Pushpendra Vaidya | Sep 6, 2019 | 5 min read
Backwater from the Narmada river reaches the threshold of the house of Gajanand Yadav, a resident of Chikhalda in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, he breaks into tears as he readies himself to leave the village where he has lived all his life. At a time when not only the neighbourhood but almost the entire village has been vacated because of the backwaters from the Narmada, he is one of the last few to leave the village, which is where he has made all his memories. While Gajanand did receive a piece of land from the government as part of the rehabilitation package, it’s unfit for living. He didn’t even receive the compensation in full. Residents who have been affected by the backwaters of Narmada in Madhya Pradesh are yet to be rehabilitated and are struggling to survive amid the sinking villages and farms.
After Sardar Sarovar Dam’s maximum height was increased from 121.92 metres to 138.68 metres in 2017, backwaters have been causing a lot of problems to the residents of Dhar, Barwani and Alirajpur districts of Madhya Pradesh. According to Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), about 192 villages and one town of Nisarpur are affected by the backwaters. The former Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led government submitted affidavits in court, saying that 76 villages are submerged. The current government has increased the number to 178. The discrepancies are numerous as the houses that have water till the main door are not considered to be affected in the area even if the pathways to the house have been blocked.
PS Mandra, an official with the land acquisition department of Barwani district, told 101Reporters that a new survey will be carried out to arrive at the correct number of affected villages.
On September 15, the dam reached the full reservoir level. With the increasing water level, the trouble in the surrounding villages also increased. For Ranjana Bai, a resident of Khaparkheda village in Pipariya tehsil of Hoshangabad district, the situation is dire. The water level at her home reaches till her waist but she still doesn’t want to leave the house. Her husband Hiralal Vishwakarma is a government employee and that is why he was deemed ineligible for a plot and monetary compensation.
Yusuf Mansoori, a resident of Chikhalda, said he has been demanding a plot at the rehabilitation site for three years but hasn’t received it. He added that even the compensation amount of Rs 5.8 lakh hasn’t been provided.
In Chhota Badda village of Barwani district, 52 families haven’t received compensation. Since the survey for affected areas was carried out in 2017, the residents demand that the compensation should be fixed as per the rates that were prevalent in 2017. However, it has been fixed according to the rates in 2012.
Mandra added that according to fresh directives, the acquisition of the land belonging to these 52 families will be carried out as per updated rates.
The home and banana cultivation of Nanuram Prajapati, a resident of Semalda village in Manawar tehsil of Dhar district, have been submerged. While he is eligible to receive agricultural land, the Narmada Valley Development (NVDA) hasn’t allocated any land to him yet. He has refused to leave his home and survives on the supplies from his farm that he had stored.
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Thirty-five houses have been submerged in Pichodi village. Homes on the border of Jangharwa and Sondul in Barwani district have also been filled with water. Over 100 buildings in Jangharwa have been isolated from the rest of the region as the backwaters have hindered their physical connectivity to the rest of the world. The families residing in such families are yet to receive compensation or rehabilitation benefits.
In villages such as Awalda, Bhavti, Sondul, Morkatta, Bijasan, Amlali and Datwara, Rajghat, Bhilakheda, Nandgaon, Pendra, Jamda, Chhoti Kasrawad, Kundiya, Dehadla, Bagud, Piplud, Awali, Mohipura, Segawa, Ekkalbara, Semalda, Kavathi,Perkhad, Urdana and Gangali, the water has already entered or is on the verge of entering the houses. Over thousands of residents from these villages haven’t been rehabilitated. As the electricity lines have been disconnected, they are also without the facility of drinking water.
Hectares of land in Barwani and Dhar districts have been submerged underwater. Several villages such as Karondiya, Bajarikheda, Khaparkheda, Gehlgaon, Ekkalbara, Semalda, Kasrawad, Kundiya, Kali Bedi, Eklera, Sungaon, Dehadla, Segawa, Jangharwa, Pichodi, Borkhedi and Datwara haven’t been surveyed by the NVDA till date.
Land acquisition officer Mandra clarified that villages that weren’t surveyed will be added in the latest survey.
Social activist Medha Patkar, who’s spearheading the NBA, highlighted that there has been a lot of confusion regarding rehabilitation. She said even the areas that weren’t considered submerged during the survey have started filling up with water.
She urged the state government to set up a high-level committee to identify areas and people that need to be rehabilitated. On September 9, a meeting between members of the NBA and government officials took place in Indore wherein the administration agreed to carry out a fresh survey of the affected areas.
On September 17, the birthday of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, members of the NBA organised a protest rally--Dhikkar Divas (Condemnation Day)--on the Narmada bridge near Barwani.
Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Kamal Nath said that since the project is an inter-state one, the compensation amount as part of the rehabilitation package is taking time to be sanctioned by the Gujarat government. He added that the state government has demanded that the dam gates be opened.
He asserted that the state government is committed to the issue and every claim and issue of the affected people will be resolved.
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