New, Updated edition of Sanjay Sangvai's

The River and Life - story of the Narmada Bachao Andolan

Earthcare books, 2002

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At the threshold of the new millennium, a number of people's movements have been challenging the present, inherently destructive model of development. Theirs is a non-violent mass struggle based on conscientious civil resistance. One such major, popular movement in post-independence India the Narmada Bachao Andolan against the Sardar Sarovar dam, has brought into focus serious issues regarding the planning of development projects, and the paradigm of development itself. It has exposed the fraud, deceit and suppression perpetrated in the name of "public purpose" and "national interest", while indicating - along with similar movements - the alternative path of humane, just and sustainable development, rooted in a truly democratic polity. The book provides a brief outline of the historical background, core issues and formative processes of this multi-pronged and tenacious movement. It is an empathetic and honest portrayal of its efforts in a complex context, depicting the larger canvas in which it has been operating.

The author, Sanjay Sangvai, a journalist, has been writing about the issues and struggles of the NBA and other people's movements in English, Hindi and Marathi. He worked as a lecturer at the University of Pune before joining as a full-time activist of the Andolan in 1989.

(Excerpts from the back cover)

Reviews of the First edition of River and Life

These are the true people's movements with profound cultural and political implications and this is a rare book of its kind, combining objective analysis with a moving passion for the lives of people - U.R.Ananthamurthy (writer and environmental activist)

Factual and well-researched, it throbs with the sense of urgency of someone immersed in the movement - Darryl D'Monte (Frontline)

This book is not a slogan. It belongs to the new genre of global writing, which integrates aesthetics, sociology and ecology with the everyday politics of the struggle - Amit Sengupta, (Hindustan Times)

This is perhaps the first [book], which is so complete and so eloquently reasonable in tone; a feisty, stirring book
- Tara Patel (Afternoon Despatch and Courier, Mumbai)

Unfolds the intensity and complexity of the long and arduous people's struggle, with dispassionate and mature narration
- Dr. Bhaskar Bhole (Political Ideologue, Lokmat,)

Table of Contents

NOTE: The superscript in paranthesis in the excerpts below indicate the page number (of the original book) at which the relevant passage/extract appears. The excerpts have also been marginally adapted to retain the smooth flow of a composite text.

In the Valley

In the late night of December 31, 1999, hundreds of tribals, peasants and activists danced to the rhythms of the mandal, a large drum, and the flute on the small plateau of Nimgavhan, near the banks of river Narmada. Children presented songs and skits, and the elders held meetings throughout the night.(3) While in the cities, the rich and mighty went dizzy on that night; the people in the Narmada Valley celebrated the new year with mixed feelings of hope, anxiety, apprehension and the will to fight. On the eve of the so-called millennium year, they found themselves again on the brink of an uncertain future, as the dam waters reached and washed away many of their houses in the recent monsoon. (3) Some years back, they had celebrated the year-end on the same spot, as the dam work was suspended, even if temporarily. No one had imagined twelve years earlier that these small villagers could stop the work on the gigantic dam (3). They had won what was considered a losing battle, challenging a mighty 'development project'. But now, after fourteen years, they were again faced with challenge and renewed uncertainty. (4)

The River

Narma-da literally means "endower of bliss" (9). The river, originating from the Maikal ranges, at Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh, has been the lifeline of central India from time immemorial. Ancient texts like Vayu, Skanda, Matsya and Narmada Puranas consider it one of the seven most sacred rivers in India (7). According to legends, Narmada was formed from the perspiration of Lord Shiva, while performing the Tandav dance. Thousands of Shiva temples are found along the bank of the river (7), where prevail a number of myths centered around this short-tempered, but 'like an adivasi' trusting god. Shiva too dwelt on mountains, in forests, by the side of rivers or streams, living among the adivasis, animals and snakes. Besmirched in ashes, and with a new moon on his head, he led a rustic, vagabond life, loved by the common men and women. Versatile in dance and music, he was an originator of drama, musicology, and grammar. The river, Narmada is inalienably associated with this tribal leader, the 'greatest god' Mahadev (8). The cult of Shakti (Mother Goddess) and tantriks too has been prominent around the river. 'Mother Narmada' has inspired numerous songs, and figures prominently in the folklore of both tribals and non-tribals. Thousands of devotees circumambulate the river in the annual Narmada parikrama. No other river in the world is so honored. The Narmada river and Narmada basin form too an important landmark in the history of the Indian peninsula. The river defines the Deccan Plateau, paving the way for the dakshinapath (southern route) during the early and medieval history of the sub-continent. Here and only here we can find an uninterrupted chain of human activity from prehistory to the historical period (8). Archaeologists call the Narmada Valley a treasure trove. In 1872, the first real evidences of human habitation were found in the gravels of the Narmada, at Bhutra in Narsinghpur district. In the hills of Bhimbetka and Adamgarh are the first signs of prehistoric paintings. From the earliest indications of human existence at sites near Hoshangabad and Narsimhapur, the valley has seen the ups and downs of Indian history and prehistory (9).

The People and their Resources

Tribal settlements of the Baiga, Gond, Korku, Bhil and Bhilala tribes have been cultivating the valley and banks of the Narmada for millennia, living with the forest. These settlements have remained relatively autonomous from the outside world, growing all the necessary grains, pulses, vegetables and allied crops, complemented by shrubs, fruit, fish and meat from the forest and river (10). The richly bio-diverse Narmada valley forest tracts -- particularly in the Shahdol, Mandla, Jabalpur, Hoshangabad, Harsud ranges and Shoolpaneeshwar area  - has been a source of flora, fauna and livelihood for the interspersed tribal settlements (11), fulfilling 75 to 85% of the needs of the people in respect of fodder, fuel, fruits, building materials, tiles, logs, and so on (10). The outsiders, who are called Bazaariya, or market people, have been either traders or officials of the government, police and forest department. All of them are infamous exploiters in the tribal regions of India (10). The tribes have their own social, cultural and political norms and systems, their own languages, their own mythology and pantheon of Rani Kajol and Indal Dev, and their own literary genres. The women participate equally in economic activities, and have the same status as men in marriage, inheritance and other cultural practices. Though now somewhat dilute and degenerated, there has been a strong tradition of local medical expertise, based on locally available herbs and materials (10). The non-tribal population, particularly in the fertile plains of Nimad in M.P., presents a heterogeneous scene. Though there have been non-tribal communities on the banks of the Narmada for centuries, the major influx from Gujarat or from North India of Jat, Patidar, Yadavs, Gujjar, Bharud and other communities started from the medieval age (10).

