When World Bank refused funds, Guj temples donated for Sardar Sarovar Dam: PM Modi
Nearly 56 years after its foundation was laid, the Sardar Sarovar Dam became a reality on Sunday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicating it to the nation.
Gujarat’s temples gave money when the World Bank refused funds for the Sardar Sarovar project, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday, attacking a “list of people” who allegedly tried to stall the world’s second largest concrete dam. (Highlights)
The dam is the centrepiece of the multi-billion dollar Narmada Valley development project, one of India’s most grand schemes that is expected to provide water and power to millions of people in four states.
It is also crucial to the BJP’s campaign plans in Modi’s home state which goes to the polls this year, with chief minister Vijay Rupani terming as “Gujarat’s lifeline” the second biggest dam after the Grand Coulee Dam in the United States.
“I have a list of people who came in way of Sardar Sarovar dam but I won’t politicise the matter...we were determined that the project will continue,” Modi told a public rally after inaugurating the dam, whose foundation was laid by the country’s first prime minister, Jawharlal Nehru, in 1961.
“A massive misinformation campaign was launched against the project. The World Bank which had earlier agreed to fund the project, refused to give loan for it raising environmental concerns.But, with or without the World Bank, we completed the massive project on our own,” he told a public rally about 55 kms from the dam site in Dabhoi town of Vadodara district.
He said the World Bank was later “compelled” to give the Green Award to Gujarat for its environment-friendly rehabilitation work in earthquake-affected Kutch.
The inauguration of the dam coincided with Modi’s 67th birthday and also the day dedicated to Vishwakarma, the Hindu god of engineering.
Modi did not name anybody but said the scheme progressed when “people who keep (the) country above party were in power and slowed down when those who keep party above the country ruled”.
The PM went on to say that Sardar Patel did not get the credit he deserved after Independence for some reasons but his government was committed to ensure that the Iron Man’s “name, works and inspiration” remain eternal.
“You all know me. I neither think small nor do I take small projects. This is why I decided to build a statue of Sardar Patel. The ‘Statue of Unity’ will be double the height of America’s Statue of Liberty,” he said.
Modi’s visit to Gujarat is the second in less than a week after he hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the state and launched the bullet train project. Opposition parties say the projects are timed with the Gujarat elections in mind.
The BJP has been trying to project the previous Congress regime at the Centre as one of the biggest hurdles.
The project is also seen as an answer to placate the powerful Patidars, who have been up against the BJP over issue of OBC status.
The Narmada Bachao Andolan, led by activist Medha Patkar, has been opposing the project citing environmental concerns.
The NBA says the dam displaced 320,000 people -- many of them poor tribal farmers who were not resettled on agricultural land -- and disrupted the lives of tens of thousands more. Thousands have still not been compensated, it said.
Modi appeared to woo the tribals whose “struggle has made us realise the dream”.
“We should remember our freedom fighters from the tribal communities who gave a strong fight to colonialism...We salute them, the government wants to make a digital museum for the tribal freedom fighters,” he added.
Even as Modi was inaugurating the dam, Patkar’s ‘Jal Satyagraha’ – a symbolic protest held by activists half-sumerged in water -- demanding rehabilitation of 40,000 families entered the third day on Sunday.
“Today is a very sad day for India, and for one of our biggest peoples’ movements and struggle - the Narmada Bacchao Andolan,” Ravi Chellam, executive director at Greenpeace India said in a statement.
“The project... signals ruin not development for tens of thousands of unsuspecting, hapless and poor farmers,” Chellam added.
(With inputs from agencies)