Fight for Justice for Narmada Evacuees Will Continue: Medha Patkar, 8th Day of Hunger Fast

Written by SabrangIndia Staff | Published on: August 4, 2017


Health failing, Medha Patkar on 8th Day of fast, August 4, 2017

The health of Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) activist Medha Patkar — who is on an indefinite hunger strike demanding rehabilitation of those displaced due to Sardar Sarovar Dam’s construction — has been deteriorating, her aides said. Sabbrangindia spoke to the fasting leader. She sounded frail, bur determined to carry on.

"Do not worry, spread the message about our atruggle," Medha said to sabrangindia even as her health continued to deteriorate.

The health of prominent Narmada Bachao Andolan(NBA) leader Medha Patkar, on indefinite hunger strike along oath 11 of her colleagues for the ninth day in Chikhalda village of Kukshi tehsil, is said to have deteriorated. An official communique by NBA said, her supporters spent "sleepless night" on Thursday, as the situation of Patkar and three others turned "critical." In an early morning statement on Friday, NBA has asked all those who stand by her "cause" of seeking full and final rehabilitation of an estimated 40,000 families who, it is alleged, might face submergence in case the Narmada dam's waters are taken to the full reservoir level of 138.64 meters by closing its 30 gates, to "pressure" governments of India and of Madhya Pradesh to open a dialogue with her.
 
Amidst reports that those who have declared solidarity with her include senior RTI activist and Magsaysay awardee Aruna Roy, Gujarat Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani and others, hundreds of oustees from Narmada Valley have reached Jantar Mantar demanding "just" rehabilitation. Dr Sunilam, who has begun indefinite solidarity fast in support of Patkar, said their struggle is against "illegal submergence and forced eviction", adding, he challenges ministers of the Madhya Pradesh government to go and live in the rehabilitation sites for 24 hours in tin shades offered to "forcefully resettle the people of Narmada Valley."

“Her fast entered the eighth day on Thursday. She vomited twice this morning and vomited twice last night also,” said Rahul Yadav, one of her associates.
Even though her health was worsening, Patkar refused medical help. “Her principled stand is that she will continue her fast till the rehabilitation of those displaced is done properly,” said Himshi Singh, who was alongside Patkar at the site of her protest in MP’s Barwani. The local administration appeared to be uncertain about how to tackle the situation. A team of doctors was visiting the venue of the hunger strike every six hours, but it wasn’t allowed to examine Patkar.

“At present, we are in a wait-and-watch mode. If we forcibly take her to the hospital, there is bound to be violence, which will be held against the administration,” said a senior administrative official. In the past, Patkar has sat on a hunger strike four different times seeking proper rehabilitation of the families displaced due to the dam. NBA activists said her first fast was in Dhulia, Maharashtra, in 1994 and it lasted for 10 days. In 1999, her fast in Kewadia, Gujarat, lasted for eight days. Her longest fast was in Delhi in 2006, which went on for 26 days. Her last fast was in Bhopal in 2014, which lasted for three days.

Alok Agarwal, referring to the claims of the Madhya Pradesh government about electricity generation from the Narmada dam, and of the Gujarat government of providing water to parched lands, said, Madhya Pradesh is "already a surplus state in terms of electricity generation. And, around 200 people have already died from flood in Gujarat due to negligence of Gujarat in planning and construction of decentralized water reservoirs." He added, "Neither Gujarat is deficient of water nor Madhya Pradesh of electricity."

Yogendra Yadav said that NBA has challenged the discourse of "so-called development causing huge displacement and taking away people’s rights of life and livelihood", adding,"More than 15,000 people affected from Sardar Sarovar project have been able to get the land for land due to consistent struggle led by NBA." However, he said, "The government is insensitive and producing false affidavit in the Supreme Court causing injustices. More than 40,000 families in Narmada Valley are still waiting for rehabilitation not the submergence."
Toilets without gates at a rehab site

Sandeep Pandey spoke about the achievements of the NBA and plight of the people, adding, "Development cannot be done at the cost of people and their democratic rights. The government has neither done development nor been able to protect the fundamental rights of people till now."

Others who spoke on the occasion included activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Rajendra Ravi, Faisal Khan, and Madhuresh Kumar, who talked the attempt of forceful eviction that the government is trying consistently in the valley without ensuring the rehabilitation of the Narmada dam affected people.

