Social activist Medha Patkar on Tuesday said the grief of those affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam project was overshadowed by the birthday celebrations of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, IANS reported.

The reservoir on the Narmada River was filled for the first time to its full level of 138.68 metres on Sunday evening. Around 192 villages were reportedly submerged after the Gujarat government raised the water level.

“Gujarat chief minister and officers raised the level of water in the dam to 139 metres only for the sake of celebrating Prime Minister Narendra Modiji’s birthday,” Patkar was quoted as saying by the agency. “We damn the celebrations. We wish him a long life. But he should understand his duty and responsibility to let people live.” Protestors on Tuesday took out a rally and observed “Dhikkar Diwas”.

Patkar criticised the Gujarat government for advancing the date to raise the water level. “The [Vijay] Rupani government had earlier said that the dam will be full by October 15, then he gave a new date of September 30, but how come the dam got filled just before Modi’s birthday on September 17,” Patkar asked. “It is clear now that for them Constitution does not mean anything. Thousands of people are getting drowned but for one person the dam was filled.”

“Sardar Sarovar Dam is not just this structure but it’s 250 kms backwaters in Madhya Pradesh and 70 kms downstream and then thousand plus kms of canal network,” she said in a tweet. “Never had time to meet in two decades to meet any project affected person. Says a lot about him,” she added, referring to Modi.

Earlier this month, Patkar’s Narmada Bachao Andolan movement had opposed the government’s directive to fill the dam to its optimum level of 138.68 metres, and instead maintain it at 122 metres. Patkar had said that 192 villages and one town would be submerged at that level, affecting 32,000 families. The Narmada Bachao Andolan is a movement spanning over three decades, against large dam projects on the river Narmada which flows across the states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and the resultant displacement of people.

She added that the thousands of people displaced by floods in areas around the Sardar Sarovar Dam have not yet been compensated or completely rehabilitated despite Supreme Court directions. She blamed the previous government led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh for these problems.

“Shivraj government claimed to have completed the rehabilitation programme and submitted a zero-balance affidavit, which is not correct,” Patkar said on Tuesday. “This way they have snatched away the right that belonged to the affected families.” She also claimed that Chouhan had surrendered before Modi and the Gujarat government.

Also read:

  1. As Sardar Sarovar Dam inches to full capacity, 178 Madhya Pradesh villages prepare to be submerged
  2. From farming to fishing: Occupational change hasn’t helped the people affected by dams on Narmada

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