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The Hindu on : 'Project will go a long way in tackling drought'

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Wednesday, October 11, 2000

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'Project will go a long way in tackling drought'

By Lalit Shastri

BADWANI (WESTERN MADHYA PRADESH), OCT. 10. The Madhya Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister, Ms. Jamuna Devi, today launched a scathing attack on the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and said its leaders were acting like a ``puppet'' in the hands of some external forces that did not want to see India as a developed and prosperous nation.

Talking to presspersons at the Badwani Circuit House before addressing a massive rally of those affected by the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat and other Narmada Valley projects, she admitted there had been lacuna in conducting surveys and compensating the Narmada oustees.

Having a dig at the NBA's continued opposition to the construction of big dams, she asked, ``how can we ensure general prosperity in the region by opposing a project that is aimed at generating power and providing water to the people?''

Ms. Jamuna Devi emphasised the importance of the Sardar Sarovar dam and the Maheshwar project on river Narmada by drawing attention to the massive drought this year, especially in the western part of the State.

She particularly came out in support of the Sardar Sarovar dam saying that it would go a long way in combating the problem of water shortage.

Naming the front-ranking NBA leader, Ms. Medha Patkar, and her associates like Ms. Arundhati Roy and Ms. Chittaroopa Palit, she alleged that they were all ``outsiders.'' ``One has definite information regarding the outside forces that are using them as puppets,'' she added. Asked to identify these forces, she said they would be exposed at the opportune moment.

Till now, Ms. Jamuna Devi said, the battle had remained one-sided with the NBA trying to block the progress of different projects on the Narmada river. However, the people were now wary of all this and would not sit quiet.

They were fed up with the pressure tactics being adopted by the NBA, whose activists had been preventing them from seeking compensation and getting rehabilitated. They had started coming to rallies like the one being organized here today to seek redressal for their grievances.

The Deputy Chief Minister admitted there had been inherent weaknesses in the rehabilitation process. The surveys that had been conducted for their rehabilitation were incomplete and efforts were needed to convince the people that enough land was not available to offer land-for-land to the oustees. Later addressing a huge rally of Narmada oustees, who had come here braving the unusually hot sunny afternoon from different parts of Dhar and Badwani districts, Ms. Jamuna Devi said all efforts were needed to make optimum use of water from the Narmada river to solve the drinking water problem in the Malwa region.

She also stressed the importance of different projects on the Narmada river, especially from the point of view of irrigation and power generation and said these were needed for the overall development and progress of the region.

Accusing the NBA activists of playing into the hands of some foreign forces that did not want to see India as a prosperous country, she said there was an international lobby which was trying to block the country's progress.

Such forces, which were oblivious of the common people's plight, would have to be exposed, she asserted.

She also warned the official machinery entrusted with the task of rehabilitation of the Narmada oustees and said that they should perform their task with full commitment. She spelt out the need for reforming the age-old criteria for compensating the oustees while pointing out that the Madhya Pradesh farmers who were affected by the Sardar Sarovar dam were not being given the same compensation as the Indira Sagar oustees.

The Chief Minister had agreed to fix uniform compensation for land in all cases, Ms. Jamuna Devi told the villagers adding that she would herself tour Gujarat to see the basic facilities being provided to the Narmada oustees in that State.

One of the villagers, Kamal Singh Panwar, a resident of Mohipura village in Thekri Tehsil of Badwani district, who had come to Badwani to attend Ms. Jamuna Devi's rally, told this correspondent that the survey done for rehabilitating the Narmada oustees was most incomplete and outdated.

Many houses in his village had not been covered in this survey, he pointed out. It was due to this reason, the survey list had not been handed over to the village panchayat, he added.

Regarding the NBA, he said their activists often went to his village and tried to compel the voters to stay away from the rehabilitation initiative of the Government.

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