Vesta Dama Pawra and Bhamta Tukya Padvi, two tribals from the Sardar Sarovar submergence zone
villages in Dhule district of Maharashtra, alongwith the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader
Medha Patkar, went on an indefinite fast in front of the office of the Dhule collector since May 17.
Supported by the tribal and the non-tribal population of Dhule, the fast came as a protest at the lack of minimum civic facilities, including drinking water, ration shops, dispensary and transportation in the 33 submergence zone villages in the Akkalkua and Akrani talukas.
The Narmada river water, which is the only source of drinking water for these villages, has been rendered useless, as the muck deposited on its banks during floods in monsoon makes the river water unfit for consumption. The debris carried by the flood water and blocked by the incomplete dam rots in stagnant water, making it impotable and contaminated.
The problem has persisted for over two years despite several protests being lodged with the government. As a matter of fact, the government had sounded hollow assurances to the NBA more than once that it will provide drinking water and transport facilities to these interior villages. Hence, the tribals and the NBA resorted to an indefinite nirjal (waterless) fast.
The government's reaction was unusually prompt: within six hours of launching the fast, the Maharashtra minister Govindrao Choudhary, with a bevy of officials, "Vt the agitators to assure immediate provision not only of drinking water facilities, but also ration shops, health care and boat transport for the imperiled villages.
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