NBA Press Release
  22 August 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Sitaram Kaka, Mohanbhai, Geetanjali, Medha Patkar, others face Narmada submergence; Water Level at Dam 102 m+; Satyagrahis firm; Water starts receding slowly after devastation

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As the Sardar Sarovar dam has caused large-scale submergence and devastation in the Narmada Valley from the evening of August 20, the 'Satyagrahis' of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) have been challenging the 'government imposed injustice' by facing the raging submergence water. The dam water has already crossed the mark of 102 meters by the night of 21 (Wednesday) inundated the Satyagraha places in Domkhedi and Jalsindhi. Despite the arrests of about 25 activists and villagers on Wednesday, over 50 villagers and activists including Sitaram Kaka, Mohanbhai, Geetanjali, Medha Patkar and others are continuing the Satyagraha by standing in the knee-deep waters by the evening of 21st. When the news last came the water started receding slowly .

The Satyagrahis called the governments not to enact the drama of 'rescuing' the people with police force and instead address the basic issues, which compelled the people to stake their lives to face the submergence. Various organisations and prominent citizens in India and abroad too made similar demand to the Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and to the Prime Minister. Number of supporters is there in the villages to witness the resolve of the people.

Earlier, the Maharashtra police has arrested 25 village leaders and activists including the veterans like Ranya Daya, Dadlya Karbari, Bolya Daya, Dedlibai, youngsters Keersingh, Baby Furtya along with the activists Devrambhai, Prathiba Shinde, Shobha, Suhar Kolhekar and others who were facing the submergence in the Satyagraha house in Domkhedi. They were later taken to Dhadgaon, Taloda and in the end to Dhule jail. The people facing the water in Sikka, Bharad and other villages are reported to be detained by the police. The submergence caused large-scale devastation of the houses and farms in all the villages. As the news of the water entering in the Satyagraha places reached in the Valley, more people are reaching there to join the Satyagraha.

The submergence is the result of the increased height of the Sardar Sarovar dam, from 90 metres to 95 metres (plus 3 metres humps), by the Gujarat government, violating all the laws, rules and normal human considerations. The Madhya Pradesh government has been cynical enough to support this and Central government colluded with this design. All this was in violation of the order of October 2000. Surprisingly, the Supreme Court also did not act against this illegal act, even when Narmada Bachao Andolan had approached the Court in May 2002. The Court could not decide on this illegal act as yet while the construction was going on and the submergence was sure to occur as it did now.

The Narmada Control Authority (NCA), the inter-state monitoring body for rehabilitation and environment on 17 May 2002, gave the go-ahead to raise the height of the controversial Sardar Sarovar from 90 m to 95 meters, despite serious lapses in the rehabilitation, non-fulfillment of environmental and other conditions. At lease 10,000 tribal and non-tribal families will face submergence and displacement, alongwith the pristine forest land.

Despite the illegalities involved in the increase in the dam height, the Narendra Modi government of Gujarat wanted to harp on Narmada issue to wriggle out of the infamy it had acquired due to recent communal carnage in the state. Surprisingly, the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Mr.Digvijay Singh, despite his suave public face, is supporting the Modi government by attempting to displace the people from his own state with hook or crook. The Madhya Pradesh government has been using the brute police force and illegal means of disbursing cash compensation in lieu of land-based rehabilitation. "If the government has no capacity to implement the land-based rehabilitation, why the work on the dam was going on?" The people asked for which the power-holders do not have any answer. And the Supreme Court too has not looked at it with due seriousness.

The submergence in the SSP comes on the heels of the submergence of the villages in the Man dam area and the forcible displacement of the people without any resettlement. The Madhya Pradesh government has acted in a most callous way regarding entire displacement and resettlement.

As the power-holders in India have flaunted all the norms of the democratic governance, justice, constitutional and human rights of the people and the rule of the law, the people are determined to fight for their life and right and for the justice in the nation. The people are demanding that :

  • Gujarat and the other governments, instead of enacting the drama of 'saving the people' by police action, should initiate dialogue on the basic issues that led to the Satyagraha against submergence by the people in the Valley. These issues include the displacement, people's rights, environmental aspects, violation of conditions, cost-benefit of the dam and others.
  • Lakhs of rupees worth crops lost in this man-made flood must be calculated and compensated in time.
  • As a starting point, the recommendations of Justice Daud Committee report, the recent report on Public Hearing in the Valley (July 2002) and the Task Force report on rehabilitation and rights of the people by the Maharashtra government must be implemented.
  • There should be no further attempts to increase the height of the dam, when the problems created by the present heights and below that still remain resolved.
  • All this should lead for a comprehensive review of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, resettlement-displacement and the options available. The people's organisation Narmada Bachao Andolan must be part of any such endeavor.

The people have reiterated their resolve to continue their struggle against the forcible submergence, displacement, injustice and exploitation.

Ashish Mandloi