Got up at about 6 and started completing yesterday’s backlog on the blog. We were to leave at 7:30am. Medha Tai wanted us to go to Raj Ghat a memorial to Gandhi. And then to Chikhalda a village across from there on the other side of the Narmada. There they had organized a send off for me! We had tea and Breakfast at Bhagirath Bhai’s place and went to the village square.
We stood in a circle and small sweet ceremony ensued – Medha Tai introduced me, Kamlu Jiji gifted me a cloth bag made by women from a workshop in Bombay of the displaced urban poor.
I spoke about my project , and amidst slogans “Tushar Bhai Age Badho Hum Tumhare Sath Hai” (Tushar Bhai go right ahead, we are with you) and “Tushar Bhai Konna se… Amra se Bhai Amra se” (Tushar Bhai is one of us) I left for Nandra. About 90 Kms away.
Shrikant had contacted the people in two villages and arranged meetings for me as well as fixed my lunch and stay. First time in 6 days the Rain Gods caught up with me soaked me to the bone
At Nandra, met Jagdish Bhai Patidar, and Hariram (from Gogawa village affected by the Maheshwar dam), Lalchandji Patidar, Tarachand Patidar,Karansing Patel, Roopchand Bhai,Vikramsing Chauhan (from Nandra) and Kailash Patidar (from Karondia affected by the canals of the Omkareshwar dam)
Before the meeting began, I was welcomed with a garland and a long sugarcane, each of them gave me a cob of corn … I was thoroughly embarrassed.
Nandra is affected by the Canals of the Omkareshwar Dam. Lands are going to be acquired for building of canals which the villagers are resisting. Of the area that is claimed as would be brought under irrigation by these canals, 75 % is already irrigated. They are asking for a review of the planning before proceeding with the building as they feel they will lose their lands in vain as the canals are superfluous. Apart from the land acquired for the canals there is a danger of the un-acquired adjoining land getting waterlogged due to the canals.
Had lunch at Lalchandji’s house and I went on to Pathraad 4 Km away to meet Radheshyam Patidar, he was very well informed about all the issues concerning the dams in the area, local and global politics…
Maheshwar dam will adversely affect 61 villages, of which only one village has been resettled (successfully) whereas the work on the dam has reached 90% to completion. Total area affected by this dam is 872 hectares, of which 106 hectares is in the village of Pathraad and by its canals is 900 hectares. Again this area is already 100% under irrigation thus making the canals redundant.
All the people I met today are from a very affluent and fairly educated farming community, (in fact the boys of the younger generation are studying or have completed their graduation and some even post graduation). they are well aware of their rights, unlike the adivasi (indigenous) farmers I met yesterday and day before.