First displaced by the flooding caused by the Sardar Sarovar Dam, these Narmada oustees are still living in fear of submergence.
Savita lives with 172 other families in Ganganagar–a resettlement colony in Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district for those displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Dam. She is living inside a public toilet with her fourteen day-old child. “The water level started rising at midnight and our house got submerged,” she recounts. This is a regular occurrence plaguing the resettlement colony which is surrounded by shallow canals. Every monsoon flooding occurs and even after the water recedes, the residents have to live in knee-deep silt and mud for weeks after.
Community Correspondent Chetan Salve reports that the inundation this year cost the residents heavily. Harvested grains were washed away or got wet and the people lost livestock in the flooding that started in early July. Months later, people are still dealing with the after effects. Bhima Todve, another resident says “Even the fields got damaged because of the water. The cotton crop I planted was completely destroyed. Where shall I get new seeds from now?”
Chetan has relentlessly campaigned for fair rehabilitation to those displaced by the largest dam in India. He has made a number of videos on the issue from across Maharashtra. He is relentlessly following up the case. “Back in the 2003 when this area was surveyed for a resettlement colony people had protested. It was low lying and there was always the danger of inundation. But the officials went ahead with making the rehabilitation colony here,” he says. He has sent his video to the District Collector as well as to the officials at Narmada Control Authority based in Indore.
“The people are demanding compensation for their losses as well as money to raise the plinth of their homes. Further, we are collectively raising the demand for better maintenance of the canals and a boundary wall to protect against flooding in the future,” says Chetan. Chetan has already ensured that a high profile cabinet committee has ruled in favour of giving one lakh rupees to each family for raising their plinths. “This is not just for the people living in Ganganagar–there are thirteen rehabilitation colonies for the Dam oustees across Maharashtra. This decision will positively impact all of them!” recounts Chetan. The local Collector as well as MLA have visited Ganganagar and assured the people of speedy results.
The Sardar Sarovar Dam, inaugurated with much fanfare on the Prime Minister’s birthday last week, has displaced hundreds of thousands since its inception, many without any compensation or rehabilitation. Even those who have been rehabilitated, suffer a lot because of bureaucratic negligence and oversight. It is because of indefatigable crusaders like Chetan Salve, that the government is shaken out of its apathy and compelled to act. More power to activists bringing justice to the people while the mainstream media chooses to ignore their stories.
Article by Madhura Chakraborty