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From "Patricia Hampton" <patham@iol.it>
Date Sun, 5 Mar 2000 13:31:31 -0500

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

IMPORTANT NEWS  received from Narmada UK and sent!  EnzoY.B.

Affected People Establish Sangharsh Gaon: People prepare for a long haul

Today, on 24th of February, several thousand people affected by the
Maheshwar Project, including a large number of women,gathered in front of
the Shree Maheshwar Hydel Power Project gate near Mandleshwar to begin an
indefinite satyagraha. The affected people established a ` Sangharsh
Gaon' (village of struggle) directly across the road in front of the main
gate of the S. Kumars Project, where they intend to sit on satyagraha for
the next few months or as long as it takes to achieve their demands.

The mood was upbeat as large number of people arrived with their bags and
bundles preparing to stay at the site of struggle for many days. Work on
readying the site for today's satyagraha started yesterday as the ground
cleared and tents were hoisted. Preparations were completed today and more
tents were put up, a gate was constructed and numerous banners announcing
resistance were set up. A kitchen has also been organised where grains and
cooking vessels collected from various villages have been set up. It is
clear that the Maheshwar people are making preparations for a long haul.
At the site, there is a palpable air of enthusiasm and resolve as the
struggle against the Maheshwar Project enters a
decisive phase. The peopleare determined to persevere with their opposition
and to sit on satyagraha at the ` Sangharsh Gaon' till the government
responds to their
demands and scraps the project in favor of better and cheaper alternatives.

This phase of satyagraha continues the indefinite action which began on
11th January. On that day around 4,000 affected had marched on to the dam
site and captured it despite heavy police pressure. Around 1,000 people
were arrested and put in jail. That same night the administration
attempted to release these people. the people however refused to vacate the
jail till 
their questions were answered and embarked on satyagraha
within the jail itself. They sent a petition to the
Chief Minister
him to establish the public utility of the Project, establish the cost of
electricity, and specify the amount of cultivable land available for
rehabilitation. The answers to their questions, when they came, were
completely inadequate and established beyond doubt that the government had
no answers to the most basic questions raised by the people, regarding the
project. Seeing this the people took out a rally from jail and reiterated
their determination to continue the struggle till their questions were
satisfactorily answered and the Project was scrapped.

The current phase of satyagraha demands that the Ministry of Environment
and Forests and the Ministry of Power scrap the Environmental clearance
and the Techno-economic clearance respectively that
has been granted to
the Maheshwar project. It is evident that the project is being continued
despite violations of the conditions of these clearances. Neither the
government or S. Kumars has been able to establish the
public utility of the Project and it is certain that the electricity
produced by the Project will be expensive and beyond the reach of the
consumer. Even more grave is the fact that so far no cultivable land has
been shown as available for the rehabilitation of project-affected people.
this, the Maheshwar project should be scrapped and the
alternatives to the Project should be seriously reconsidered.

Supporting the Maheshwar affected people in their struggle and
participating in today's satyagraha are representatives from other dam
projects in the Narmada Valley, including people affected by Sardar
Sarovar, Veda, Man and Goi projects. People from other organizations in
Madhya Pradesh, including KMCS (Khedut Mazdoor Chetna
Sangath), are also taking part in the satyagraha. The program was also
addressed by representatives from adjoining villages such as Sanjay
Joshi of village Pipalgaon and Krishna Patidar of village Karondia.

Today's satyagraha began with an invocation to the Mother Narmada, the
nurturer of the people of the Valley for millennia. The Sabha was
conducted by Urmila Patidar of village. Pathrad, Kalusingh Mandloi and
Sanjay Nigam of village Mardana were the first to address the Sabha and
they detailed the reasons for this indefinite satyagraha which include
the certainty that this Project is not in the public interest and will lead
to the pauperization of displaced people. Sushilabai of
Mardana and Kamlabai of Pathrad spoke about the role of women in the
struggle. Women have had to leave their domestic spheres and come out into
the `chougan' or public arena because their homes and livelihoods are
for destruction.Ramsingh Mandloi, Sarpanch of Mardana, said that the
unprecedented victory of candidates opposing the Maheshwar Project in the
recent panchayat elections affirms the large scale opposition against
the Project. Kemat Singh and Vania Bhawaria of the Khedut Mazdoor Chetna
Sangath (KMCS) said that their organization supports the NBAís struggle and
participate fully in this satyagraha.

Alok Agarwal, a prominent activist of the NBA and leader of the Maheshwar
struggle, said that people affected by the Maheshwar Project have come out
to the streets today and will be there for an indefinite period after
this, in order to establish the truth of this project.
This is a project that will lead to public destruction and the people
will not allow the country to be looted in the name of `public good'. He
called upon all other public organizations, intellectuals, and all other
people who were concerned about the future of development in this
country to understand the reality of the project and to join the struggle
against it so that the unjust destruction of peoples lives and livelihoods
can be stopped.

Mangat Verma
Village Lepa

Urmila Patidar
Village Pathrad

Ramsingh Mandloi
Village Mardana

Alok Agarwal
Chittaroopa Palit

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