Hundreds of tribal residents from Madhya Pradesh came together in Delhi today under the banner of the Narmada Bachao Andolan to demand rehabilitation from the excessive flooding that is being caused by the increase in the water levels of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
The Madhya Pradesh government had in early August, opened the floodgates of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to maintain the water level in the dam and water began approaching the villages in the state. The increase in the water levels has severely affected over 192 villages in Madhya Pradesh, 33 villages in Maharashtra and 19 villages in Gujarat. Speaking at the protest organised in Delhi, Rohit, a member of Narmada Bachao Andolan, who travelled from Madhya Pradesh to Delhi, said, “The situation is extremely critical, two people have died in flooding instances. Villages are getting flooded and electricity is being cut. Moreover, the authorities are hell bent on increasing the water levels of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.”
The current protests were sparked off after five people of Rajghat village in MP were electrocuted. Two of the five died on spot. Chiman Darbar, 40, and Santosh Mankar, 35, both residents of Rajghat village, were trying to reach their families with food supplies and other essentials from Barwani village when their boat rammed into a power cable due to influx of water. Their village has turned into an island inundated by the backwaters of Sardar Sarovar.
Also read: MP Villagers Affected by Rising Waters of Sardar Sarovar Protest, Demand Rehabilitation
As the situation worsens in the state, the MP government has washed its hands off any accountability to bring the situation under control. The government is claiming to have provided rehabilitation to the locals while the activists from the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) state that the lives of over 32,000 families are still at risk. Vimal Bhai of the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) said, “If all was well why would the tribals be ready to take a jal samadhi (submerge in water). Two people have died already as this is a situation of grave crisis. A delegation also attempted to negotiate with the authorities. Meanwhile, the government is claiming that all compensation has been paid and families have been rehabilitated.”
One of the protesting activists said, “We are demanding that the government should check how many people are suffering due to the lack of rehabilitation. According to us, the number runs more than 32,000 families. We want an independent enquiry into the number of families at risk.”
The activists have now been told that the Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh will take stock of the situation. The tribals have also criticised the government for giving a leeway to corporate giants such as Coca Cola and Tata Nano in terms of water usage while farmers suffer. A villager from Madhya Pradesh said, “We want our land to be returned to us. The dam was built for our benefit, but we are not able to access even drinking water for ourselves as our houses are now flooded.”
As the crisis worsens, the activists on the ground have alleged that the Kamal Nath led Congress government in the state is attempting to suppress the ongoing movement. Cases have been registered against fifteen protesting persons for blocking the National Highway-3 in Dhar district in protest demanding proper rehabilitation. Additionally, over 400 cases have been filed against unknown persons for the same. The protesters had blocked the highway for over six hours on August 13. They had also written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to take immediate action on the situation.