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Press Release                                                 Bhopal, 10 March 2000

People's representatives demonstrate against Maheshwar Project
Petition by 300 newly elected people's representatives handed over to Chief Minister and Governor, Madhya Pradesh

Today, nearly 150 newly elected people's representatives from the Maheshwar, Barwah and Kasravad Tehsils of Khargone district demonstrated against the Maheshwar Hydro-electric Project at the Roshanpura Chowk in Bhopal. During a day long dharna, a delegation of elected representatives to the state government in the name of the Chief Minister and the Governor, Madhya Pradesh. The resolution asked for the destructive Maheshwar Project to be scrapped immediately.

This resolution which expresses complete opposition to the Maheshwar Project was signed by not only by 6 district representatives of Khargone but also the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson of Maheshwar and Kasravad Tehsils and by over 300 representatives of 25 Panchayats affected by the submergence and waterlogging -- by the Maheshwar Hydro-electric project. It may be noted soon after the recently held Panchayat elections were concluded in Madhya Pradesh, several hundred people's representatives met at the village Mardana in Khargone district on the banks of the river Narmada. The representatives present in this gathering expressed deep concern about the manner in which the Madhya Pradesh government has ignored widespread people's sentiments to carry on the work on the Maheshwar Project under police protection.

They said that today when it is clear, even on the basis of the government's own figure that the cost of peaking power from this Project is Rs. 10 per unit at damsite, no farmer or small and medium industry or common person can afford this power and as a result, the entire state will be plunged into darkness. The representatives said that in the light of the fact that for 8 months of the year this Project will not produce more than 1.5 hours electricity daily, it is inappropriate that 61 prosperous villages of Nimad and rich, fertile fields and scores of sand quarries should be either fully or partially submerged and destroyed by this project. They said that when not one out of the 40,000 people to be affected by this Project has been shown a single inch of cultivable land for the purposes of rehabilitation, to continue with the dam work with the use of force is to invite an enormous human tragedy.

The people's representatives have said in their resolution that 78% of the funds for this Project is from foreign sources. As per the Power Purchase Agreement of this Project the Madhya Pradesh government will have to pay the private promoters - the S.Kumars - a sum of Rs.600 crores per annum for the next 35 years whether or not the stipulated power is actually produced by this Project. They said that such an agreement constitutes the open loot of the people of this country.

In their written resolution that they have demanded that the Maheshwar Project should immediately be scrapped and that the cheaper and better energy alternatives detailed in the task Force Report of the Madhya Pradesh government should be implemented. They have called upon the Central government to revoke the Environmental and Techno-Economic clearances given to the Project in the light of the open and flagrant violations of the conditions.

The people's representatives who arrived at Bhopal today for the demonstration condemned the repressive attitude of the Madhya Pradesh government. They said the manner in which the Madhya Pradesh government brutally attacked the peaceful satyagraha of the Narmada Bachao Andolan and arrested hundreds of women and male satyagrahis on the 8th of March International Women's Day is completely illegal and unconstitutional. They said that the Article 19 of the Constitution expressly guarantees, the right of freedom of expression and the right of peaceful assembly and the right to organise to every citizen of India. Therefore, the action of the Madhya Pradesh government to unlawfully extend Section 144 in the privately held land where the satyagrahis were sitting was a direct attack on the Constitution.

The nir jal fast, started by Chittaroopa Palit was withdrawn last night, on the release of all the arrested people.

The delegation at Bhopal warned the Madhya Pradesh government that they should take cognizance of the fact that all people's representatives of the area completely oppose the Project in one voice and yet if it still persists in ignoring the voice of the people then they will support the struggle against this destructive project with all their strength. They said that it is shameful that the Madhya Pradesh government illegally attacked and removed the peaceful satyagraha of the dam-affected people in order to ensure the smooth passage of the multinational company ABB (Asea Brown Boveri) at the dam site as well as their participation in this Project. They said the people of this country will not stand any government that fawns on multinationals and brutalises its own people.

Kalabai Shankarlal Patidar Kalavar Singh
Vice-Chairperson District Representative Chairperson
Maheshwar Sarpanch Khargone Maheshwar janpad
Sikdar, Sarpanch Reshambai, Sarpanch Mishrilal, Sarpanch
Village Jalud Village Amlatha Village Bhatian
Shivkaran, Sarpanch Naklia, Sarpanch Sheruji Randwa
Village Pitnagar Village Sulgaon Janpad Representative
Kasaravad Janpad