The Politics of Water

Of its 1312 Kms. length, only about 160 Kms. of the Narmada flows in Gujarat, with this state providing just 0.5% of the river's catchment (13). However, Gujarat claimed a higher share of the Narmada water for itself on the basis of the projected needs of its “Drought prone area” in the far-off Kutch region (15). In November 1969, the Government of India constituted the Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal [NWDT] (15), which met infrequently, with the solitary aim of allocating the available river water between the contending states.  Its members did not visit the submergence zone of the dams proposed on the river, or consider the tribal aspect of the displacement it would cause (16). Nor did they consider the environmental and ecological aspects. The Tribunal did not even go into the actual flow rate or availability of water in the Narmada. It accepted the assessment, which M.P. and Gujarat had worked out, and only set out the norms for the allocation of the river waters (17). In 1979, the NWDT declared its award. M.P. was allotted 18.25 MAF, Gujarat 9 MAF, Rajasthan 0.50 MAF, and Maharashtra 0.25 MAF of the Narmada waters. The Tribunal also announced the height of the two proposed kingpin dams: Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) at 455 feet, and Narmada Sagar (renamed Indira Sagar) Project at 860 feet, from mean sea level (17). As the Award was declared, widespread, spontaneous and fierce agitation erupted in the plains of western Nimad, against the proposed submergence of its fertile tracts by the high dams. Both the main political parties in M.P. – Congress and Janata Party (later BJP) –vied with each other to get control of the agitation. Political heavyweights like Arjun Singh, Motilal Vora and others courted arrest. Over 5,000 people from the Valley demonstrated in Bhopal. However, the agitation soon dissipated due to changes in the political equation of those days, bickering among the political parties, and lack of organization (20). In 1980, the Central Government created a new Ministry of Environment and Forests. The MoEF did not accord clearance to the Sardar Sarovar and Narmada Sagar Projects. Its then Secretary, T.N.Seshan, found that a number of important studies regarding the dams were not completed (21).

The Chief ministers of the four states, along with the Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, met in April 1987. They are understood to have decided "since the projects (SSP and NSP) are in the national interest, they should be given clearance by the Union Government" (24). The MoEF reluctantly gave conditional clearance for both these   projects in June 1987; and later, in September 1987, for the submergence of forestland. The MoEF laid down the conditions that eight important studies were to be completed before December 1989, namely: Resettlement and Rehabilitation, Catchment Area Treatment, Command Area Treatment, Flora and Fauna, Carrying Capacity, Compensatory Afforestation, Seismicity, and Health Impacts (24). In October 1988, the Planning Commission followed suit. It gave conditional clearance, retaining the conditions laid down by the MoEF, while adding more conditions regarding the timely completion of the dam, and maintaining the benefit-cost ratio (24). However, work on the SSP had already started in 1980-83, when the Gujarat and Maharashtra Governments, with the help of NGOs in Gujarat, began to displace people from their villages. Construction of the dam itself started in 1985, picking up in 1988-89. Work on the Narmada Sagar Project was taken up from 1992 onwards, with frequent gaps (25).

Mega-ambition: At What Cost?

The Gujarat government has claimed that the Sardar Sarovar will rank as the second largest dam in the world, with an aggregate volume of 6.82 million cubic meters (25), while its canal network would be the largest in the world (26). The canals alone would affect at least 1,17,000 landholders, of which 25,000 will be rendered landless or marginal farmers. These, however, are not counted as 'Project Affected Persons' (PAPs) by the government. Many others displaced by a number of allied projects, such as the Garudeshwar Weir dam (9 villages), power sub station (8 villages), and the Kevadia Colony for dam staff (6 villages), are also not considered 'Project Affected Persons', nor are those displaced by the Shoolpaneeshwar bear sanctuary to be created in lieu of the submerged forests. This sanctuary alone will displace 108 villages, including a tribal population of 40,000 (26). In addition, thousands of families will lose their land due to the proposed compensatory afforestation, catchment area treatment schemes, and as a result of secondary displacement for the rehabilitation of Narmada oustees. None of them are counted as project affected people. Thus, this single project will cause waves upon waves of displacement, affecting at least one million people, many of whom are not even acknowledged! (26) The financial cost of the dam – assessed by various agencies at different times – has also escalated several-fold. In 1985, the World Bank estimated the cost at Rs. 13,640 crore. By 1994, the World Bank Studies revised the estimate to Rs. 34,000 crore. Two years later, Amarsingh Choudhury, former Chief Minister and then Opposition leader in the Gujarat Assembly, put the figure at Rs. 52,000 crore! In all these estimations, nowhere has the cost for providing drinking water, or the cost of the catchment area treatment been taken into account. And even then, the more conservative of the various estimates is still financially unviable for Gujarat (27). Moreover, the projected benefits of the SSP will not accrue without the completion of the upstream Narmada Sagar Project (NSP) in M.P. The NSP will further affect 2,50,000 people in 254 villages, all in M.P. It claims it will irrigate 1,25,000 hectares of land, while submerging 91,000 hectares, including dense forest of at least 40,000 hectares! If the NSP is not completed, 25% of the irrigation benefits and 30% of the power benefits of the SSP will have to be forgone. Thus the loss in NSP must also be counted in SSP (27). And again – as in all big projects in India hitherto – the human, environmental and social costs of the SSP are grossly underestimated, while the benefits are inflated (28). There has been no comprehensive post-facto analysis of the ecological, social – or even economic – benefits and costs of the so-called developmental projects all over India, particularly of large dams. After the initial euphoria about new technology, large projects, and the green revolution, the people --along with social activists and experts --began to notice the other side of the story (31). According to the Central Water Commission, India has 3,600 large dams, of which 3,300 were built after independence however; calculations show that the total additional irrigation from all large surface water based schemes (not just large dams) accounts for less than 10 percent of India's total food grain production (31). Several estimates exist for the number of displaced. One study, based on rehabilitation surveys between 1951 and 1990, finds that out of 164 lakh people displaced by dams, over 38% have been tribals. Of these oustees, only 41 lakh (25%)could be resettled or given any compensation (31). Taking into account mines, industries, wildlife sanctuaries, and other such projects, the number of displaced persons reaches 213 lakh (21.3 million). Another estimate places the number of people displaced by dams alone between 1951 and 1985 at 21 million (32). Government documents have highlighted land and water degradation due to large projects. The National Commission of Agriculture lamented the lack of catchment area treatment in such projects – to guard against soil erosion. Of a total of 10.8 million hectares of forest in the catchment area, only 8,800 ha. was treated! It is then no wonder that the volume of siltation in the large dams has been many times more than planned. The Sixth Plan document pointed out that due to large dams, there are water logging problems in 6.0 million hectares, salinisation in 4.5 million hectares, and alkaline soils in 2.5 million hectares! (33) [These are serious problems, with grave implications for agricultural productivity.] Large dams have, moreover, increased the possibility of flash floods in the basins of Mahanadi, Tapi, in the downstream of Bhakra and Hirakud dams. The disastrous floods in Surat in the monsoon of 1999 were caused by the upstream Ukai dam on Tapi, while the flood havoc in Narmada in M.P. in the monsoon of 1999, was caused by Bargi and Tawa dams (33).

