Location India India

Over 40.000 inhabitants of Narmada Valley in India are evicted after blocking the river with a dam

The concerned citizens and civil society groups across India, declare their support and solidarity with the struggle of the people of Narmada Valley and challenge the unlawful and unjust decision of the Government of India to close the Sardar Sarovar Dam gates and evict 40,000 families by force.

An extraordinary circumstance has arisen due to the inhuman decision of the Madhya Pradesh government to implement the Narmada Valley authorities’ decision to close the gates of the Sardar Sarovar dam which will lead to submergence of 192 or even 245 villages and eviction of 40,000 families in Madhya Pradesh. There was an agreement that before closing the gate, rehabilitation work should be completed. The Supreme Court upheld this decision. But disregarding this order, the gates have been closed, consequent to which the submergence of the affect villages has started.

It is under these circumstances that Medha Patkar along with a large number of inhabitants of the project area, started an indefinite fast from July 27 onwards demanding that the rehabilitation of the affected people be done first. We are concerned at her deteriorating health as her fast enters the 9th day.

The situation today around River Narmada – one of the largest rivers in India is grim on all fronts. Internationally acclaimed environmentalist, social activist and member of the World Commission on Dams – Medha Patkar along with 12 other project affected women started an indefinite hunger strike from July 27  against the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s authoritarian decision demanding that the rehabilitation of the affected people be done first.

The central government along with the State government of Madhya Pradesh (both ruled by the unabashedly majoritarian Bhartiya Janta Party) is busy trying to distort facts and figures instead of ensuring a dignified rehabilitation of the homes and occupations of agrarian and indigenous forest communities whose villages and towns will drown due to this ecologically devastating project. Enjoying an electoral majority, the ruling party has stifled all voices of dissent through brutal police crackdowns on the peaceful, non-violent protest. Parliamentary democracy in India is hitting an all-time low as dialogue and debate about the issue in Council of States of India and Legislative Assembly of the State of Madhya Pradesh was simply not allowed and Opposition leaders were later arrested.

On an environmental front, a heavy rain this monsoon has caused devastating floods even in the State of Gujarat (beneficiary State of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project). Warnings from environmentalists are ignored and common masses of the country are being misled into worshipping the river by invoking its spirituality whereas the dams, inter-linking river projects, sand mining, dumping of industrial waste and urban sewage are killing whatever is left of the river. Waters from the river are diverted to corporate projects (like Coca Cola) while farmers in India are committing suicide due to lack of government support to agriculture.

The 32 years old valiant struggle of Narmada Bachao Andolan has shook the development discourse world-wide and even forced giants like World Bank to withdraw funding from environmentally destructive and human rights violative projects like Sardar Sarovar Dam and institute the Inspection Panel Mechanism.

Social and environmental activists mention the judgements and orders of the High Court and the Supreme Court are being violated,  hundreds of complaints are still pending before the Grievance Redressal Authorities and the decision to close the dam gates without rehabilitation  is nothing short of judicial contempt. As per the 2013 Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Act, 2013, thousands of oustees are actually owners of their acquired lands, houses and properties, since the land acquisition as per the Old 1894 Act has lapsed.  Thus, dispossession of oustees from their lands and houses is a total violation of the 2013 Act and mockery of the letter and spirit of Parliamentary power of legislation.

On this ground they call for international solidarity with the struggle of the people of Narmada Valley.

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