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The Narmada Saga


On 17 September 2017, on the occasion of his 66th birthday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) across the Narmada River to the nation. While addressing a rally at Dabhoi on the day of the formal inauguration of the SSD project, he said, “I will leave no stone unturned to achieve a New India, like Mahatma Gandhi achieved a New India earlier. I am living for your dreams.” The Prime Minister thanked the tribal families who were displaced by the project, and further stated, “India will remember and honour their sacrifice for development of the country.” Modi branded the project an “engineering miracle,” while alleging that “a massive misinformation campaign had been launched against the project.”

On the very day of the inauguration of the SSD project, a group of concerned citizens registered their protest through a letter addressed to the President of India. The letter raised questions regarding the violations of the rights of 40,000 families in the Narmada Valley who have been affected by the project. It articulates these violations as follows: “Their livestock, agricultural lands, forests, homes and everything that belongs to them is being drowned in town after town, village after village, across the Narmada Valley.”

The press statement issued by Medha Patkar and others of the Narmada Bachao Andolan in the wake of the formal inauguration of the project is worthy of our serious attention: “We wish to convey that our struggle will continue … Our loss will be a loss for the people fighting all across the country, who are opposing displacement, submergence and forcible evictions, all in the name of development.”

The Narmada saga will be remembered as one of the most grievous cases of “development by dispossession.”

Arup Kumar Sen



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