The massive submergence in the Sardar Sarovar Project affected regions of the Narmada valley, spurred by heavy rains and flooding in the areas of upstream dams, leading to opening up of the 23 gates of Omkareshwar has wreaked havoc in the SSP areas. Surpassing all previous impacts of submergence, the deluge that intensified since 23rd August, 2013 brought under waters thousands of acres of farm land and hundreds of houses under waters, especially in the plain areas of the Nimad region in Madhya Pradesh. Not just the conspiracy and threat, but the actual attempt by the nexus of the Governments of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, to drown the 45,000 population of adivasis, farmers, fish workers, potters etc. in the districts of Badwani, Dhar and Alirajpur is absolutely illegal and condemnable.
Water level at Rajghat – 134 mts (Entire village under water)
The callous approach of the state government to treat this human-made disaster as ‘natural’ is reprehensible. The submergence this time, much more serious than that of 2nd August, has of course made headlines in the news papers, thousands of people from the non-affected areas, have been thronging to see the affected villages and swelling Narmada river. But, on the ground, there seems to be very little sensitivity and responsibility by the State in responding to this huge challenge. Drowning entire village communities with hundreds of houses, shops, temples, masjids, roads, public utilities, tree cover, large tracts of farm land etc. without rehabilitation is the most heinous planned crime that the governments of M.P. and Gujarat have committed, for which they will have to pay a very heavy price, the oustees warn.
In the plain area of Nimad, villages Rajghat, Pichhodi, Morkatta, Nandgaon, Kasravad, Chhota Barda, Bijasan, Amlali etc. of Badwani District; Perkhad, Kavthi, Ekalvara, Gopalpura, Gangli, Kothada etc. in Manavar Tehsil and Chikalda, Nisarpur, Khaparkheda, Gehalgaon, Karondiya, Bodhwada, Chandankhedi, Kikarwas etc. in Kukshi Tehsil witnessed a situation like never-before. Some villages and hamlets have also become marooned. The situation in the hilly adivasi villages of M.P. like Bhadal, Kakrana, Sugat, Anjanwara, Jalsindhi as also in the villages of Maharashtra is serious with submergence of large tracts of farm land and also some houses.
As usual, some officials and even the Collector made visits to some road-side villages. But little concern has been shown by the officials to many other villages in the interior, except for one-two police personnel deployed here. The Narmada Valley Development Authority which claims to spend thousands of rupees on the ‘relief measures’ seemed to be nowhere in terms of providing actual relief at many villages. Except for some food packets where dire needed, no other readiness to deal with the situation, insufficient boats etc. all betray the irresponsible attitude of the State towards its own people.
The huge trenches of sand mines in villages Pichhodi, Pendra, Piplud, Chhota Barda have been filled with the Narmada waters, which has intensified the submergence. In village after village, hundreds of families have been shifting their house hold utilities, firewood, fodder, food grains, etc. and have been spending thousands of rupees to transport these to safer places in private trucks. Fish workers have faced losses of fishing nets. In most villages, even the losses are not being recorded as Panchanamas and at few places where they are, the details are not being included.
With no rains in the SSP areas, if this is the situation, one dreads to imagine, what would be like, if there are heavy rains and if the 17 mts high gates of SSP are erected! 193 villages are sure to face a watery grave. Clause XI(IV)(6)(ii) of the Award of Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal mandates that “In no event shall any area be submerged unless all payment of compensation, expenses and costs is made for acquisition of land and properties and arrangements are made for the rehabilitation of the oustees there from in accordance with these directions and intimated to the oustees”, and the Supreme Court, endorsing this clause has directed that R&R entitlements should be completely ensured 1 year prior to submergence and shifting to the R&R site, 6 months before. The present situation is in utter violation of these binding clauses
Even as on date, more than 5,000 families are yet to received alternative agricultural land of which, 3,000 have been entangled in the fake registries scam; 1,500 have not been able to purchase land after receipt of one instalment of meagre cash compensation and hundreds others in the hills and plains have refused cash compensation. Thousands of poor landless, fish workers potters etc. are yet to receive alternative livelihood based rehabilitation. The resettlement sites are certainly not in a complete state of habilitation, with all amenities, Hundreds of poor eligible families are left out of the official lists, they have not even been given house plots. Hundreds of houses have been hit by waters even in villages which the Narmada Control Authority has arbitrarily concluded to be ‘out of submergence’. Corruption worth crores of rupees is under judicial inquiry since 5 years. In such a situation, drowning thousands of families is nothing short of a grave and calculated disaster.
It is notable that the Grievance Redressal Authority has, in principle upheld that the oustees are entitled for compensation if submergence precedes rehabilitation. Hundreds of individual applications are pending disposal before the GRA for the submergence that has occurred last year. Without these being resolved, subjecting these and thousands of other families to further submergence is a gross violation of all laws and judgements.
With Madhya Pradesh on its side, in the election year, Gujarat is trying every single trick to push the Sardar Sarovar dam ahead. It is with elections round the corner that Gujarat has called for an early meeting of the Narmada Control Authority. Even the oustees are ready for an early NCA meet, but demand that the Authority must fairly discuss every single aspect – pending land and livelihood based rehabilitation of thousands, ongoing inquiry into corruption, compliance on environmental measures etc.
Thousands of families in the valley challenge the Chief Minister’s ariel visits and demand that he must witness the situation from the ground and face the people, whose lives and livelihoods are being staked in the name of ‘development’ without rehabilitation. People in the valley resolve to fight until they are compensated for all the losses, full rehabilitation is ensured and a comprehensive review of the cost-benefits of Sardar Sarovar is undertaken.
Kamla Yadav Madu Machuara Radheshyam Jamsing Surbhan Bhilala Medha Patkar Meera
Some more pictures to illustrate the crisis:
1.Poor landless dalit oustees challenge destruction of houses by dam waters
2.Oustees salvage firewood, fodder, house hold articles etc.
3.Rich archeology under SSP waters – Kasravad
4.Thousands of poor oustees worst affected by dam submergence
5.Families face the rising waters in their houses