CACIM DELHI DEMOS BULLETIN 21: Partial victory for Narmada movement, also partial but major victory for Bhopal

From Kathmandu, Monday, April 17, 2006
Was today a major day of victory for movements in the country?
It is difficult to know which movement, and which news, to give priority to, in this issue of CDDB : The news on the Narmada front, which has been seen by the NBA as being a vindication of their demands and where Medha Patkar has broken her fast today, or the news on
the Bhopal front, where the breaking news is that the government has accepted four of the movement’s six demands and the Bhopalis have decided to break fast in victory and to withdraw their agitation.
Read on, and take your own decision.
There is no news as yet as what this means for the National Day of Action scheduled for tomorrow (April 18) that was decided on at a meeting of the two movements with their supporters and people from the
movements in Delhi and Mumbai, on April 11.
Correction to yesterday’s Delhi Demo Diary Notes (CDDB 20) : We inadvertently left out the names of Kamal Mitra Chenoy (JNU) and Sumit Chakravartty (Mainstream), from the list given of those who had been arrested. Apologies.
This issue of CDDB is the first one to give you a link to audios and visuals on the Delhi demos that we are gradually uploading on our webspace, See below.
Jai Sen, for CACIM
[1] Delhi Demo Diary Notes (April 17)
[2] Work on Narmada dam will continue: PM (April 17)
[3] The Supreme Court has said the construction work on Sardar Sarovar Dam will continue (April 17)
[4] Group of Ministers’ confidential report (April 16-17}
[5] PM Concedes to Four of Six Bhopal Demands; Says He’s Powerless Against Dow; Bhopalis call off their international hunger strike (April 17)
Note : All back issues of this Bulletin (the CACIM Delhi Demos Bulletin), number 0 onwards, are available here.
April 17, 2006
LATE NEWS, in brief (apologies for being only able to give a summary, I am away in Kathmandu and appear to not have received the latest news from Delhi till just now, and then only in brief):
Medha Patkar has broken her fast today after the Supreme Court verdict this morning. In her opinion, the SC has in its order recognised the NBA’s just demand, and even though it has not ordered suspension of work it has asked the government – more correctly, the government has assured the Court of – just rehabilitation within the next three months. The next hearing is scheduled for May 1. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who was on a token 51-day fast to protest the possibility of a suspension of the raising of the height of the dam,
has also broken his fast.
ADDING to the report made yesterday’s issue of CDDB, here is a more detailed report and set of reflections on the Narmada arrests yesterday, Sunday, March 16, by Seby Rodrigues :
Yesterday, around 50 supporters of the Narmada Dharna were deceitfully arrested and detained for three hours before being released after political pressure at a high level.
The arrests were on the cards immediately after the Prime Minister showed signs of supporting the increase in the Sardar Sarovar dam height, late in the evening of April 15 itself. As soon as Prime Minister made his position known to the media, personnel of the
so-called Rapid Action Force (a force that was originally constituted to counter communal riots in the country) were deployed at Jantar Mantar dharna site. Due to absence of any violent mood on the part
of the protesters, though, the RAF did not get any bait to go ahead with arrests that night.
As reported yesterday, a meeting was called at the NBA dharna site at 10.30 am on Sunday morning to plan out the strategy to follow after the Prime Minister had buckled down to the pressure from lobbies that have been demanding the increase in the dam’s height to a new level of 120 meters. After discussions, the decision was arrived at to go and meet the Prime Minister. Around 50 people went to his residence and
sought an appointment at 3:30pm.
The delegation was intercepted on its way and told that Prime Minister does not take appointments on Sundays. To this one of the persons in the group responded that the PM had met a BJP delegation today in spite of it being Sunday. They were only then asked to hand in seven names of those whom Prime Minister would meet. As the names were taken in, the Rapid Action Force personnel asked the demonstrators to get into a vehicle standing nearby, and to rest somewhere till they got a response from the Prime Minister. To this one member of the delegation specifically responded by asking, ‘Do you want to take us to rest or do you want to arrest us?’. The RAF personnel responded that there were going to be no arrests.
After the group got into the vehicle however, they found themselves being taken to the Chanakyapuri police station, and soon the two entrance gates of the police station were closed and the group was told that no one could go out from there, nor could they meet
anyone from outside; in other words, they were under arrest. This was arrest through deceit.
The police then informed the group that they would file charges against everyone for violating Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code. The police also said that they would do a body check on all the women in the arrested group to see if they were hiding anything under their clothes. To this, the group vehemently protested, including with songs and slogans led by Shabnam Hashmi.
As already reported, former Prime Minister V P Singh and CPI leaders D Raja and Annie came to the police station to seek the release of the protesters. The group was released at 6.30 pm.
