CPI asks Govt to 'immediately' address Medha's concerns

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New Delhi, Mar 31 (UNI) The Communist Party of India today demanded the Government's 'immediate' intervention to stop a further increase in the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada in Gujarat till full rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) of the project-affected people.

Talking to reporters alongwith Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar, CPI leaders A B Bardhan and D Raja expressed surprise that neither Prime Minister Manmohan Singh nor the Ministries of Social Justice and Water Resources had yet responded to concerns raised by her on the SSP's record R&R front.

''The situation has come to a flashpoint. The Government will have to intervene immediately,'' Mr Raja said. ''More than a law to deal with displacement, the will to rehabilitate project-affected people has to be there,'' Mr Bardhan added, pointing out that this commitment was made in the UPA's Common Minimum Programme as well.

Ms Patkar, who looked weak from three days of protest fast, challenged the pro-development debate that misses the voice of the poor. ''You cannot ignore the poor in the development process''.

''Development does not mean displacement. Those being displaced also need justice'', she said, expressing regret that poor farmers were either migrating or committing suicide in duress in the India that is also one of the world's ''fastest growing economies''.

Such displacement has to take place only with the consent and consultation of the project-affected, she said, while claiming that the rehabilitation sub-group of the Ministry for Social Justice had not visited the Narmada Valley for the last 5 years.

The decision of the Narmada Control Authority to raise the dam height by more than 11 metres (a step she says threatens the land and livelihood of nearly 35,000 families, mostly tribals) was like an order to ''massacre a valley and its people'', she said, arguing that a case under the SC/ST Atrocities Act could be made out in the matter.

''If the UPA Government claims to be secular, then it should not forget these communities who are like minorities in the cost-benefit ratio'', she noted.

Mr Bardhan said he would try to meet the Prime Minister tomorrow to raise the issue afresh.

The NBA has been staging a dharna here since March 17 in protest against the decision of the NCA to raise the dam height from 110.64 to 122 metres.


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