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MP neck-deep in water protests

bhopal Updated: Sep 13, 2012 12:20 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
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Security forces arrested more than 150 jal satyagrahis standing neck-deep in the Narmada river at Kharda village in Harda district early Wednesday. The protestors were demanding proper rehabilitation of Indira Sagar dam oustees and reducing water level in the dam to 260 meters. They were, however, released later in the day.

While exiting the Harda police station, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activist Chitrupa Palit charged the Harda district administration with forcibly breaking up a peaceful agitation. “As of now, we are going home but our legal battle will continue till water level in the dam is reduced and state government agrees to our demand for land-against-land to the oustees,” she told HT.

Taking up the issue politically, state Congress president Kantilal Bhuria and Opposition leader in the state assembly Ajay Singh, along with their supporters, also reached Harda to express solidarity with the satyagrahis on Wednesday.

Accusing the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government of having double standards, Bhuria asked while the chief minister conceded demands of the Omkareshwar dam oustees, how could similar demands of people affected by the Indira Sagar project be turned down? On Monday, Chouhan had conceded to the demands of villagers holding a similar jal satyagrah at Ghogagaon in Khandwa district by reducing water level in Omkareshwar dam to 189 meters and even agreeing to provide land-for-land to the oustees.

“It speaks volumes on the inconsistency on part of the chief minister. He just makes announcements without caring about its pros and cons,” he said. Bhuria also sat on a dharna at the site of the Jal Satyagrah for sometime before returning to Harda district headquarters.

On asked why this difference in approach, state industries minister Kailash Vijayvargiya told HT that all the oustees of Indira Sagar dam had accepted a special rehabilitation package including compensation and had given a written undertaking that they would not be demanding land-for-land. Vijayvargiya is the chairman of a five-member committee formed by Chouhan to look into grievances of dam oustees in the Narmada Valley.

“This was not the case with Omkareshwar dam oustees, where a lot of affected-families had not accepted the rehabilitation package and stuck to their demand for land. Those who had accepted the package have been given an option to return the money and take land instead,” the minister said.

Chitrupa, however, rubbished Vijayvargiya’s claim and said that oustees were forced to accept monetory compensation, but land was offered to none of them. She further said that the Supreme Court in its judgement on July 24, 2012, has clarified that rules that apply to Omkareshwar dam oustees would also apply on Indira Gandhi dam oustees as well. “Going by land-against-land formula decided both by the Supreme Court and the Grievance Redressal Authority, 25000 affected farmers are entitled to land and we would start filing claims for land from tomorrow,” she said.

The project:

Indira Sagar project: Capacity of 1,000 MW power production; irrigation potential 1,23,000 hectares covering 574 villages The Sufferers:

Villages submerged: 25,029 in Harda district

Population affected: 80,000 Govt stand:

All the oustees given special package, no question of land-for-land NBA argument:

Special package forced upon the oustees and land will have to be given as per Supreme Court ruling. Compensation under special package grossly inadequate as only Rs. 60,00 per hectare for irrigated land and Rs. 40,000 for unirrigated land has been given.