Prime Minister Modi is celebrating his 69th birthday at Kevadia, in Narmada district, Gujarat. On September 15, the reservoir dam reached full reservoir level (FRL) of 138.68 metres for the first time. This is significant and a proud day for Gujaratis.
I have extended family in Bharuch, Gujarat. My grandmother was born and brought up there. “My brother used to swim across the river,” she would say. She taught me Narmadashtakam, a composition by Adi Shankaracharya offering salutations to Goddess Narmada. Whenever we would visit Bharuch, my father and grandmother will bow down to the Narmada while crossing the bridge and recite ‘Namami Devi Narmade’.
When UPA was at the Centre, Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. The Central Government under Dr Manmohan Singh was extremely partial and unjust towards Gujarat. He kept Gujarat deprived of Narmada water by sitting on the Sardar Sarovar dam height for years because the Congress government in the neighbouring states of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra felt they were at ‘disadvantage’. Little did they realise that the same Narmada water will bring irrigation and drinking water even to their states along with providing electricity.
Parts of Gujarat remained parched.
At last in June 2017, the project whose foundation was laid in 1961 by then Prime Minister Nehru, was inaugurated by now Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When people of Rajkot received Narmada water they were overjoyed.
Dr Manmohan Singh, who wants the history to be kind to him for the ten years of policy paralysis that gripped India, then proceeded to lie.
Except, Dr Singh lied.
You see now why this dam holds a special emotional space in the hearts of Gujaratis? In 2012, as the Gujarat Chief Minister of Gujarat, PM Modi had launched ‘SAUNI’ (Saurashtra Narmada Avataran Irrigation) Yojana to supply excess water from Narmada dam to 115 dams across Gujarat.
Congress kept Gujarat thirsty for decades. Congress and anti-Narmada project activist Medha Patkar. For years, Patkar, who looks like she could use a comb, tried to stall the project which benefited crores of farmers under her ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’.
The foundation stone of the project was laid back in back in 1961 by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Ever since then it has been marred by protests by activists like Narmada Bachao Aandolan founder Medha Patkar, who have claimed that the dam’s water might displace about 40,000 families as their homes would be submerged. They have claimed that the rehabilitation process of these families is still not complete and that the water supply in the dam be stopped until its done.
In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the much publicised 138-metre Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada river at Dabhoi, Gujarat. It was a landmark of sorts considering the amount of delays the project had experienced owing to protests by various activists. This increase in height from 121.92 metre to 138.68 metre has quadrupled the dam’s storage capacity led to 4.73 million acre feet.
PM Modi, while inaugurating the project had said that when the World Bank (which had earlier agreed to fund the project), refused to give loan citing environmental concerns, the temples of Gujarat organised funds for the dam. He also claimed that no other project in the world had so many hurdles.
Today, that dam is flowing at its full reservoir level, it is a moment of pride for Gujaratis. And a humbling one for Prime Minister Modi who ensured the wrongs committed by previous regimes are undone.