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Medha Patkar Hits Back at BJP, Ready for Open Debate on Sardar Sarovar Dam

Kashif Kakvi |
Gujarat CM recently started a rumour that Patkar would be Aam Aadmi Party's chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming state Assembly elections.
Medha Patkar

Medha Patkar. Image Courtesy:  Wikimedia Commons

Bhopal: Seven years after resigning from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), social activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) founder Medha Patkar is in the centre of controversy in poll-bound state Gujarat over the 'rumour' of being AAP's chief ministerial candidate.

A month after Madhya Pradesh police lodged an FIR against Patkar and 11 others in Barwani district over alleged misuse of funds, Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel denounced her movement against Sardar Sarovar Dam and the displacement of tribals.

In an inauguration ceremony of the Bhuj-Mandvi Narmada branch canal on August 28, CM Patel, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, branded Patkar as an "urban Naxal" who receives political support. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) often uses the term 'Urban Naxal' against intellectuals, rights activists, and liberals, labelling them as sympathizers of Naxalism.

While attacking AAP, which is gaining support in Gujarat, Patel also claimed that Patkar might be AAP's chief ministerial candidate in the upcoming Assembly elections. The claim, however, was rubbished by both Patkar and the AAP. Nevertheless, it was amplified by Union Home minister Amit Shah and other party leaders.

While Patkar happened to be BJP's line of sight, the real target is Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been working on expanding AAP's footprint in PM Modi's home state, especially in Kutch and Saurashtra, dominated by tribals.

Speaking to reporters in Barwani on Sunday, Patkar hit back at Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, saying the ruling party is trying to crush the 37-year-long social movement of tribals, farmers, environmentalists, and human rights activists.

Patkar challenged the chief minister Patel and the BJP for 'open debate' over NBA and Sardar Sarovar Dam. 

"Chief Minister, Union Home Minister and BJP leaders are spreading lies to the voters of Kutch and Saurashtra in mine and AAP's names. I challenge them for an open debate over both the subjects if they dare to."

In an official communique issued after the press conference, she pointed out that Sardar Sarovar Dam, a project of Rs 4,200 crore, extended to Rs Rs 50,000-55,000 crore over the years.

"Have governments conducted any study of it? In many reports, Comptroller and Auditor General have flagged irregularities in the dam. Owing to massive corruption, the world bank stopped funding the dam after conducting a detailed project report," the statement read.

If further said, "Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh are the two key stakeholders of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project. Both states gave thousands of acres of forest and revenue lands for the project and were promised electricity and compensation. However, they have not paid since 1979, and not a single unit of electricity is given to either state.

In 2009, the Madhya Pradesh government was demanded to pay Rs 7,700 compensation to the Supreme Court for the rehabilitation of the dam-affected victim."

The water of the dam, used for irrigation and drinking purposes, has been getting diverted to the industries and factories. 

Despite the court's orders regarding the compensation, many people in all three states -- Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat -- are still waiting for it, says the statement.

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