Can anyone's ego be greater than the lives of millions? During the grand celebration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 69th birthday on Tuesday, the question seems to be answered in affirmative in the Malwa and Nimar region of Madhya Pradesh as the fate of 32,000 families is linked to the success of the celebration.
While there is cheer in Gujarat, the victims of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) held a demonstration in the region.
Hundreds of Sardar Sarovar project affected persons (PAF) led by Narmada Bachao Andolan on Tuesday squatted on Khandwa-Baroda road to observe “Dhikkar Diwas” (damnation day) while Modi celebrated his birthday in adjoining Gujarat.
The protesters hurled an effigy of Modi into the Narmada River in the evening. Some of them had their heads shaved to mourn the submergence of a much larger part of the area in Madhya Pradesh by backwaters of the reservoir in Gujarat.
“Gujarat Chief Minister and officers raised the level of water in the dam to 139 metres only for the sake of celebrating Prime Minister Narendra Modiji’s birthday. We damn the celebrations. We wish him a long life. But he should understand his duty and responsibility to let people live,” NBA leader Medha Patkar told reporters here.
The protesters were squatting near Kasrawad bridge on river Narmada after taking out a huge rally saying they are observing “Dhikkar Diwas”. The protests that started in the afternoon continued till late in the evening with a massive jam on the highway.
NBA was spearheading the protest demanding that the gates of the SSD, built on the Narmada river, be opened immediately. The backwater has partially or fully flooded 192 villages and one township in MP, Himshi Singh, an activist of the National Alliance for People’s Movement said.
“We want the sluice gates to be closed only after total rehabilitation of residents of 192 villages and one township in MP’s Barwani, Dhar, Alirajpur and Khargone districts,” she added.
The previous government led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan had, under pressure from Gujarat government agreed to the raising of Sardar Sarovar dam height and to its full reservoir level, said an activist.
As if that was not enough the government also misled the Supreme Court by submitting on oath that the rehabilitation of all the families coming under submergence area would be completed by September 17, 2017. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the MP government while the rehabilitation was not completed. The areas earmarked for rehabilitation are underwater, another activist said.
The water level of famous Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia in Narmada district of Gujarat surged to its highest capacity at 138.67 meters on Sunday evening. This has happened for the first time since its height was raised in 2017.
The scenic view of the dam could be best experienced from the Statue of Unity which is the world’s tallest statue. The combination of Statue of Unity, Narmada valley and Sardar Sarovar Dam in the area has helped develop it as a good tourist destination.
Rajiv Gupta, Managing Director of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) says, “The dam has achieved its maximum capacity.”
Taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his supporters, social activist Medha Patkar who is leading the Narmada Bachao Andolan has said that Modi’s birthday celebrations overshadowed the grief of those affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam project.
Patkar has alleged that around 192 villages in three districts of Madhya Pradesh — Dhar, Barwani and Alirajpur — were marooned after the Gujarat government raised the water level of the Sardar Sarovar Dam to 138.68 metres.
“Prime Minister Modi’s birthday has been celebrated like a festival, but the affected people are yet to be rehabilitated. The water level in the dam was raised ahead of its schedule as Modi’s birthday falls on September 17,” Patkar pointed out.
Patkar has alleged that the dam affected people have not been compensated despite the Supreme Court’s direction. She said that the Madhya Pradesh government has claimed that it is yet to receive the compensation amount of Rs 1,857 crore from the Gujarat government.
Patkar blames the previous Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for the problems of those affected by the dam.
She said: “Shivraj government claimed to have completed the rehabilitation programme and submitted a zero-balance affidavit which is not correct. This way they have snatched away the rights that belonged to the affected families.”
While attacking the Gujarat government for failing to fulfil the promises, she said: “The Rupani government had earlier said that the dam will be full by October 15, then he gave a new date of September 30, but how come the dam got filled just before Modi’s birthday on September 17. It is clear now that for them the Constitution does not mean anything. Thousands of people are getting drowned but for one person the dam was filled.”
“Sardar Sarovar project is an interstate one, then why is Madhya Pradesh being discriminated. The Shivraj Singh government had surrendered before Modi and the Gujarat government. They never spoke the truth about their own states. Madhya Pradesh too had a share in the power generation, but the previous government kept mum,” said Patkar.
She said that thousands were badly affected by the increased water levels in the dam. People in 192 villages were suffering so they observed Modi’s birthday as ‘dhikkar diwas’. (IANS)