located in the town.

Ms Jamuna Devi, however, has refused to accept NBA leader Medha Patkar`s challenge of a public debate on the issue. Ms Patkar had thrown the gauntlet at a press conference at Bhopal reacting to Ms Jamuna Devi`s announcement.

It is for the first time that any Madhya Pradesh politician has decided to take on the NBA and that too on its home turf and using its own weapon, viz propaganda. Till now, the State government has been negotiating with the organisation and the people`s representatives from the submergence zone have been maintaining a neutral stand on the issue. Fearful of the detrimental effect it may have on their electoral fortunes, the MPs, MLAs and even panchayat functionaries - whether of the ruling outfit or the Opposition - elected from the NBA`s zone of influence have been scrupulously avoiding attacking the organisation. The NBA, in turn, has kept away from electoral politics. It has consistently refused to issue any directives to its vast number of supporters in the area vis a vis the elections. With Ms Jamuna Devi`s campaign, that line of rubicon has been crossed.

Thanks to NBA propaganda of ''Bandh nahi baneyga`` (the dam will be not be build), tens of thousands of farmers in the submergence zone are refusing to accept the compensation offered by the government for their land in the submergence zone. ''They are in a pitiable state. The NBA is not allowing them to accept the compensation and move out, the banks have stopped extending credit to them as their land is to go under water and no developmental activities are taking place in their villages,`` she says. All government agencies have stopped construction and repair work in the villages of the submergence zone. No new hospitals, schools or power stations are being build. Even private land owners are not building new houses. Development has come to a stand still.

''No matter what the NBA says or does, the Sardar Sarovar dam will be built and the villages will be submerged. Only, the NBA is prolonging the misery of the oustees by not allowing them to get compensation and start a new life at a new place,`` Ms Jamuna Devi says.

The deputy chief minister has vowed to ''expose the NBA``. At her rally, she proposes to hold a public durbar where the people, including NBA representatives, would be allowed to have their say.


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