Indian Express, Baroda, September 29, 1999

Kutch Kisan Sangh threatens to go Medha Way

D.V.Maheshwari, Bhuj, Sept.29.

The Kutch Kisan Sangh, one of the most active and formidable units of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh in the State whose open revolt and poll boycott call early this month is perceived to have damaged BJP prospects in the Kutch parliamentary seat, is still up in arms. In fact, it is threatening to intensify its stir if the State Government does not give the border district its "rightful share of Narmada water".

"Our action will be very drastic this time and we are even considering coining a new slogan 'No Narmada if no water to Kutch' even if that means talking in the language of anti-Narmada activist Medha Patkar," Kutch Kisan Sangh president Veljibhai Bhudia told this paper in an exclusive interview on Tuesday.

Bhudia had gone underground during the first phase of parliamentary election after inserting a half-page advertisement in local newspapers asking the people of Kutch in general and its 1.30 lakh member-voters in particular not to vote for BJP candidate Pushpadan Gadhvi in view of the indifferent attitude of Industry Minister Suresh Mehta's group which Gadhvi belonged to. Bhudia said the organisation was now waiting for the outcome of the election next month to decide on its future course of action.

He said though he and other Kisan leaders had now emerged from hiding, no one from the Government or from the BJP had approached them or made any statement on whether perennially dry Kutch would get its share of Narmada water.

The kisan leader said that though theirs was a political wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and they were in principle not against the BJP government led Patel, they would go to any extent in their agitational programme in getting Narmada water. "We only want water as per the share officially earmarked in 1972 by the State Government," Bhudia asserted.

He said farmers in Kutch were so agitated about the matter that 30 of them had declared their intention of immolating themselves in the last kisan rally in March this year here.

But they were prevented from doing so following an assurance from Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel sent through his special emissary and GMDC chairman Mukesh Zaveri.

He said the Chief Minister who had described the Kutch demand for adequate water as a genuine one had not held any talks with them involving experts as was promised by him

Bhudia said the government had also not responded to the suggestion of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh's national president Kunvarjibhai that the main Narmada canal be extended from Kadi to Salimgadh to enable Kutch to have a 350-cusecs canal from Adesar, the entry point of the district in the east.

He said the present allocated of water was unjust as Kutch possessed one-fourth of the landmass in the State with no water sources and scanty rainfall. It had received only two percent of Narmada water, while central and south Gujarat which had a number of big rivers were to get 98 per cent of the water.

"How can this injustice can tolerated? he asked, adding that the government needed to be shown 'Kutchchi pani' (strength).