Swami Agnivesh and Vinod Raina then shared the whole experience to everyone at Jantar Mantar, on behalf of the group that had been arrested. The deceitful arrest that took place has been a new chapter in the Narmada agitation in Delhi.
Please find here the URL of audio uploads of Swami Agnivesh and Vinod Raina speaking after the police arrest on Sunday, April 16 2006 :
New Delhi, April 17: Construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam in Gujarat will continue, officials indicated Sunday after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met a group of MPs who opposed any bid to halt work on
the project.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting between the prime minister and a group of MPs from Gujarat, Sanjaya Baru, the media advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said: “A decision to stop it (work on the dam) has not yet been taken.
“The prime minister discussed the issue with everybody, but he has not taken any decision yet,” Baru said.
Also on Sunday, Manmohan Singh studied the report of a meeting of the Narmada review committee that was chaired by Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz Saturday.
The delegation of 26 MPs from Gujarat met the prime minister at his residence and appealed to him not to review the Narmada Control Authority (NCA)’s decision last month to allow the height of the dam in central Gujarat to be raised from 110 metres to 121 metres.
“The prime minister heard us and assured us that the decision on the dam’s height will not be reviewed,” Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – who represents Gujarat in the Rajya Sabha – told reporters.
The delegation included Textile Minister Shankarsinh Vaghela, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel, Gujarat Congress chief Bharatsinh Solanki, former chief minister Keshubhai Patel and former central ministers Kashiram Rana and Harin Pathak of the BJP.
A delegation from the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) also went to the prime minister’s residence at his 7, Race Course Road Sunday afternoon to submit a memorandum. They sought time to meet the prime minister but a police team detained them and took them to the Chanakyapuri police station.
NDTV Correspondent
Monday, April 17, 2006 (New Delhi):’+petition&id=19195&callid=0&category=National
The Supreme Court has said the construction work on Sardar Sarovar Dam will continue. The apex court on Monday also observed that at the same time the rehabilitation of the displaced people has to be completed.
The court made these observations while hearing petitions from the families affected by the project seeking suspe nsion of the work to increase the height of the Narmada Dam. The Centre has proposed to set up an authority under the aegis of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to review the rehabilitation process within three months. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) had filed a petition in February on behalf of 48 families who have been displaced by the project.
As the Review Committee was unable to reach a consensus on the NBA’s demand to halt the ongoing work on the dam, the government is now looking up to the Supreme Court to bail them out.
On March 8, 2006, the Narmada Control Authority decided to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam by 11 metres, that is from 110.64 metres to 121.92 metres.
Violation of order
The petition says that more than 35,000 families in Madhya Pradesh displaced by the dam project are yet to be rehabilitated, a violation of the apex court’s earlier orders.
The court had earlier ordered that rehabilitation should be done before submergence of the villages. The proposed height of dam is 136.8 metres. So without a clear decision emerging there hopes are pinned on the Supreme Court to resolve the politically uncomfortable situation.
Of the 30 large dams on Narmada, Sardar Sarovar is the largest. The government claims the project will irrigate 1.8 million hectares.
Developers say the project will provide water for four crore people and electricity to Maharashtra and MP. The NBA, however, says the project will displace 3.2 lakh people, whose rehabilitation has not happened. Despite no rehabilitation, the height of the dam has been raised several times. The latest order came in March 2006, when the NCA gave the go-ahead for the dam height to be raised again.
It was after this last judgement that protestors gathered in the capital and activist Medha Patkar went on an indefinite hunger strike.
Mounting pressure
Pressure was stepped up on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday to take a stand on the issue. He did a balancing act by saying that the construction of the dam will continue and those displaced will be rehabilitated at the same time.
However, the assurances don’t seem to be good enough for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who says there is a conspiracy to stop work on the dam.
Modi, who is on a 51-hour hunger strike on the Sardar Sarovar dam height issue, has asked the Centre to take a sharply defined decision on the matter. “The PM should give a clear indication of what their stand is and clear the confusion. The rehabilitation work is going on well,” said Modi.
Reports of the GRA and two government commissions, including an environment sub group, claim that the rehabilitation work is indeed going on well. The state government also says the same, which makes it four government bodies which agree the rehabilitation work is good for something that the SC had ordered.
Only then the NCA gave the go-ahead. The decision wasn’t taken suddenly. 70 people collectively gave the go-ahead for raising the height, none of whom were politicians. (With PTI inputs)
[4] On 17.4.06 2:26am, “Priya Ranjan” wrote:

This is [an extract from] the text, obtained exclusively by The Hindu, of “A Brief Note on the Assessment of Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R & R) Sites and Submergence of Villages of the Sardar Sarovar Project.” The note marked confidential and dated April 9, 2006, was signed by Union Minister of Water Resources, Saifuddin Soz, Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Meira Kumar, and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chauhan.
