Medha Patkar ends hunger strike as M.P. agrees to review stand

first_imgNarmada Bachao Andolan’s (NBA) Medha Patkar ended her hunger strike on the ninth day on Monday, after the Madhya Pradesh government agreed to reconsider its response to 30 demands that the NBA had made earlier relating to rehabilitation of those affected by the Sardar Sarovar project. As regards closing the dam sluices leading to the submersion of villages in the backwaters of the Narmada river, Chief Minister Kamal Nath reassured her in a letter that “Madhya Pradesh will make efforts to ensure the dam gates are opened and the filling up of the reservoir is postponed.”As per the schedule of the Narmada Control Authority, the reservoir is to be filled for the first time to its full level of 138.68 metres by October 15. The Gujarat government has contended that since the construction of the dam — the world’s second-largest concrete dam — was not monolithic and included both horizontal and vertical joints, it was necessary to test the structure’s integrity by filling it up to the brim. On Monday evening, the M.P. government’s representative, former Chief Secretary S.C. Behar, met Ms. Patkar in Chota Barda village of Barwani district, where six other activists have accompanied her on an indefinite fast along the river, and handed her the letter. “There is a need to rethink on several issues,” Mr. Behar said. “The previous government had adopted a certain attitude, which needs to be changed, along with some policy measures.”Mr. Behar said the State government had admitted that the number of villages facing submersion was more than estimated earlier. “We have an experience of managing dams, and we can tell what often appears to be the case is actually something else,” he said. The NBA has been demanding that by opening the dam sluices, the water level should be reduced and rehabilitation of 32,000 project-affected families should be completed first. Only then should the dam be filled up to its full level.Breaking her fast by having lemon juice, Ms. Patkar said, “The letter has a lot of trustworthy points. If rehabilitation of the affected is completed according to the law, only then they could be saved. We have asked Mr. Nath to write to the Centre and the NCA, representing the situation in Madhya Pradesh. They should present correct figures and make an appeal to them to not fill water in the reservoir to the full level.”On September 9, government officials will meet representatives of the NBA in Bhopal and go over the demands again. “Madhya Pradesh government should raise its voice at every level,” Ms. Patkar said. “If the discussions fail, we’ll continue our satyagraha there,” she added. Even the government had admitted that a greater number of villages than surveyed were in the submergence area, she said. “They said ‘not 174 but 178 villages’ would be affected.” In his letter to the activist, Mr. Nath asserted that “Sardar Sarovar is an inter-State project and no one State can take a unilateral decision in this case.”The government had instructed Collectors to give rehabilitation-related benefits to those who were previously declared ineligible for rehabilitation, he wrote. “The present government has considered 115 new families eligible for ₹60 lakh compensation and the amount has been sought from the Gujarat government. However, it has not given it so far.”Moreover, Mr. Nath alleged that the NCA was not functioning in an independent manner. “The government is opposing the filling up of the dam this year for which the Chief Secretary had written to the authority requesting a meeting over the reconsideration of the water filling schedule. However, the NCA didn’t take it seriously. It scheduled a meeting but later cancelled it,” he wrote. Assuring Ms. Patkar that the Madhya Pradesh government was committed to the rehabilitation of the affected persons, he said, “Their claims and issues will be dealt with at camps that will be organised in every village.”last_img

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