August 4, 2017 11:14:24 pm
Kesar Bai and Manohar Babu’s villages and fields will soon go under the Narmada, swelling by the minute since the gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat were shut, but they have nowhere to go. Not if you consider cramped, tin cabins as home, which is what they claim the Madhya Pradesh government is providing in the name of rehabilitating thousands staring at displacement.
Kesar and Babu, along with around 50 victims of displacement, camped in Delhi over the last two days demanding the government ensure their proper rehabilitation, as per Supreme Court guidelines, before the deluge comes.
A group of MPs and activists separately wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday highlighting the “pitiable” conditions of the porta cabins and poor sanitation facilities at the relief camps.
“I will lose my home as well as agricultural land of around two acres. Even my son’s land will be submerged. We have not yet been provided any land or plot or the compensation amount of around Rs 60 lakh,” Babu, a resident of Barwani district, said.
The protest site at Jantar Mantar saw a cross-section of parties extending their solidarity with the project-affected families here today. Social actvist Medha Patkar is on an indefinite fast at Dhar district in MP over the issue.
Interestingly, the parties, and leaders who have lent their support to the cause are at odds over various issues.
AAP MP Bhagwant Mann, Swaraj India leader Yogendra Yadav, former RJD MP Raguvansh Prasad Singh, CPI national secretary D Raja, CPM leader Hannan Mollah shared the stage at the protest while AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav issued statements in solidarity.
They also requested Patkar, whose health has been “deteriorating”, to withdraw her fast. MP CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan has also tweeted, requesting Patkar to withdraw her fast.
In their letters to the PM, the MPs and activists have said that it will be “cruel and inhuman” to compel thousands to leave their villages and shift to the temporary tin shades.
They have requested Modi to intervene and ensure that till the relief and rehabilitation of the oustees is completed and the rehabilitation sites are developed with all the amenities and facilities, families should not be evicted forcibly.
Kesar Bai said the deluge will not only leave them homeless and landless, but also snap age-old ties between relatives and neighbours — “a wound that no amount of money can heal”.
RTI pioneer Aruna Roy, one of the signatories to the letter, said the Narmada Dispute Tribunal Award (NWDTA) clearly provided that after completion of relief and rehabilitation, the prject affected families should be given six months time before submergence.
“The R&R of the affected families ouught to have been done when the dam height was raised. However, the state has failed to comply with this obligation. Many families still await allotment of plots. It is only recently that the state government has announced many packages. Many issues concerning R&R are still pending before the Grievance Redressal Authority,” the leaders wrote.
Thousands of families in MP’s Barwani, Dhar, Alirajpur and Khargone districts will have to vacate their houses following the Centre’s nod for closing the gates of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river in neighbouring Gujarat.
The closing of gates — which will take place in a phased manner — will lead to a rise in water levels, resulting in villages in the catchment area in Madhya Pradesh being submerged.
The government said three days ago that over 7,000 families had stayed put in the catchment area in MP, and it was trying to persuade them to leave.
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