General Observations
1. The complaints from various quarters that the Rehabilitation and Resettlement of oustees of Sardar Sarovar Dam has not taken place in consonance with the orders of the Supreme Court have been found to be correct.
The GoM visited Khalghat site where Madhya Pradesh Government had offered land to 407 families. Only 2 families had accepted the land. The top soil there is black. The people say that they have to dig 10 feet deep to find the cultivable land. The Government had not succeeded in persuading the oustees to accept the land. Hundreds of people on the spot complained before the GoM that the Government had not conducted a proper survey and offered the land without consulting the oustees. Shri Mohan Lal Sharma (resident of Gazipur, District Dharampuri) who spoke on behalf of oustees, complained before the members of the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) that the Madhya Pradesh Government had acted in haste and allotted the land which was totally uncultivable. The members of the NVDA did not contradict Shri Mohan Lal.
It was for the first time that the GoM heard from Shri Mohan Lal that the Income Tax Department deducted Rupees One lakh from every unit of 10 lakhs that was paid to the oustees by way of compensation and for purchase of land. It was Shri Mohan Lal again who said that people were pressurized to accept cash. He said that a bribe of Rs.20,000/- had to be paid for receipt of every cheque that was given to the oustees. The crowd present on the spot gave full-throated support to the Shri Mohan Lal who they said had represented their grievances correctly.
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[5] On 17.4.06 4:38 pm, “Shai Yashwant”
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh
Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangarsh Morcha
Bhopal Group for Information and Action
Bhopal ki Awaaz
17 April, 2006. New Delhi — Bhopalis today celebrated a major victory and called off their international hunger strike as the Government conceded to four of six long-standing demands of the Bhopal campaign. The Prime Minister assured a 10-member delegation consisting of Union Carbide’s victims and supporters who met him today for 30 minutes that the demands relating to clean water, clean-up of toxic wastes, and the setting up of a national commission for medical and economic rehabilitation will be met. The Bhopalis will end their dharna today on a note of solidarity with the Narmada struggle. Separately, the Madhya Pradesh Government announced the allotment of Rs. 100 crores for the construction of a memorial in Bhopal, and Bhopalis have been told that the story of the Bhopal disaster will be included in educational curricula developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training. Three Bhopal activists will leave immediately for Bhopal to accompany a high-level team led by Secretary, Ministry of Chemicals, to finalise details regarding provision of safe water and the participation of survivors in the construction of a memorial in Bhopal.
The Prime Minister, however, said he was powerless to
take any extra-legal measures to hold Union Carbide or its owner Dow Chemical accountable. “I don’t promise to prosecute. We have to do business. India has to survive despite these tragedies”,? Mr. Manmohan Singh said in response to a demand by survivors that Union Carbide and Dow Chemical should be held liable for the continuing disaster in Bhopal. Mr. Singh, however, said he would explore whatever options existed within the law to hold the company accountable.
“We are ashamed and outraged that the Prime Minister of the world’s largest democracy has openly admitted to his inability to pressure an American multinational. At a time when India is set to more than double its industrial capacity, the Prime Minister’s reluctance to take extra-legal measures to pressure multinational corporations is deplorable and should set the alarm bells ringing”,? said Satinath Sarangi, one of the six hunger strikers and 39 people who walked from Bhopal to New Delhi. “It doesn’t make any sense to direct our protests on the matter of corporate accountability towards a man who has expressed his powerlessness on this matter.”
The Bhopal campaigners have, therefore, resolved to take direct and legal action against Dow and Union Carbide’s businesses nationally and internationally over the coming months. “Dow should beware now because all our energies will be focused on putting the brakes on Dow’s business in India,”? said Champa Devi Shukla, Goldman award winner and one of the indefinite hunger strikers.
Josh Imeson and Diane Wilson, both of whom have been
fasting in solidarity with the survivors, have also been requested to call off their fast by the Bhopalis. Diane Wilson, a long-time Bhopal supporter, is on the fourth day of her indefinite fast in the United States. International support for the campaign has brought tremendous pressure to bear on the Government. The Prime Minister’s office has received nearly 3,000 faxes and more than 350 people have signed up to fast for a day or longer in solidarity with the Bhopal campaign.
Thirty-nine victims of Union Carbide’s poisons, and eight survivors covered 800 km in 33 days to arrive in New Delhi on 25 March, 2006. Since 29 March 2006, Bhopal survivors and supporters had been on indefinite strike near the Parliament House in New Delhi. On 11 April, six people, including three victims and three supporters, began an indefinite fast, in which they were joined by Diane Wilson from the US starting 13 April.
For more information, contact: Nityanand Jayaraman.
Cell: 9868474437. Rachna Dhingra. Cell: 09826167369.

CACIM – India Institute for Critical Action : Centre
in Movement
A-3 Defence Colony, New Delhi 110 024, India
Ph 91-11-5155 1521, 2433 2451

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