Activists against the Narmada dam gear up to face the submergence of the first set of villages
the much-hyped 'Rally for Valley' from Delhi to Jalsindhi in Madhya Pradesh ( mp) , the epicentre of the Narmada Bachao Andolon ( nba ) which is protesting against the controversial Narmada dam, has come to an end, leaving the Narmada movement at the crossroads. The rally was to protest against the fresh submergence of 245 villages and displacement of over 2,50,000 member of the tribal population in mp , Maharashtra and Gujarat due to an increase in the height of the dam as permitted by a recent Supreme Court ruling.
While the rally took off from New Delhi's Nizamuddin railway terminal on July 29, pro-dam activists staged a silent candle light protest in front of the station. Several social activists and senior public leaders, supporting the agitation, were present. Madhu Dandavate, former deputy chairperson of the Planning Commission, Swami Agnivesh, a social activist and socialist Surendra Mohan flagged off the rally.
nba activists have termed their rally a success. Not for a long time has a rally attracted such wide media attention, both national and international, says one activist. The agitation also managed to get government support from -- mp and Maharashtra -- two of the three states that will be affected and also benefited by the dam. On the eve of the rally the three states that would benefit virtually parted ways on the issue of resettlement and rehabilitation of the dam oustees. The mp government, giving a clear indication of its stand, decided to give all facilities to the protesters. Another setback to the Gujarat government, the main promoter of the project, came when the Maharashtra rehabilitation minister decided to seek an extension of time from the sc on the rehabilitation and resettlement status of the oustees.
The Gujarat and mp governments also had a duel over the former's ban on the nba rally inside the states. Gujarat imposed a ban on the entry of the rally and also rejected the mp government's repeated requests to allow the rally to pass through its territory. However, due to the Gujarat government's adamant stand , the mp government made arrangements for the rally to reach Jalsindhi by a different route.
But nba 's fight is far from over. The relief and rehabilitation of the oustees is an issue that they will have to follow up. Activist Medha Patkar is already talking about a review of India's water policy. Also looming large is the Supreme Court's possible action against Patkar and Booker Prize-winner and activist Arundhati Roy for their reported 'derogatory remarks' on the apex court's recent ruling which allowed work on the dam to resume.
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