India: As Medha Patkar undertakes an indefinite fast, Narmada Bachao Andolan support widens Print E-mail
 Wednesday April 5 2006

Narmada becomes a bigger issue

Gargi Parsai

It has now become an issue of water being used for genocidal agriculture policies

Suddenly it is the nerve centre of the new wave of displacements Water is important but not at the cost of the tribal and rural people

NEW DELHI: There has been an overwhelming expression of support for the Narmada Bachao Andolan at the dharna site at Jantar Mantar where NBA leader Medha Patkar [Scroll down to read more] is on an indefinite fast with two others. Two more persons, Rajabhai and Bhanabhai, joined the hunger strike on Tuesday.

Said writer Arundhati Roy [read MORE]: "The Narmada Bachao Andolan has sparked off something ... suddenly it is the nerve centre of the new wave of displacements across the board. Wherever there is this huge corporate interest, the first thing written into that is displacement. So, this whole issue has become crucial for millions of people. Just in Delhi alone there is talk of displacing 30 lakh people for the Commonwealth Games. Whatever happens here is poised to mutate into a situation which may not be as beautiful as the Narmada Bachao Andolan."

According to environmental-activist Vandana Shiva, the struggle of Narmada Bachao Andolan had become a bigger issue than of displacement. "It is now an issue of wastage of water for entertainment complexes along the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad. It has now become an issue of precious water being used for genocidal agriculture policies. It is whether the people of India would be able to live in this land or will our land and water become inputs for globally profitable corporates. It is not just a struggle of last 20 years but a struggle of the next 20 years."

Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav, who visited Indore last month, said that water was important but not at the cost of the tribal and rural people, who were called upon to make huge sacrifices for the country. The Prime Minister should intervene and the Supreme Court orders must be implemented. "No dam was bigger than the people. People who are uprooted should get a better life and livelihood. Those who get irrigation benefits should be taxed and those who are displaced should be compensated."

Miloon Kothari, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, felt that by continuing to construct the Sardar Sarovar dam without rehabilitating the people first, the Governments were abrogating their responsibility to uphold the human rights of their own people.

`Waterman' Rajinder Singh said the Government should show its "human face" and find a way out for the displaced families of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

About 20,000 participants and representatives of unorganised/contract labour trade unions and social movements of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chattisgarh and West Bengal under the banner of Mazdoor Adhikar Mela called for the Prime Minister's intervention. They supported the NBA demand for halting the construction of the dam till the displaced people were resettled and rehabilitated.


 Wednesday April 5 2006

Medha won't relent despite Soz's plea

Gargi Parsai

Minister's statement silent on NBA demand but says team will visit affected villages and rehabilitation sites

Health shows signs of deterioration CPI (M) for suspending decision to raise dam height Ministerial team to visit affected villages


PHOTO: S. Subramanium: STEADFAST: Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar accepts lime juice offered by the former Prime Minister, V.P. Singh, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Tuesday. Beside him is Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz. Ms. Patkar has declined to break her indefinite fast, which entered the seventh day.

NEW DELHI: Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar on Tuesday refused to break her indefinite fast despite Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz's assurance that a team of Union Ministers would visit Madhya Pradesh in the next two days to assess the resettlement and rehabilitation of families displaced by the Narmada Dam.

Ms. Patkar, however, took a few sips of lime juice later on the intervention of the former Prime Minister, V.P. Singh, the former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Rajinder Sachchar, and senior journalist Kuldip Nayar.

On the seventh day of her hunger strike, Ms. Patkar's health showed signs of deterioration. Asked how she was feeling, she feebly said: "Not good."

Mr. Soz visited Ms. Patkar twice and urged her to call off her fast. The second time, he read out a statement declaring the Government's intent and the Prime Minister's concern over rehabilitation. The statement was, however, silent on the NBA demand to halt the construction of the dam.

Ms. Patkar declared that she would not end her fast till Mr. Soz returned from the dam site and made his report public.

Mr. Soz said he would visit the affected villages and rehabilitation sites along with Union Minister Meira Kumar and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chauhan. The team would take note of the shortcomings described by the NBA in its memorandum to the Prime Minister. Mr. Soz said the Prime Minister reaffirmed the Government's commitment to ensure that rehabilitation was done fully and satisfactorily in consonance with the Narmada award and Supreme Court orders.

The NBA also came out with a statement, which demanded that the dam construction be halted immediately. It wanted the team that visits the affected areas in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat to make its report public immediately, latest by April 9. "Till then Ms. Patkar and her colleagues would remain on indefinite hunger strike."

Massive support
Two more persons joined the fast on Monday night. There was a massive support from people from all walks of life, including Sharad Yadav, Surendra Mohan, Arundhati Roy, Vandana Shiva, Rajinder Singh, Prabhash Joshi, B.D. Sharma, Abani Roy, Mohini Giri, Primila Loomba, Swami Agnivesh, B.N. Yughandar, Mungekar, Vimal Thorat and Raj Babbar.

The CPI(M) urged the Government to suspend the Narmada Control Authority's decision to raise the dam height.