Narmada dam oustees in Madhya Pradesh, some of whose districts face the threat of submergence due to closure of the gates of the Sardar Sarovar dam in neighbouring Gujarat, today stood their ground even as the water level in the Narmada river is rising steadily.
The state government had asked the affected people to vacate the submergence area of the dam by July 31.
According to activist Himshi Singh, who is working for the cause of the affected people, around 40,000 families in Barwani, Alirajpur, Dhar and Khargone districts of Madhya Pradesh have come under the submergence area of the dam.
Dhar district collector Shriman Shukla, camping in Nisarpur area, said officials have been trying to convince the displaced people to vacate their places.
At Chindalda village in Dhar district, a large number of protesters entered the Narmada river and stood in the water for some hours.
At Karanja area in Barwani, 10 people, including five women, held a symbolic protest by posing as dead with white bedsheets covering their bodies.
"The displaced people are anyway going to die in the submergence area shortly," one of them said.
Shukla said the administration would not let anybody drown and ensure the safety of the people and their assets.
He said public announcements were being made in the affected areas to persuade people to vacate their places.
"Narmada water is gradually rising and we are evacuating people from such areas. Well equipped teams of the NDRF have been deployed along with the police force. We will ensure safety of people and use force, if needed in the process," he said.
Meanwhile, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar's indefinite fast for proper rehabilitation of the affected people entered the fourth day today.
The dam oustees and locals staged protests at two places in Barwani, where Patkar is sitting on the fast, over the gradual shutting of the Sardar Sarovar dam gates last month.
The Gujarat government had last month got the Centre's nod to shut the gates of the structure, 56 years after the foundation stone of the project had been laid.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had said the permission to close the gates of the dam was given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Talking to reporters in Barwani, Patkar questioned the rehabilitation package announced by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan yesterday wherein he had assured an aid of Rs 5 lakh to each affected family for construction of a house.
"The CM has now announced the package for the displaced to construct houses. How is it possible to construct the houses in the 24 hours (before tomorrow's deadline)?" she asked.
When asked about Patkar's ongoing fast, Shukla said, "We have talked to her and urged her to undergo a health check-up.
We are concerned and monitoring her health".
He said a lot of work has been done at the rehabilitation centres and remaining work would be completed soon.
According to Himshi Singh, the temporary dwellings made available by the state government for the oustees lack even basic facilities.
Meanwhile, the Madhya Pradesh Congress today sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention to "save" the affected people.
"We urge the prime minister to intervene and save the lives of people who are living in the submergence area ahead of tomorrow's deadline (for vacating the area)," Leader of Opposition in Assembly Ajay Singh said in a statement here.
The Congress leader said Madhya Pradesh gave the BJP 26 MPs and "now, it's time for the prime minister to reciprocate by protecting the interests of Madhya Pradesh, along with Gujarat."
Had Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan been in the opposition and the UPA government in power now, he would have sat on a dharna or fast, Singh said.
"Chouhan seems incapable of protecting the interests of Madhya Pradesh in the matter of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, which would benefit neighbouring Gujarat," he said.
The Sardar Sarovar project, which was inaugurated in 1961, got delayed due to several reasons, one of the prominent being opposition to it by Patkar-led NBA.
The construction work for the dam was suspended in 1996, after the NBA activists obtained a stay from the apex court, over environmental and rehabilitation issues.
Work resumed after the Supreme Court gave an order in October 2000 in favour of the construction of the dam.
With the closing of the gates, the height of one of the biggest water reservoirs in the country will be 138 meters and the storage capacity 4.75 million cubic meter (MCM).
At present, the height of the dam is 121.92 meters and the water storage capacity is 1.25 MCM.