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NBA to step up protests, Medha's condition worsens

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 11: The condition of NBA leader Medha Patkar worsened on the 14th day of hunger strike today even as activists opposing another increase in the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam said they would step up protests to force a favourable political decision from the Centre.

Civil rights groups from across the country are assembling for a People's Convention on the subject of displacement here tomorrow.

The convention, at the NBA's dharna site, would be followed by a protest march.

Prominent civil rights activists, academics, Left and Socialist leaders are among those expected to participate in the stepped up protest.

''The fact that the ministerial team that visited the Narmada Valley is dithering on making its findings public betrays an admission of guilt by the Government. It seems they have made a political decision to keep quiet. We will strongly challenge this,'' the CPI(ML)-backed All India Student's Association President Kavita Krishnan said.

The AISA and other Left parties have been supporting Ms Patkar's protest. AISA activists also sat on hunger strike at the NBA's dharna site.

Meanwhile, the condition of Ms Patkar and Jamsingh Nargave deteriorated at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

Weakened by 14 days of fasting, Ms Patkar was barely able to whisper while trying to speak. Sources in the hospital reported an abnormal fluctuation in her body salts and blood pressure levels.

The condition of the much younger Mr Nargave was slightly better, but he too was suffering on account of pain in his back and legs, the sources said.

Both have refused intravenous drip and are surviving on lemon water ever since police forcibly shifted them to the hospital on the eighth day of their fast on April 5.

The NBA is protesting the Narmada Control Authority's decision to raise the dam's height saying this cannot be done under the law until all those displaced are resettled and rehabilitated.

Union Water Resources Minister Saifuddin Soz, Social Welfare Minister Meira Kumar and Minister of State in the Prime Minister's office Prithviraj Chavan toured Narmada Valley for a spot study of the NBA's contention last Friday, but have not so far made their findings public.

The reluctance of the ministerial team to make its findings public appeared to cause discomfiture in the BJP as well which has been strongly projecting the SSP among water-starved farmers in Gujarat.

''Construction of Sardar Sarovar Project is a great wish of the people of Gujarat and it is not fair to oppose it ... the verdict of the Supreme Court on increasing the height of the dam should be accepted by everyone,'' former BJP President L K Advani was quoted as having said in Surat earlier this week.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and GPCC Chief Bharatsinh Solanki were among those who joined Narmada Abhiyan activists on a dharna at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad yesterday in support of the dam.

While refuting the NBA's charges on the rehabilitation front, Mr Modi hoped that the Prime Minister would take a judicious stand in the matter. Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly Arjun Modhvadia said the Congress and the BJP would unitedly fight opponents of the SSP.

Five people ended their hunger strike today following an appeal from Ms Patkar. Ms Patkar, Mr Nargave, Ms Bhagwatiben Patidar and two activists of the Jan Sangharsh Vahini would, however, continue their fast, the NBA said. Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy, JNU Student's Union President Mona Das and AISA leader Awadhesh were on their seventh day of hunger strike today while Bhana Bhai and Rajya Bhai (both from Narmada Valley) completed nine days without food.

''The nation is waiting to hear about the truth that Mr Soz and the other ministers have seen. His silence is a breach of trust and of the commitment he made to us before leaving for Narmada Valley'', the JNUSU President said, threatening to start a ''massive'' student's movement that would close down major Universities.


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