The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) will hold a jal satyagaraha (protesters sitting in water) in the Indira Sagar Dam from September 1.

Simultaneous protests will take place in Badkhalia, Mel Pipliya and Unwa villages in Khandwa, Dewas and Harda districts respectively.

A similar satyagraha took place last year at the Omkareshwar and Indira Sagar projects in protest against the raising of the water levels and demanding compensation.

It was called off after 17 days after the government decided to keep the level of Omkareshwar under 189 metres and grant compensation. A Rs. 212-crore package for the Omkareshwar evacuees was cleared this May.

Omkareshwar-like package sought

The NBA is demanding that the authorities not increase the water level above 260 metres. They are also pressing for an Omkareshwar-like package for the Indira Sagar evacuees. “This monsoon, 1500 homes and 15,000 acres were submerged. Nearly 70 villages have turned into islands. We have approached the Supreme Court to prevent the raising of the water level. If it rises to 262 metres, thousands of lives will be ruined,” said Alok Agarwal of the NBA.

Indira Sagar, completed in 2005, is India’s largest reservoir. It dams 12.22 billion cubic metres of the Narmada, which feeds a 1000 MW power plant and irrigates 2.65 lakh hectares. It has a submergence area of more than 91,000 hectares, which covers 255 villages. Of these, the NBA says, 41 villages have not been surveyed and villagers had not got any compensation.

Devi Singh Rajput, a peasant from Badgaon Raiyar in Khandwa, said he lost his home in the recent floods and was living in a relative’s house now. “My village was partially submerged in 2004 and I was given compensation of about Rs. 2.5 lakhs for 9 acres of submerged land. I could only buy 4 acres with that on and I now grow soya and wheat. We were promised jobs but no jobs were given. My son, who has a polytechnic diploma, still can’t find work. If the levels are raised, I can’t afford to restart life again.”