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Press Note July 19, 1999

NARMADA WATER RISING
MEDHA AND SATYAGRAHIS DETERMINED TO FACE SUBMERGENCE
INCREASING SUPPORT FOR THE MASS ACTION

The 'Samarpit Dal' (Dedicated squad) of the Narmada Bachao Andolan is determined to face the swirling backwaters of Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) as the water level in Narmada increased sharply on Sunday (18th July) due to the increasing rains in the upper catchment. The main activists of Andolan including Bawa Muhariya, Sitarambhai Patidar and Medha Patkar and other villagers and activists are determined not to move out even if they are drowned.

The distance between the Satyagraha place (Narmada) and the rising waters is becoming shorter. On Sunday, the waters increased speedily as there were rains in the upper catchment. The unmetalled road from Kadipani to Hapeshwar, the main approach to the submergence villages including Domkhedi (Maharashtra) and Jalsindhi(M.P.), was submerged under the backwaters at many places. It is becoming increasingly difficult to communicate with these and other villages.

At Rajghat, near Badwani, the water level on 17th morning was 113.760 meters, which rose up to 117.100 m. in the night, which later receded marginally. At Hoshangabad, further upstream, the river water rose and kept on fluctuating. There are no reports of opening up of the gates of Tawa and Bargi dams. If they are opened, the water level would rise rapidly, submerging the Satyagraha places and the other villages.

The construction work on the Sardar Sarovar has reached upto 88 meters with the permission of the Supreme Court, when the resettlement of the first few villages near the damsite also was not complete. The increased height (85 m. plus 3 m. of the humps) would submerge about 60 villages with 2000 tribal families. This year's submergence would hit the entire tribal region in the Sardar Sarovar affected area. The people have decided to challenge the unjust submergence and forcible displacement that was imposed on them by the government machinations, with the help of the false affidavits regarding rehabilitation, thus misguiding the apex court in India.

However, the Satyagraha is continuing with various programmes during the day. A number of supporter groups have participated in the Satyagraha during this period. Prominent trade unionists from Mumbai, representatives of various organisations from Thane and various activists went to Domkhedi and Jalsindhi to express solidarity. Among them were Suryakant Bagal (General Secretary, Hind Mazdoor Sabha), Datta Iswalkar and Mr. Ghagh (Girni Kamgar Sangharsha Samiti), Jagdish Khairaliya (Samajwadi Jan Parishad) and others. Artists from Bengal, social work students from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) participated in Satyagraha. Mr. Kishan Patnayak, Socialist thinker and president of Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Secretary Mr.Bhai Vaidya too visited the valley. From 15th onwards there were meetings with the project affected organisations and activists from Gosi-Khurd (Nagpur) and sanctuary affected areas.

People from Nimad, Gujarat and Maharashtra resettlement sites have also been converging at the Satyagraha places. The people in Jalsindhi protested against the callous manner in which the M.P. government has been dealing with the submergence and resettlement issues They asked the Sub-Divisional magistrate to provide them all the information regarding the impending submergence and resettlement status. The information is still to come. The people in Domkhedi Satyagraha and the supporters marched to the police camp in the village and later to the Nimgavhan camp. They also challenged the discrimination towards the village students in the 'Jeevan Shala', run by the NBA, by not allowing them to take admission in higher classes.

Meanwhile, the preparations are on for the "Rally for the Valley" of hundreds of people from Delhi and elsewhere in India, with the initiative of the renowned literateur Ms. Arundhati Roy. A number of artists, intellectuals and other prominent persons from various parts of India will be participating in it. The Rally would start off from Indore (July 30), and travel through the valley before it reaches to Jalsindhi satyagraha site on August 2.

Sanjay Sangvai
M.K. Sukumar