NBA Press Release
  28 August 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Sardar Sarovar at What Cost? :
BJP – Congress Together on Slaughtering People, if not Cows

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The struggle that is on in the Valley of Narmada doesn’t easily make it to the streets and the stage in New Delhi and appears much distant to many but the decisions that compel the people out there to stake their lives are made here and those indicate not just distance but vicious distortion. This is what is obvious from the fact that the Narmada Control Authority, based here with Modi-Advani alliance than in Indore (its head office), has dared discuss further construction and raising the height of Sardar Sarovar beyond 100 m (to 110 m) when thousands of people who have technically fallen in the submergence zone already are far from rehabilitated. Life continues in the thickly populated villages in Dhar and Badwani districts of Madhya Pradesh such as Chikhalda, Nisarpur, Kadmal, Piplood, Bagud, Pipri while the adivasis in the Vindhya ranges in Jhabua too perseverently continue to stay on the river bank against all odds- heavy silt swallowing people and cattle, young boys eaten by crocodiles, stagnant water spreading malaria and gastro-entritis, The decision to flush people out by flooding is being pursued by Modi with his closest ally, none else but Digvijaysingh himself.

The two governments, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh seem to have joined hands against otherwise conflict strategy for upcoming elections that has compelled Singh to even change his position on ‘cow slaughter’ and stand apart. His nod to Gujarat’s intention to slaughter and suffocate his own people, the electorate, however, is a result of his perverted and farcical motto, ‘(Hydro) Power to People’. Digvijay Singh who is at the forefront at every national and international forum to drumbeat this catchy slogan, has not consulted the Gram-sabhas, nor has he yet provided them with documents which he promised during the unique meeting on July 28th attended by common friends and supporters of him and the Narmada Bachao Andolan, LC Jain, former planning commission member, Swami Agnivesh and Shabana Azmi, Member of Parliament. In clear violation of the well publicized Panchayati Raj Act, Tribal Self Rule Act and the Right to Information Act, no consultation was ever held in any of the Gramsabhas in more than 190 villages to be affected and annihilated by the giant project.

There is no cultivable land located and offered to people there while the rocky, undulated grazing land, not free from encroachment, that has failed him in pursuit of ‘Dalit Agenda’ is the only land that exists on paper for the prime agriculturists and horticulturists of Nimad, the fertile region of black cotton soil. "If it’s not acceptable, accept cash" is the dictum that the green CM has thrown at people. It is obvious that he is least bothered about the ‘people’s power’ and more about the ‘hydro-power’ – that would ‘brighten’ his electoral victory and bring him the ‘power’ which he seeks to regain from the powerless. With the hue and cry raised by his opponents led by Umabharati, Digvijay Singh is trying to prove his ability to produce or provide electricity to the people of his state by blaming the NBA and upholding Sardar Sarovar. And hence it doesn’t matter to him that the same people, dalits and farmers themselves, whom he wishes to lure and get votes from, are pauperized and made landless, throwing the policy of land based rehabilitation advertised over years and used to get the court’s approval, to the dustbin.

It’s more or less the same game that the CM of Maharashtra is in, in spite of his cabinet, especially the Rashtravadti Congress Party, raising serious questions as regards rehabilitation as well as the cost-benefit of the Project. The third Congress CM, Mr. Gehlot, too is trying not to be a barrier while Modi is confident of winning the three and also his next election by water as his agenda.

The perverted economics- for whose benefit?

All this when the Dam itself has its future sealed. If the indictment by the reports of the Comptroller Auditor General is any clue, the whopping Rs 16500 crores additionally required to complete the project and another 7500 crores for the pipeline for drinking water supply, can result only in a huge debt burden on one hand, and the shocking rise in water tariff depriving the real needy on the other. When 2800 crores are already spent on the interest (as against 600 crores on rehabilitation) which is 22% of the annual expense on the dam project, there is as yet no viable financial plan either to mobilize funds in time or to repay, even the capital to the investors of old bonds for which crisil rating has gone down twice during last 2 years. The only way to recover money, even the minimum for operation and maintenance costs, is to raise the tariff which is planned through commercialization and privatisation for which ‘Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd. (The Company)’ has been already brought in. With privatization inevitable in water supply, this precious commodity is not going to be available for the rural, peripheral drought affected communities. The cheap and decentralized alternative of catching the rain in every small catchment area has suffered due to 95% of irrigation budget going to SSP. Rajkot that depended on the distant Narmada waters could not get it for more than 17 days throughout the last year when all other small projects, which were on paper since years could not see the light of the day, due to financial crunch.

It is with all distortions and derailments on one hand and the false claims of rehabilitation on the other that Sardar Sarovar is being pushed ahead, not for the small amount of ‘hydro-power’, as much for ‘electoral power’ by Digvijay Singh and is used for ‘water as carrier of power’ by Modi at the cost of seismic risks and destitution of oustees violating all laws and policies. The people in the Narmada Valley with a few thousand acres and tens of houses already lost to submergence in the adivasi region, stay put and prepare themselves to face the next flood with greater damage.

Beyond SSP on to dams linking the rivers?

Sardar Sarovar in the struggle and the scenario is a clear indication of what is to come our way in the form of inter-linking of rivers, which would include no less than 137 damning plans. The costliest of the options in water management can only be pursued by victimizing the generations old, culturally rich riverine populations who cannot give way to the project and face displacement and destitution so easily, whether or not the CMs of various states approve the links, it’s only by linking themselves across the country that the river valley people can question the foolishly demonic Project. The struggle in Narmada has, therefore, to continue indomitably.

Medha Patkar