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Press Release                                 October 01, 1999

MEDHA PATKAR DECLARES INDEFINITE FAST IN DHULE JAIL

Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan has today decided to launch an indefinite fast in Dhule jail from Saturday, October 2, against the crass injustice and adamant attitude of Government of Maharashtra in discussing the basic issues with the people and arrogant, defamatory statements by the Chief Minister Narayan Rane against the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). The 386 arrested men and women from the Narmada valley have been in Dhule jail from 23 September and would not be accepting the release on personal bond in the case under Sec. 144 and 37(1). The Sessions Judge of Nandurbar, the district headquarters, Mr. Kharkar had quashed the police action against Medha Patkar and others under Sec. 151.

Medha Patkar has said that "the Chief Minister, by his action and responses made it clear that the state government has no courage to face the real issues about the dam and displacement. It is not able to face the people and their questions". The state government today (Oct. 1) also objected to granting the release of the 386 arrested people on personal bond.

In another development, the Police Prosecuter told the Taloda (Dist. Nandurbar) court that the NBA activists should be released only on the bonds of Rs. 3000 and not on personal bonds. This means that it would need much time and money for the people in the Narmada valley to go through a simple procedure of personal bonds. The people in the jail have refused to give these bonds.

In a statement Medha and others said that "Mr. Rane is misguiding the people of Maharashtra and has been telling utters lie by claiming that the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is beneficial to the state and that there is enough land for the resettlement of the oustees. This false claim is being made by him even after admitting that he did not know the facts regarding the costs and benefits of the project or the state of rehabilitation, during our discussions. The Chief Minister has been bluffing on the issue of the dam and rehabilitation as he knows that he stands on a sticky wicket. For that reason alone, the Chief Minister and his government has lodged 386 of us in Dhule jail implicating in false charges and is scared of coming forward to discuss the issue with the Andolan."

"We challenge the state government to prove the cost benefit of the SSP, the benefit of the electricity to Maharashtra from the project and the availability of 2200 hectares of rehabilitation land for the people displaced according to the law. This must be proved in front of the people who have been in jail and on dharna within 48 hours, either by the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary or some such responsible and knowledgeable official in the presence of independent experts. Such independent persons can be decided with the agreement of the NBA. If the state government did not come forward and accept this challenge, it will be proved once again that the state government has perpetrated afraud on its people."

Meanwhile, the people from the Narmada valley and supporters from various parts of Maharashtra will be holding a protest rally tomorrow in Dhule.

Sanjay Sangvai