Jal Satyagrah: Farmers fighting against all odds

A sinking feeling has set in among the Jal Satyagrahis of Ghogalgaon, who have been standing in the backwaters of Omkareshwar dam since August 25. Ritesh Mishra reports.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2012 10:06 IST
Ritesh Mishra
Ritesh Mishra
Hindustan Times
Ritesh Mishra,Ghogalgaon,Madhya Pradesh

A sinking feeling has set in among the Jal Satyagrahis of Ghogalgaon, who have been standing in the backwaters of Omkareshwar dam since August 25.

All the aggrieved farmers, who are either part of the dharna or are standing in water, are unanimous in their view that the state government was 'ignoring' them.

"The government wants to kill us," said Nanki Bai, 65, resident of Ekand village, who owns a little more than two acres of land and is part of the 51-member team that has been standing in water.

However, a group of teenagers are there to motivate the satyagrahis by raising slogans every 10 minutes. A total of 51 farmers have been sitting on Jal Satygarh in relay for the past 16 days, but the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) is planning to increase the numbers.

"We are now planning to increase the number of Satygrahis as more people from the nearby villages are willing to join the cause," said Alok Agarwal, an NBA activist.

Protesting villagers display their feet during the ‘Jal Satyagraha’ or ‘insistence on truth by water’ at Ghogal village, in Khandwa area, in Madhya Pradesh. AP photo

The 520 MW Omkareshwar project is one of the several big dams on the Narmada river, built by the Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation a joint venture between NHPC Ltd and the government of Madhya Pradesh. The protesters say increasing the water level in the dam would submerge their lands spread across several villages and alleged that the state government has failed to provide compensation as per the Supreme Court ruling.

The farmers, however, have not lost hope. "We are not going to compromise now. We are here for our rights and will die for our rights," said Kasturi Bai, who has been braving a mild fever to stand in water. A community kitchen has come up where lunch and dinner is being cooked for the agitators.

All the 51 farmers have developed 'washermen -foot disease', which results in skin dissolution and fungal infection. Incidentally, till Saturday not a single doctor was present. It was on Sunday morning that chief medical and health officer (CMHO) reached the spot with medical supplies.

"What can you expect from a government, which is sending doctors after 15 days. The doctors swung into action after the visit of state industries minister Kailash Vijayvargiya," said Agarwal.

A Narmada Bachao Andolan activist showing her feet during 'Jal Satyagrah' at Ghogal near Omkareshwar on Friday. PTI Photo

The CMHO, RC Panika, while talking to HT said that a doctor, Dr Sunil Ramdo, was present from the very first day of the agitation and it is not true that the doctors arrived on Sunday.

"The Jal Satyagrah is a relay and that is why the affect is less. They take rest for few hours and then go back into the water, which provides relief to their skin and body. Some people can be badly affected in future because when skin comes in continuous contact with water, thromboembolism develops, which can be harmful for heart and lead to heart related diseases," he said.

First Published: Sep 10, 2012 09:32 IST