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Narmada Valley: No Rehabilitation a Year on

Sumedha Pal |
The flooding of the Narmada River is touted as a major policy failure of the Madhya Pradesh government, the brunt of which is being borne by over 30,000 families currently living in makeshift accommodations
Narmada Valley No Rehabilitation

A year ago in August 2019, the Narmada region in Madhya Pradesh witnessed enormous flooding as the water level in the river crossed the normal 132 meter mark. Following which the homes of more than 2.5 lakh people, living in 192 villages spreading across– Badwani, Dhar, Alirajpur and Khargone districts of Madhya Pradesh and 175 villages in Bharuch, Narmada and Vadodara districts of Gujarat have submerged into the Narmada or are facing submergence.

The families were shifted to 26 camps that were set up in Dhar, Barwani and Alirajpur and still continue to live there in filthy conditions. With food supply stalled by the state government last year.

Families losing hope-- no process initiated

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.

Nine families of Eklabara region lost their home to a landslide in September 2019, However, the government only considered six families as victims. The house of Badam Singh was one of the houses which was completely ravaged by the flooding in the river. Today, his sons fight a lone battle to receive rehabilitation as his father passed away while waiting on any response from the state government.

House of Badam singh

House of Badam Singh

The sons of Badam Singh say that when the house was demolished when the house was submerged last year, the Narmada Valley Development Authority Minister, Dhar Collector, Rehabilitation Officer, Manavar MLA visited the house when the house for verification however, for the past one year, the Land Revenue Officer and Rehabilitation Commissioner are only giving them futile assurances. With the death of Badam Singh and the changes in the political scenario of the state, acquiring any compensation is not looking possible for many.

The four brothers are now living in rented houses at different places. While their family can afford renting houses, the same is not possible for many living in the tin shed camps set up in multiple locations. NewsClick had previously reported about the living conditions in the camps and the fear of community transmission looming large in the region as families are cramped in tiny rooms without water or any scope for distancing.

A year on, residents reveal how they were pushed into these camps which now feel like detention centers.

tin shed

Speaking to NewsClick, Ajit a fisherman from the Bijasan, “Ever since we lost our home we were thrown in the tin sheds, cramped inside like cattle. We have been here for over a year, the government stopped providing us with any rations, I have lost my identity as a fisherman I now resort to daily wage to put food on the plate.

Ashok Mohipuri another resident at the tin shed said, “For a year now, there is no word from any government official, we have been consistently persuading the state to adhere to our demands with one form of protest or the other, the flooding is not a natural disaster but a policy failure by the MP government.”

‘Flooding a policy failure, protests the only way for compensation’

Activists of the Narmada Bachao Andolan have consistently asserted that the Madhya Pradesh government has fudged numbers with regards to data on the damage caused by the flooding in the river. Over the course of the past one year the movement has gained significant momentum. From taking Jal Samadhis, writing to the chief ministers, protesting against the center and also taking the movement to Delhi. Activists have tried to extensively campaign to ensure rehabilitation. However, with the political upheaval in the state the ruling BJP has remained largely apathetic to their demands.

Previously, in September last year, Medha Patkar alongside other women from the region had launched an indefinite hunger strike--her protest ended on its 9th day following assurances from the then Chief Minister Kamal Nath over the claims of rehabilitation. However, now a year later with the return to power of the BJP government the activists are compelled to take to protests again.

Speaking to NewsClick an activist associated with the Narmada Bachao Andolan, Rohit Thakur explained, “There are thousands of such cases where people are losing all hope of any compensation or rehabilitation one tehsil has over 400 families which are waiting to process their claims, their files have been thrown off in a bundle somewhere but no action has been taken despite our repeated protests, amidst this we are planning fresh gheraos and also hunger strikes to take our message further.”

The activists on the ground have alleged that the 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.

Also Read: COVID-19: `No Water to Wash our Hands, Living in Filth” Say Narmada Valley Residents

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