The geological aspect, reservoir induced seismicity, of large dams too has come under scrutiny of late, particularly with the Tehri dam controversy (33). Even the Government has admitted that large projects burdened the economy of the country. In July 1986, the Prime Minister, while addressing a meeting of Chief Ministers, grieved, "Since 1951 till today, we have taken up 246 large irrigation projects. Only 65 of them were completed. Not a single project has been completed within the stipulated time. In 32 projects, costs increased by 500 times!" (34)

Later again, in 1987, the Prime Minister confessed: "We are pumping money for the last 16 years, but we never got the expected irrigation - neither water, nor increase in production." (34) The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, and the Ninth Finance Commission has similarly lamented the fate of large dams. The World Bank, in its India Irrigation Review, 1991, held that the irrigation efficiency of large projects in India is between 20 to 35%. In Gujarat, the Tenth Estimates Committee of the State Assembly made it clear that while the total (irrigation) potential of 120 dams in Gujarat was 18 lakh hectares, only 7.37 lakh ha were irrigated (34). Thus the pinch has been felt at various places. However, the overarching paradigm of development has – for a long time – stifled these uneasy and doubting voices. Over time, people's experiences led them to question and study these "modern temples", and the results of such analyses called for protests and new paradigms. Historically, there was a real need for a mass struggle to reflect these various new experiences in a co-coordinated manner, with sharpness and conviction, setting up an agenda to which the pro-dam lobbies would have to respond (35).

A Struggle Rises from the Valley

The first affected villages in Maharashtra remember how they were faintly aware that some dam was to come up, somewhere in Gujarat. Some of them even unwittingly carried the instruments of the first surveyors (37). They then had no information about the extent and magnitude of the submergence. No government official ever informed the people. In 1985, the tribal villagers in the affected area of Akkalkua and Akrani Tehsils (District Dhule) in Maharashtra began organizing themselves. The people asked questions regarding the dam, submergence, displacement and resettlement. The officials would routinely threaten, “If you do not move out now, you will run like rats when the waters rise.” (38) On February 16, 1986, the ‘Narmada Dharangrasta Samiti’ (NDS) was formed. The Samiti did not treat the displacement as something already accepted, a fait accompli. The people raised issues regarding their right to know and participate in the decision-making process (38). They questioned the very propriety of the dam itself, and asserted the value of their present life with their own resources and relative autonomy (39). They asked whether the government had enough land to resettle all the 33 adivasi villages properly (38). The tribals had, moreover, been victims of extortion by forest and other government officials for years. Hundreds of adivasi families in Akrani tehsil did not have land records, as there was no land settlement. They were thus counted as "encroachers" on their own land! (39) The NDS considered these issues and formulated its position. A detailed process of discussions within the villages, and in meetings of the representatives of villages, preceded any policy decision. A structure like Karbhari Samiti (executive committee) of the 33 villages evolved during these years. Dedicated activists like Arundhati Dhuru, Dnyaneshwar Patil and Rohit had also joined the movement by that time. Almost all the issues raised in subsequent years have their roots in these initial meetings of the Samiti (39). In late 1987, there appeared a small news item in Ahmedebad newspapers, reporting the Gujarat Chief Minister's statement that the SSP was not getting clearance due to laxity on the part of the Madhya Pradesh government. Following that cue, Medha found that the dam had not been cleared by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). It was revealed that, according to the Ministry, "these projects are not ready for clearance". Important studies with a bearing on the cost-benefit aspect of the dam are incomplete or missing. But then, how come the World Bank, without waiting for any MoEF clearance, had agreed to fund the SSP? (43) The Union Secretary of MoEF, T.N. Seshan assured access to relevant government information. The documents revealed how hollow were the claims of the dam’s benefits, the political implications of the project, and the nefarious designs of vested interests in Gujarat and elsewhere. The activists continued their efforts to gather documents and data from various sources. The information war of the Narmada struggle had revealed the nature of the system (44). Since then, information has been one of the major weapons in the hands of the people. This has always unnerved the officials (120). In mid-1988, a memorandum by over 300 prominent persons (of national stature) from all walks of life was submitted to the Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. It called for: "a complete and thorough reappraisal of both (SSP and NSP), to pursue the implementation of location-specific programmes of dryland watershed development in the concerned states of MP and Gujarat,  and to stop all further work on the Narmada Valley Project." (46) Among those who signed this 1988 Memorandum were:  I.K.Gujral, Achyut Patwardhan, Aruna Asaf Ali, P.N. Haksar, C. Subramaniam, Mrinalini Sarabhai, P.G.Mavlankar and Dr M.S.Swaminathan. Endorsing the statement along with them were: Satish Dhawan, Obaid Siddiqui, C.V.Seshadri, S.K.Sinha (scientists); V.M.Tarkunde, Kamala Chaudhary, Irfan Habib, Romila Thapar, M.L. Dantawala, Rajni Kothari, Deepak Nayyar, C.T.Kurien, A.R.Desai (social scientists, economists); legal luminaries including Soli Sorabjee, L.M. Singhvi, Rajinder Sachar; a host of renowned personalities from the arts and performing arts; and also many prominent journalists. (46) Around this time, some articles appeared in the mainstream media. The first book on the Narmada issue -- by Claude Alvares and Ramesh Billoray -- was also published in 1988. It created ripples, and was promptly banned by the government. (47) Many became active to further the cause. The emerging collective was recognized as Narmada Bachao Andolan (N.B.A.) very flexibly from 1988-89 onwards. (47) Dr. B.D.Sharma, Commissioner of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, enumerated in his reports the violation of the constitutional and natural rights of the tribals in the Narmada valley. He emphasized the right of the affected tribals to give (or not to give) consent to any development project. His report of 1986-88 was admitted by Chief Justice Savyasachi Mukherjea as public interest litigation. (48) Support for the movement became international due to the involvement of the World Bank. Environmental groups in the U.S., U.K., Japan, Australia, Canada, Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries protested the actions and policies of the Bank, imposing its agenda on the people of the Third World. (48) This was the long churning process out of which the Narmada Bachao Andolan organically emerged. It became a mass-based movement that integrated the people of the valley with the activists, the academic and ideological supporters from outside the valley, and the international movements. From all of these processes evolved a comprehensive critique of the present paradigm of development, and the more evolved parameters of an alternative model of development. (49)

