Families refuse to leave villages along Narmada

first_imgHiralal Solanki is waiting for the backwaters in the swelling Narmada to recede so that he could return home. Cooped up in a 10 feet-by-10 tin shelter at a relief camp with two younger brothers, a sister-in-law, and an assortment of recovered household items stacked around, he refuses to leave for Gujarat, where his parents were resettled more than two decades ago. Just eight, and a minor, in 1994, when his parents were given a five-acre plot in Panchmahal district, 192 km away, he and his siblings were left behind in the care of relatives. Today, leaving behind two shops and a ramshackle hut at Kotda village in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district that faces submersion, the families of Mr. Solanki and 130 others have shifted to the camp set up by the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) in the neighbouring Nisarpur, which too is facing submergence. Uncertainty remains As Gujarat continues to raise storage at the Sardar Sarovar Dam at a menacing pace, those residing in 178 affected upstream villages of Madhya Pradesh stare at uncertainty. On Saturday, the level in the dam had risen to 135.9 metres, well above the 135 metres that was to be filled by the end of this month as per the schedule prescribed by the Narmada Control Authority (NCA).Now, Mr. Solanki sits on the street selling pans, made possible with the help of some capital from a camp neighbour, who lent ₹20,000 at 5% interest. “I make just ₹50-60 a day now. Previously, it was ₹1,500,” he said. “Back at the village, the same friend lent us money at no interest.”“The allotted land is arid and we’re treated like outsiders in Gujarat,” said Mr. Solanki’s mother Durga Bai, who has come on a visit to care for her youngest son, who is suffering from typhoid. “We don’t know their language, and are often not allowed to pass through their fields.”Nowhere to go Rajesh Bhagole, 29, an agricultural labourer who shifted with his wife to the camp on July 12 from Nisarpur, said, “Why should we shift elsewhere when we were born here, studied here and vote here? I received no land when my father did. We have nowhere else to go. So, we’ll return to our houses when the water recedes.”As they had limited space to themselves, Mr. Bhagole explained that they had rented a room separately for ₹1,000 a month to store household goods.“Rehabilitated people continue to live in acquired houses [that the project authorities had acquired],” said Pawan Kumar Sharma, Commissioner, Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA). “We can’t force them to shift. Therefore, they usually return once the water recedes.”According to the NVDA, of the 37,729 project affected families in Madhya Pradesh, while 32,174 had been rehabilitated in Madhya Pradesh, 5,555 had been resettled in Gujarat. Recently, the Madhya Pradesh government admitted that more villages in the State were facing submergence than estimated earlier. At a makeshift school in the camp, 150 students shift to a neighbouring gaushala whenever the heat makes the tin classrooms with no fans, impossible to sit in. “I am waiting to return to my village school where we had fans,” said Payal Verma, who is staying at the camp alwith her parents, who are agricultural labourers, and a brother and grandparents.last_img

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