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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 38 New Delhi September 7, 2019

Narmada Movement Demands Need Wide Support

Saturday 7 September 2019

COMMUNICATION

On September 2 Medha Patkar and nine persons affected by the submergence of the Sardar Sarovar Dam ended their nine-day fast after receiving assurances from the Madhya Pradesh Government that the State Government will be giving adequate attention to protecting the interests of displaced persons or persons threatened with displacement. The health of Medha Patkar had deteriorated seriously towards the last days of the fast.

The Madhya Pradesh Government did well to extend assurances at the right time. The Chief Minister, Kamal Nath, sent S.C. Behar, the former Chief Secretary, who is known to have the trust of some leading social activists including Medhaji, as his special emissary to convince the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) about the sincere intentions of the State Government regarding the very genuine demands of this democratic and peaceful movement which has been recognised and praised all over the world. Now the Madhya Pradesh Government should follow up this in the true spirit so that the cause of the Sardar Sarovar evictees is genuinely helped and other environmental and safety issues also get due consideration.

However the Madhya Pradesh Government on its own cannot resolve all the pending issues and the cooperation of the Gujarat Government and the Union Government is also needed and this is where more problems are likely to arise in meeting the genuine demands of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, judging from recent experiences.

One basic issue is that of ensuring the proper rehabilitation of nearly 32,000 project-affected families. On the basis of its close contacts with project-affected people and continuing monitoring of their condition, the NBA has estimated that such a large number of project-affected households have not yet received proper rehabilitation. This can be seen in terms of the original Narmada Tribunal directives or the directives of the Supreme Court, for example, in the years 2000 and 2005. The NBA has argued that there can be no submergence before satisfactory rehabilitation and therefore the raising of the water level should be stopped. In addition related safety and environmental issues have also been raised and corruption in rehabilitation work, which has also been accepted in an official report, has been opposed by the NBA. The NBA has asked for much greater transparency in rehabilitation work so that the correct picture comes out before the people and glaring inadequacies are exposed.

The demands of the NBA should get wide support and from this point of view the next few weeks are going to be of crucial importance.

New Delhi Bharat Dogra

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