Medha Patkar, 61 NBA activists held
AHMEDABAD: After maintaining a low profile for days over the agitation by oustees in the Narmada valley, the Gujarat government on Thursday challenged the Narmada Bachao Andolan's claim that several villages would be submerged during this monsoon due to the backwater effect of the Sardar Sarovar dam.
Meanwhile, the second batch of NBA activists started their satyagraha in Domkhedi village in Maharashtra on Thursday following the arrest of Medha Patkar and 61 other NBA activists by the Maharashtra police after the hut in which they were staging the protest was submerged. But the dharna at Jalsindhi in Madhya Pradesh continued while the water was flowing a few feet below the satyagraha site.
Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam chairman Bhupendrasinh Chudasma scoffed at the details on submergence given by NBA and termed the meetings organised by them at Domkhedi and Jalsindhi ``as yet another example of false propaganda aimed at whipping up public emotion on the ambitious project''.
In a statement, Mr Chudasma said dam's height was 85 metres, with humps of three metres (88 metres), and at this level, submergence in MP would be limited. The waters would touch only six villages and not a single residential house or hut would be submerged.
As regards private farmland, there were only three farmers in two villages whose agricultural land would be submerged. In four other villages, the project-affected families had already been shifted and rehabilitated.
He pointed out that the project authorities had already taken into account the possibility of severe floods which occur once in 100 years. In the event of such a flood, the waters could rise to touch 33 villages in MP. However, a total of only 87 residential houses would be affected involving 1,300 families.
An NBA spokesman said the tribals and peasants of the Narmada valley dared the swirling backwaters of the Sardar Sarovar Project for over 15 hours before they were arrested on Wednesday evening by the Maharashtra police. They said 62 satyagrahis, including 19 women, were arrested alongwith Medha Patkar.
However, the satyagraha at Jalsindhi continued even while the water came perilously close to the satyagraha site. In Domkhedi also, immediately after the arrest of the first batch, the new batch of satyagrahis continued the protest.