Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Narmada Bachao Andolan's Appeal regarding Jalsatyagrah at Omkareshwar, Madhya Pradesh

The jalsatyagrah at Omkareshwar M.P. going on to its 26th day now, with around 24 people in water for 24 hours, under deteriorating health conditions, protesting the proposed raise in the height of the dam and the complete disregard of promised R&R policy by the authorities. The situation at the Omkareshwar-dam site is very serious as the voices, land and and livelihood of the people are being drowned.

We urge you to pledge your support in a petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the project is a joint venture with 51% central government stake and 49% state control. Despite repeated attempts, we have not received any response from CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Please send your endorsement to this email address

The people of the Narmada valley are in battle once again, this time, for their land rights and against the forcible and illegal submergence being brought in the Omkareshwar dam by the Madhya Pradesh government and the project company NHDC Limited since the 11th of April 2015.

The Jal satyagraha of the oustees of the Omkareshwar dam against the illegal submergence has now entered its 23rd day, as scores of oustees accompanied by Alok Agarwal, senior activist of Narmada Bachao Andolan have been standing in the waters in Village Ghogalgaon, Khandwa district for the last 22 days. Hundreds of other oustees from the affected villages of the Omkareshwar dam are also protesting at the site. The bodies and skin of the Jal satyagrahis has started disintegrating, their health has started deteriorating and yet you have not ageed to their demands, or even agreed to meet them.

The Supreme Court in its judgment dated 11.05.2011 had directed the authorities to allot a minimum of 2 ha. of land or provide a grant for purchase of a minimum of 2 ha. of land to each displaced family as per the rehabilitation policy, and hundreds of the oustees have refunded the compensation which had given to them earlier by keeping them in the dark about their land entitlements. The State government and the NHDC Limited have neither allotted land nor provided grant to the oustees. In order to refund the compensation and get land, the oustees raised money from money-lenders at as much as 2-3% interest per month. 

Since the project company NHDC Limited has not allotted land to the oustees, interest on the loans has piled up and oustees are now in a massive debt trap. However after taking back crores of rupees of compensation back from the oustees instead of allotting land, the State government and authorities have now submerged the lands of many oustees.

For example, in December 2012, after the Apex Court judgment, aged Dalit land-holder couple Tarabai and Rajaram Sikdar, borrowed Rs. 6 lakhs from money-lenders and refunded their compensation to the NHDC Limited. In the last 2.5 years, their interest burden has risen up to Rs. 4 lakhs. However the State Government and the NHDC Limited has not given them either 2 ha. of land or grant for purchase of land. On the 11th of April 2015, the Government submerged Tarabai’s land in the submergence area by raising the water level of the Omkareshwar dam up to 191 meters.

In this grave situation, we – as concerned citizens of the country – demand the following:

1. Immediate lowering of water level in Omkareshwar dam from 191 meters to 189 meters, and no increase until the Resettlement & Rehabilitation7 of the oustees is complete.

2. Provision of a grant for purchase of land for land with a minimum 2 ha. of land at current market prices.

3.The oustees who are presently being forced to resettle in forest villages or stony sites, where no employment is available and house construction is not possible, should be resettled at R&R sites where their other villagers have been earlier resettled, or next to where they are allotted/purchase agricultural lands.

We hope that you will strictly follow the golden rule of rehabilitation first and then submergence and will act to resolve the present crisis.