No Food or Rehabilitation, Narmada Flood Victims Protest Against MP Govt’s Apathy
Over 2,000 villagers from across 178 villages in Madhya Pradesh took to the streets of Bhopal and gathered at the Shahjahani park in the city on the morning of Saturday, November 16, to protest against the government’s apathy and negligence in providing them with rehabilitation. In the month of August, the state had witnessed enormous flooding with the levels in Narmada rising over the 138-meter mark, putting at risk the lives and livelihoods of over 32,000 families living in these villages. The families were shifted to 26 camps that were set up in Dhar, Barwani and Alirajpur.
The food supply to these camps was stopped on October 31. Speaking to NewsClick from Bhopal, Rohit, who is associated with the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) said, “We have been stranded without shelter and food, and with no one taking stock of the situation, the villagers have now come from the camps to protest against the Congress government.” In a bid to crackdown on the protestors section 144 has also been imposed in the area, with heavy police presence. Rohit added, “We are currently gathered at the Shahjahani park but attempts are being made to stop our rally from going further.”
Currently, the camps are being managed by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA). According to the Hindu, the authorities of the NVDA have washed their hands off of the responsibility of the food supplies by stating that the arrangement for the food was only until the 31st of October. They added, “Oustees are now going about their work and making their own food arrangements as for now, there is no plan to extend the contract for the provision of food.”
Amidst the food crisis worsening the anxieties of the tribals have also heightened as their rehabilitation claims remain unsettled.
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 had severely affected over 192 villages in Madhya Pradesh, 33 villages in Maharashtra and 19 villages in Gujarat.
Previously, protests had sparked off after five people of Rajghat village in MP were electrocuted. Two of the five died on the spot due to the floods. 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 had turned into an island inundated by the backwaters of Sardar Sarovar. Another major protest was staged in Delhi on August 21, urging the state government to bring the situation under control.
As the situation worsens in the state, the MP government has washed its hands off any accountability to bring the situation under control. Local Congress leadership attempted to assure the tribals that they will not be evicted from the relief camps. However, many on the ground are fearing the worst. Previously, the state government had claimed 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.
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