NBA Press Release
  08 April 2006
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Medha Patkar and other NBA activists condemn the false charges against them ; Ministers' Team returns from the valley - What will they decide now ?

62, Mahatma Gandhi Road,
Badwani,
Madhya Pradesh - 451551
Tel: 07290-222464
Email: badwani[at]narmada.org

Medha Patkar, Jamsingh Nargave, and Bhagwati Patidam are now in their 10th day of fasting for the immediate halt of illegal construction on the Sardar Sarovar Dam. Medha and Jamsinghbhai both remain in the All India Insitute of Medical Science where they have been isolated since they were forcefully removed against their will from dharna when 500 police stormed the sleeping protestors, late Wednesday night. Medha has been denied contact with any visitors by administration and the police, a gesture which is in total violation of her democratic rights. Moreover, it has since become apparent that a case under Section 309: Attempt to commit suicide, has been filed against her, while it remains unclear whether the same charge has also been filed on other people fasting. Similarly, several charges have been filed against about 25 other persons.

The charges filed were under sections:

- 186: Obstructing public servants in discharge of public function
- 332: Voluntary causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty
- 353: Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty
- 147: For rioting
- 149: Unlawful assembly
- 309: Attempt to commit suicide
- 34: Common intention

Medha's response to this shenanigan has been that, "Those who commit crimes always put the blame on others. This is not the first time such a thing has happened with the Andolan. So many farmers are committing suicide all over the country. Will the government and the police blame the farmers? Rather, it is clear that the blame lies with the state. If the state files a case against me, I will file a case of murder against the state: murder of the Narmada Valley, murder of humanity, murder of justice!"

Following the directions of the Prime Minister on Tuesday, a delegation of Ministers returned today from the Narmada Valley after having gone there to visit some of the affected families at and under 121.92m within the Sardar Sarovar Dam affected area, to assess the veracity of claims that Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) have been sufficiently completed for the next stage of construction. The team, which included Union Minister for Water Resources, Prof Saif-ud-din Soz, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Smt Meira Kumarji, and Minister of State in the Prime Minster's Office, Shri Prithviraj Chauhan, was met by hundreds of Project Affected Families (PAFs) who had travelled more than 100 kilometres to come to Avalda to make their voices heard. The anger, frustration and persistent hope of the affected people were embodied in various forms, from speeches to written applications, to slogan shouting and songs.

The team didn't manage to visit the 100% adivasis villages in the affected zone, where families have had to face submergence without rehabilitation every monsoon for more than a decade now, which the NBA had strongly recommended. However, there was so much that took place in one day and so much that revealed itself to the three Ministers regardless. Through the repetition of accounts from the affected people, whether regarding the paucity of basic amenities, like drinking water, electricity or sewage lines, the insufficiency of house-plots at R&R sites, or lack of R&R sites at all, it was made blatantly clear that the law is being flouted. The high participation of PAFs in the programme, considering that Narmada Valley Development Authority informed no one of this visit, is proof enough of the severity of problems in resettlement. The fact that every single R&R site is empty except for a handful of families is further testimony. And that those entitled to land for land are y et to be allotted cultivable and irrigable land makes discrepancy between the official policies of R&R and reality a lucid fact.

The Team had a meeting with Shri Prashant Bhusahan, Shri B. D. Sharma, Shri Denzil Saldana, Ashish Mandloi and Clifton D'Rozario (the latter two being members of Narmada Bachao Andolan). [Please see statement released by the independent observers, Advocate Prashant Bhushan and Dr. B. D. Sharma.] In this meeting the Ministers were briefed on the legal implications and scale of human tragedy that would befall the villages affected at and below 121.92m, should the construction of the dam not be suspended immediately. It was made clear that the PAFs have been absolutely relentless in writing letters to the officials and the GRA to seek redressal of their problems but that the GRA does not visit the R&R sites or the original villages and hence has no real sense of what is actually happening. Indeed, even though there are grievances related to those affected below 110.64m, clearance was still given for the dam to be further raised to 121.92m, which exemplifies how out of touch those who are accountable for clearance of each stage of construction are with the ground reality of the villages. Having returned to Delhi today, the team are currently discussing their findings and will further consider the issues they have faced with the Prime Minister, subsequent to which they will then release their report.

