New Delhi: People's Convention on "Myths, Lies and the Narmada Betrayal" Print E-mail
 Monday June 19, 2006

Medha Patkar alleges conspiracy to crush NBA

Gargi Parsai

"Time has come for political parties to take a position on equitable development" "If you get power from big dams, but have no farm land how would you feed growing population?"

"World Bank now wants land-for-land policy to be finished" Shunglu panel trying to hide lies on rehabilitation of displaced families in Madhya Pradesh

ENDURING ODDS: NBA activist Medha Patkar along with other activists attending a seminar organised by the Delhi Solidarity Group of Narmada Bachao Andolan in New Delhi on Sunday. ­ Photo: R. V. Moorthy

NEW DELHI: Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar on Sunday alleged that there was a conspiracy to crush the movement that was seeking justice for those facing displacement in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat due to the Narmada dam project.

The 20-year-old movement has come to be recognised as a "symbol" for all those facing displacement owing to development projects in the country and this did not sit well with the Government, she said at a people's convention on "Myths, Lies and the Narmada Betrayal" here.

While welcoming the support offered by the Left, Samajwadi Jan Parishad and other parties, Ms. Patkar said the time had come for them to take a position on development that is fair, equitable and does not take from the "have-nots" for the "haves."

"It would not suffice [for the political parties] to say that the dam should be constructed and the affected people should be rehabilitated. If the dam is constructed ­ as it is being done even now ­ and the people are not rehabilitated ­ as has not been done ­ then, they would be asked to accept the situation as fait accompli in violation of the Narmada award, court orders, human rights and natural justice."

Ms. Patkar said it did not fit into the political scheme of things that the month-long agitation of the NBA and displaced families at Jantar Mantar here last month had attracted widespread support from a cross-section of the political spectrum and people, including Aamir Khan and Rahul Bose.

"It went against the strong bureaucratic lobby pushing for large dams and destructive infrastructure projects and the World Bank agenda as well. The World Bank, which had earlier paid lip-service to the requirement of a rehabilitation package, now wants the land-for-land policy to be finished, to snuff any opposition to "fast track" projects."

Politicians of the day feel that the challenge to "liberalisation" is the challenge posed by projects such as the Sardar Sarovar Project. "Unfortunately, the Court and a section of the media have fallen prey to this political gimmickry," she said.

Ms. Patkar regretted that the "campaign of falsehood against the NBA," launched by vested interests in Gujarat, had been joined in by other parties and lobbies.

She said, "They have shut their eyes to lakhs of acres of land being sold in the Narmada catchments to industries like Reliance after usurping lakhs of acres from the farmers and tribal of the valley.

"Development means displacement and this has become the foundation of politicking, whereas the aim should be development with minimum displacement. This is the big challenge that people's movements face today."

Kamal Mitra Chenoy of the Jawaharlal Nehru University questioned the setting up of the Shunglu Committee. "The panel is not trying to find the truth but trying to hide the lies on the rehabilitation of displaced families in Madhya Pradesh."

Shantiben of Pipri village in Madhya Pradesh said by not rehabilitating the displaced families with land, the Government was not valuing human life.

She said she had the right to stay by the river, the waters, and the land and also had the right to make herself heard by politicians in Delhi.

A displaced farmer from Kadmal village in Nimar, Sitaram, said taking away land from a farmer was like taking the fish out of water. "If you have power from big dams but no agricultural land, would you be able to produce food grains to feed the growing population? Cash compensation can last a few years, but what after that? Why is the government not serious about this?"