Mumbai: As Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) continues with her indefinite fast that she began on July 27 on the banks of River Narmada in Barwani, Madhya Pradesh, other activists held a demonstration in Mumbai to protest the forceful eviction of 200,000 people affected by the massive Narmada dam.
“None of the resettlement sites are ready and people can’t be forced to move out of their villages and live on the streets of today’s India,” said Bilal Khan, an NBA activist, who, along with others, held a protest ‘Stand with Narmada, Join for a Solidarity Action’ in Dadar, central Mumbai Monday.
He said, “They are protesting the forceful eviction of 200,000 from 192 villages and one township in Narmada valley because the Government of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh want to fill the Sardar Sarovar Dam, now that the dam has attained the full height of 138.68 metres,” and villagers now face the threat of submergence due to closure of the gates of the dam.
Patkar and 12 other fasting activists along with villagers are staying put in Chikalda, Barwani, with the district administration all set to begin the eviction on Monday (July 31) deadline. They say the NBA is resisting this because of the resettlement which they call is “illegal, anti-constitutional and is totally unjust”. After the deadline, the non-vacating villagers will be evicted forcefully.
“For the villagers who have lived in open farm lands in their humble homes and tilled their fields, they are now being provided homes in tin sheds (10x15 feet) which were constructed quickly at 23 rehabilitation sites,” Khan said.
Several of those displaced have already been approaching the Madhya Pradesh court and expressed their unhappiness with the rehabilitation sites allotted to them and pointed to the serious lapses in implementation of the Supreme Court order, which directed the state to rehabilitate them in the first place.
According to Khan, the great hurry in evicting the villagers is for the grand inauguration of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project in Gujarat by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 12, when 2,000 Hindu priests will be present for the ceremony. “Though big promises have been made to take water to parched Kutch region, canals are not ready and large quantities are guzzled by large corporates like Coca Cola and other factories,” he said.