The National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM) has wondered as to why, ahead of heavy rains in the upstream of the Narmada dam, especially in Madhya Pradesh, the state government is gearing up with contingency plans to “save” people from being submerged. An annual affair, the NAPM, which is an apex body of several people’s organizations across the country, it has asked, “If all dam affected persons have been ‘rehabilitated’, then why crores of money is being spent on disaster management?”
In a statement issued from Badwani, Madhya Pradesh, which is on the borders of Gujarat, the NAPM has said, “Every year, with the beginning of heavy rains in the Narmada Valley, the government suddenly gets “concerned” and pours out money for setting up relief camps for persons affected by dams. This year, too, it has set aside Rs 551 lakh for the areas affected by Sardar Sarovar and other dams on Narmada — Upper Veda, Maan, Jobat , Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar.”
More interesting is the fact that, says NAPM, “On June 24, 2014, in a petition related to Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar canals, Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh Justice Khanvilkar directed that a disaster management scheme be prepared for the entire Narmada Valley.” What is noteworthy, according to NAPM, is that “Since 1979 when Sardar Sarovar Project was passed, no such scheme has been made, despite the reservoir spreading over 214 km.” This despite the fact that “many villages of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat faced “disasters”.
This year, the Madhya Pradesh government has declared it will set up “centres/camps in the name of relief, are at least 10 to 15 km away from the hilly adivasi villages”, the NAPM says, adding, “The administration expects these adivasi villagers to come in their boats, with children and sick and elderly persons, and eat and thus, get ‘relief’ in the camps.” Furthermore, for relief purposes, the government has arranged boats so as to “save’’ houses, shops, schools etc. “Around 20 boats are arranged and they are kept just for Government related work by giving Rs 25,000 to 30,000 per month.”
Wondering why all this is being done when the Narendra Modi government has already declared that the rehabilitation of the Narmada oustees has been completed, the NAPM says, even the arrangement for the disaster that may befall once rains lash upstream of the Narmada dam are not enough. In fact, it insists, “The common villagers, the adivasis, cannot get, nor can they afford, the boats for commuting to markets or even for their daily needs. Does the government really think that it will ‘save’ around 700 to 1500 houses by putting them all together on the boats? Or will lives be saved, and not property? And how many families?”
The NAPM further says, “Land and houses in the hilly adivasi villages of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh were submerged without any rehabilitation in 1993-1994. In the same way, in the last 2-3 years, houses, shops and standing crops in the densely populated villages of Nimad, Madhya Pradesh got submerged. This is happening because thousands of families of farmers, labourers, fish-workers, potters, shop-keepers, land-less persons have been rehabilitated just on papers.”
“At the present height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, 122 meters”, NAPM says, “there are 177 villages which are affected by submergence, and out these, many villages, thousands of houses and some wards of Dharampuri town faced destruction even last year. In the 2006 judgment which allowed for raising the height up to 122 meters, it was ordered that families must be compensated for damages. But in spite of the orders of Justice Khare, Grievance Redressal Authority, the Madhya Pradesh government and Narmada Valley Development Authority have not complied.”
The NAPM has wondered, “Will the land, farms, houses, temples, schools and lakhs of trees belonging to 40,000 Sardar Sarovar affected families be sold with 318 Lakh rupees? Claiming that there is no one left to be rehabilitated at the present height of 122 meters and also saying that our angst is ‘false and misleading’, the Modi Government, in its first big decision, has decided to raise the height of the dam by 17 meters.” It adds, “Even today, more than 40,000 families, lakhs of animals and trees are residing in the submergence affected areas of Sardar Sarovar Dam.”