NBA Press Release
  20 May 2003
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Madhya Pradesh Govt. Bent Upon Destroying Peasants and Tribals in Connivance with Modi.
Battle for Life in Narmada Valley before the Electoral Battle…

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Hundreds of villagers in the Narmada valley in Madhya Pradesh have ‘seized’ the compound of the Deputy Chief Minister Subhash Yadav’s bungalow in Bhopal on Tuesday (May 20), to protest against the unjust decision to allow the work on the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) upto 100 meters. Warning that, due to increase in the height at least 12,000 families in the valley will face submergence, with large scale destruction of farms, houses, they declared that "After the game of submergence, destruction and genocide of people in the monsoon, the peasants, labourers and tribals will be taking on the powerholders in the election battle". They accused the state government and Chief Minster Digvijay Singh, Deputy Chief Minister Subhash Yadav of conniving with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and compelling their own people to face the submergence without resettlement. We challenge the Chief Minster Digvijay Singh and others to face Narmada valley in the coming monsoon. The claim by the Chief Minister that he was ready to hand over the resettlement task to Narmada Bachao Andolan is ridiculous. On the contrary, the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet had rejected in writing the proposal by the NBA for a Joint Survey and Resettlement Planning. The people also challenge the Deputy Chief Minister prove his claim that the M.P. government had completed the resettlement of the villages in Kukshi block.

The state government has no agricultural land to resettle its own oustees. The so called 4900 hectares, in itself a paltry amount of land, was rejected long back as it was thorny, stony, uncultivable and scattered in different villages, after a joint survey with the officials. Even the land records of the affected villages in Jhabua district, the first to face submergence in M.P., are incomplete. The so called ’resettlement villages’ in M.P. are deserted as there is no cultivable land around them. The original villages in M.P., Nimad particularly, are well settled with fertile lands, markets. The state government has resorted to disbursement of cash compensation, which is illegal. There has been large-scale official corruption in this also. Those who have got the compensation have not moved out of their land and are still there on the banks of Narmada. Has the state government audacity to fill these villages with water?”

We reassert that the SSP will be just a heavy burden on the state’s already impoverished economy. Already, there is no financial planning and recently Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) castigated the project authorities for a situation where 22% of the expenditure on the dam being diverted for repaying the debt. Madhya Pradesh will not get any irrigation from the project. The only benefit is the electricity, which again is uncertain as Gujarat has started drawing water from the bye-pass tunnel at 90 meters. As against from 110 meters of canal. The project will cost the M.P. state around Rs. 4000-5000 crores. All the claims of overcoming power crisis with the SSP are therefore hollow. It is nothing but the sheer corruption and selfishness of the powerholders of M.P. and the pressure exercised right from Prime Minister, Union Home Minister to the godman like Asaram Bapu, that the M.P. government has brought to the knees by the wily Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Piped Water to Kutch

To justify the gross violation of human and democratic rights of tribals and peasants of Narmada valley, the Gujarat government has resorted to yet another political hype and hoopla over transporting the Narmada water through pipeline to Kutch. The transportation of Narmada water though pipeline is but an old idea, time and again flaunted and cancelled by Gujarat powerholders in the 1990s. When the dam height was 80 meters, the then Narmada Development Minister in the first Ministry of Kesuhbhai Patel in 1995, claimed that entire Saurashtra could be provided Narmada water through pipeline with the expenditure of Rs.100 crores. NBA had welcomed that suggestion and wondered if it was possible to provide water to Saurashtra with such a minimum cost, the government should have gone ahead with it.

It is odd why on earth the Gujarat government waited till the summer of 2003, when the people could have been provided the piped Narmada water much before? It seems that the ensuing elections have provided another opportunity for Narendra Modi to milk the holy Narmada cow again. He had done this twice before, in Rajkot in 2001 when he was contesting a bye-election from there and later in Ahmedabad in 2002 when, again, he announced elections. At both the places, the short-lived Narmada waters might have reaped electoral bounty, but did little to alleviate the chronic water problem. Rajkot has the water problem again and the Central Gujarat is facing acute water crisis despite the gimmick of putting Narmada water in Sabarmati.

Again, this is just the ‘drinking water’ component of the promised Narmada water. The major assurance in the Narmada Project is that of the irrigation water for 37,000 hectares of cultivable land in Kutch. It must be pointed out that out of proposed irrigation of 18 lakh hectares from the project, at the most 1.6% of the total cultivable land in Kutch (37,000 ha.) and 9.2% land of Saurashtra would get water from the Project.

This piped drinking water too is an illusion. It is only a matter of time, when politically powerful areas, which lay between the dam and Kutch, from Bharuch, Baroda, Ahmedabad, Kheda to North Gujarat, will claim that Narmada water. It is now clear that the Gujarat government has no political will to implement the long term, sustainable and decentralized water-management plan, as it is the real and lasting solution for the drought prone areas. Nearly 85-90% of Gujarat budget is consumed by the SSP, leaving no money for other projects and schemes. The Gujarat people, like those in the Narmada valley, will have to be vigilant about the games that are being played in the name of Narmada waters. They must also realize that it is the tears of tribals and peasants in Narmada valley that Modi and his ilk are playing with. The Narmada dam will be a fatal mistake and burden for Gujarat also.

The Gujarat people should join hands with the struggling people in the Narmada valley for just and sustainable water management. We are sure that neither SSP-like projects nor the another white elephant, the Interlinking of River Project (IRP), will solve the chronic problem of water and resources in the country. It will strengthen the privatization of water and other natural resources. It is only the decentralized, participatory water management – without displacement and destruction – that is the lasting solution. We will strive for the self reliant and sustainable, just, decentralized and equitable management of energy, water. That only will create a better nation and society.

Devram Kanera
Kamala Yadav
Medha Patkar