CALCUTTA TELEGRAPH – OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
Indore, April 6:
The Madhya Pradesh government today braced for a possible clash with Delhi on the eve of a central team’s visit to villages around the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
The state’s BJP government is alarmed that the team, led by water resource development minister Saifuddin Soz, will be visiting “specific” villages — apparently identified by NGOs — instead of picking them at random.
Sources close to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan alleged that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government colleagues have been “wrongly” briefed by NGOs and other people claiming to represent “civil society”.
The controversy centres on whether the state has rehabilitated all the people who would be displaced when the dam’s height is raised. It hasn’t, says the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) which has been protesting in Delhi for days, with its leader Medha Patkar yanked from an eight-day-old fast yesterday and taken to hospital where her condition is improving.
Chauhan’s administration has been working round the clock to find a way of placing the controversy in “perspective” when the central team comes calling. It’s wary of Delhi being “taken in” by Patkar’s fast and the hype it generated in the national capital.
Late this evening, the state had prepared a brief claiming that only a “few” did not get compensation because they chose not to take it.
The NBA, the argument goes, has been “systematically” playing politics with relief and rehabilitation operations. Out of 177 villages, only the half-a-dozen NBA strongholds have some “teething problems” — and even these are being attended to.
The central team isn’t convinced. A Union minister told The Telegraph the Supreme Court’s order is quite clear: each and every oustee must be adequately compensated/rehabilitated before the dam can be raised. “If any violation has taken place, in letter or spirit, our report will say that,” he said, adding that the team would visit Dhar, Badwani and Khagaon.
The BJP wants to first assess Soz’s mood. If the minister makes “political capital” of the Narmada issue, the state would go on the offensive with neighbouring Gujarat.
“According to the federal framework, we are committed to cooperating with the Centre. But if the Centre plays any monkey tricks, we’ll respond appropriately,” a senior BJP leader said.
The BJP plans to remind the Centre how badly Congressman Digvijay Singh had treated Medha when he was chief minister.
Lakhanpur village off the Indore-Mumbai highway was bustling with activity this evening. NBA workers were lining up a “befitting welcome” for the central team while the government was busy preparing to showcase its “achievements” in rehabilitation.
The state Congress is on shaky ground, admitting that it didn’t do enough for the oustees during its 10-year rule.
Besides, partyman Rajkumar Patel would be filing his nomination tomorrow for the April 24 Budhini bypoll, where he takes on the chief minister. The party isn’t sure whether it should be drumming up support for the central team or mobilise the crowd for Patel.