The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi bows to Medha

New Delhi, April 12: The Centre today announced a review of the decision to raise the Sardar Sarovar Dam’s height, but Medha Patkar refused to break her indefinite hunger strike.

Patkar and six other Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) protesters will continue to fast till the Centre orders a halt to construction at the dam site.

With the review meeting likely on Friday, the 15-day-old fast ' now going on in hospital ' will continue for at least two more days.

The NBA says 35,000 families who would be displaced if the dam height is raised ' a move cleared by the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) ' have not been rehabilitated.

The cabinet committee on political affairs today called a meeting of the NCA five days after a team of central ministers surveyed the rehabilitation efforts at the submergence sites.

“I will review the decision taken earlier by the NCA,” said water resources minister Saifuddin Soz who had conducted the survey with minister for social justice Meira Kumar and the minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, Prithviraj Chavan.

But the review doesn’t mean construction would automatically stop.

“I haven’t received any official communication about whether there is a stay on construction activity at the dam site,” the managing director of Sardar Sarovar Nigam Ltd, which is raising the dam’s height, said from Gandhinagar.

“Construction was going on till today,” P.K. Lahiri added.

Construction had begun almost immediately after the NCA clearance. “The dam height has been raised, on an average, by two metres.”

The Supreme Court and Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award had said rehabilitation must be completed at least six months before submergence of the oustees’ land and homes.

Patkar and her supporters say that on March 8, when the NCA cleared raising the dam’s height from 110.64 metres to 121.92 metres, 220 villages had still not been rehabilitated.

Before proceeding on their survey, a minister had told The Telegraph that even if “one family” was left without rehabilitation, the team would advise the government to immediately halt construction on the dam. No such emphatic statement came today.

“The fast continues till a clear scenario emerges,” Patkar said. “A final decision would be taken in consultation with the other activists.”

“We welcome the decision to call a meeting of the NCA'. The demand was for an immediate halt in construction activity and announcement of the rehabilitation package. Till that happens, the fast continues,” said lawyer Prashant Bhushan for NBA.

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