Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar on Sunday suspended the Jal Satyagrah she had started with women affected by the project here on Friday.
The NBA had called for an indefinite Jal Satyagrah, announcing that Patkar and the other women would prefer to be submerged if the backwater level rose further due to closure of gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam. When the water level did not rise on Sunday, Patkar announced suspension of the agitation, saying it would continue in other forms till those affected by the project were properly rehabilitated. With less water in reservoirs in MP, the water level in the affected areas is unlikely to rise in the near future.
The NBA had also alleged that despite MP facing prospects of drought due to deficient rainfall, water was released from Omkareshwar Dam to ensure that the water level at Kevadia in Gujarat rose. No senior government official visited the protest site since Friday. After suspension of the protest, Patkar and others went into the river on boats and pledged to continue the agitation. She alleged that the inauguration of the dam was a conspiracy because thousands of affected people were yet to be rehabilitated.
Earlier, Patkar described as laughable the claim that the dam was complete, alleging that thousands of kilometres of canal network in Gujarat was not complete. “It’s a fake inauguration from a person holding a very high office,’’ she said. Scoffing at the claim that the dam was a civil engineering wonder, she said, “We need social engineering because we are talking of heart, brain, blood and sweat, not concrete.’’ “We want vikas (development) not vinash (destruction),’’ she said and accused the Centre, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh governments of misleading people by tweaking statistics.
She demanded an open debate on the Sardar Sarovar project, its benefits, the decision-making process and the social and environmental costs connected with a large dam like this and questioned claims made by the PM and Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani. She alleged that a debate on the dam was not allowed in either House of Parliament and in MP Assembly. She also alleged that several rehabilitation sites in Gujarat lacked basic amenities.