After standing in waist to neck-deep water, for the last two weeks as part of their jal satyagraha, oustees of the Omkareshwar dam project have successfully managed to make the Madhya Pradesh government sit up and take notice.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has deputed Industries Minister Kailash Vijayvargiya and Tribal Affairs Minister Vijay Shah to tour the site of the jal satyagraha and work out a solution.
The protest, however, has not been called off just yet and the oustees continued to stand in neck deep water for the 14th day on Friday.
“The safety and security of the submergence affected families is a priority of the government. Rehabilitation of all oustees will be ensured and no one will be left out,” Mr. Chouhan said on Friday.
Mr. Vijayvargiya will also be meeting a delegation of the oustees led by Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in Bhopal on Saturday.
Simultaneously, Union Power Minister Veerappa Moily has reportedly decided to send an official fact-finding team of the power ministry to Omkareshwar. Mr. Moily had convened a special meeting with officials of the NHPC to review the situation.
Also, on Saturday, the NBA will be leading oustees of the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar projects in a “huge rally” from the city’s famous Yaadgaar-e-Shahjahani park to Neelam park to “symbolically protest" against the state government’s decision to raise the water level in the dam without ensuring prior relief and rehabilitation, including land for land, to the oustees.
However, the government did not appear to be in agreement with the demands of the oustees.
“Some affected families, having already received monetary compensation in lieu of land, have been misled into demanding land for land and have not moved from the dam site,” an official release from Mr. Chouhan’s office said.
“But as per court orders, only those displaced families who have not received any compensation money from the banks are eligible for land in lieu of land and those protesting should keep that in mind before assessing the validity of their movement,” the release stated.
The 520 MW Omkareshwar project is one of the several big dams in the Narmada Valley, built by the Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation, a joint venture between NHPC Ltd and the government of Madhya Pradesh.
The oustees had started the jal satyagraha protest last month at Ghogalgaon village in M.P.’s East Nimaar region against the State government’s decision to raise the water level in the dam to 193 metres from 189.
On 25th August, several protestors entered the rising water of the dam and have stayed there since then i.e. the last 14 days.
The protesters claim that if filled beyond the current level, the dam will submerge their lands, spread across several villages.