Media on Medha's hunger strike

Medha Patkar's hunger strike enters 18th day.

The Narmada Control Authority (NCA) Review Committee is meeting
today to review the decision of NCA to raise the height of the
Narmada dam in Gujarat from 110.64 metres to 121.92 metres. Chief
Ministers of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan are
members of the Committee, which is chaired by Saifuddin Soz, the
Water Resources Minister.

The three states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat are
falsely claiming that rehabilitation of the displaced people has
been completed. The Action Taken Reports (ATRs) apparently have
been submitted to the Centre by the three states in order to ask
for clearance. These ATRs have not been made public.
They have not been verified by the NCA or by the Gram Sabhas
(village bodies). Despite this the height of the dam is being increased.

Responding to the all round support for the victims of Sardar
Sarovar dam, there was a combined religious and corporate reaction
to it with a full page advertisment in The Times of India which
reads, 'we support the earliest completion of the "Sardar Sarovar
Project". Sardar Sarovar Project is the source of abundant water
and power for Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
Let the Nation progress. Let us have food, energy and security.
Let our country grow and bring prosperity to the people.'

At the bottom of this advertisement are the photographs of Pujya
Madhav Priadasji, Pujya Rameshbhai Oza, Pujya Swami Sachidanandji,
Pujya Pramukh Swami, Pujya Morari Bapu, Pujya Tejendraprasadji,
Pujya Indirabetiji, Mukesh Ambani(Reliance Group), Anil Ambani
(Reliance-ADA Group), Kumar Mangalam Birla (Aditya Birla Group),
Sushi Ruja (Essar Group), Shrenik Kasturbhai (Arvind Mills Ltd.),
Karsanbhai Patel (Nirma Ltd.), Sudhir Mehta (Torrent Group), Gautam
Adani (Adani Group), I A Modi (Cadila Group), Pankaj Patel (Zydus
Group), Anil Naik (L&T), Uday Kotak (Kotak Mahindra Ltd.).

Indian Express and India TV have been carrying stories on Sardar
Sarovar which resembles paid advertisments. The former carried an
editorial "India Bachao Andolan" posing a question: if you decide not
to build the Narmada dam, what's Bharat Nirman about? The greater
public good in these cases is first-rate infrastructure. Land is
always an issue in big projects. It says, "builders' mafia and the
Narmada activists may never break political bread together, but in
placing their narrower agendas over greater public good, politicians
achieve the same effect."

It teaches politics to Congress saying, its "Narmada politics might
look as if Left rhetoricians wrote it. The Left has no stake in the
Narmada states. The Congress has. Will the government at least
remember that political reality?"

Interestingly, Indian Express reports from Badwani, Madhya Pradesh,
citing the story of 407 families in Badwani, Dhar and Jhabua
districts, who, as per official records, were given land title deeds
in lieu of their agricultural land being submerged once the dam
height is increased. There are 4,286 such families—the remaining
3,879 have accepted cash. But when Indian Express visited some of
these 407 families, the chorus: we have neither got land nor cash.

Indian express reports, 'The fact is that officials sent pattas (land
title deeds) by post and now say they "may or may not" have accepted
it. And yet,in government records, they appear as "rehabilitated."'

It's not surprising that most of these families live in the heart of
NBA bastion — in villages like Pipri, Pilud, Chikhalda and Awalda. In
Pipri, 150 km from Indore, villagers haven't allowed a government
survey and even today do not allow officials to enter to make
assessments of what is due to them under the Land Acquisition Act. A
board at the entrance shows the writing on the wall: "no official
will be allowed in this village.''

Until now, the state government, exercising its right under Narmada
Waters Distribution Tribunal (NWDT) award, did an ex-parte settlement
based on `nazranna' (estimates), kept land in reserve for them, sent
them the deeds by post.

This newspaper quotes, Vinod Kumar, commissioner (rehabilitation)
Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) saying, "How long can we
wait for them? If they feel that they stop the dam from coming up by
refusing to accept the government offer, we have to resort to ex-
parte settlement".