The Mass Movement

Two major actions took place in early 1989. There were protests against the Official Secrets Act that was clamped in the ten villages around the dam site on January 30, 1989. And then on February 22, 1989, there was a storming of the dam site by about 10,000 people from Nimad and the tribal areas. The Gujarat government was caught unawares. The new slogan of "Koi nahin hatega, baandh nahin banega!" ("No one will move out, the dam will not be built") became a mantra for the fight against displacement. (50) By this time, the people's opposition to the dam and their displacement had crystallized into a two-point program. First, non-cooperation with all dam related work; secondly, a firm determination not to move out of their land and villages. The latter was symbolized by yet another popular slogan, "Doobenge, par nahin hatenge!" ("We will drown, but shall not move") (50) Then on, the Andolan became more active on larger issues and struggles in other parts of India against displacement and destructive development. Many villagers from the valley went to other struggle areas, while many activists from other areas shared their stories in the valley. (52) By this time, various struggles -- in Chilika, Baliapal (Orissa), Mans Wakal (Rajasthan), Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, the Bhopal gas-affected, and various dam-affected people -- were in full swing. So too were the struggles by the victims of multiple displacement at Singrauli (M.P.), Tehri Dam (U.P.), Bedthi, Sharavathi, and the Common Lands struggle (Karnataka). Equally alive were the adivasis’ struggles in Jharkhand, Andhra, Konkan and Tamil Nadu for the people’s rights over their forest and land. (52) At a major meeting of NBA held in Mumbai on May 5-6, 1989, a detailed and nationwide action plan for the Narmada struggle was charted out. At this meeting, veteran social worker, Baba Amte came out in strong opposition to the SSP. The delegates decided to hold a national convention of all such struggles challenging the present way of development, and declaring an alternative approach at Harsud, in the NSP affected area. (53) The Andolan donned the responsibility of mobilizing various people’s organizations for the Harsud Convention against Destructive Development, on September 28, 1989. More than 50,000 people participated, including representatives of 300 organizations from all over India! They raised the slogan: "Vikas chahiye, vinash nahin". ("We want development, not destruction.") (53) The convention was a major step by the people in saying a firm No to the prevalent trend of development, while reasserting the politics of the alternative in India. (53)

The Struggle Intensifies, 1990-1994

On March 6, 1990, over 10,000 peasants and tribals blockaded the Bombay-Agra Highway at Khalghat in Madhya Praesh for 28 hours. Baba Amte came to live in Narmada valley on that day. (53) The newly sworn BJP government of Sunderlal Patwa -- who had been critical of the dam when his party was in opposition -- announced that the state government would demand a review of the dam to the Central government, and start such a process at the state level. The Patwa government not only went back on its word, it unleashed unprecedented terror (53). From 1990-1992, it tried to crush not only the Andolan, but also every other people’s movement in the state, including the strong Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha.  (54) In November 1992, hundreds of lathi (baton) and gun-toting police beat up the villagers protesting against the forcible survey at Kothada in Nimad (54). In February 1993, at Anjanwara village of Alirajpur area, the police opened fire on the people, and created havoc in the village by destroying homes and beating the women, men and children. The village activists were arrested and handcuffed. The Supreme Court took serious note of the incident and warned the administration in this matter. (55) During this era of repression, hundreds of activists including Alok, Nandini, Jayashree, Amit, Silvy, Rehmat, Shripad, Seetarambhai, Devrambhai, Mahesh Patel, Nirmalbhai, septuagenarian Patwaribaba, Medha and many supporters showed exemplary courage in facing police atrocities, and keeping up the spirit of the struggle (55). Against the World Bank too, agitation was intensifying. The Andolan had highlighted the Bank’s errors in its analysis and evaluation, its data and understanding of the issue. Throughout 1990 1991, the World Bank teams were hounded out by the people, both in and outside the Narmada valley. The officials were bluntly told to "Quit India" and "Quit Narmada" (55).  The global campaign against the World Bank's insistence on the SSP and the Narmada Project was intense from 1989 to 1993 (56). The Bank's decision to review its own project did not come easily. It came only after sustained struggle, which intensified on September 25, 1990. On that day, over 6,000 men, women, tribals, peasants and their comrades-in-arms from all over the country started to walk towards the dam site from Rajghat, on the banks of the Narmada, near Badwani. This was the Long March of the Narmada valley – the Jan Vikas Sangharsha Yatra. (56) Thousands of people walked, singing bhajans of Mother Narmada, camping in the open during the chilly December nights (56). The rally was stopped at Ferkuwa, the border village between M.P. and Gujarat. For the next few days, this became the Sangharsha Gaon (Village of Struggle). (57) O January 7, six activists: Medha, Devrambhai, Lakshmiben Yadav, Khajyabhai, Mathur Mohan and Meghnath (an experienced comrade-in-arms from Bihar's struggle against the Koel Karo Dam) launched an indefinite fast. Later, Shantaben and Luvaria joined them (57). The Gujarat government increased its repression. Baba Amte was cornered near the bridge crossing over to Gujarat; non-violent satyagrahis walking along the road were beaten and arrested. The state and Central governments were unmoved (58). However, the Long March and the fast by the activists placed the question on a moral plane throughout the nation. Hundreds of organizations and individuals from every corner of India declared solidarity with the struggle. Hundreds of activists, peasants and adivasis came to express support (58). While the war of nerves continued, the World Bank announced an Independent Review of the project. This was a major victory for the people, the first time in the Bank's history that it agreed for such a review of any Bank-funded, ongoing project. The people requested the fasting comrades to call off their fast. (58) On January 28, after 22 days, the fast was called off. And on January 30,1991, the Long March returned to the valley with the resolve: "Shaasanwalon sun lo aaj, hamare gaon mein hamara raj". ("Rulers, listen now! In our villages, it's our rule.") (58)

