Madhya Pradesh begins identifying Sardar Sarovar-affected families outside submergence zone

As the water level in the Sardar Sarovar Dam rises, Nisarpur in Dhar district has been submerged.

As the water level in the Sardar Sarovar Dam rises, Nisarpur in Dhar district has been submerged.   | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

Extend immediate relief to those being shifted, demands Medha Patkar

As the swelling Narmada continues to submerge villages in Madhya Pradesh, the State government has begun surveying areas even outside the submergence zone to identify affected families and extend them immediate relief.

The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), fighting for the rights of project-affected families, drew the government’s attention to many left out of previous surveys of the zone demarcated after the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam downstream was raised to 138.68 metres in 2017.

“Straightaway, we agreed to it,” said an official privy to the developments. “After assessments, if we believe a family needs to be extended benefits, we’ll go ahead with it. Even major sons will be considered for compensation. But we need time for completing the exercise,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, added.

The NBA has been calling upon the government to appeal to the Centre and Gujarat to postpone filling the dam by October 15 as many residing along the river upstream had not been rehabilitated.

“We said we have written enough letters and appealed to enough number of people at every level,” said the official. “But nobody is listening to us and we can’t do anything about it,” the official added.

The NBA’s leader Medha Patkar, who met government officials and Narmada Valley Development Minister Surendra Singh Baghel in Indore on Monday, told The Hindu, “Our demand is that whoever is shifted from their house should be extended immediate benefits, and they agreed to it.

They have agreed to record statements of oustees in the presence of five witnesses and videograph the shifting process.” Last week, Ms. Patkar broke her nine-day-long fast after being assured of the meeting.

Although Chief Minister Kamal Nath had written to the Centre flagging Gujarat’s noncompliance with the water-filling schedule, Ms. Patkar said that was not enough. “The government shouldn’t have accepted such a schedule in the first place and raised its demands more forcefully.”

With the level in the river rising, water had entered villages and fields, she said.

“Many farmers have to now take a detour of at least 20 km to reach their fields. Moreover, traders aren’t willing to come to fields any more to buy produce, as they can’t make their way through in trucks,” she added.

Meanwhile, Mr. Baghel gave an assurance to the affected families that he stood by them and would make sure their rehabilitation was completed at the earliest.

At the meeting, the Narmada Valley Development Authority officials admitted that the number of affected villages was 178, in contrast to the 76 mentioned in a letter written by the Chief Secretary to the Centre on May 27, 2019.

As for those who’d been given arid land in Gujarat as part of the rehabilitation package, the government said it would send a team there to survey such patches.

Noting that the State had responded positively to most of their demands, Mahendra Tomar, an NBA member, said that the government had agreed to review rehabilitation eligibility of those staying in relief camps as well.

As on Wednesday, 5,000 families had been evacuated from upstream areas in Dhar and Barwani districts, while another 700 and 500 families respectively remained in these two districts, as per government records.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 3:07:19 AM |

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