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

Medha Shifted to Hospital to Obfuscate Issues; Center must stop work on SSP till rehabilitation is ensured

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The Narmada Bachao Andolan and people all over India, who value democracy and equality, condemn the act of the Central government in hiding the real issue of illegal construction on the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), by forcibly removing Medha Patkar and Jamsingbhai on the indefinite fast to hospital, late night on April 5. The large contingent of police also arrested and manhandled about 250 villagers. Curiously, the police have not taken another activist on fast, Bhagwatibai. Thus this show is just a step in the larger game of making the 121.92 meters of the dam irreversible.

The Union government must not deal with the serious issue in such a frivolous way. Instead of intimidating protesting people, it should show courage to stop the crass injustice and illegality of continuing the work on the Sardar Sarovar project (SSP). The Union Ministers are merely making a show of meeting and persuading the fasting activists and appealing Medha Patkar to withdraw the fast. But for what?

Has there been any concrete progress in land-based rehabilitation of over 35,000 families below the height of 121.92 meters? Is there any possibility of resettling all these ousted families before the monsoon of 2006? For last 30 years, despite the best efforts, the three state governments have not been able to resettle more than 10,000 families, that too in a most shabby manner. Now, does it see the possibility to resettle all these 35,000 families, before this years' monsoon? The best and only course is to order immediate stoppage of the dam work beyond 121.92 meters before it became irreversible and inevitable.

For the last fortnight, since March 17, the Central government has been dithering on the issue. Even after the Union Water Resources Minister, Mr. Saifuddin Soz, clearly stated that the decision to raise the height of the SSP from 110.64 meters to 121.92 meters was unjustifiable, on 19 March, there was no action on his or the Prime Minister's part to stop the dam. What has the government been waiting for? Now the Union government has been announced plans to 'visit the valley and verify the contention and information provided by the Narmada Bachao Andolan'!

This is to obfuscate the real issue regarding the people's lives and rights as people from the valley have been protesting on the streets of Delhi since March 17 and it has generated a lot of attention in the press and attracted support. The Union government could have done this even before when NBA approached every union water resources minister, time and again. The apparent confusion is but a strategy to allow the dam to be completed upto 121.92 meters at the behest of the national-international contractors-builders, corporates and communalists.

Center Must Stand Up

The real question is Does the political leadership in Union government has enough courage to restrain contain the pressure of Gujarat government and the adamant lobby of bureaucrats and engineers at the Center and in the states, for the sake of common people the farmers and Adivasis?

If the Prime Minister is sincere about his assurance of November 2004 and the Union cabinet has the respect for the rule of law, they should immediately call a halt to the work on the dam. They must start the process of identifying the real numbers of the affected people, the required cultivable land and undertake land based rehabilitation of all those who have been affected and will be hitherto by the submergence and displacement. The Union Government and the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) must show courage to counter the unholy alliance of bureaucrats in Narmada Control Authority (NCA), in the union water resources ministry and the Gujarat government. It should not indulge in contempt of the rulings of the Supreme Court and provisions of the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal award. Most of all, the Union government must stand by the people the adivasis and farmers, discuss and review with these people and their organization, the Narmada Bachao Andolan, about the future course of the dam and displacement.

The people in the Narmada valley are upset over the deliberate stance of the Union government and its inaction aimed to help further submergence and displacement. They are going to intensify their resistance. The NBA has approached all the forums of the democratic system, but found most of them siding with the financial privileged sections of the society. The government, by its own behaviour, has rendered the non-violent and democratic action meaningless. What is the message it wants to convey to the people? It can talk and act on the dictates of all kinds of armed organizations, but it is trivializing the demands of the democratic and non-violent protests. What choice does the ruling class thinks that the common people will make?

The ball is in their court, they will have to make the choice.

Himanshu Upadhyay
Sanjay Sangvai