In a late night swoop on Tuesday, security forces arrested more than 200 jal satyagrahis standing neck-deep in Narmada river at Harda town, demanding proper rehabilitation of Indira Sagar dam oustees and reducing water level in the dam to 260 meters.
Just a couple of days ago, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government 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.
On asked why this difference in approach –- pulling out protestors in Harda and pandering to demands in Ghogalgaon -- state industries minister Kailash Vijayvargiya said 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 chief minister 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.
The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), leading the agitation at both the places, had also been focusing more on Ghogalgaon and only after the chief minister agreed to their demands that one of its key activists, Chitrupa Palit, moved to Harda. She has also been arrested.
Talking to HT from Harda police station, Chitrupta 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.
Meanwhile, politics around the issue is also hotting up. State Congress president Kantilal Bhuria has reached Harda district and is likely to be arrested before he reaches the district headquarters. A lot of Congress workers have already been rounded up in Harda town.
Chief minister Chouhan, while assuring to resolve the genuine grievances of the dam-affected people, however emphasised that for his government development was as important as proper rehabilitation of dam oustees.
The project and the problems:
1. Indira Sagar project: Capacity of 1000 MW power production; irrigation potential 1,23,000 hectares of 574 villages
2. Villages submerged : 250,29 in Harda district
3. Population affected: 80,000
4. Government's claim: All the oustees given special package, no question of land against land
5. NBA's argument: Special package inadequate, forced upon the oustees and land will have to be given as per Supreme Court and Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA) ruling.