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Press Release 21.7.99

Students In Mumbai Demand Opening of Sluices, Compensation

Though the level of the backwaters of the Sardar Sarovar Project has decreased on Wednesday (July 21), the danger of imminent submergence of the Satyagraha villages is still continuing. The 'Samrpit Dal' of the Narmada valley is all set to confront the unjust submergence in Domkhedi and Jalsindhi villages. Meanwhile, the number of people from other villages in the valley has been steadily increasing.

The backwater started rising alarmingly on Monday and Tuesday, as there was continuous rain in the reservoir area and in the upper catchment. On Tuesday, the water level at Hafeshwar, the approach point towards the affected villages and Satyagraha places, was at 97 meters, while on the dam site it was 90.35 m. On Wednesday morning water receded slightly. Yet the villages are threatened. The fields in Jalsindhi, Ankadiya (M.P.) and other villages alongwith in Surung, Piplachop, Bharad were partially submerged. The Satyagrahis made it clear that the government would be responsible for all the damages to the land, houses and lives of the people.

In another significant development, the Maharahstra Minister for resettlement, Mr. Jaiprakash Mundada, conceded that the state would ask for extension in order to present the factual position regarding the resettlement before the Court. The Court hearing will be on July 22. The Minister was discussing the situation arising out of the submergence of Maharashtra villages with the representatives of the students in Mumbai. The students took out an impressive march in the city on Tuesday (July 20th) against the unjust submergence in the Narmada valley. They demanded that the state government must direct the Gujarat government to open the sluices of the dam to lessen the tragedy of submergence. The students demanded that the state government must own up the responsibility of the unjust submergence this year and must pay compensation to the families whose crops, houses would be partially or fully submerged this monsoon. The Minister assured them to announce such a policy after verifying the situation. It was demanded that the Chief Minister must visit the resettlement sites and submergence area alongwith the people's organisations and revise its stand in the court regarding the displacement and resettlement. The students also demanded that, like the Government of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra government too ask for the constitution of a new tribunal and reassessment of the project as it was not in the interests of people and resources of the state.

In Madurai, on July 19, about 300 students, intelligentsia, social activists held a day-long dharana and observed fast in support of the struggle in the Narmada valley. Arasardi Human Rights Forum, National Alliance of People's Movement (T.N.) have resolved that there should be a new tribunal to review the Sardar Sarovar Project. Noted social thinker Dr. Asgarali Engineer, Dr. Dhyanchand Carr and Philip Matthew highlighted the significance of the Narmada Satyagraha and the seriousness of the situation.

There will be a torchlight procession in support of the struggle in Narmada in Hyderabad on July 21st. Similar programmes are being taken in many parts of India.

Sanjay Sangvai