NBA Press Release
  06 July 2007
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Andolan replies to the questions raised by the government in a section of the media:

2, Sai nagar, Mata Chowk,
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Madhya Pradesh
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Indefinite fast continues for the 31st day today

The indefinite dharna of over 5000 people demanding immediate government action for proper rehabilitation of the Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dam affected people continued in Bhopal with fervour and strong resolve. The indefinite fast by two senior activists of Narmada Bachao Andolan - Chittaroopa Palit and Bhagwan Mukati entered its 31st day today. Their health is showing decline but their morale and resolve to fight for the just rights of proper rehabilitation for the affected population continues undaunted.

Meanwhile, after the talks between the Andolan and Narmada Minister failed to reach any positive consequence, the government has made a fresh move by inviting a delegation of representatives to meet the Energy Minister Shri Kailash Vijayvargiya today. The Andolan representatives will meet him and apprise him of the situation of the displaced people and their demands.

A delegation of senior citizens comprising of Shri Kuldeep Nayyar, Ms Mohini Giri, Adv. Sanjay Parikh and many others met the Bharatiya Janata Party National Chairperson Shri Rajnath Singh in Delhi yesterday. Shri Rajnath Singh assured the delegation that he wanted the displaced people to get their due rights and will talk to the Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh in this context. The delegation also met Central Water Resources Minister Shri Saifuddin Soz and requested him to intervene and take all necessary steps.

In Bhopal, a section of the press carried a bunch of questions yesterday, reportedly raised by the government regarding the Narmada Bachao Andolan and its activities. The Andolan has answers to all these questions and since they are being raised to spread confusion, it feels that they should be replied squarely. The following are the questions and their answers:

1. How are the hunger-strikers able to give speeches even after 30 days of their fast?

It is the sheer moral strength and firm resolve to fight for the rights of the displaced with their lives that makes it possible for the two senior Narmada Bachao Andolan activists - Ms Chittaroopa Palit and Shri Bhagwan Mukati - to address the 6000 strong gathering of displaced people at the dharna site. The government doctors examining them medically are well aware of the situation. The tests carried out by them on the faster's have urine samples have shown existence of acetones - a clear biological proof of the body protein reserves being broken down in the lack of any external source of nutrition. Copies of reports from the government doctors have also been supplied to the media. At the end of the 30 days of the fast (today being the 31st day) Ms Palit has lost 9 kgs of weight and Shri Mukati lost 15 kgs. Ms Palit is also vomiting many times since the past few days, causing further loss of body fluids.

2. Where does the Rs. 5 lakh required to meet the expenses of 5000 people (@ Rs.100 per person) come from?

First of all it needs to be clarified that there is no party going on at the dharna site that requires Rs 100 per person. The agitating people are served only two meals - one of poha and one of dalia or khichdi. The food is being cooked by volunteers from the affected villages. When the present round of agitation started, the affected people came with 5 kilos of grain and 1 kilo of dal each. Even now, grain is being collected from the affected people in the villages. They very well know that it is their fight and contribute to it with all their might. Many sympathetic and concerned citizens in Bhopal have also come forward to donate rice, dal etc. All accounts related to the Andolan are maintained regularly and transparently and are open for public scrutiny.

3. What is the solution to the electricity crisis?

The people sitting on dharna at Tin Shed, Bhopal are the affected people of villages facing submergence due to the Indira Sagar dam and Omkareshwar dam. Their demands are related to the issues of proper rehabilitation, necessary living conditions and facilities at the rehabilitation sites and continued life and livelihood issues. They are not questioning the dam. These dams have already been built and the projects completed. The fact is that the government and National Hydro-Development Corporation (NHDC) had filed affidavits in the High Court of MP saying that electricity generation will start once the Omkareshwar dam was filled upto 189 metres. But even after 20 days of the water level in the Omkareshwar dam reservoir reaching the required 189 metres, not even 1 unit of electricity has been generated. It is time that all concerned citizens ask the government where has the electricity gone?

4. Wy does the Narmada Bachao Andolan take up the task of rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation of people affected by government projects is the responsibility of the government.

It is free to involve other agencies in this task and could have approached Narmada Bachao Andolan too. But till date no such proposal has been made to the Andolan. Moreover, it will more appropriate for the government to pay heed to the Andolan's demands regarding rehabilitation and take necessary action rather than to shirk away from its responsibilities.

5. Why Narmada Bachao Andolan does not work on issues like education and health?

Narmada Bachao Andolan has a clear mandate to struggle for the just rights of the displaced people. But in addition to its path of struggle, it has taken up many constructive initiatives too. It set up and held 17 jeevanshalas (life-schools) in the tribal areas of the affected regions of the Narmada Valley providing education to hundreds of children deprived of it due to the absence of the government education machinery in these remote areas. It has also taken up tasks of watershed management and village based electricity generation through micro-hydel projects to create models of villages self-sufficient in their energy needs.

6. Most of the affected people have already taken the Special Relief Package.

On one hand land acquisition and rehabilitation processes are still ongoing on a large scale in the areas affected by both Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dams. On the other hand purposefully under-valuing the Special Relief Package has further pauperized the affected people. The Andolan has filed written complaints with the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) how ignoring 285 registries of valuable land has brought down the values of irrigated land from Rs 2 lakh 26 thousand per acre to a mere Rs 60,000 per acre. The value of unirrigated land has similarly been reduced from Rs 1 lakh 21 thousand per acre to Rs 40,000 per acre. All necessary proofs regarding this have also been supplied to the GRA.

7. Land Bank exists to give land to the affected people.

The lands being shown as part of the Land Bank are charnoi lands where no cultivation is possible. The Supreme Court has clearly ordered that the displaced people should be given irrigable and cultivable land. But not one displaced person in MP has received arable land. The Gujarat government has given 20,000 hectare arable land to displaced people.

It is clear that the above questions are being raised today to spread confusion and divert public attention from the real life issues of the displaced persons being raised by the Andolan. The Andolan has been raising the issues related to the rights of the displaced people since the past 22 years. It has chosen to work according to the constitutionally granted path of forming a mass organization and fighting with non-violent methods and is committed to continue its struggle till displaced people in the Narmada Valley get their due share of rights.

Kailash Chauhan
Pradeep Pathak