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25,000 Maheshwar dam oustees march in Madhya Pradesh

by Narmada Bachao Andolan, 24 November 2010

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Press Note, 23rd November 2010

25,000 Maheshwar dam oustees march in Madleshwar

Demand revoking of clearance and scrapping of dam

The Mandleshwar town resounded with the voices of 20,000 to 25,000 people (over 50% of them women) affected by the Maheshwar dam who marched through the town today, in defence of their rights despite the heavy rain, asking for rehabilitation and land, or scrapping of the dam. After marching through the main roads of Mandleshwar town, the oustees reached the Narmada River and after affirming and renewing their resolve to struggle against all odds, the people congregated in a huge public meeting at the local “Krishi Upaj mandi” in Mandleshwar.

Addressing the public meeting, leading activist Shri Alok Agarwal of Narmada Bachao Andolan said that the project promoters, Shri Maheshwar Hydro Power Corporation Ltd. and the State Government have completely failed to provide agricultural land and rehabilitation to the thousands of farmers, workers, kevats and kahars affected by the Maheshwar dam. They are also concealing the full impact of the submergence, and thousands of more families and their lands and houses are likely to be impacted by the submergence. As a consequence, on 23rd of April 2010 the MoEF suspended the construction of the dam for violation of conditions of the statutory environmental clearance under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. However even after 7 months after the project work was suspended, there is no progress in the work of rehabilitation and resettlement, which is why the sea of people gathered here today are challenging the authorities that they should immediately provide agricultural land and rehabilitation, or else cancel the dam. He said that today the entire Narmada Valley is immersed in a gigantic struggle to protect their fundamental and constitutional rights, and will do or die.

Ms. Chittaroopa Palit senior activist of Narmada Bachao andolan said that it the Maheshwar dam is not in public interest, and must be scrapped, as the statutory authority - Central Electricity Authority cleared the dam project as being techno-economically viable only at the capital cost of Rs. 1670 crores. However the project is now slated to cost over 3000 crore and is no longer techno-economically viable. She said that it is shocking that the Maheshwar project was permitted to be resumed after 1996, although all the State Government documents record that the project is now high cost and unviable. Palit said that the State must take responsibility for the pillage of public money to provide super profits to the S.Kumars company Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Limited and called on the State Government to cancel the suicidal Power Purchase Agreement under which hundreds of crores of rupees of the public money has to be given to the S.Kumar’s Company as payment for electricity every year for the next 35 years.

Shri Radhesham Patidar of Village Pathrad said that the State Government and the project authorities who are bound by the statutory environmental clearances have completely failed to comply with any of the conditions relating to the rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people. He further said that the environmental clearance was only given on the condition that the villagers would be allotted agricultural land and properly rehabilitated. However, while substantially constructing the project, the authorities callously refused to provide agricultural land, and rehabilitation and resettlement measures. Even after suspension of work, no rehabilitation and resettlement has been provided. He said that it is time now that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests should revoke the environmental clearance and direct the demolition of the dam, as they have done for the Lohari Nagpala Dam in the Ganga valley.

Oustees warn the State Government

Representatives of the Maheshwar dam oustees, Shri Bhagwan Birle, Shri Kalu Singh Mandaloi, Shri Jagdish Patidar, Shri DInesh Kewat, Kadwi Bai warned the State Gvernemnt and the authorities that the thousands of Maheshwar dam oustees would not rest until they obtain their rights. They also warned the State Government that instead of serving the vested interests of the private companies, the State Government must serve the interests of the oustees who are being asked to sacrifice their all and the public interest.

Thousands of hands rise in support

Representatives of Omkareshwar, Indira Sagar, Man, Upper Beda, Tawa and Bargi dams of the Narmada Valley were present in the gathering in large numbers in support of the Maheshwar dam oustees. Shri Arvind Kejriwal, Magsaysay Award Winner and Ex-Income Tax Commissioner said that large scale corruption in the entire country is today overwhelming the lives of the common man. This is being supported by the Company Raj, where the right of the citizens are being subordinated to the profit interests of companies. Everybody has to unite to struggle against this. Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Award Winner said that in a democracy it is only the united strength of the people which can help them to obtain their rights. People in the country have to forget and set aside differences of caste and religion. He said that people’s struggles from all over the country are standing in solidarity with the people of Maheshwar dam in their struggle.

Senior Gandhian activist and Advocate of the High Court, Shri Anil Trivedi from Indore said that those in power must understand that their arbitrary and anti-people action will not be tolerated. The presence of thousands of mothers and sisters in the struggle will surely bring victory to the struggle.

Leading activists from various people’s struggles in India came from long distances. Guliya Bai, oustee of Tawa dam and activist from Kisan Adivasi Sangathan and Samajvadi Jan Parishad, Shri Hakeem Bhai of Vargi Bandh Visthapit Sangh, Shri Prakash Karnik of Gandhi Sagar Bandh Visthapit Sangh, Shri Ram Avtar of Baghelkhand Adivasi Kisan Mukti Morcha, Shri Deepak from Abhivyakti, Maharashra, Shri Prashant from Right to Food Campaign, Shri Rajendra Mewara from Dalit Shakti Sangathan, Shri Harsingh from Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sangathan expressed their support to the ongoing struggle in the Maheshwar dam and the entire Narmada Valley.

Memorandum served on authorities

After the rally and the public meeting the oustees handed over to the Sub-Divisional Officer, Maheshwar, two memorandums in the name of Union Environment Minister, Shri Jairam Ramesh and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan. It was demanded in the memorandums that the Maheshwar project and Power Purchase Agreement must be scrapped and the environmental clearance revoked, since the Maheshwar project has become unviable and high cost and is unlikely to provide electricity to the common people of Madhya Pradesh, and because the authorities have refused to provide a minimum 2 hectares of irrigated land to landholders, adult sons and daughters and landless farmers, and because the impact of submergence is likely to be far larger than envisaged. They also demanded that the rehabilitation and the other offices of the project must be relocated to Mandleshwar outside the dam site, as the district administration had put prohibitory orders on the dam site to conceal the clandestine construction work at the dam site done by the project authorities in violation of statutory Orders. The oustees declared that they would continue to struggle with courage and determination to achieve the desired outcomes as they have done for the last 14 years.

Gulabchand, Bhagwan Birle, Radheshyam Patidar, Jagdishbhai

Narmada Bachao Andolan
- 2, Sai Nagar, Mata Chowk,
- Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh.
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