Mumbai: Villagers in Maharashtra`s Satara district are on a "jal satyagraha" to demand rehabilitation of those affected by the Wang Marathwadi dam project.
"We have informed the Satara district collector that we will not budge from the venue till our demands are met," Suniti SR of the National Alliance of People`s Movements told a news agency over phone.
The people of the area, which falls in Maharashtra Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan`s home district, have challenged the repeated false promises of rehabilitation made by the government of Maharashtra, she said.
The Wang Marathwadi Dharangrast Kruti Samiti, affiliated to NAPM, started the Jal Satyagraha by planting seeds on the fertile river bed and refusing to let the crops drown in river water, from June 11 near Mendh village.
The dam is situated in the Patan tehsil of Satara district. Mendh is among the nine villages affected by the construction of the dam. "Four villages will be fully submerged and five villages will be partially submerged after the completion of the dam," she said.
The villages, once bustling with fertile land, schools and basic amenities and infrastructure were vacated for construction of the dam.
The government`s rehabilitation policy stipulates that people who are to be displaced must also be rehabilitated in the command area of the dam with all basic infrastructural facilities. However, most of the over 1800 families affected by this project, are yet to be rehabilitated, she said.
In April, Forest and Rehabilitation Minister Patangrao Kadam informed a meeting attended by district collectors of Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur and representatives of the dam-affected sections, that rehabilitation would be completed within six months, she said.
A group of project affected people met the Chief Minister on July 8, seeking speedy rehabilitation. Chavan has repeatedly expressed his concern for the project affected people, Suniti said.
The state government is compelling project-affected people to accept the land in the belt of drought-prone areas in Sangli District, she said. This has affected not just the lives of the people but also their means of livelihood, she added.
They pledged their land in 1997 for the construction of the dam but the government is yet to compensate and rehabilitate them, she said. Since Friday, the agitating farmers are sitting on a dharna at the catchment of the dam.
"The people have been struggling for their rights for the past 15 years. The first phase of the dam is complete and the Maharashtra Krushna Valley Development Corporation decided to fill the dam in this monsoon," she said.
As part of `jal satyagraha`, people are sitting on the banks of the river and shouting the slogan `Aadhi Punarvasan, Magach Dharan` (rehabilitation first, then only the dam).
"The Collector has informed us that he has ordered opening of the dam gates and they will remain open during the monsoon," she said.