Indian Express for reasons best known to it gives arguments at least
in this case which would lead one to infer that NBA's accusations are
valid and therefore their demands must be met but not surprisingly,
it concludes, if Govt stalls Narmada dam to break deadlock, it may
create another.

Regarding India TV, one need to say much because its a well known
public relations agency of Narendra Modi.

Even as over 200 engineers and hundreds of labourers are working
round the clock to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam from
110.64 metres to 121.92 meters, on 14th April, several Gandhians and
social activists, including the chairman of the Sarva Sewa Sangh,
Amar Nathbhai, Aruna Roy, Jean Dreze, Shekhar Singh of the National
Campaign for People's Right to Information and Vandana Prasad of
the Jan Swasthaya Abhiyan, joined the dharna.

Actors Amir Khan and Rahul Bose came to Jantar Mantar, New Delhi to
express their solidarity with the displaced families and separately
visited the fasting Narmada Bachao Andolan leader, Medha Patkar, at
the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences. Narmada activists are
protesting the ongoing increase in the height of the dam which is
to be raised to 121.92 metres by June 30, 2006. Of the 22 blocks, in
19 blocks, dam height has been raised to 112.60 m as of April 13,

On 12 April, CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan and CPI(M) Polit
Bureau member Brinda Karat had met the Prime Minister and sought that
the report of the ministerial group, which recently visited the dam
site, be made public.

Shekhar Singh, who is a member of the Sub-Group on Environment of the
Narmada Control Authority, said he raised the point of lack of
monitoring of rehabilitation on the ground at the last meeting a year
ago, but his observations were not included in the minutes.

Reacting to these developments, Gujarat MPs have launched a counter-
campaign against activist Medha Patekar's opposition to the Narmada
dam and warned of "public outrage" if the project was suspended in
the state facing water scarcity in several parts.

A delegation consisting of members from the BJP, Congress, Gujarat
Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ahmedabad Diamond Merchants'
Association, Gujarat Sales Tax Bar Association, Gujarat Vidyapeeth
and Lok Seva Abhiyan made a representation to the Gujarat Governor
Nawal Kishore Sharma by submitting a memorandum against the
possibility of stoppage of further construction on the Narmada dam.

Even farmers' associations feel that the farmers were being left
out as result of BJP and the Congress politicising the Narmada

Meanwhile Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, along with
Bharatiya Janata Party members of Parliament from the State, met
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 14th April. The Prime Minister
cancelled his appointment with the victims of Bhopal to meet them.
The MPs have submitted a memorandum to the Government sought smooth
construction of the dam.

Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) is targeting the Congress-
led UPA Government and are supporting the Modi Government.

The present situation has been created by Madhya Pradesh Chief
Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan of the BJP.

Narmada Control Authority gave its clearance for raising the dam
height from 110.64 metres to 121.92 metres last month on the
basis of the assurances given by the former Madhya Pradesh Chief
Minister, Babulal Gaur, for simultaneous rehabilitation and
resettlement of the project-affected people. But after the
clearance was given, Chauhan wrote to Soz saying it was impossible
for his administration to complete the rehabilitation process by the
stipulated date of June 15, 2006.

Soz is reportedly to be planning all the concerned, including the
Chief Ministers of the States seeking immediate stoppage of the

Amongst the 30 large dams planned for the Narmada, the Sardar
Sarovar dam is the largest. It is the focal point of both the dam-
builders and the environmentalists. The Government claims
that the multi-purpose Sardar Sarovar Project would irrigate
more than 1.8 million hectares and quench the thirst of the
drought prone areas of Kutch and Saurashtra in Gujarat.

The environmental groups counter such claims saying, these
benefits are grossly exaggerated and would never accrue to
the extent suggested by the Government. The project has
displaced lakhs of people and affected their livelihood.

Media houses refuses to investigate the adverse consequneces
of large dams. It keeps itself confined to covering
personalities instead of larger issues involved.

The way a huge gathering of media persons trampled over
activists when Amir Khan's visited to Jantar Mantar to
support the cause of Narmada and Bhopal victims illustrates
the gravity with which they deal with the issues involved.


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