Narmada Samachar: 2 August 2001


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Magsaysay Award to Rajendra Singh

Magsaysay Award for Rajendra Singh;
An Honour For All People's Struggles - For People-Based, Sane Development
NBA Press Release - August 1, 2001

Honour for the 'man of check-dams' ;
The Hindu - August 1

Rajendra Singh bags Magsasay award ;
Rediff on the Net - July 30

Future liquidity ;
Editorial; Indian Express - August 2

A quiet revolution ;
Editorial; Hindustan Times - August 1

Salute the water man ;
Editorial; Economic Times - August 1

Magsaysay for water man Rajendra Singh ;
Times of India - July 30

Accolades rain on water man ;
Times of India - August 1

Silent Valley Project

Silent Valley Project to be revived ;
The Hindu - July 20, 2001

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JULY 19. The Silent Valley hydro-electric project,
which had touched off a storm of protest in the State during 1978-80,
is to be revived. 

The project, shelved in 1981 at the instance of the then Prime Minister,
Indira Gandhi, is sought to be revived in the context of the rising cost
of power generation in the State. The State Government has instructed
the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) to prepare the papers for
putting up the project for the consideration of the Centre. 

The decision to seek revival of the project was announced by the
Electricity Minister, Mr. Kadavoor Sivadasan, in the Assembly during
question hour today. And his statement came as if on a cue from
the former Electricity Minister, Mr. R.  Balakrishna Pillai, who
reminded the Minister that at the time of ordering shelving of the
project, the Centre had promised to reconsider it 20 years later.
His suggestion was that the project could be executed as a
`run of the river' scheme. "Twenty years have lapsed and we must
now revive it," Mr. Pillai said. 

Mr. Sivadasan conceded that there was indeed such a promise and informed
the member. He said the Government could now consider the project afresh
as new technologies for construction of sub- surface dams have been
developed. Experts like the former Atomic Energy Commission chairman,
Mr. P.K. Iyengar, had advised the Government that sub-surface dams
could be the answer to forest denudation for implementation of hydel
projects. He also termed as `mostly imaginary' fears about damage
to environment on account of implementation of hydro-electric projects. 
Renewed 'Save Silent Valley' call ;
The Hindu - July 24, 2001

Reacting to the current controversy surrounding the Kerala Electricity
Minister's avowed intention of resurrecting the hydro electric project,
Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman of the M.S.S. Research Foundation,
Chennai, who holds UNESCO's Cousteau Chair in Ecotechnololgy, has
stated that as Principal Secretary in the Union Agriculture Ministry,
holding charge of Forests, he visited Silent Valley in 1979 and
conducted a detailed study of the benefits and risks associated
with the proposed electricity project. In August that year, he proposed
that ``the entire area of 39,000 hectares consisting of Silent Valley,
New Amarambalam Forest, Kunda Forest and Attapadi Reserve Forest
should be developed into a National Rain Forest Biosphere Reserve''. 

He also suggested alternative methods of obtaining the much-needed
electricity and water, adding: ``Every new source from which man has
increased his power on earth has been made at the cost of damage
to the environment, that he cannot repair and could not foresee''.
Based on Prof. Swaminathan's report, Indira Gandhi convened a meeting
in 1980, soon after she became Prime Minister, which was attended by the
then Kerala Chief Minister Mr. E.K. Nayanar.

``It is not clear to me what the new technology referred to by the
Minister for Construction of Subsurface Dams implies,'' Prof. Swaminathan
adds, ``In my view Kerala's future lies in health-and-eco-tourism.
This is an avenue that can be safeguarded only by protecting the
remaining forests and environment. Silent Valley is particularly
important for the conservation of Kerala's unique medicinal plant
wealth. I, therefore, reiterate my 1979 recommendation''. 
The State Council of the Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad (KSSP) which
met in Thiruvananthapuram on Saturday also sent a petition to the
Kerala Chief Minister requesting him to ``abandon the current move'',
suggesting that the hydel issue is ``being raked up for ulterior
motives''. The Parishad's letter adds: ``Kerala has more than enough
of other (energy) resources and there is no need to disturb
Silent Valley for this purpose''. 
Saving Silent Valley ;
Bittu Sehgal; Letters to the Editor; The Hindu - July 24, 2001

Unsound proposal ;
Editorial; Deccan Herald - August 2, 2001

Feature Article: Effects of the Narmada verdict - Jai Sen

The Hindu - July 31

THE GOVERNMENT wants us to flee like the rats as the submergence water
rises, as they have done all these years in the other dams. We are not
rats, we are human beings. We will resist the injustice and face the
submergence imposed by the Government and the Supreme Court on the Narmada
valley. This is a test of the democracy and human rights in India,''
declared Noorjibhai Padvi, Dedlibhai, Bawa Mahariya and hundreds of
tribal, peasant villagers and activists while launching the Narmada
Satyagraha against the dam and submergence due to the Sardar Sarovar
Project (SSP) in village Domkhedi and Jalsindhi on July 5 on the banks of
the swirling Narmada.

