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Many international organisations have expressed concern for the people to be displaced by the Sardar Sarovar
dam project on the Narmada in Gujarat, but the fate of
those already ousted by other dams on the river goes
unnoticed. Recently, one of them, 65-year-old Sunderbai,
died of starvation a few months after the death of her
husband Pultaiya. They died in Gorakhpur village in
Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh, to which they had
moved from their original home in Bijasen village, in
nearby Mandala district, now submerged by the Bargi
District officials shrugged off responsibility, contending Sunderbai, though destitute, had been fed by her
nephew, Migilal, "only a day before she died". But
Migilal denied this, asking, "How could you expect me
to feed Sunderbai, when my own family is not sure on
any day that it would get even one meal?" Migilal, like
his aunt and uncle, was a subsistence farmer in his
native Bijasen village.
According to the Bargi Bandh Visthapit Sangh
(BBVS), the Madhya Pradesh government has offered
resettlement to residents of only 81 of 162 affected villages. And, its callousness has been further displayed in
the case of Bijasen, whose villagers were relocated thrice
because each time, the site chosen fell within the dam's
catchment area. Tired of being pushed around, Pultaiya and his fellow-villagers from Bijasen migrated to
Gorakhpur village, where they became unskilled labourers and even beggars. Since 1991, seven Bijasen villagers
have starved to death.
A BBVS report on submergence of resettlement sites
says a model secondary school in Tatighat village is now
under water and the children row to a school in Chutka,
4 km away.
Even development projects can virtually go under as,
for example, in the resettlement village of Sigondha, in
Jabalpur district, where the local hospital, school and
bank stand out as islands.