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Death of seven dam oustees belies Gujarat Govt’s claim - [25/04/99] - The Hindustan Times
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Sunday, April 25, 1999, New Delhi
 

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Death of seven dam oustees belies Gujarat Govt’s claim
Gandhinagar, April 24 (Rathin Das)

THE DEATH of seven persons among the Narmada project oustees during the last three days have completely belied the claims of the Gujarat Government regarding rehabilitation of the dam-affected population in the State.

According to latest reports reaching here, 20 more people from the same resettlement village are admitted in the Sayajirao Hospital in Vadodara. All the victims, including those hospitalised, hail from Kakrana village of Alirajpur taluka in Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh, which would be submerged once the height of the Narmada dam is raised. As a part of the rehabilitation package, these farmers have been resettled in Rameshwarpura village of Vaghodiya taluka in Vadodara.

Though the State Government and the Narmada Nigam people are trying to underplay the incidents, the deaths of seven people, including one woman and three children, due to a mysterious water-borne disease have actually highlighted their pathetic plight.

Notwithstanding the stoppage of work on the multi-crore Narmada dam for more than three years due to the dispute over the rehabilitation of the project-affected people, the Gujarat Government had recently claimed a victory of sorts when the Supreme Court had permitted raising the height of the dam from the stalled level of 803 metres. The State Government had interpreted the Supreme Court order as vindication of its claims that the rehabilitation of the people have been completed.

Despite the court’s strictures about rehabilitation and the resultant delays in the construction of the dam, the State Government officials have not hesitated to misuse the Narmada funds for encouraging corruption among contractors, officials and also journalists in a classic case of misuse of the project funds.

The Narmada Nigam's calendar was published in the month of March as the printing order was given to a scribe’s wife after bypassing the tender route.

Irrespective of the corruption and misuse of funds at the higher level, ground realities at the rehabilitation centres actually prove how the project-affected people have been deceived by the Gujarat Government and the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited, the nodal agency for the implementation of the multi-purpose river valley project.

In the present instance at the Rameshwarpura, the people there had fallen ill at least a week earlier, but no doctor was available to treat them. After repeated calls by the villagers, only a nurse visited them only to suggest that the seriously ill be shifted to a city hospital. Ironically, the State Government spokesmen have claimed that most of the victims of the mysterious disease have died of old age while only one of them was aged above 50 years.

The project-affected people confirm that about five acres of land allotted to each of the rehabilitated people are uncultivable, making it nearly impossible to grow any grain there. They have lodged several complaints with the Rehabilitation Commissioner on this score but without any results.


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