In the anticipation of the findings from the delegation, the dharna of project affected persons and concerned protestors being held at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, has remained vibrantly alive and active with a multitudinous stream of supporters continuing to visit the peaceful protest in its fourth week and convey their solidarity with the cause and concern for the health and rights of both Medha and Jamsinghbhai. There has been an absolute outpouring of international and national support towards the movement to stop further construction on the Sardar Sarovar Dam, with spontaneous protests, dharnas and solidarity fasts bursting out all across India. On Thursday marches in Bangalore and Plachimada were accompanied by a 24hr fast in Pune, with 50 organisations involved culminating in the submission of a petition to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra with almost 400 signatures. Yesterday 150 people worldwide signed up for a one-day solidarity fast, simultaneously undertaken by a peoples' sit-in fast in Chennai, a symbolic hunger-strike in Bangalore, which was accompanied by various cultural performances, and a one-day fast in both Jalna and Aurangabad where Ex MP Dr Bapu Kaldate, Justice (Ret'd) Narendra Chapalgaonkar, and Ex-MLA Dr T. S. Patil all took part. Solidarity protests were also held in Kolkata, a 1.5km silent rally in Itanagar (Arunchal Pradesh) and a rally of exposure through handouts and petitions in amidst Mumbai's mad rush-hour, outside Churchgate station. In Raipur, Chhatisgarh, a one day dharna was held by 'Nadi Ghati Morcha' and 17 other mass organisations including social movements like CMM, CPI, PUCL, Adivasi Dalit Morcha, Jan Adhikar Group, Peoples' Alliance in Central East India and many other civil society organisations. They integrated their various angles of support to produce a comprehensive memorandum of signatures which they have submitted to the President through the Govenor. At the same time in Delhi, some 500 students from St Columbus, St Mary and other schools, visited the dharna site at Jantar Mantar itself. Today, more than 200 people in Bangalore and more than 400 people, under the banner of the National Alliance of Peoples Movements, in Kolkata undertook relay hunger fasts. A one day fast was held in both Latur and Parbhani, with rallies, dharnas and hunger fasts being held in Shimla with Nadi Gheti Mon, Palampur with Narrachna Manch, and Mandi, all three villages within Himanchal Pradesh. The Mumbai supporters continued their exposure to the rush-hour trainstation masses today and will keep going each day until the dharna is concluded.

So far, more than 2000 people worldwide, and counting, have signed an online petition (http://petitions.aidindia.org/narmada/) in protest against the construction of the dam. The Open Challenge to Sardar Sarovar Dams (http://petitions.aidindia.org/narmada_petition/), too, is growing at a phenomenal rate, with over 600 signatures from prominent scientists and engineers from across the world. The Open Challenge is a slamming denounciation of power generation figures having been glamorized by the SSP engineers in the Indian Express, where they had claimed that the SSP dam will generate Rs 2500 crores of power every year. The challenge condemns the advertising of unrealizable benefits in terms of power and irrigation and the luring of their nation to increase the dam's height to 121.9 mts. despite the fact that 35,000 families are still living in the submergence zone without rehabilitation. It states that the signatories "take a strong exception to the misuse of science for promoting human rights violation" and challenges the SSP engineers to withdraw the statement that 3.42 crore units electricity will be produced daily by SSP dam in a public apology, or sign a legally enforceable bond to pay the shortfall below Rs. 2500 crore every year, a loss estimated to be about Rs. 1500-2000 crores a year in the initial years before the canal network is completed and rising to Rs. 2300 crores a year once all the waters are diverted for irrigation purposes to the canals of the Narmada river valley projects. Similar petitions, memorandums and letters of concern have poured through to the concerned authorities, and many more words of support have been passed through to the movement in solidarity from a myriad of organisations and individuals, just several of which include Rivers' Group, BAPAEC, Transboundary River Group, Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies Environment and Development - Bangalore, Water and Energy Users Federation - Nepal, PRASHANT, Arunchal Pradesh Citizens' Rights, Child Rights and You, and the International Farakka Committee. Such a magnitude of response has really built up a substantial resistance to the unjust submergence of the settled communities in the Narmada Valley; an injustice which won't be consequential to the complacency and apathy of the people.

The ministers who have visited the valley can no longer deny the state of rehabilitation. The decision to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam to 121.92m must be rescinded and further construction suspended since the rehabilitation of PAFs incompliance with the NWDTA, Supreme Court judgements and State policies has not taken place. Until then, Medha, Jamsinghbhai and Bhagwatibai, along with the number of people who have joined them, will continue their indefinite fast until such action is taken.

Dipti Bhatnagar
Yogini Khanolkar
Noorji Padvi
Kailash Awasya