The World Bank Withdraws

The Independent review announced by the World Bank was headed by Bradford Morse, former Chairman of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). It's vice chairman was Thomas Berger, the renowned Canadian jurist. The Review team toured the valley, and visited Manibeli, Bamni and Nimad. It talked with the government, the dam builders, the pro-dam people, various NGOs, the villagers in tribal areas and in Nimad, as also with activists and independent experts. It studied all the relevant documents regarding the decision-making process, and the laws and regulations governing the rehabilitation and environmental aspects. (61) In June 1992, the review Committee published its report, stunning the dam builders, the concerned governments, and the World Bank itself. It concluded that resettlement according to laws and regulations was impossible, that environmental stipulations had been violated, and that the expected benefits would not accrue. It asked the Bank to "step back" from the project, and recommended a comprehensive review of the project with data and analysis. (61) The meticulously compiled report of the Independent Review was a cornerstone of future development, and further strengthened the NBA's case for a comprehensive review of the dam by the Indian government. (61) Manibeli and Mumbai On June 3, 1993, the first house in Manibeli, that of Kesubhai Tadwi, was demolished by the Maharashtra government with a police force of over one hundred. Only after removing and beating Kunta, the 16-year-old daughter of Kesubhai, could the government have its conquest. For two days, by her sheer determination and fiery tongue, Kunta had kept hordes of police at bay, and esisted intimidation by senior police and administrative officers of the state. (62) The same day, June 3, Medha Patkar and Devrambhai Kanera started an indefinite fast at Mumbai, demanding that work on the dam be stopped, and the project fully reviewed. The Union Water Resources Minister sent emissaries for talks. Fourteen days later, on June 17, the Government of India agreed to hold a review on all aspects of the Sardar Sarovar Project. The fast was withdrawn. (63) But then, due to intense pressure from the bureaucracy in the Union government, the Gujarat government, and the pro-dam forces, the promised review process slipped into doldrums. Around this time, the Andolan declared the decision of Jal Samarpan  (sacrifice in the waters).  It announced that if the government did not honor its promise and start a definite, time-bound process of review, a sacrificial band of activists would plunge into the rising waters of the Narmada on August 6, 1993, to stir the moral conscience of the nation. (64) The first squad for the sacrifice went underground. Though emotionally hard, the decision was but a logical culmination of the Andolan's long held stand. It made clear that the decisions of the people are meant for implementing, and are not just empty rhetoric. (64) As the date for the Jal Samarpan drew nearer, there were a flood of appeals from all over India and the international community asking the Union government to constitute its promised comprehensive review. After much dithering, on August 5, 1993, the eve of the Jal Samarpan, the Union government announced the names of the experts to serve on the review committee. It was specifically mentioned that the committee would review all aspects regarding the SSP. The Jal Samarpan was withdrawn. (65) The Review Committee comprised five members, and chose to call itself the "Five Member Group" (FMG). Dr Jayant Patil, vice chairman of the Planning Commission was its convener.  The NBA and numerous other organizations and experts made their presentations before this Group. While the governments of M.P., Maharashtra, and the Union government participated in the review, the Gujarat government boycotted its proceedings. (65) Some pro-dam elements filed a writ in the Gujarat High Court for withholding the report of the review committee (65). Finally, on July 21, 1994, the Five Member Group submitted its report to the Union Government. The Supreme Court of India summoned this report as a part of the continued hearing of the public interest litigation filed by the Andolan in May 1994 (66). When the report became public, it was found that the FMG though not as forthright as the Morse Committee tacitly endorsed all the grave issues about the dam raised by the NBA. The total lack of a drinking water plan was exposed. A large number of "ifs" and  "buts" about critical aspects of the dam were spelt out. The report pointed out the lack of environmental studies and actions, with severe strictures passed on the rehabilitation aspect. Many alternative plans deserving further study were mentioned. But the FMG did not spell out clearly what action it recommended. The Court was not satisfied with this exercise, and opined that the FMG had left many things unsaid. (66)

Mirage of Benefits

The entire and ultimate justification for the SSP has been the promise of banishing drought from regions like Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat. The Gujarat government’s propaganda blitz (until recently) portrayed it as the “only solution” for these regions. The pro-dam lobby solemnly declared, “Without the Sardar Sarovar, there is no hope.” (90) However, a study of the command area map clearly shows that the major share of canal waters will flow to the already water-rich areas, the prosperous “golden corridor” from Vapi to Ahmedabad. Out of a proposed 18 lakh (1.8 million) hectares of irrigation ambitiously targeted by the SSP, Kutch will get irrigation for only 37,000 hectares! Bhavnagar and Rajkot in Saurashtra will get irrigation for 0.48 lakh (or 48,000) ha.and 0.34 lakh (or 34,000) ha. (90) Only 1.6% of the total cultivable area of Kutch, and 9.2% of the total cultivable area of Saurashtra are likely to see canals – that too, in 2025 A.D. and 2020 A.D. respectively! – If everything about the project goes well (90).  And the entire stretch beyond Mahi command area, i.e. North Gujarat, Kutch and Saurashtra, will not ever get any canal waters during the critical two and a half months of summer, from March to May! (92) The Kutch Jal Sankat Nivaran Samiti has pointed out that while Kutch forms 25% of the area, and has 5.9 million hectares of farmland, only 2.1% of Gujarat's share of the Narmada water was allotted for the region by the Gujarat government (92). The irony is that the Gujarat government got the NWDT to approve the SSP height at 455 feet, only on the basis of projecting the water needs of 3.88 million ha. Of gross command, and 13,45,000 hectares of culturable command in Kutch. However, after the Tribunal decision, Kutch was allocated water for a mere 37,000 hectares! (93)

Who Will Get the Water?

