Save The Narmada, Save Humanity! NBA Press Release                                                                                 August 16, 2000

Domkhedi Hamlet Self Sufficient in Electricity
Narmada Valley Celebrates the Independence Day with A Call for the Second Freedom Struggle

Amidst the slogans of hammare gaon me hamara raaj ( our rule in our village), respected Sarvodayi freedom -fighter, Siddharaj Dhadda unfurled the national flag in the presence of over seven hundred representatives from the valley, on the 54th Independence Day of India, August 15. The adivasis in the Narmada valley, while asserting the right over the natural resources, took the national oath in their own language, Pavri. The veteran tribal leader of Narmada Bachao Andolan, Raniya Dahya (elder) Padvi unfurled the flag of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. On this occasion, the first ever micro-hydro power project was launched in Dokhedi.

Over three hundred children from the NBA's Jeevanshala (school of life) participated in this ceremony which took place in the picturesque Nimagavhan village, surrounded by blue mountains and green forest. The Nimgavhan village along with over 50 villages in the valley are threatened with submergence during this monsoon. The Independence Day marked another major phase in the ongoing Satyagraha (non-violent resistance) against the unjust and illegal submergence and displacement due to the Sardar Sarovar Project.

The octogenarian freedom fighter Siddharaj Daddha, who was arrested in 1935 for unveiling the Indian flag against the British rule, saw the Independence day as, "The clarion call for second freedom struggle is echoing in Narmada as well as other places against the slavery brought in by the globalisation. The villages which were never found in the maps of the ruling class, are being submerged for the development of the elite and when they are asked to sacrifice in the name of National Interest, nobody took care to open a school for the children or for their primary health, among other things", he said.

Jeevanshala teacher Girdhar Pavara paid rich tributes to tribal freedom fighters and martyrs like Khajya Naik, Tantya Bhil, Birsa Munda and others. Noted balladeers from Gujarat, Charul and Vinay of 'Lok-naad' (People's Voice) enriched the program with many songs reflecting the struggle and sacrifice of the people to protect their rights.

Earlier, over 700 people, from the tribal and non tribal affected areas in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat alongwith their supporters from different parts of India took out a rally from the Satyagraha places of Domkhedi and Jalsindhi early in the morning before the flag hosting and public meeting.

Children, who gathered in large numbers, performed a skit depicting Mother India suffering from the ill effects of greed, exploitation, excess of industriaisation, communalism etc. It concluded with they taking pledge to protect Mother India.

Children from the school who stood first in the higher exams in higher standards outside the valley were felicitated during the public meeting. They said that they have seen in cities many things, which normally is called development, which brings in violence and dishonesty and never had the peace of their villages. They assured the gathering that once they finish their studies, they would come back and work for the true development of their village.

Two teachers, who are supposedly running government schools in the villages, visited the place during this time. Villagers questioned them about their schools and their pupil. In the past one year this is the first time they were seen by anybody in the villages, even after drawing a salary of Rs.5900 every month from the education department. They even didn't know the tribal language to communicate and instead were assigned the job by Maharashtra government to teach English from the first standard. In Jeevanshala, the preference and the place of dignity is given to the people's own language, Pavri, over Marathi, the state language.

Micro Hydel Project Inaugurated

The Patel (village headman) of Domkhedi, Uliyabhai and Siddharaj Daddha inaugurated the micro hydel project in Domkhedi village. During his speech, Shri. Daddha said, "Gandhiji was not against machines but was against subordination of human to the machines. He preferred the small scale machines like cycle and sewing machine, which people can operate on their own and which are not energy and capital intensive, caused little disturbance in nature." Thus Domkhedi is credited to be the first village in Narmada Valley which produces electricity for their own consumption.

Energy experts, Anil Kumar and Madhu from the 'People's School of Energy', Kerala, applauded the determination and hard work of the people in making this a reality. Two full time activists of NBA Chogalal Dawar and Champalal Avasiya from the affected villages, who have taken special training in the micro hydel projects, were also fully involved with the construction of the project. Addressing the gathering Anil said about the need to protect forest to save the small rivulets and only by that the village can be self sufficient in power and irrigation.

Joe Athialy