After almost 32 years of struggle, lakhs of people in the Narmada valley to be affected by Sardar Sarovar, are being threatened of brutal eviction. The government of M.P has begun sending its emissaries to convey to the farmers, labourers and all inhabitants of the valley that they will have to move out of their homes and hearths, their farms and orchards. They are asked to leave behind their pakka houses, children’s schools, the shops and markets, all the sources of livelihood attached to land and the mother river Narmada. All the temples and ghats, mosques and mazars, age old religious and cultural monuments, not just archaeological but their ancestor’s remnants underneath which are not live yet legendary.
The Officials and employees are merely the carriers of the message that all the people poor and not so poor, must leave their generations old motherland, Narmada basin even without any shelter ready to house them. They will be given a tin shed if they come out of their houses, may it be one built of bricks and mud or cement. Those in one storied building well to do farmers and traders too will follow the poor, landless, fisher people, potters and labourers.
This when the Rehabilitation sites are not at all ready with amenities, mandated under the Narmada Tribunal, the law and endorsed by all the judgements of the Apex Court, 1992, 2000, 2005 until February 2017. Huge Corruption in the establishment works at these sites, was exposed by CAG and then by NBA, 40 engineers were sacked after a long legal battle indicating the low quality and the same is fully exposed by the technical reports by IIT Mumbai and MANIT Bhopal, submitted to and accepted by Justice Jha Commission. Why on paper, the condition on the ground are obvious by the fact that 90% of families haven’t shifted to the new sites full of problems with no drinking water or no drainage, leading to waterlogging and submergence of houses. Many have no house plots to build houses on, with large pits, unlevelled or black cotton soil. Thousands of families can’t even build the plinths with meagre compensation for a house paid to them, 10 to 15 years back!
All this the Supreme Order of 8-2-2017 said, can be complained about to Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) who in turn can give directions to NVDA. Yet in spite of detailed complaints, this has not happened. It is, however, obvious that there has been no construction why even repairs at sites, over years. Where would the people go?
And what is law, after all? When the SC has said, the final figures of beneficiaries is not yet ascertained and officials can’t provide full lists of those who are to be benefitted, how dare can they evict people, following only the selected part of the Verdict?When the authorities were always reporting full compliance, why do they claim they will clear fell trees and evict gods and temples/ not mosques?along with people, Now, after more than 60 years?Converting land rights into cash, the apex court has opened a pandora’s box and the middlemen in nexus with the NVDA and full support from GRA, even with the former judges as members. NBA is in a battle with them all!
On one hand, much trumpeted Narmada Seva Yatra is on, to be concluded by the Prime Minister with a gathering of 1 lakh and more people and the media on May 15th. The glaze is such that the CM and PM are promoting themselves as the saviour of the river Narmada, while the damned river, is not just polluted by them but is being diverted too! Whom are they trying to save this least polluted river for? Why are they suddenly spending 1000+ Crores on propaganda? It’s the corporate power Coca Cola to Adani, snatching away the waters leaving the riverine populations high and dry but also wiping them out! The State is getting ready to use force, which they were never ever permitted by any court, till the latest order of February 8ththis year. The Give and Take, Settlement not Resettlement that the order brings forth, is now to be exhibited on the ground when thousands of people will be tried to be forcibly evicted as per statements with underestimation “112 villages from 4 districts in MP Badwani, Dhar, Alirajpur andKhargone with 8000 families to be affected “76 villages from district Dhar are asked to vacate “ these diktats are certainly not the divine messages but the statutory sermons! Why should the people follow? If they don’t, will the battle in the village after village be converted into the Power against its own People? THAT THERE ARE NOT LESS THAN 40000 FAMILIES IN THE SUBMERGENCE AREA, ESP IN M.P., FEW HUNDRED IN MAHARASHTRA AS WELL, NBA ASSERTS.
It was People Vs Power over last 32 years and you were always on our side, not only in the Narmada, but in defining and redefining development in questioning the iniquitous, unsustainable paradigm and the undemocratic, demonic displacement and deprivation. The movement fought for the landless, not only the landowners, the Adivasis as well as others beyond caste and creed, tried to pull together the strength and challenged the ruthless system. Huge corruption was exposed through 7 years long enquiry but the criminals are not punished.They continue to function as a nexus to try and loot, we continue to prevent, protecting our mass strength.
We did expose the destruction of riverine and nature’s life not only the violations of laws.We challenged illegal sand mines and stopped the vehicles, taking the brunt of attacks.We counted trees which are in thousands each village and checked seismological data, backwater levels and archaeological survey reports. They filled their tables with percentages, mostly 100, on achievement and didn’t care to see the destruction in the offing. The minority judge’s, Justice Bharucha’s opinion in the NBA judgement 2000 said it all! The letter to the World Bank President by the Morse Commission concluded in no unclear terms that this Dam can’t be completed without using unacceptable means. This was in 1993 when those great International experts, a Canadian judge, an American ecologist and a British anthropologist under the leadership of a UNDP vice chairman concluded that the Bank should withdraw from the Sardar Sarovar Project. The Bank did but not our own governments!
Mr Modi, on the other hand, kept aside all formalities, rejected all legalities, and dictated that the Dam is completed at any cost.His own ministers, Uma Bharti and Mr Gehlot from M.P didn’t utter a word or were not allowed to even save people of their own state.Nature is dumb and its mute music is not audible by us, the ordinary humans, anyway.
The River is a human entity, they now say. It is since generations, revered as a woman, the mother, by the very people who are being weaned away since generation. The new fervour created with euphoria about the CM and PM being the ones with committed to saving the Narmada from pollution is a bluff. Nothing has changed in any village or town which the Yatra passed through.Neither is any illegal mines stopped nor any liquor shop closed. Yatra has held large meetings or worshipped the Narmada with Crores spent, but left behind no solace to the dam oustees.
Modi Government and Shivraj Singh’s decision to complete the Dam, erect the gates now pushing the closure to be decided on the 17th in the NCA meeting has been for the election game and the corporate gain no doubt!, While he is to project himself and CM, M.P as the Saviours of Narmada in the gathering at Amarkantak on May 15th, in the next few days,the Valley behind will be in a small yet firm action, crying halt to its devastation! What a contradiction!
Here, his Army in preparing itself to be up against the living communities the real Narmada bhaktas. A war is likely to be imposed on the non- violent struggles after 3 decades of struggle to destroy generations old human and natural life and culture
Will you act in your own way? Raise your voice through the medium you prefer? Will you play a role in motivating others to join the campaign, our actions in the coming day? Do also plan to be a part of the ‘Rally for the Valley’ in the first week of June. Will you give your own opinion, suggestions for the struggle ahead? Do get back and let us know, it’s urgent, please.
Nurji Vasave, Sanober Mansoori, Bhagirath Dhangar, Medha Patkar
RahulYadav, Kailash Awasya, Mukesh, Pavan, Yogini, Chetan, Latika and all
Himshi and Uma, NAPM, Delhi