On October 18 last year (2000), a majority judgment of the Supreme Court
ruled that construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam should go ahead.
Although the ruling was most widely read in these terms - a go-ahead for
the project, and hence a loss and setback to the petitioner, the Narmada
Bachao Andolan, in its efforts to stop the project and have it reviewed -
it had several other layers of meaning which in some senses were as
serious and far-reaching as the most obvious one.

One of the most significant was that the ruling would tend to very
substantially reduce the space for civil politics in the country; in other
words, that arguably it would encourage and lead to greater intolerance
and greater division in the country. Subsequent developments have shown
that precisely what was predicted has taken shape. There have been a
series of recent incidents in the country of repression and use of
indiscriminate and unnecessary force by the state, such as the firing on
and killing by police of Adivasis at Dewas in Madhya Pradesh for the
`heinous crime' of defending their traditional rights of access to the
forests for house timber, or the similar firings against Adivasis at
Kashipur in Orissa, at Koel Karo in Jharkhand, and most recently at
Puntamba in Maharashtra.

And now we have a situation where no less than five former Chief Ministers
of one State and the present Deputy Chief Minister of another have jointly
petitioned the Union Government to ban the NBA, as being an organisation
that is a danger to the nation. This follows six months of vicious public
attacks in the media on the NBA, accusing it of everything up to sedition
and treason - all for opposing and criticising a development project.
These may seem mad and irrelevant charges at first, quite out of
proportion - but when seen as being one more step in a chain of events we
need to not flinch from recognising and reading this as a dangerous trend.

On the other hand, however, there is also a deathly silence in the media
about this particular situation and more generally about the criminal
injustice that is taking shape in the valley today. This is all the more
important this year, when the raised dam wall and therefore much greater
submergence has become a permanent reality; and where, given the Supreme
Court's ruling the movement and the local villagers have their backs to
the wall.

More than any year before this, there is this year the distinct
possibility that we will hear about jal samadi taking place in the valley.
We need to ask ourselves: why is it that the media is so uninterested in
this situation, when just till last year this movement was widely seen as
being one of the most significant civil movements for decades? Does this
have anything to do with the ruling?

No less significant is the fact that there also seems to be a sharp drop
in the number of outsiders going to the valley this year, to express
solidarity with the movement and the villagers who are struggling for
their most basic human rights. Taken together, these trends in the
behaviour of civil society towards the movement have a deep message not
just for the Narmada project and for the movements around the Sardar
Sarovar dam, but for the polity of the country as a whole. They demand a
moment's pause and reflection from all of us.

Despite all their promises under oath to the Supreme Court (and thereby to
the people of the country), and despite the great hope and responsibility
that the Court thereby placed on the administration, the State Governments
responsible for these projects have absolutely cynically failed to
resettle and rehabilitate the people affected. They are forcing the
villagers to choose between fleeing their homes and drowning. In a very
real sense, they are today fulfilling the vicious threat of a Gujarat
politician during the 1980s, who said in regard to the Sardar Sarovar dam:
``When the waters rise, the tribals will either drown or they will be
flushed out of their holes like rats''.

Just compare this statement, and the manner in which the Indian State is
today behaving, with the intense and proud dignity that shines through in
the words of the Adivasis, peasants, and activists who are now on
satyagraha in the valley, as quoted at the beginning of this article. It
is difficult to imagine more gross cynicism than this behaviour by the
State, at least in a supposedly democratic country.

It goes without saying that the demand for a ban on the NBA and the
vilification of its leaders constitute an extremely negative and dangerous
development. At the most fundamental level, this outcome questioned and
challenged a tenet that lies at the very heart of a democracy: the
sovereignty of the people of the country, from which flow our fundamental
freedoms to associate freely, to express ourselves freely, to question the
state freely, and to live freely - and indeed, to establish the state
itself. Whether the Supreme Court meant to do this or not, is not
relevant; the historical fact is that it did so. This is of the most
profound meaning.

The present Government at the Centre is extremely fragile and dependent
for its survival on whatever support it can get from whatever sources on
whatever grounds. Just as a spurious and purely political `approval' was
given to the Sardar Sarovar Project by the Rajiv Gandhi Government back in
1987 after the Congress had fared disastrously in State elections - riding
roughshod over strident objections from much of the administration - it is
all too possible that the Vajpayee Government may well pay more heed than
any self-respecting government should to such a rabid demand (for banning
the NBA).

Is there any line of control between state and civil movements? It is
difficult to say which is more important, and more depressing, and more
dangerous: the cynical drowning of the people in the Narmada Valley by the
Indian state, figuratively and/or literally, or this fascist `appeal' to a
weak Government. It is probably also meaningless to even try to draw the
distinction, since the two threads are so intertwined. Whichever it is, it
is vital that all those concerned with issues of humanity, freedom, and
democracy, pay full attention to what is unfolding in front of our eyes.

For let us also be clear: if those demanding a ban on the NBA win in their
efforts, who will it be a victory for? It will be a victory, perhaps, for
the builders, promoters, and financiers of big projects, and for the
hidden interests behind them, for whom mammoth projects represent mammoth
profits and therefore, by obvious logic, are good for the country; and it
will also be a victory for the small-minded but unfortunately very
sizeable section of chauvinist elements in the country who are intolerant
of any other views and especially of those who are minorities or non-
conformists. But it will be a profound loss for humanity, for freedom, and
for democracy.