Namada Valley: demand for halting the construction of the dam till the displaced people were resettled


NEW DELHI: There has been an overwhelming expression of support for the Narmada Bachao Andolan at the dharna site at Jantar Mantar where NBA leader Medha Patkar is on an indefinite fast with two others. Two more persons, Rajabhai and Bhanabhai, joined the hunger strike on Tuesday.

Said writer Arundhati Roy: “The Narmada Bachao Andolan has sparked off something … suddenly it is the nerve centre of the new wave of displacements across the board. Wherever there is this huge corporate interest, the first thing written into that is displacement. So, this whole issue has become crucial for millions of people. Just in Delhi alone there is talk of displacing 30 lakh people for the Commonwealth Games. Whatever happens here is poised to mutate into a situation which may not be as beautiful as the Narmada Bachao Andolan.”

According to environmental-activist Vandana Shiva, the struggle of Narmada Bachao Andolan had become a bigger issue than of displacement. “It is now an issue of wastage of water for entertainment complexes along the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad. It has now become an issue of precious water being used for genocidal agriculture policies. It is whether the people of India would be able to live in this land or will our land and water become inputs for globally profitable corporates. It is not just a struggle of last 20 years but a struggle of the next 20 years.”

Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav, who visited Indore last month, said that water was important but not at the cost of the tribal and rural people, who were called upon to make huge sacrifices for the country. The Prime Minister should intervene and the Supreme Court orders must be implemented. “No dam was bigger than the people. People who are uprooted should get a better life and livelihood. Those who get irrigation benefits should be taxed and those who are displaced should be compensated.”

Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, felt that by continuing to construct the Sardar Sarovar dam without rehabilitating the people first, the Governments were abrogating their responsibility to uphold the human rights of their own people.

`Waterman’ Rajinder Singh said the Government should show its “human face” and find a way out for the displaced families of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

About 20,000 participants and representatives of unorganised/contract labour trade unions and social movements of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chattisgarh and West Bengal under the banner of Mazdoor Adhikar Mela called for the Prime Minister’s intervention. They supported the NBA demand for halting the construction of the dam till the displaced people were resettled and rehabilitated.