Of the irrigation benefit, 76% would accrue to the mainland Gujarat plains and Eastern Saurashtra, where the poulation below the poverty line is 23% and 16% respectively. The tribal belts of East and North Gujarat, with 41% and 38% of their population below the poverty line, will get only 6% benefit of the project. (92) It is almost presumed by the Gujarat politicians that the SSP waters would flow to the large sugarcane plantations that are being planned. About 11 large and medium sugar factories are already being built in the region upto the Mahi command area, near the initial range of the canals. Many more have been given licenses to start new factories (93). These will all depend on the SSP for their water needs, including the irrigation requirement of the sugarcane plantations that will feed such factories. Sugarcane is a highly irrigation intensive crop, consuming about 2,000 mm water per hectare (if not more). To achieve the officially proclaimed target of irrigating 18 lakh hectares from 9 MAF (Gujarat's share of Narmada waters), in conjunction with 4 MAF groundwater, the average irrigation allocation of the canal waters would work out to 530 mm per hectare. Thus, obviously, the (nearly four-fold) over-extraction of canal water in the initial command region -- by the now entrenched, and politically strong sugar industries – will leave practically no water for the tail ends of the canal system, i.e. Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat. (93) Further, over 2 lakh crore (2 trillion) rupees of industrial investment in petrochemical and chemical complexes, including a port at Dahej, has been taking shape in the "golden corridor" (Vapi to Ahmedabad) area (93)! Jamnagar, a region already reeling with water scarcity due to excessive groundwater exploitation by industries, was targeted for the largest chunk of the investment, followed by Bharuch and Surat, which together make 69.4% of total investment. These highly water-intensive industries are coming with an assurance of water supply from the SSP. (94) The Municipal Corporations of Baroda and Ahmedabad too has been clamoring for the Narmada waters. Thus, the sugar plantations and factories, and the booming industrial-urban complex will be devouring whatever miniscule amount of water is meant for the drought affected areas. The former Environment Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Pravinshinh Jadeja told NBA in January 1991 – at the time of the Sagharsha Yatra –that Narmada waters would not go beyond Ahmedabad. (94) Almost all the Gujarat politicians know this truth. Mr. Jaynarayan Vyas too – before he became the Narmada Minister -- had expressed cynicism about the Narmada Project. When he was a legislator from Sidhpur in North Gujarat, he wrote that even if SSP were built, 80% of North Gujarat would remain without water. In one of his interviews, he declared that the SSP would prove to be a galaa dori (death noose) rather than a jeevan dori (lifeline) for the drought affected areas. At that time, he had favored decentralized solutions for augmenting and using groundwater. (94) Similarly, Mr. Manubhai Kotadia, the former Union Water resources Minister, who hails from Saurashtra, admitted, "SSP will benefit only 10% area of Saurashtra. (Hence) the government should undertake small schemes for Saurashtra. All such small irrigation projects are at a standstill because the allocations for these are being diverted to the Narmada Project." (94)

Water: for Drinking or Selling?

Dam authorities have been making emotional appeals to gain legitimacy through the promise of providing drinking water. They claim that the SSP would provide drinking water to 135 towns and cities, and at least 8,215 villages. The number of villages to be provided drinking water has been increasing mysteriously from zero (at the time of the NWDT Award) to 4,720 in 1983-84, 7,235 in December 1990, to 8,215. And now, to all the villages in Kutch and Saurashtra! (97) The water allotted to Municipal and Industrial use, however, remains at the 1979 level of 1.06 MAF. Of this, only 0.2 MAF was allotted for industrial use, but it is sure that the mushrooming industry will corner the lion's share. (97) Around 1996-97, the SSNNL announced that it would sell canal waters at a price of Rs. 10-15 per thousand liters (97). Large industrial houses with substantial water requirements have since been approaching the Nigam. Clearly, the impending danger of conflicting water claims is in sight. The question is: In the era of market economy, which way would the choice of the power-holders controlling the water go? (98) (The answer is not difficult to guess.) Buried in the details is yet another scandal: there is no plan, no allocation, and no responsibility with the SSNNL to provide drinking water. The drinking water cost has not been budgeted as part of the Project cost, and the Nigam is only to “make available” the water in the canals. The rest of the responsibility lies with the Gujarat Water Supply and Sewerage Board, which have no money, no infrastructure and no idea of implementing such a plan. Supplying drinking water would cost at least Rs 43,795 crore by 2041-42 (at 1991-92 prices), for which there is no provision. (99) Environmental Destruction "We think that the environmental impacts of the projects have not been properly considered or adequately addressed." Thus declared the report of the Independent Review constituted by the World Bank (110). It adds: "The cumulative impacts of the Sardar Sarovar projects together with the upstream developments, especially the Narmada Sagar projects, are very likely to be far-reaching, yet they have not been studied. The afforestation and catchment area programs proposed upstream are unlikely to succeed. " (110) The Morse Committee systematically unraveled the lackadaisical approach in the project design towards the dangers of sedimentation, downstream impact, water logging and salinization in the command area. In typical understatement, it said: "The history of environmental aspects of Sardar Sarovar is a history of non-compliance. There is no comprehensive impact statement." (110) Till date, the environmental studies and plans regarding the dam are not completed. This includes important studies regarding flora, fauna, wildlife, salinity, water logging and downstream impacts. The MoEF had declared on September 7, 1990 that: "In the absence of a definite time frame for each of these studies, surveys and action plans, the implementation of the requisite safeguards and action plans pari passu with the construction of engineering works would obviously not be possible. Under the circumstances, the approval granted must be deemed to have lapsed." (111) Even after that, the Gujarat government did not initiate any process of seeking renewed approval, Etc., the construction work continued. In 1994, before the closure of the sluices of the dam, the MoEF objections were brushed aside, and even the order of the Gujarat High Court was ignored with impunity. (111) The SSP, apart from submerging 13,744 hectares of forest in the reservoir, has already destroyed 4,200 hectares of forest in the Taloda-Akkalkua range in the name of resettlement of oustees (110). The costing of the forest loss was a gross underestimation, ranging from Rs. 50 to Rs. 65 per hectare per year for 50 years (110)! Vikram University, Ujjain predicted the loss of a number of species of plants, wildlife and aquatic wealth due to the SSP, the compensation of which is not possible. (110) Thrice in the past, the MoEF – under political pressure – had to give consent to the diversion of forestland for the sake of resettlement. This, despite the fact that it expressly declared in its original conditional clearance of September 8, 1987: "No forest land will be utilized for the rehabilitation of oustees." (111) And now, the Maharashtra government is again preparing to demand more than 1,000-hectare forestland for resettlement. The MoEF has practically been rendered powerless. (111)

Disaster in the Command Area

While the investigation is still incomplete, even according to the available, limited studies, more than half of the command area of the SSP (55%) is prone to serious water logging and salinisation. Of this area, 26% is considered “unsuitable” for sustained flow irrigation, while 27% is considered “highly unsuitable” for such irrigation. (96) It has been noted that the areas upto Mahi command, particularly the Bhal area, are prone to serious water logging and salinity. The Mahi Kadana dam has already caused such problems in its command area. (96) (These problems gravely affect the productivity of the soil for generations to come. They are the basic processes by which man-made desertification spreads. In the coming decades, such a disaster threatens to engulf huge areas of Gujarat, particularly where irrigation-intensive cash crops like sugarcane are grown.) At the national level, 5.8 million hectares of land have already been waterlogged or salinised due to large and medium irrigation projects! This has resulted in wastage of Rs. 24,000 crore spent on irrigation, rendering a sheer loss of 17 million tonnes of agricultural production and irrigation cost of Rs. 40,000 per hectare. (96) [The Union Water Resources Ministry reported these figures in December 1991. An earlier report from the Union Ministry of Agriculture (1985-86) had estimated the extent of water logging and salinisation to be 8.53 million hectares. (96) The figures stated in the Sixth Plan document are even higher: 6 million hectares affected by water logging, plus 4.5 million hectares affected by salinisation, and another 2.5 million hectares having alkaline soils – all caused by big dams. (33).]

