Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Dam and Rehabilitation

Over the last weekend, I have been reading Arundhati Roy's excllent article `The Greater Common Good'. This article is available online. I would recommend reading this article. It is quite long article, better print and read it slowly. Believe me it will be worth the paper! It would give a good perspective on the ongoing controversy about Sardar Sarovar Dam on the river Narmada.

It is good that The Supreme Court interim order has been delivered linking the proposed height of Sardar Sarovar Dam to 121 meters to rehabilitation of the affected families. The Narmada Bachao Andolan activitist, Medha Paktar, who had been on a hunger strike for the past 20 days, had broken her fast. The Central Government has assured the Supreme Court that rehabilitation of the affected families, most of whom are in the state of Madhya Pradesh will be done in the next three months. What could not have been done for the past six years, could it be done in the next three months, I wonder. It seems highly improbable. I read it in a newspaper today that income-tax was being deducted from the cash compenstation given to the affected families. Naturally, those families are rejecting such cash compensation. If a family is given, say Rs. 10 lakh as cash compenstation for their land, income-tax of Rs. 1 lakh being deducted and they were offered Rs. 9 lakhs as compenstation. This is really ridiculous.

Also, over the weekend there were two side shows, which I find quite amusing. One was actor Aamir Khan voicing his concern about rehabilitation of the affected people who are or will be displaced due to increase in the height of the Dam. And another was hunger strike of 51 hours by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Aamir Khan is perfectly right when he says that as a citizen of India he is free to voice is concerns for the oustees of the Narmada Dam. But Aamir also endores Coke. A few months ago I happened to read how a Coke plant at Plachimada in Kerala is polluting the water and is pumping more ground water than they are permitted to. I was shocked and amazed to read about this and had decided to listen to my inner voice to boycott Coke and other soft drinks. And since then it has been Thanda Matlab Lassi or Sugarcane juice for me. If Aamir Khan takes the trouble of finding out the real facts about Plachimada Coke plant and stops endorsing Coke, I will believe that he is serious about his concerns. A few months ago, before Rang De Basanti was released I found funny the way the movie was marketed in most of the news channels, with Aamir Khan and various crew members of the movie appearing in chat shows and giving interviews, etc. In a few weeks movie Fanna, in which Aamir Khan stars with Kajol will be released. I expect it be a huge it, especially in Gujarat.

About Narendra Modi the less said is better. He seems to be more of showman and a politician. I was watching a Hindi news channel last night and in that programme the following question was asked and viewers were asked to vote for it: Do you believe the rehabilitation of the oustees of the Narmada Dam will be done (a) in three months, (b) at the liesure of the government or (c) when Narendra Modi will sit on indefinite fast in support of the oustees. And 58% per cent viewers, including me, voted for the option (c).

While I am not for pro or anti dam, I believe it is for the experts and for our government to decide. If a dam brings development for a particular region, then good. But the people, who are displaced because of a dam, must be rehabilited properly. After all, these people are makeing a huge sacrifice for the good of other people of the country and giving up their homes and land where they have been living.

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