Bowing to pressure following sustained television coverage of the Narmada Bachao Andolans Jal Satyagraha,the Madhya Pradesh government on Monday lowered the water level in the Omkareshwar reservoir to 189 m.
As the NBA called off the agitation and hailed peoples victory,the government pointed out the move would deprive 20,000 hectares in the state of irrigation and cost it 120 MW power. Without naming the NBA,Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said people who are anti-dam had misled the protesters.
More than 50 oustees had been on a relay protest in Ghoghalgaon of Khandwa district as part of the satyagraha,squatting in the backwaters of the Omkareshwar project which began generating power in 2007. Monday was the 17th day of the protest.
The protesters were seeking land for land for villagers,accusing the government of not following court orders on resettlement and rehabilitation and risking peoples lives by raising the water level even before they moved out.
The displaced who had taken money from the government for the property and land acquired by it would now have to return 50 per cent of the compensation,the Special Rehabilitation Grant (SRG) and give a written application within 90 days for land.
Five benches of the Grievance Redressal Authority had given a ruling to this effect in July-end after hearing petitions by people not satisfied with the cash compensation and SRG.
While the government had argued that the money had been deposited in the accounts of the oustees after they agreed to the package,the NBA claimed it was done without their knowledge. Narmada Valley Development Authority sources said that most of the people who had accepted the relief had spent the money after it was deposited before 2008.
The opposition Congress,that had supported the NBA-led protest,feared that many people may not be able to surrender the money to the project authority and hence not benefit from the land for land scheme.