Serious Downstream Impacts

It has been estimated that about 200 villages and over 10,000 fisher people will be hit by the downstream depletion of the Narmada waters if the Sardar Sarovar dam is built (110). Then, there is the risk of increased (unflushed) pollution due to the effluents discharged by the industries in and around Bharuch. (97) More serious yet is the problem of sea ingress into the groundwater aquifers, thus endangering the fertile Bharuch coastline. Such invasion of salinity into groundwater has already been reported in coastal Saurashtra (110) [as also in other coastal areas, where withdrawal of groundwater for urban-industrial complexes or cash-cropping has sharply increased, while the recharge of aquifers by freshwater has fallen.] During 1992, the SSNNL was said to be considering downstream release of 1 MAF of water annually (97). This, as per the award of the NWDT, will have to come from the share of Gujarat. The question arises: which area will have to give up its claim on the Narmada waters for this to be possible? Though there may be water shortage in Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat in the outer reaches of the command area, the Sardar Sarovar is not  – for many reasons – the answer to their needs. (97)


The only true and lasting solution to the water crisis of the drought prone areas of Gujarat lies in decentralized water conservation, and the optimal utilization of the available rainwater and groundwater, with priority accorded to basic needs. Imperative measures include restrictions on the excessive extraction of groundwater for cash crops and "green revolution" style agriculture. (161) One can scrutinize the babble of the dam builders ad nauseum about the lack of rains in Saurashtra and Kutch. But from 1992 to 1997, there have been spells of excess and devastating rains in Saurashtra, Kutch and North Gujarat, inundating large areas. (161) Newspaper articles have posed the questions: “Despite ten consecutive good monsoon years, why could the water problem not be solved? Why could the rainwater not be conserved, and the groundwater recharged?” The answers seem linked to the remote control style of planning itself. (162) P.H. Vora, Deputy Director of Gujarat Land Development Corporation (GLDC) reported that 15 MAF of water has been flowing out of Kutch and Saurashtra unutilized (162). Mr. Jainarayan Vyas, who is now Narmada Minister of Gujarat, once declared in a State Assembly debate: “Even in the worst monsoon years, there is 105 MAF rainfall in Gujarat. Only 8% of the rainwater – that is, 8 MAF – is harvested. If Gujarat can increase the amount of rainwater harvesting to even 20 MAF, it would be double the amount of water obtained from the SSP.” (162) As Ashwin Shah – US based Indian expert on water management in Gujarat  – puts it: the rainfall and the needs of water in Gujarat are fairly decentralized; therefore, the water management too should be decentralized. He has presented a detailed outline for a sustainable solution of the water problem in the area (162). The State government has its own (neglected) district-wise plans. And the people too can themselves point out decentralized solutions that will yield benefits much earlier and more cheaply than the elusive Narmada Project. (162) There are a number of examples of people’s initiatives that several NGOs have successfully carried out in watershed development and groundwater recharging. The work of Mahiti-Utthan (Dholka, Surendranagar), Agakhan Rural Support Program (Junagadh and Surendranagar), Lokbharati (Sanosara), Society for Promotion of Wasteland Development (Bhavnagar), Vivekanand Research and Training Institute, and Jan Vikas (Kutch) – are all pointers to real and lasting solutions in the hands of the people. (163) According to P.N. Phadatare, former Director of Central Groundwater Board, each lean year in Saurashtra has always been followed by a year of good monsoon. It is rather the excessive extraction of groundwater that has caused the water scarcity. For example, Mangrol in Junagarh has a groundwater extraction rate of 117% (in relation to annual recharge), while Mehsana District in North Gujarat tops the list with figures like: Sidhpur-208%, Patan-110%, and Mehsana-378%! Mr. Phadatare thus prescribes large-scale groundwater recharge and decentralized ways of water harvesting as the long-term water solutions for Saurashtra. He adds that this strategy has a much lower cost per thousand liters. (163) From the summer of 1985, Saurashtra Lok Manch, along with members of Swadhyay Parivar and other organizations have initiated a campaign for recharging wells in Saurashtra on a large scale. During the period 1995-1998, it had already been able to recharge many thousands of wells, without any government support. According to Shyamjibhai Antala, a leading figure of the campaign, Saurashtra has 7,00,000 wells all over its territory. The recharging of even 2,00,000 of these wells would bring up the groundwater level throughout Saurashtra. The endeavor involves no big budget, nor bureaucratic and unwieldy planning. It is in the hands of common people, can be implemented speedily and cheaply without complicated technology, and brings early results. (163) Antala has laid down a detailed plan for decentralized water harvesting in rural and urban areas. Besides well-recharging and other measures, this includes too the resurrection of thousands of tanks which are lying unutilized, or which have become garbage pits in villages and towns. (164) Water management experts Suhas Paranjpye and K.J. Joy, with the help of renowned civil engineer K.R. Datye, too have published there own detailed plan for the solution of the water problem of Gujarat. (164) Thus, from the veteran Venishankar Vasu in the early 1980s to Ashwin Shah and Shyamji Antala in the 1990s, there have been a number of carefully conceived and well analyzed plans and proposals for decentralized, sustainable water management, yielding much greater benefit for every rupee spent, and without causing any large-scale displacement or ecological damage (164).  But neglecting all such true solutions, the state continues to single-mindedly pursue work on the SSP. This single project alone consumes about 85% of Gujarat’s irrigation budget, and will not benefit the needy areas at all. (164) A realistic irrigation policy and plan would consider the optimum demand of the region, the terrain, ecological conditions and local requirements. It need not necessarily aim at excess grain production in every area. The runaway craze of cultivating irrigation intensive cash crops like sugarcane to feed sugar factories is particularly suicidal. A holistic development approach would instead strive for multi-faceted development of diverse resources, which contribute to wider needs and to local prosperity. (164)

