A bunch of farmers who for 10 days have been sitting in knee-deep water in a Madhya Pradesh village to protest against plans to increase a dam's level say they have developed skin and fungal infections.
The ‘Jal Satyagraha’ is a movement by 30-odd farmers of Gogalgaon and neighbouring villages, located around 300km from Bhopal, to protest against the flooding of villages due to the government’s decision to fill up the Omkareshwar dam up to 191 meters from 189 meters. The protesting farmers have demanded that the district administration must compensate them with adequate money or alternate land at a safer place.
Dermatologists said that the condition of suffering activists could become worse because when the skin undergoes continuous contact with water thromboembolism –a medical condition affecting blood vessels and heart – develops.
Chief medical and health officer of Khandwa, RC Panika, admitted the possibility of skin diseases amongst the protestors and said that the health department has put all community health centres in the area on high alert. He, however, added that the serious skin diseases which the protestors are reported to be suffering from can only be treated at Khandwa district hospital.
Protesting farmer shows his swollen feet during the Jal Satyagraha at Gogalgaon, in Khandwa district, Madhya Pradesh. (HT Photo)
Farmers, on the other hand, continued their protest on Monday without caring for any medical condition resulting from standing in water for long period of time.
The aggrieved farmers – mostly Dalits and tribals – said that the state government was 'ignoring' them.
Narmada Bachao Andolan activist and AAP leader Alok Agarwal said the health of protestors was deteriorating with every passing hour.
"No one from government side or a single medical team has visited the protest site. This shows how serious our government is about farmers," said Agarwal.
Protesting farmers eating food in Omkareshwar dam backwater. (HT Photo)
Indore AAP leaders extend support
In Indore, meanwhile, a group of Aam Adami Party (AAP) members have extended their support to the protestors at Gogalgaon by standing in Pipliyapala lake in Indore.
AAP Indore division secretary Dr Suyog Jhanwar said that to mark the 10th day of ‘Jal Satyagraha’ at Gogalgaon, AAP members gathered at Pipliyapala lake in Indore and stood in water from 10am in the morning. The AAP members warned that the state government should revoke its decision regarding the Omkareshwar dam or else face a country-wide ‘Jal Satyagraha’ movement.
Earlier, on April 17 state government had cleared that it would not rollback its decision, despite 27 activists standing waist-deep in the Omkareshwar backwaters to protest against the move. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had made it clear that his government would not obstruct the supply of water to needy farmers on account of “protests by a handful of people”.
On this, AAP members said that it was not a matter of 27 farmers, but of 27 families and the whole village.