Bhopal: Mired in controversies, the Sardar Sarovar Dam project, which was inaugurated on Sunday, is yet to get rid of its share of disputes, with those displaced by the project still protesting in Barwani district of Madhya Pradesh.
Activists protesting against the project claim there are several such villages that have not been taken into account. There were no surveys done in these affected villages that have been ignored for the compensation scheme. They now pledge to protest till death.
One of the first mega projects undertaken by the Indian government since Independence, Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) was finally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday. It took almost 56 years since the late PM, Jawaharlal Nehru, laid the foundation stone in 1961.
Riddled in controversies for 56 years, the project had ousted thousands of villagers in Madhya Pradesh. Activist Medha Patkar has led the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) for over two decades, seeking proper compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement for the displaced families. On Sunday, even as PM Modi was making his speech in Dabhoi, Gujarat, Patkar continued with her ‘Jal Satyagraha’ protest in Barwani.
As water level exceeded the 128 metre mark on September 15, Patkar, along with 37 others, started the ‘Jal Satyagraha’ in Chhota Barda village in Anjad tehsil of Barwani. The group of protesters sat in the Narmada waters, vowing to take ‘Jal Samadhi’ if their demands were not met.
The protesters alleged that there were several villages that have not yet been surveyed for compensation. Some of them further alleged that outsiders have encroached upon the makeshift colonies meant for the displaced families.
“Medhaji and 37 others continued their protest on Sunday,” said NBA activist Himshi Singh from Chhota Barda. She, however, added that there was no significant rise in water level even on Sunday when the SSD was inaugurated and water was released.
“The water level has been hovering at the 129.5 metre mark over the past few days,” said Singh. She added that the Principal Secretary of Narmada Valley Development Corporation had informed them by September 17 that the water level would be around 130 metre.
The NBA worker, however, claimed that there was water inside houses, public structures and farms in areas including, Nisarpur, Rajghat and Chikhalda over the past few days. Locals are still hell bent on rehabilitation instead of leaving their houses and farms.
Interestingly, NVDA vice chairman Rajnish Vais has claimed that out of the 178 affected villages, 177 would be partially submerged, while only the Rohana village in Kukshi tehsil in Dhar, would be completely submerged.
Meanwhile, National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) teams have been deployed at Dhar and Barwani as a precautionary measure.
It was the NBA that had managed to stall the project in 1996. They alleged breach of environmental norms in a petition submitted with the Supreme Court.
After a prolonged legal wrangle, the SC allowed that the dam’s construction again in 2000, while adding several riders of compensation and rehabilitation. The court also ordered the establishment of a Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA).
According to the MP government, 18,386 families in 141 villages would be affected by the SSD. However, Patkar begged to differ and claimed that there were 40,000 families in 192 villages who would be displaced when the dam hits its full capacity.
Senior NBA activist Alok Agrawal accused both PM Narendra Modi and CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan of being insensitive towards one lakh people affected by the project.
“Gujarat has witnessed floods and excessive rainfall this year, so the dam inauguration could have been postponed till next year,” he claimed.
“The Centre, amid the festivities of the inauguration, has ignored the unbearable pain of the affected people of Madhya Pradesh,” Congress state head Arun Yadav said.