Emerging Ideology

Popular awareness is growing that market or state-imposed development, in the name of "public purpose" is resulting in rapid destruction of forests, land, water bodies, and clean air that our people have. We have seen this in the Green Revolution package and in the mindless industrial and urban expansion that have caused the degradation of not only natural resources, but also of our social and cultural fabric. (167) Increasing inequities and exploitation are closely linked to the present development model (167). The undue emphasis on capital-intensive technology neglects the socio-environmental and ethical indicators of equality, justice and fulfillment of the basic needs of all. This kind of development not only denies people their rightful access to natural resources, it tends to destroy whatever has remained of such resources. Even the apparent environmental measures the model may provide (such as sanctuaries) tend to be elitist and anti-people. (168) The role of multilateral aid (funding) agencies and multinational corporations in all of this cannot be ignored. They have been the major partners of the national elite in destroying the lives and resources of people in the Third World countries (168). At some point of time too, (preferably soon!) questions regarding social and individual lifestyles, the bane of consumerism, restraint on material acquisition will surely need to be addressed to overcome the currently brewing crisis. (168) Various movements against inequality and exploitation, dams and displacement, mines, polluting mega industries, etc. have fought for the people’s rights. People have also responded with their creativity and with constructive work, exploring alternative, locally controlled technologies and modes of organization to pursue their goals. Both responses are ultimately trying to evolve a new model of development based on equality and sustainability. (168) "Development wizards" would like to believe that environmental concerns in a country like India are a mere luxury. The opposite is true. These resources form the major, though unquantifiable, prerequisite of life for millions of women and men, tribal, Dalits, peasants, laborers, artisans and urban settlers, whom the environmental degradation strikes first and hardest. The increasing emphasis on the people's own knowledge base, and the growing number of critiques of "modernist scientism" are both reflections of a new socio-environmental consciousness. (167) The solely materialistic definition of the good life leaves out many intangible qualities, as has been felt by all the finest minds, including Buddha or Marx. The emerging trends seem to accord with the Buddha's "middle path" of an enriched life and society with justice and equality; based on a modest, simple, holistic and non-consumerist life for everyone, which also leaves space to pursue non materialistic values and ethical aspirations. (171)

The New Winds

The Narmada struggle has been non-violent, but certainly assertive. It has sought to innovate, sharpen and widen the means of non-violent Satyagraha, which otherwise had become a routine affair, often ineffective. Like every movement, the Andolan has developed its own means, idioms and work culture for spreading and sharpening the issues at stake.  (122) According to Seetaram Kaka of Kadmal village in Nimad, who has been a key activist: "The movement has changed our lives. Now we cannot see anyone being exploited, anyone (unfairly) amassing wealth. We immediately question him, take his extra rotis (bread) and give to one who has nothing! Now, even suppose we were displaced, this new vision will be with us and we can devise our own ways. We can speak what others cannot." (124) Women in adivasi areas and in the conservative society of Nimad have been in the forefront of the struggle against the dam. They question and argue with the officials and police; and they lead the rallies and meetings. Assertive tribal women like Jadikaki, Dedlibai, Khiali, Pinjaribai, Pervibai, and Geeta; and from Nimad: Rukmini kakis, Kamala didi, along with numerous young girls and women, have all been in the forefront of the movement. They mobilize villages, speak in urban and semi-urban places, and have gone to jails and faced police beatings. (124) Though caste differences do not arise in the tribal regions, this has traditionally created social tensions and a wide gap among the (non-tribal) village communities of Nimad. However, through involvement in the Andolan, and the churning of joint struggle, the caste system of discrimination has been steadily weakening. (125) The Andolan has been a stimulus too for the hidden, creative capacities of the people. The bhajan mandali of Jalkheda, the puppet troops of Pipri youths, the gayanas (songs), and the dances of the tribal regions, have all been part of the movement, strengthening one another (127). A wonderful chemistry is at work here, with the young people, both boys and girls, the activists, and supporters of various castes and backgrounds collaborating and generating new comradeship. (127) 

Like a River, nay Ocean

Excerpts from the appended Samarpit Dal statement of Satyagraha:

One tapa (twelve years) of struggle in the Narmada Valley is over. The tribal of Vindhya and Satpuda ranges, and the people in Nimad have showed that only the dam of their unity is of any use to them: ekina baandhaja kamomava…  (214) “But all our struggle was not to save only one Narmada River and valley, or just the people affected by the Sardar Sarovar and other big dams (215). We have to strive to protect the life, resources, identity and dignity of all people; the farms and forests of every oppressed and distressed section of the population. We have to stop the game of the power-holders to cater to the interests of a few urban-industrial pockets, while draining the natural resources that are the common heritage of all. (216) “That is why we will have to fight on. On a number of fronts, simultaneously, exploring and involving all possible avenues, …just like a river, nay like the ocean. It will have to be a whirlwind of the people’s movement. And it will be like that if thousands and more thousands participate. (216) “For the present, we (the Samarpit Dal) will be confronting the submergence, which is bound to come at any time. We shall stay put resolutely at the centers of Satyagraha, in every house, hoping that the water may not rise – yet ready to sacrifice our lives. We approach this in a spirit of dedication. We wish that Mother Narmada should remain free and flowing, even if we have to make the ultimate sacrifice. (216) “We hope such a situation does not arise. We too want to live intensely, and with all the joy and beauty of life. We have much work to do to bring in people’s rule in this country, sans exploitation and oppression; to banish casteism, communalism and war mongering. We want to flourish with nature, and nature to bloom with us; and we assert the rights of the dalits, toilers, tribal, peasants and women on that resource base. (219) “Our decision of Jal Samarpan does not reflect frustration, fear or helplessness, exhaustion or defeat. Nor is it an escape from the struggle. Rather, it is taking the struggle to its height. We embrace this challenge for the sake of true development: Narmada se sahi vikas – samarpiton ki yahi hai aas. (218) “If Jal Samarpan is avoided through a truthful and historic decision to save the valley, as well as Kutch and Saurashtra, we have a long way to go. Yet another Tapa lies ahead. For the coming years, we will need not a Jal Samarpan (Sacrifice in Water), but a Jan Samarpan (Dedication to the people). (219) “To usher in true development, we will also need a just and sustainable water and energy policy, and a new development paradigm. We will have to internalize the trinity of samata, sadgi and svavalamban (equality, modest lifestyle and self-reliance) at every level – individual, community and the nation state. (219) “This then is our fervent appeal to the youth and to people’s power for the decades to come. This is not any Kargil war. This war will be fought with equanimity instead of hatred, peace instead of violence; on the path of this change, right upto its culmination… (218) "We believe that true development will evolve, and we shall attain it!" (219)

Reproduced with permission from: Earthcare books, Mumbai and Calcutta