THE HINDU, JUNE 20, 2006
Medha Patkar being detained in New Delhi on Monday — Photo: S. Subramanium
NEW DELHI: Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar and about 100 Narmada dam-displaced people were on Monday detained outside the residence of United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi. They had gone to apprise Ms. Gandhi of lack of rehabilitation of the displaced families. They were detained for violating prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code imposed in the VVIP area.
“In a democracy like India, almost the entire Delhi is under Section 144. How can the aam admi seek redress? We went there to lodge a protest on Ms. Gandhi’s silence when the dam’s height is being raised without proper rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced families. We also wanted to meet her and apprise her of the manner in which the Shunglu Committee appeared to be only validating the Action Taken Report of the Madhya Pradesh Government,” Ms. Patkar told The Hindu from the Chanakyapuri police station.
She said the issue involved lakhs of people facing submergence. “Where will the women and children go?”
Police swung into action outside Ms. Gandhi’s residence when the NBA members sought to meet her to seek her intervention for stopping construction of the Narmada dam. “It was the Gujarat Congress — in collusion with State Government — that prevailed upon the Prime Minister from taking a stand on the issue last month despite a Central ministerial team reporting that rehabilitation was not done,” Ms. Patkar said.
Earlier, accompanied by nearly 300 displaced people from the Narmada Valley and water expert Ramaswamy Iyer, Ms. Patkar questioned the Government’s claim that rehabilitation of 35,000 families would be completed in three months.
She announced that the NBA and affected families had reposed their faith in a panel comprising four prominent citizens for probing the rehabilitation claims taking the gram sabha as a unit. This panel would comprise Mr. Iyer, former Planning Commission member L.C. Jain, former Delhi University Vice-Chancellor Upendra Baxi and Girish Patel, a human rights advocate. The panel would also study the Shunglu Oversight Group report.
Ms. Patkar said that instead of making the gram sabha as the unit for finding the truth, the Shunglu Group through the National Sample Survey Organisation hired a team of 120 surveyors, most of whom were from Gujarat. At some of the hilly places, the team members did not even alight from the boat but spoke to whoever came up before them. The officials with the team lectured villagers about “sacrificing in national interest”.
Moreover, the Group outsourced the random validation to a private company from Bhopal who was reportedly associated with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
When contacted by this correspondent, Oversight Group Chairman V.K. Shunglu declined to comment.