For Immediate Release
Sardar Sarovar Project itself
Political Propaganda only to suppress failure of 70,000 crore SSP
Arrests of peaceful protestors condemnable
The pompous inauguration of the 2,500 crore rupees worth Sardar Vallabh bhai Patel Statue at Kevadia, Gujarat in the garb of ‘Unity and Progress’, is nothing but a Tourism Project of the Gujarat Government. which is being falsely claimed by the Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi as a ‘Statue of Unity’, without explaining to the nation as for what and of whom is thus ‘Unity’ for, as also against whom !! While the Project conceives of tourists reaching out to the hillock and the statue, to have a glimpse of the Dam, the statue itself will be staring at the plight of thousands of adivasis and other families displaced, but not yet rehabilitated by the Sardar Sarovar Dam fully and fairly.
With 50,000 families are still residing in the dam affected areas in the three states, in the hilly areas and densely populated communities, upstream of the dam, whose houses, fields and lives are being drowned, in the most inhuman way by the Modi Govt, and its associates including the Government of Madhya Pradesh, pushing the dam to its full height of 139 mts, ignoring the legal and human rights violations is unjustifiable. It’s a tragic contradiction that the Sardar Sarovar Project and the Statue itself, are both being promoted as pro-farmer, while in reality, the benefit distribution is being turned against the farmers, whether Gujarat or Madhya Pradesh !
It will also be a monument of stark reality wherein Gujarat’s own adivasis who were uprooted from their riverine environs, forests and agriculture, in 1961 for the sake of the Project and its supra structure, including 9 kinds of guest houses to helipads are yet to be rehabilitated ! Thousands of others from not less than 70 villages are being deprived of their status against the laws of the land, especially, the PESA (Tribal Self-Rule Act). The Statue is an insult to the tradition of the freedom movement and absolutely against the interests of the adivasis and farmers.
The Statue is part of the overall plan to deprive the 70 adivasi villages of their constitutional status as adivasi villages in violation of the PESA Act, obviously to be followed by grabbing of their land and natural resources and diversion of the same for unjustifiable ‘tourism’ purposes ! It is absolutely condemnable that the Govt. has arrested activists and villages who have been raising these genuine concerns. It is absolutely condemnable that when the Govt. has not rehabilitated thousands of families in M.P., Maharashtra and Gujarat for which the full budget is to come from Gujarat as per the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal and hence almost 8,000 families, including adivasi and dalit farmers are yet to receiv land based rehabilitation. Thousands of others – landless, fish workers, artisans, hawkers, potters, shop keepers, are to receive due package for alternative livelihood.
The Gujarat Government is all for symbolism with political motives and expediency. Sardar Patel who was known to be a farmer leader would have never approved this ! While Gujarat claims to have no money for land to be purchased for rehabilitation of oustees in M.P., Maharashtra, Gujarat, as per their due entitlements, it goes in for unjustifiable expenditure of 2500 crores on the statue itself ! The budget for the statue project is more than the budget for rehabilitation of the densely populated villages including a township in the three states! It is also questionable that when the SSP, is still incomplete with more than 70% canal network yet to be constructed, as well as environmental compensatory measures including downstream impacts, catchment area treatment and command area development, each of which requires a few hundreds or tens of crores, the Modi Govt. is diverting such huge amount for the Statue! No doubt Gujarat may recover part of its ‘investment’ from tourists making it a huge show but this will be at cost of irreparable losses to nature and nature-based communities and the country as a whole.
While there is so much propaganda about the statue, there is little is known about the manner in which Gujarat has been deceiving thousands of farmers in own state, who, it promised would be ‘beneficiaries’ of the Project. Even as Mr. Modi continues to make political demands for raising SSP to its full height, his Government has silently removed/planned to exclude 4 lakh hectares from the proposed command area. Deriding the mammoth cost of 70,000 crore rupees (as per the Report of the Working Report on Water Resources, Planning Commission, 2012 estimate), Gujarat has not been able to utilize the ponded waters at the present dam height of 122 mts, since not more than 30% of the canal network has been built as on date. As a consequence, the irrigation potential realized at the present height is only one-fourth of the claimed potential (barely 2 lakh hectares, out of 8 lakh hectares). All of this is illegal and unpardonable, since the project costs have shot up to 10 times [from initial cost of Rs. 4,200 crores to 45,000 crores (as on 2007) and Rs. 70,000 crores in 2012].
Having raised the bogie of ‘development’, couched as the Pride of Gujarat, Sardar Sarovar has miserably failed to live up to the tall claims that planners and politicians made. Not only has Gujarat not delivered adequately on the planks of irrigation, drinking water and electricity; it has in fact shown the temerity to alter the very terms of the NWDT Award (1979), by unjustifiably increasing the allocation of SSP waters for municipal and industrial use, thereby betraying its own people in Kutch and scoffing at the price that the farmers and adivasis in the submergence area of Madhya Pradesh (193 villages), Maharashtra (33 villages) and Gujarat (19 villages) are being forced to pay, in the form of prime agricultural land, habitats, forest, water, river, fish and culture. SSP, today, has become a national liability, and truly a monument of mismanagement and injustice.
Since without the compensatory measures, there is already serious impact on the Narmada eco system, on farmers to fish workers, which are not compensated either by Gujarat or their own state governments. Gujarat has been demanding and obtaining money from the Central Irrigation Scheme of AIBP,and maximum monetary assistance, during last 10 years has gone to SSP, almost 5,700 crores, yet Mr. Modi has the courage to say that the Centre is stalling the Project, only to stall the progress of M.P. and Gujarat. If Gujarat has money for statues, why not for canals and rehabilitation, is a reasonable question that should have come from UPA and Planning Commission, which unfortunately has favoured the Gujarat Govt!
It is with SSP, at 122 mts height reached by now, that thousands of farmers have lost their land, but not a word is uttered or a rupee of compensation paid for more than 1,500 houses and thousands of hecatres of land with standing crop has been submerged illegally in the monsoon of 2012 and 2013, due to water releases from upstream dams! Serious impacts have been ignored, both by the Govt. of Gujarat and ant Ministry of Environment, as it also happens in the case of ambitious projects, where all the politicians avoid or neglect the truthful cost-benefit analysis. At least by now, we hope the UPA and Planning Commission would undertake a complete review of the social, environmental, economic and financial aspects of the SSP, in the context of the distorted priority of Gujarat Govt. as also the deliberately changed allocations of the Project.
Medha Patkar Devram Kanera Kailash Aawasya Jikubhai
Noorji Padvi Meera Saavabehan