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The Hindu on indiaserver.com : A shift in M.P. stand on Narmada dam

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Saturday, December 16, 2000


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A shift in M.P. stand on Narmada dam

By Our Special Correspondent

GANDHINAGAR, DEC. 15. The barrier between the Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh Governments over construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada has been broken with a visit to the site today by the Madhya Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister, Ms. Yamuna Devi.

The Gujarat Narmada Affairs Minister, Mr. Jaynarayan Vyas, described her visit to the dam site, first by a senior leader from M.P. in several years, as the ``beginning of a dialogue'' for better cooperation between the two Governments for speedy implementation of the project. Gujarat hitherto viewed the M.P. Government's lukewarm attitude to the project as the second major impediment in its construction after the agitation by the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Talking to mediapersons Ms. Yamuna Devi said she was impressed with the work being carried out by the State Government in the construction of the dam and the rehabilitation of the affected people. Though, she said, she did not represent the M. P. Government in her visit, she would take up the matter with the Chief Minister, Mr. Digvijay Singh, to ensure better coordination between the Governments.

She claimed a definite shift in the stand of the M.P. Government towards the dam project though she admitted that it was still in favour of a reduction of the dam height to ensure minimum land submergence in M.P. The delay in the rehabilitation of the people to be affected by the project in M.P., she claimed, was not due to non-cooperation by her Government but because of the ``problems'' created by the NBA.

She said the NBA was not even allowing Government officials to carry out a survey of the affected and was adopting ``all kinds of undemocratic means'' including ``attacking the Government personnel in their offices'' to intimidate them from carrying out their duty. Describing the NBA as a ``tool in the hands of some foreign powers,'' Ms. Yamuna Devi said she would do her best to ``crush'' all anti-Narmada movements in her State. She said the fact that the NBA issued posters in English in the tribal areas, instead of in the local language understood by the tribals, proved that the Andolan leaders wanted only to ``please their foreign masters.''

Ms. Yamuna Devi said that with large parts of Gujarat and the tribal-dominated areas of M.P. facing acute drought and shortage of water for the three consecutive years, the two Governments could ill-afford any further delay in the construction of the dams on the Narmada. They were the best hope for the people in the two States.

Ms. Yamuna Devi agreed that there was not enough Government land available in M.P. to rehabilitate all the project- affected but said it was holding talks with owners of the private land.

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