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Press Release, Dam Site - Jalud                                                 January 11 2000


Inspite of heavy police protection, as planned earlier, the NBA activists walking throughout the night occupied the destructive Maheshwar dam site today morning at 6.45 am and stopped the work on the dam. Among the 4000 odd affected people and activists who captured the site, senior NBA activist Chittaroopa Palit, noted writer-novelist Arundhati Roy, veteran Gandhian Jyotibhai Desai, prominent film makers Pradip Kishen and Jharna Jhaveri and large number of supporters from Delhi, Bombay, Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Indore are also there. About 1500 people were prevented by the police on the way itself from moving towards the site.

More than 1500 people, who were on dharna at dam site and before police, were arrested at about 1.00 pm with force by the Madhya Pradesh Police. Police also misbehaved with the people including Arundhati Roy, Jharna Jhaveri and Chittaroopa Palit. Also, Padhri Verma and Annapurnabai of village Pathrad and Chandrashekar and Chandu of village Sulgaon were terribly beaten up by police inside the bus while taking them to the police station.

Earlier at 6.45 am the people started dharna at the site with slogans and songs and the officials including the Khargone District Collector Mr.Bhopalsingh came forward to pursuade the activists to withdraw their agitation. The talks went on till 10.45 am but without result. At about 1.00 pm about 1500 people including Arundhati and others were arrested forcefully and taken to Mandaleshwar Police Station.

It may be recollected that for the past 3 years, a strong agitation is on against the destructive Maheshwar Dam and it was exactly two years back on 11th January 1998 that the Maheshwar Dam was occupied for more than 20 days. That occupation has led the M.P.Governmentto set up the Task Force. This Task Force after ten months study has recommended a comprehensive review of the Maheshwar Project to reassess the cost-benefit ratio and the viability and disirability of the Project. However, instead of acting on this recommendation of its own Task Force the Madhya Pradesh Government allowed the private company S.Kumars' to push ahead with the project and supported it by unleasing repression on the affected people. The occupation of the dam site is to demand complete stoppage of work on the project and a comprehensive review as recommended by the Task Force.

It is to be noted that, although the project will have a proposed installed capacity of 400 MW, the average firm power will be only 82 MW, and power production in the 8 non-monsoon months will not be more than one-and-a half hours a day. Yet the cost of power from this project will be prohibitively high - an average of Rs. 6 to 8 per unit, with the cost of peaking power being Rs. 8 to 10 per unit at the point of production. It may be recalled that the project was privatized in 1994 and handed over to the S. Kumars, and that the S. Kumars have, even prior to the financial closure, inflated the project costs by 5 times from Rs. 465 crores to Rs. 2000 crores in the course of just 5 years.

NBA along with its vast number of supporters from the state and all over the country, warns the state government that truth and reality cannot be suppressed through repressive method of forceful arrest, etc upon the non-violent agitators and it will carry on strong agitation against the destructive Maheshwar Project.

Alok Agrawal
Delhi Contact: 6426783 & 6237724