Families hit by the Sardar Sarovar dam project took part in a public hearing in Bhopal as the protests entered the second day on Sunday, explaining how communities were affected after the swelled up Narmada backwaters submerged 178 villages in August.
The public hearing was conducted by journalist L.S. Hardeniya, Madhya Pradesh Kisan Sabha president Jasvinder Singh, Gandhian Dayaram Namdev and former Chief Secretary S. C. Behar outside the Narmada Bhavan and was led by the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA).
“Instead of following the Supreme Court orders in 2000, 2005, 2017 and the rehabilitation policy, the Narmada Valley Development Authority had let 178 villages submerge,” said Kamla Yadav, a farmer from Chhota Barda in Barwani district.
"While the affected in Maharashtra and Gujarat had got a fair share, those in Madhya Pradesh had to do with bread crumbs,” said Pema Bhilala, a farmer from Avalda village in the district.
The government had told the families that they would be alerted six months in advance.
“But we were caught unawares ... At sites of rehabilitation, drinking water and electricity hasn’t reached yet.”
Sama, a fisherwoman from Pichori, said, “We venture into waters taking so much risk, and the government plans to bring in contractors from outside to take our water bodies.”
Calling out to the government, she announced, “You’ve let our houses go under water, but at least leave our livelihoods alone. We’ve been fishing there for ages and don’t have any alternative occupation.”
Meanwhile, Rohit Thakur, a youth member of the NBA, told the gathering, “It’s time the next generation takes over the movement and sustain it. We can leverage social media to mobilise masses and pass information about our struggle to others.”
Referring to several riverine islands that had come up after the waters rose, Dadu, of Ekalbara, said, “The way to our fields is blocked now. What was just a kilometre away is now at a distant 18-20 km.”
NBA leader Medha Patkar told The Hindu that members of the Prajapati community, who owned brick kilns in Dhar district, had returned to the relief camps as they were assured of a resolution at the district-level.