30 YEARS OF NARMADA STRUGGLE:
LIFE, CHALLENGES AND WAY FORWARD
Dear friends and co-travellers of Narmada Bachao Andolan
As you know, one of the immediate decisions of the NDA Government, after coming to power in May, 2014 was to increase the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam by 17 mts to its final height of 138.68 metres, which would have far-reaching implications on the thousands of people and numerous villages in the Narmada valley, who have been agitating for years, with the claim that resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) is still far from complete. Permanent submergence upto final height would devastate the lives and livelihoods of an estimated 2.5 lakh people and wipe out a glorious civilization history and ethos. Forever.
As part of the Delhi Solidarity Group, some supporters and witnesses of the 30 year long struggle by the adivasis, farmers, fisher people and other oustees met last month at Delhi and proposed a Fact-Finding by some eminent citizens and political representatives and a Convention in Delhi, on the basis of the FF Team's Report. Accordingly, the visit of the Central Fact-Finding Committee (CFFC) to the valley comprising Shri Hannan Mollah, Ms. Annie Raja, Shri Binoy Viswam, Dr. Sunilam, Prof. Raj Kachroo and Shri Sowmya Dutta took place on the 9th and 10th of May. The CCFC released its Report called "Drowning a Valley – Destroying a Civilization" at a Press Conference on the 13th June at Delhi and a film on the visit was also screened.
The conclusions and findings of the CFFC are shocking to say the least and have re-inforced the claims of large scale inaccurate surveys, massive corruption, legal violations and non-compliance of judicial orders, enormous work of pending rehabilitation, denial of land and livelihoods to thousands, abysmal state of resettlement sites, unlawful submergence, etc. In this background, the recommendations made by the CFFC are significant and needs to be taken note of the concerned authorities, Govt. of India at the highest level and must also be widely publicized. (A Copy of the Conclusions and Recommendations of the Report is enclosed.)
The CFFC expressed deep concern that the implications of the ongoing dam construction would be extremely grave, especially for the most vulnerable tribals, dalits, women, fishers, landless, small and marginal farmers etc. The CFFC has also questioned the urgency of the construction, without realizing the benefits potential already attained and without completing rehabilitation. On the other hand, large scale diversion of command area land and water to corporate interests in Gujarat is being reported in the media as well and revealed through RTI replies of Govt.
The 30 years long peaceful Narmada struggle took the national and international discourse on developmental paradigm, policies and priorities to a different level, by locating the difficult questions of participatory democracy as also human, social, environmental, cultural costs at the centre-stage.
As the State is now keen to finish-off the ancient valley, with thickly populated human settlements in the 245 villages, under the garb of 'development', it is necessary that the entire situation of Sardar Sarovar – claims of rehabilitation and claims of benefits are looked at in a careful and comprehensive manner – this being the final stage of construction .
It is in this context that a Day-Long Convention on the Status of Sardar Sarovar: Past, Present and Future is proposed to be held at Delhi on the 18thJuly, 2015. We will communicate the venue details very soon.
The Convention seeks to address some critical questions, including:
What is to be the fate of the thousands of families i.e., lakhs of people remaining to be rehabilitated? Will they be drowned with their properties, environs, commons and culture?
How much of cost will the nation be paying in terms of the destruction of this oldest of civilizations in the world and is it being compensated or mitigated as per the conditions put forth in law?
How will the State and its various agencies be held accountable for the gross violation of human rights and judgements of the Supreme Court?
How far are the benefits being realized and reaching the needy in Gujarat as also in M.P. and Maharashtra after monstrous construction and huge expenditure, to go upto Rs. 90,000 crores?
What can and should be our position, role and responsibility towards the challenge? Can we leave the people of the valley to bear the consequences alone?
How to raise cross-cutting solidarity and support on the legal, political and media fronts for the people's struggle in Narmada and elsewhere in these challenging times?
Your inputs on finding the way ahead to these difficult questions and challenges", amidst the development euphoria, the 'Achhe Din' on one hand and rising concern for social and environmental issues on the others would be most valuable. As a fellow-traveller in this historic struggle, we welcome you to the Convention to share your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions for the way forward.
Kindly confirm your participation at the earliest, so that necessary arrangements can be made accordingly.
Detailed Schedule for the Convention as well as the venue will be sent to you at the earliest.
With warm regards,
Delhi Solidarity Group, National Alliance of People's Movements and others
Contact: 09212587159, 09958797409, 09911528696,09643349452