Seek extension of deadline for Omkareshwar evacuation

Around a thousand Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activists staged a protest in front of the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) here on Monday, against the delay in rehabilitation of evictees of five dams.

More than 200 policemen in riot gear manned barricades from Neelam Park to the Jail Road office of the NVDA and blocked protesters who attempted to break through opposite the NVDA.

This protest took place on the fourth day of the Jeevan Adhikar Satyagraha of the NBA in the city. On Sunday, activists led by Alok Agarwal and Chittaroppa Palit submitted a document to Minister of State for Narmada Valley Development Kanhaiyalal Agarwal, demanding that the State’s rehabilitation and resettlement policy be implemented for all evictees.

On May 28, the State government cleared a Rs. 212 crore relief package for evictees from the Omkareshwar Dam in Khandwa district. This includes Rs. 2 lakh per acre and Rs. 2.5 lakh to landless families, if they vacated their homes by July 15.

On Monday the activists met NVDA Vice Chairman Rajneesh Vaish and requested that the deadline be extended to October 30 and the compensation for land be given at market rates. They also demanded that the compensation for landless families be given to evictees of all dams and not just Omkareshwar.

Mr. Alok Agarwal told Mr. Vaish: “The government is in violation of the Supreme Court’s judgment of 2011 in which it directed that the rehabilitation and resettlement policy of the State be strictly followed. The government has violated this by not offering land for land. Eighty nine percent of former landowners are now landless labourers.”

Mr. Vaish said he would communicate their views to the government. Last week the NVDA had approved a relief plan of Rs. 661 lakh in the dam areas affected by the monsoon.

Mr. Mansa Ram, the sarpanch of Ekhad village near Omkareshwar, told The Hindu that he and his neighbours had returned cheques for upto Rs. 60,000 each per acre, which the government gave in 2004, after being told that they would be given land for land.

“Now we neither have land nor money. We will topple this government if this continues.”

The five dams have directly affected around five lakh people in at least 12 Assembly constituencies.

Madhuri Krishnaswamy of the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sanghatan which took part in the agitation told this paper earlier, “MNREGS wages there are as low as Rs. 27 per day. The July 15 deadline is an arm-twisting tactic which we oppose.” The satyagraha in Bhopal ends on Tuesday. On the same day, the Narmada Control Authority in Indore is expected to clear raising of the water level of Gujarat’s Sardar Sarovar Dam from 122 to 138 metres.

Activist Medha Patkar has warned of an Uttarkhand-type disaster during the monsoons if this is done.

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