Inaugurating the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said no other project in the world had faced so many “hurdles”. He said many people had “conspired to stop” the project and launched a “massive misinformation campaign”, and the World Bank had refused to fund it.
Returning to Gujarat on his 67th birthday, two days after he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in his home state, Modi also reached out to farmers and the Patidar community ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections due later this year. He inaugurated a new yard of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) and milk processing and cattle-feed plants of the Amreli District Cooperative Milk Producers Union Limited (ADCMPUL) in Amreli, where the BJP is facing a challenge from the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) led by Hardik Patel.
Flanked by two Patidars — former Gujarat minister Dilip Sanghani and Surat-based diamond merchant Savji Dholakia — Modi urged farmers to launch a “sweet revolution” and “blue revolution” by taking up beekeeping and optimising use of waterways for transportation respectively.
Earlier in the day, Modi addressed a rally about 55 kilometres from the Sardar Sarovar Dam site in Dabhoi town of Vadodara district. “No other project in the world has faced such hurdles as the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river. But we were determined to complete the project,” he said.
“Many false allegations were hurled on us. Many people conspired to stop this project. But we were determined not to make it a political battle,” he said. “There is a list (‘kachcha chittha’) of people who conspired against the project and wanted it stalled… I will not name them as I do not want to go down that road,” he said.
“A massive misinformation campaign was launched against the project. The World Bank, which had earlier agreed to fund the project, refused to give loan for it, raising environmental concerns… I decided that with or without the World Bank, we would go ahead with the project,” Modi said. “In the obstructions created by forces against the project, Ma Narmada has suffered the most,” he added.
“When the World Bank refused to give funds, the temples of Gujarat donated money… This project, therefore, is not of any particular party or government. It is the project of each and every person,” he said.
The “same World Bank was compelled to give the state a Green Award” following the Gujarat government’s rehabilitation work after the 2001 earthquake in Kutch, said Modi.
He said that the dam, conceptualised nearly six decades ago, would become a symbol of the country’s growing prowess and boost growth in the region. “Sardar Sarovar will become a symbol of India’s new and emerging power and propel growth in the region…the project is an engineering miracle,” he said.
Paying tributes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and B R Ambedkar, he said: “It is the country’s misfortune that we could not be blessed by the presence of Sardar Saab and Babasaheb for a few more years. Had they lived longer, India would have achieved new heights in development. If Sardar Saab had lived longer, the Narmada dam would have been ready in the 1970s… Today, after the inauguration of the Narmada dam, the soul of Sardar Patel must be jubilant, blessing us all. He had envisioned the dam 75 years ago, even before independence. Imagine the great vision of the man who could dream so big for the sake of farmers.”
Thanking the tribal families who were displaced by the project, Modi said, “India will remember and honour their sacrifice for development of the country.”
“Nothing is a bigger impediment to development than water,” said Modi. “When the water of Narmada Dam reached Rajasthan, Vasundharaji (Raje), Jaswant Singhji and other leaders told me that the significance of this water coming from Gujarat was great. In history, wars have been fought and swords have been drawn over water-sharing issues.”
“As Gujarat Chief Minister, I visited a BSF post and saw they had no drinking water. I resolved that I would bring Narmada’s water to my country’s jawan at the Pakistan border in Gujarat, 700 kilometres away… Today, I can see the smile and satisfaction on the faces of the jawans,” he said.
“I will leave no stone unturned to achieve a New India, like Mahatma Gandhi achieved a New India earlier. I am living for your dreams, I will also exhaust myself for your dreams, for New India,” he said. “You know me, I can’t do small things. I don’t think small, don’t do small things. With 1.25 billion people with me, I can’t dream small,” he said.
The Sardar Sarovar dam is intended to provide drinking water to 131 urban centres and 9,633 villages (53 per cent of total 18,144 villages of Gujarat) and irrigation facilities for 18.54 hectares of land covering 3,112 villages under 73 talukas in 15 districts.
Besides Gujarat, the Narmada canal will also irrigate 2,46,000 hectares of land in the desert districts of Barmer and Jalore of Rajasthan.
Among those present at the event today were Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, Gujarat Governor O P Kohli, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and former Chief Minister Anandiben Patel.