NAR­MADA, THE LAST STAND

India Today - - UPFRONT -

Ac­tivists from the Nar­mada Bachao An­dolan (NBA) are pre­par­ing once more to do bat­tle with the Mad­hya Pradesh gov­ern­ment. Medha Patkar has been on an in­def­i­nite fast since July 27, along­side 12 peo­ple af­fected by the project to raise the dam’s height by 17 me­tres, which will re­sult in a town and 192 vil­lages be­ing sub­merged. The Su-

preme Court had or­dered all fam­i­lies to be re­housed by July 31, a dead­line that has passed with thou­sands of fam­i­lies re­main­ing in the sub­mer­gence area. The ques­tion be­fore the gov­ern­ment now is whether to evict th­ese fam­i­lies or wait for them to move once the wa­ter level rises.

The NBA has told vil­lagers that the court ex­tended the dead­line to Au­gust 8, though the gov­ern­ment de­nies this, say­ing it would be within its rights to be­gin the evic­tion process right away. “We de­mand that ba­sic ameni­ties promised at re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion sites be pro­vided to all,” says Rahul Ya­dav of the NBA. The or­gan­i­sa­tion says there are around 40,000 fam­i­lies still in the sub­mer­gence area. The gov­ern­ment rub­bishes this fig­ure, claim­ing that the true num­ber is about 26,000, spread across the dis­tricts of Dhar, Bar­wani, Khar­gone and Ali­ra­jpur. Ra­jneesh Vaish, vice chair­man of the Nar­mada Val­ley De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity, adds that of th­ese fam­i­lies, only 2,392 fam­i­lies from 34 vil­lages in Bar­wani and 4,618 fam­i­lies from 37 vil­lages in Dhar have not been re­ha­bil­i­tated.

Te­jaswi Naik, col­lec­tor, Bar­wani district, ad­mits that “re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion sites have [only] ba­sic ameni­ties, though what­ever is lack­ing will be pro­vided as soon as af­fected fam­i­lies ar­rive”. Mean­while, ad­di­tional bat­tal­ions of the Spe­cial Armed Force have been moved to the area in an­tic­i­pa­tion of trou­ble. By Au­gust 20, wa­ter lev­els at the dam will be high enough for wa­ter to start flood­ing vil­lages in Bar­wani and Dhar dis­tricts. That gives the gov­ern­ment just a cou­ple of weeks to re­solve con­cerns through talks.

—Rahul Noronha

WE’VE BEEN HERE BE­FORE NBA leader Medha Patkar

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