~ Maju Varghese
For the last 32 years, people in the Narmada valley are struggling against what they call as an unjust development which displaces tribals and farmers and inundates homes, agricultural fields, forests and thousands of centuries’ old temples, representing the rich culture of the Narmada valley. The Sardar Sarovar Project is yet another standing monument of justifying projects in the name of poor and drought affected and then diverts it to urban areas and industries at the cost of irreversible damage to people and environment.
Even today, as the dam waits for water to fill its belly, more than 40,000 families, according to the Narmada Bachao Andolan, are yet to rehabilitated fully. Thousands of complaints about inadequate rehabilitation are still not settled by the Grievance Redress Authorities. Resettlement sites are underdeveloped with no provisions for drinking water and other civic amenities. A fully armed police force stands on the sidelines to enter the villages after July 31, the last date given for full rehabilitation and subsequent vacating of the villages by the Supreme Court.
It all started when the Parliament was bypassed and the loan was granted from the World Bank even before the Environment Ministry granted their clearance. Much waters have flowed since then, the massive agitation prompted the World Bank to appoint a committee and based on the indictment by the committee World Bank withdrew the loans as the project was not adhering to social and environmental standards of the day. As Medha Patkar, the leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan retorted to World Bank “You withdrew but what about the destruction you caused, can you ever retreat that?”
Our Parliament, however, kept quiet… the people left to fight their battles and they did.
Now as the dam’s gates are closed, and thousands stand in the glare of a man-made disaster, it is time for Parliament to speak out. The adjournment motion was moved this week to stop the business of the house and discuss the impending disaster. The motion was disallowed by the Speaker. Appeal from honourable members, cutting across party lines, who had been to the Narmada valley, fell on deaf ears. In the limited time, amidst the din, there were voices one could still hear– “Sir, the Narmada Tribunal Award has been violated…,” “Sir, we could see thousands of men, women, farmers all living in the area, they are not rehabilitated…,” “Sir.. the Supreme Court’s direction of rehabilitation is not adhered with….,” tring… the bell sounds… tring…, “Motion disallowed,” the Speaker ruled.
Now we wait for one more time for a Calling Attention Motion in the Parliament, which may or may not be brought in this session. Honourable members, you missed the bus. Honourable members, you are belittling the institution which was created out of struggles against domination. Hear us today as there may not be a tomorrow.