NBA Press Release
  01 December 2002
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Will Modi be exposed on the claims related to Narmada?

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The elections are round the corner again. After unfolding the cruel terror unleashed by Hindutva forces, Modi the prime engineer of the pogrom, of late has started talking about progress, of development not destruction. Probed further the charade of indulging in development discourse crumbles down and the glaring reality stare the electorate and the analyst alike as 'development' that Modi tries to push ahead is destructive.

The politics of opportunism conveniently turned the SSP into a political lifeline and built a speculator's paradise for more than a decade promising SSP as the panacea for all the problems of drought affected Kachchh and Saurashtra. Citizens were taken on ride by hiding the fact that even as per project authorities own plans the last 2 % of the water to irrigate merely 1.6 % of the cultivable area of Kachchh and 9% of the cultivable area of Saurashtra (if not usurped till then!). They were never told that the final costs of the project would be Rs. 44000 crore and the unusually high debt burden that has eaten up more than 90% of the irrigation budget, why alone irrigation, 50% of the total (read again TOTAL) annual plan under the same BJP government didn't leave a penny in the state kitty to be spent for small irrigation schemes or local options.

"We have done some work, or else how would you evaluate Narmada water being put into dry riverbed of Sabarmati" asks Modi, but his act of running away to Maninagar to find a safe seat for himself in an attempt to evade questions from angry farmers of Rajkot explains the game. As the game plan goes, privatization of water benefiting few rich urban elites is a priority for Modi not drought prone regions or rural people. Now, the full-page newspaper advertisements talks about giving drinking water from Sardar Sarovar to three Municipal Corporations (Ahmedabad, Baroda and Rajkot) in addition to gradually escalated figures of 8215 villages and 135 towns to be given Narmada water, the Municipal and Industrial share of SSP water allocation agreed into Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal is the same old 1.06 MAF out of 9 MAF. While it is clear that drinking water component of SSP will cost not less than 7500 to 8000 crore, there is no provision for a single rupee towards this in the official cost estimates and given the financial crisis that the state is facing, many more usurpation of the kind boasted by Modi will deprive the needy ones and render them severely marginalized.

One needs to tear off the garb of Modi's propaganda and hold him responsible for cheating Rajkot citizens for intermittent supply of Mahi and Machchhu water under the label of Narmada in an attempt to hoard the votes. Without having financial resources to complete the project or a political will to rehabilitate 40000 Project Affected Families, Modi can make tall claims of delivering Narmada water to entire Gujarat only in the space of Newspaper advertisement bought by the public money, not on the grounds.

In fact it is Modi government, which by pumping in ridiculously high amounts to push SSP ahead has effected crumbling down of economy of the state. It is evident that the debt of the state has mounted up to more than 40000 crore and a large part of the borrowings are again eaten up by debt obligations. CAG has criticized SSNNL on spending the whopping 22% of the total expenditure on debt repayments and has reflected that such a huge debt burden was neither planned nor prudent.

The recommendation of CRISIL to state government asking it to drastically revise the water tariff by 300% to 800% makes it clear that the project will not benefit common people, rural and urban poor, or real needy drought prone Kachchh, Saurashtra and North Gujarat but only a few rich omnivores. Modi's proclamation that by pushing ahead this project he has given a boost to the pride of Gujarat sounds hollow and the moment demands that secular forces put in front of the people the truth of Narmada.

Congress is at the receiving end of the blame put on its governments when Modi holds them responsible for stalling the Dam. Modi is also saying that Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan govts. are yet to pay their share for the project amounting to Rs. 1800 crore. It's only after the political compromise struck between Modi and Digvijay Singh (agreeing to sacrifice the interests of the affected families in Madhya Pradesh) last January in presence of the prime minister that Modi fought the bye-election from Rajkot constituency and used the most visible and politically advantageous symbolism of raising the dam height to 95 mts. This resulted in large-scale destruction and devastation in submergence villages, as also in slums on the periphery of Sabarmati and Chandola lake and in some villages on the bank of the Canal due to unprepared ness. The magic of pushing the water into canal was made possible by Irrigation By Pass Tunnell. This was against his own contention before the Supreme Court in March 2000, that it will deprive Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra of part of it's power share, and hence can't be sanctioned, which was compromised on later.

Yet, the Dam construction remains stalled at 95 mts nearly because 40000 adivasi and farmer remain to be rehabilitated and there is no cultivable land in either of the three states. The most startling fact however is with Modi trying to push the dam to 100 mts and pressurizing the Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh govt' share for his own interests, Digvijay Singh again has allocated Rs. 100 crore towards the purpose in the supplementary budget tabled on the floor of the assembly but yet to be sanctioned.

While we would watch whether Congress governments sacrifice the interests of the affected people from Narmada valley as well as drought prone Saurashtra and Kutch by pushing SSP to help Modi and his party. What is very clear to our vision is that we commit ourselves to put people first and challenge the privatization in land water and forest management, assert the human right of affected communities and fight against submergence. It is for the secular forces to decide and take a courageously move to reject the terror, whether in the name of fascist Hindutva or Jingoistic and destructive development that pushes the communal agenda ahead.

Medha Patkar
Himanshu Upadhyay
D. W. Karuna