Submerged by dams

Submerged by dams Many international organisations have expressed concern for the people to be displaced by the Sardar Sarovar dam project on the Narmada in Gujarat, but the fate of those already ousted by other dams on the river goes unnoticed. Recently, one of them, 65-year-old Sunderbai, died of starvation a few months after the death of her husband Pultaiya. They died in Gorakhpur village in Seoni district of Madhya Pradesh, to which they had moved from their original home in Bijasen village, in nearby Mandala district, now submerged by the Bargi reservoir.

District officials shrugged off responsibility, contending Sunderbai, though destitute, had been fed by her nephew, Migilal, "only a day before she died". But Migilal denied this, asking, "How could you expect me to feed Sunderbai, when my own family is not sure on any day that it would get even one meal?" Migilal, like his aunt and uncle, was a subsistence farmer in his native Bijasen village.

According to the Bargi Bandh Visthapit Sangh (BBVS), the Madhya Pradesh government has offered resettlement to residents of only 81 of 162 affected villages. And, its callousness has been further displayed in the case of Bijasen, whose villagers were relocated thrice because each time, the site chosen fell within the dam's catchment area. Tired of being pushed around, Pultaiya and his fellow-villagers from Bijasen migrated to Gorakhpur village, where they became unskilled labourers and even beggars. Since 1991, seven Bijasen villagers have starved to death.

A BBVS report on submergence of resettlement sites says a model secondary school in Tatighat village is now under water and the children row to a school in Chutka, 4 km away.

Even development projects can virtually go under as, for example, in the resettlement village of Sigondha, in Jabalpur district, where the local hospital, school and bank stand out as islands.

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