Human rights body asks PM to redress grievances of Khandwa's Jal Satyagrahis
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has asked the Prime Minister and the chief minister to take cognizance of the health of 21 Jal Satyagrahis, who have been standing neck deep in the Omkareshwar Dam water in Khandwa district for the past 12 days.
The open letter - written by AHRC programme cooridnator Avinash Pandey - states that prolonged submergence has started to affect the health of the satyagrahis.
"Their legs are giving way, their skin has started peeling off and they are getting sick. This is why I seek your immediate intervention to save their lives," the letter says.
A copy of the letter has also been marked to Madhya Pradesh chief secretary and Khandwa district magistrate.
The protesters, together with Alok Agrawal of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), have been holding the Jal Satyagraha since April 10 to protest against NHDC's decision to increase the height of the dam.
NHDC is a joint venture of NHPC Ltd and the government of Madhya Pradesh, and was earlier known as Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation Ltd.
The protestors have been accompanied by hundreds of other oustees from project-affected villages of Ghogalgaon, Ekhand, Bilaya, Gol Sailani, Saktapur, Toki, Kelwa Khurd, Kelwa Bujurg, and Kamankheda.
The letter further claims that the submergence violates the Supreme Court judgment dated May 11, 2011, which directed authorities to allot a minimum of two hectares of land to all the families displaced by the dam.
In case of a failure to do so, the Supreme Court directed the authorities to provide the families a grant sufficient for the purchase of a minimum of two hectares of land.
The letter alleges that the NHDC authorities have duped many a family with faulty and inadequate compensation, by keeping them in the dark about their land entitlements.
It says they have also failed to allot any land or grant to many a family, even though four years have passed since the judgment.
"Over 2,000 marginal and small landholders are in the same predicament of losing their livelihood and food security. They are being pushed into starvation," the letter says.
"I urge you to use your office to instruct the Madhya Pradesh government and the NHDC Ltd. to immediately lower the water level in Omkareshwar Dam from 191 meters to 189 meters, and put a moratorium on any increase thereafter, until the relief and rehabilitation process is complete for all of the oustees," Avinash Pandey told HT.
The state government had on Friday said it would not rollback its decision to increase the height of the dam, despite the activists standing waist-deep in the Omkareshwar backwaters to protest against the move.
In a press statement, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had said his government would not obstruct the supply of water to needy farmers on account of "protests by a handful of people".
In 2012, when the government decided to increase the height of the dam, the NBA and several farmers had protested the move.
However, the protests came to an end when the government announced compensation for those who would be displaced by the project.