They criticized the game of implicating NBA activists and villages into false cases of abducting officials, pointing out that the health of 11 people of Narmada Valley and Medha Patkar sitting on fast was deteriorating as the indefinite continued.
 
Solidarity action in Delhi

Around 30 children from the Nav Jagriti Collective from Madhya Pradesh joined the indefinite solidarity fast and talked with officials about NBA and its struggle and achievements.
Others who joined the Jantar Mantar protest included Prof KB Saxena, Advocate Sanjay Parikh and activist Manoranjan Mohanty, Annie Raja of the National Federation of Indian Women, AAP spokesperson Ashutosh, and Swaraj India general secretary Navneet.

The statement comes amidst Medha supporters beginning protest hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, in which those who participated include well known political scientist, Swaraj India'sYogendra Yadav, top Gandhian and Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey, Aam Aadmi Part's Alok Agrawal, senior environmentalist Soumya Dutta, and activists Dr Sunilam, Kamla Yadav and Kailash Awasya.

Apart from the Solidarity Protest at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, a Campaign for Letter to the prime minister Narendra Modi has begun.
 
Draft Letter to Prime Minister on the Narmada Issue
 
New Delhi, August 4, 2017
 
To,
Shri Narendra Modi,
The Prime Minister of India
 
Dear Sir,
 
We are sending this appeal to you in extraordinary circumstances when 40,000 families in 192 villages of Madhya Pradesh are on verge of facing submergence this Monsoon. The resettlement and rehabilitation sites for them completely lack basic amenities and facilities like drinking water, sanitation, primary medical centers, schools, electricity, roads etc. In such a situation it is difficult for them to shift from their original villages to the R&R sites.  
 
The Narmada Water Dispute Tribunal Award (NWDTA) clearly provided that after completion of the R&R, the Project Affected Families (PAFs) should be given 6 months time before submergence. This condition was emphasized in the Supreme Court judgments given in the year 2000 and 2005 in the Sardar Sarovar Case. The requirement of six months has been recognized, as part of Article 21 in Tehri dam case also. The Order dated 8.2.2017 of the Supreme Court also assured completion of R&R. 
 
The Supreme Court in its judgments assured the PAFs, based on Art 21, that they would be better-off at the rehabilitation sites. The R&R of the PAFs ought to have been done as and when the dam height was raised. However, the State has failed to comply with this obligation. The oustees have not been provided land for land. The benefit of 60 Lakhs and 15 Lakhs has still not been provided to all the PAFs who lost their land to enable them to purchase agricultural land for their livelihood. Many PAFs still await allotments of plots. It is only recently that state government has announced many packages. Many issues concerning R&R are still pending before the Grievance Redressal Authority (GRA).
 
Looking at the plight of thousands of such PAFs, Medha Patkar and 11 others have gone on an indeifnite fast from July 27th. Today is the 9th day of the fast and their health condition is CRITICAL. Their only demand is that the rights of resettlement and rehabilitation, which have been given to the PAFs under the Award, and the judgments of the Honourable Supreme Court should be provided to them.  
 
You may from your own resources verify the pitiable condition of the R&R sites and we are sure that you will be satisfied that it will be cruel and inhuman to compel thousands of PAFs to leave their villages and shift to the temporary tin shades which have been constructed by the state.
 
In these compelling circumstances, which involves thousands of men, women and children, we hope that you will intervene and ensure that till the R&R of the Oustees is completed and the rehabilitation sites are developed with all the amenities and facilities, PAFs will not be evicted forcibly.
 
We request you to send your representative to Chikalda, Badwani, MP, where Medha Patkar and 11 others are undertaking fast, assuring her of complete R&R of the PAFs  and that till that is done they will not be forcibly evicted. We are sure that your assurance of completion of R&R will move Medha Patkar and others to end their fast, which they have undertaken for a great human cause.
 
We would also like to request you to give us a time to meet and brief you of the situation and personally request you the time. Kindly, give us a time, looking at the urgency of the situation.
 
Yours Sincerely,
Court slaps fine
A Delhi court on Thursday imposed Rs 10,000 as costs on Patkar for her repeated failure to appear before it in defamation cases filed by her and KVIC chairman VK Saxena against each other. Metropolitan magistrate Vikrant Vaid granted one last opportunity to the activist, while warning that he will dismiss her complaint against Saxena if she fails to appear again.