Barwani (Madhya Pradesh): Can anyone's ego be greater than the lives of millions? During the grand celebration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 69th birthday on Tuesday the question seems to be answered in affirmative in the Malwa and Nimar region of Madhya Pradesh as the fate of 32,000 families is linked to success of the celebration.
While there is cheer in Gujarat, the victims of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) held a demonstration in the region.
Hundreds of Sardar Sarovar project affected persons (PAF) led by Narmada Bachao Andolan on Tuesday squatted on Khandwa-Baroda road to observe "Dhikkar Diwas" (damnation day) while Modi celebrated his birthday in adjoining Gujarat.
The protesters hurled an effigy of Modi into the Narmada River in the evening. Some of them had their heads shaved to mourn the submergence of a much larger part of the area in Madhya Pradesh by backwaters of the reservoir in Gujarat.
"Gujarat Chief Minister and officers raised the level of water in the dam to 139 metres only for the sake of celebrating Prime Minister Narendra Modiji's birthday. We damn the celebrations. We wish him a long life. But he should understand his duty and responsibility to let people live," NBA leader Medha Patkar told reporters here.
The protesters were squatting near Kasrawad bridge on river Narmada after taking out a huge rally saying they are observing "Dhikkar Diwas". The protests that started in the afternoon continued till late in the evening with a massive jam on the highway.
NBA was spearheading the protest demanding that the gates of the SSD, built on the Narmada river, be opened immediately. The backwater has partially or fully flooded 192 villages and one township in MP, Himshi Singh, an activist of the National Alliance for People's Movement said.
"We want the sluice gates to be closed only after total rehabilitation of residents of 192 villages and one township in MP's Barwani, Dhar, Alirajpur and Khargone districts," she added.
The previous government led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan had, under pressure from Gujarat government agreed to the raising of Sardar Saroval dam height and to its full reservoir level, said an activist.
As if that was not enough the government also misled the Supreme Court by submitting on oath that the rehabilitation of all the families coming under submergence area would be completed by September 17, 2017. The Supreme Court ruled in favour of MP government while the rehabilitation was not completed. The areas earmarked for rehabilitation are under water, another activist said.
The water level of famous Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia in Narmada district of Gujarat surged to its highest capacity at 138.67 meters on Sunday evening. This has happened for the first time since its height was raised in 2017.
The scenic view of the dam could be best experienced from the Statue of Unity which is the world's tallest statue. The combination of Statue of Unity, Narmada valley and Sardar Sarovar Dam in the area has helped develop it as a good tourist destination.
Rajiv Gupta, Managing Director of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) says, "The dam has achieved its maximum capacity."