NARMADA, THE LAST STAND
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.
WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE NBA leader Medha Patkar