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NBA appeals to president
for protection of
project-affected people

NBA is also filing a petition in the Supreme Court
seeking a clarification of the judgment, and is
seeking public support for the cause,
reports Damandeep Singh

New Delhi, November 11

Villagers from the Narmada valley came calling in the capital at the end of their "long march" and demanded
that President K R Narayanan use his special powers under Article 5 of the Constitution to ensure that the
areas belonging to tribals and Dalits are protected.

Medha Patkar, leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), said that the president should also ask the governors of the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra to ensure that the tribal lands, threatened
by the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project, are protected. "Being a Dalit himself, we hope he will act," she said.

She was leading a rally of the "project-affected persons", as they are known, from the three states to protest against the recent Supreme Court order allowing resumption of work on the dam. The rally at Rajghat
was supported by several organisations, trade unions
and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

"We are here to appeal to the president, the prime minister as well as the civil society on the issue of life


Medha Patkar said that the president should also ask the governors of the concerned states to ensure that the tribal lands are protected. "Being a Dalit himself, we hope he will act," she said

and death for Narmada," Patkar told reporters. She added that a review petition would also be filed simultaneously. that a review petition would also be filed simultaneously.

The NBA has already filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking clarification of the October 18 judgment, which
gave the Gujarat government the
go-ahead to resume construction. "We are still thinking of filing a complete review of the project," Patkar said.

A special bench of the Supreme Court had ruled last month that the construction of the dam could continue
as per the Narmada Tribunal's award. Construction on
the dam began again on October 31, after a six-year
gap. However, for the moment its height can only be raised from the existing 88 metres to 90 metres. After that, a clearance will be needed for every three metres of construction.

Another NBA activist, Sripad Dharmadhikary, said that they would explore all the legal options. "Simultaneously, we will take the judgment to the people, explain the arguments used by the court and let the people decide who is correct," he added.

Well-known author Arundhati Roy, lending support to
the rally, said that the Supreme Court had "shot the people in the back" and warned that "the people would
not take things lying down". She called upon the general public to rise in support of the displaced families.

Patkar said that the pro-dam lobby was representative
of the anti-people mode of development that stripped natural resources and pauperised the voiceless. She claimed that over 3,500 families would be affected by the judgment immediately as the height of the wall is raised
to 90 metres. She pointed out that less than 25 per cent of the people had been rehabilitated in the past 20 years.
 








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