Medha Patkar suspends Jal Satyagrah as water level stops rising

Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar on Sunday suspended the Jal Satyagraha she had started with women affected by the project here.

The NBA had called for an indefinite Jal Satyagrah, announcing that Patkar and the other women would prefer to be submerged if the backwater level rose further due to the closure of gates of Sardar Sarovar Dam. When the water level did not rise on Sunday, Patkar announced the suspension of the agitation, saying it would continue in other forms till those affected by the project were properly rehabilitated. With less water in reservoirs in MP, the water level in the affected areas is unlikely to rise in the near future.

The NBA had also alleged that despite MP facing prospects of drought due to deficient rainfall, water was released from Omkareshwar Dam to ensure that the water level at Kevadia in Gujarat rose. No senior government official visited the protest site. After the suspension of the protest, Patkar and others went into the river on boats and pledged to continue the agitation. She alleged that the inauguration of the dam was a conspiracy because thousands of affected people were yet to be rehabilitated.

Earlier, Patkar described as laughable the claim that the dam was complete, alleging that thousands of kilometres of canal network in Gujarat were not complete. “It’s a fake inauguration from a person holding a very high office,’’ she said. Scoffing at the claim that the dam was a civil engineering wonder, she said, “We need social engineering because we are talking of heart, brain, blood, and sweat, not concrete.’’ “We want vikas (development) not vinash (destruction),’’ she said and accused the Centre, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh government of misleading people by tweaking statistics.

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