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Press Release – Narmada Oustees Demand revocation of raise SSP height: Rehabilitation of 2.5 lakh people

Narmada Oustees converge in national capital: Warn Govt. of India

Demand revocation of raise SSP height: Rehabilitation of 2.5 people

PM must keep up poll promises of ‘ache din’ and ‘inclusive development’: NDA Govt. must abide by law & judicial orders

Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, June 24 : Hundreds of oustees from the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSP) affected villages in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat reached the national capital today to challenge the absolutely illegal and undemocratic decision of the newly formed NDA Government to raise the height of SSP from 122 mts to 138.68 mts and consign 2.5 lakh people – tribals, farmers, fish workers, potters, landless to a watery grave, without ensuing land and livelihood based rehabilitation as per the Narmada Tribunal Award, state policies, action plans , judgements of the Supreme Court and Orders of the Grievance Redressal Authorities.

People from the oldest civilization of the world gathered at the protest site since Tuesday morning and denounced the outrageous manner in which the new Govt., within just three weeks of assuming power, has chosen to disregard the legitimate questions and concerns raised by a 3 decades old social movement. This hasty decision, has actually raised more questions about the ‘statesmanship of the Prime Minister’, the political and economic motives and the sheer insensitivity of the BJP-led Govt. towards farmers and the entire rural landscape. We would like to ask:

  • Is the move really for the benefit of the farmers of Gujarat or for the corporates and industries that have been eyeing the Narmada waters and command area land for very long?

  • Why has the Govt. hurried with this decision without complying with the legal and judicial stipulations on environmental safeguards and rehabilitation of thousands of families?

  • If in the past 30 years, especially 13 years of Mr. Modi’s rule in Gujarat, less than 30% of the canal network has been constructed, why this rush to submergence 245 villages, without any roadmap for using the waters, without adequate canal network in place?

  • Had this pre-mature decision been taken to submerge the ongoing judicial inquiry into the massive 1000 crore corruption in M.P, exposing fake registries and a huge nexus?

  • Have the concerned Ministers and officials even cared to visit the flourishing villages, the uninhabitable R&R sites and assess the field reality before taking this decision in one stroke?

  • Have all the states and parties to the issue, including affected people at the centre and their organization been taken info confidence?

  • Will the ‘sacrifice’ of Narmada valley really reach the needy farmers of Kutch or Saurashtra or will feed into the profits of the corporates?

  • With 90,000 crores as the estimated final cost of the Project, have the claims of benefits on irrigation and power actually been realized?

Where is out land? Where is our livelihood? Where will we go? Is there any rule of law in the country?” These were questions that people asked and stated that the decision to permit “construction of piers, overhead bridge and installation of gates in a raised position on the SSP”, was actually not taken by the ‘Narmada Control Authority’ on 12th June, but was already taken on 16th May! The decision violates the legal imperative that “no one’s property can be submerged without full and fair rehabilitation’. Despite having the most progressive law on rehabilitation, the SSP-affected had to struggle for their rights over years, which led to 11,000 families receiving land in Gujarat and Maharashtra, hardly 30 families in M.P. and establishment of about 200 resettlement sites.However, thousands of families residing in the submergence areas of the three states are yet to receive proper rehabilitation benefits including cultivable land, house plots, civic amenities at resettlement sites, alternative livelihood etc.

It is obvious that the nexus of officers and their agents, who duped thousands of oustees will have to face anything upto punishment when the Justice Jha Commission inquiry report is out and would like the whole process to be sabotaged. We condemn the political expediency inter-state politics that has pushed this decision, while ignoring the law of the land and committing judicial contempt. While Shri Narendra Modi has been promising the country of ‘ache din’ and ‘inclusive development’, through his electoral campaigns, one is shocked and pained to know of his government’s U-turn, within barely a month of his assuming office !

The people of the valley will not take this decision lying down and will stand up on the streets, in the Courts, in the capital and across the country, challenging the same. The people are however, determined to face the authorities, at the highest level and seek answers. The Former Prime Minister has assured the Supreme Court in 2006 that there would be full compliance with the Narmada Award, no submergence without rehabilitation. Mr. Modi ji will have to keep up the promise of the PM’s office to the Apex Court and cannot go backOn the one hand Gujarat Govt. plans to de-notify 4 lakh hecatres of land from the command area and reserve it for corporates, and on the other hand justify the arbitrary decision to raise the dam height to 139.68 mts, while less than 20% of the dam waters are utilized!! The decision-making on SSP, leads us to some more critical questions of national import:

  • Will the decision on Sardar Sarovar be indicative of the development paradigm’ of Mr. Narendra Modi led-NDA Govt?

  • Will legitimate questions about people’s lives, livelihoods, environment, corruption and and benefits of mega projects and the unholy political-contractor-official nexus be pushed under the carpet in the garb of ‘development’ lollypops’?

  • Will the ‘growth’ mantra quell all concerns relating to democracy, sustainability and equity?

As we raise these questions, we also know the State would immediately brand us as ‘anti-development and anti national, but asserting the rights of farmers and workers; the tillers and toilers cannot be anti-development, we assert. We expect a reasonable opportunity to be heard and present the field reality, with all documentary evidence to the concerned authorities and Ministries. If SSP can go ahead, it can only be, as per law and by ensuing people’s rights not against the law. We demand Govt. of India to:

  1. Immediately withdraw the decision of 12th June, to raise the height of SSP by 17 mts.

  2. Undertake a comprehensive, participatory assessment of SSP: including the status of benefits, rehabilitation and environmental compliance as per law.

  3. Provide land and livelihood based rehabilitation to all the affected families in the three states, as per the NWDTA, state policies, action plans and judicial orders.

  4. Initiate the canal construction work in Gujarat in order to utilize the water already ponded upto 122 mts and stop any diversion of command area land and SSP water to industries and cities, by violating the Award.

This will be the beginning of a new phase of the struggle, in which the masses and progressive forces of the country will not be mere witnesses, but participants since the onslaught on people’s rights will have to be countered and challenged across the country. We appeal to the PM to show true statesmanship and establish a precedent by responding to the demands of the people from the Narmada valley. This will be his true ode to Sardar Patel.

Medha Patkar, Kamla Yadav, Hirdaram Bavlya, Bhagirath Dhangar, Jamsing

Contact: 09818905316 / 09179148973

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