Proponents of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) raised concerns on Friday over the health of social activist Medha Patkar and 11 others, who have been on an indefinite hunger strike since July 27 demanding rehabilitation of 40,000 families displaced due to increase in height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
Supporters of the movement had launched there own two-day hunger strike in Delhi on Thursday to urge the Centre to fulfil the demands of the NBA.
On Friday, the protest was attended by political members of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI (Marxist), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Swaraj India. Over 50 people who have lost their homes to the dam project were also at the event.
“This government had come with the motto of Sab ka Saath Sab ka Vikas , but the only vikas (development) that has happened in the last three years is of the rich. The poor are struggling to get basic amenities,” said D. Raja, senior leader of the CPI.
Citing deteriorating health of Ms. Patkar, Mr. Raja said: “Ms. Patkar should not risk her life. If she doesn’t stay healthy this fight will lose its momentum. We are all here to support her and will take this cause ahead till the government responds.”
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, many activists urged the Centre to immediately resettle the villagers.
‘Lack of basic amenities’
“We are sending this appeal to you [PM Modi] in extraordinary circumstances when 40,000 families in 192 villages of Madhya Pradesh are on the verge of facing submergence this monsoon. The resettlement and rehabilitation sites lack drinking water, sanitation, primary medical centres, schools, electricity and even roads,” the letter read.
Pratap Kumar, a villager from Barwani who was a part of the protest on Friday, said that families of five to six members have been stuffed into 10x12 feet tin sheds. “When it rains, the sheds leak. Either it is too hot or too cold. The toilets are unclean and there are no other facilities. We are all farmers who have lived in two-storey houses. Now our homes have been demolished and we have been left with nothing,” he said.
Mr. Kumar said that as per the Supreme Court’s order, the people who lost their homes were supposed to have been given comfortable rehabilitation. “The court had said that the new houses would be better than where we had been living. But what we got is the exact opposite,” he said.
Supporting the villagers, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal issued a statement accusing the MP government of “risking the lives of the people” as the gates of the dam has been closed and the water level is rising.
“The Centre should engage in a constructive dialogue with the displaced and ensure complete rehabilitation before closing the dam gates,” Mr. Kejriwal said in the statement.