Jal Satyagrah in Sitapur: Demand to stop erosion without delay

[Images] [हिंदी] About thousand villagers in Reusa Block, Sitapur, staged a Jal Satyagrah by getting down into the waters of river Sharda and standing there all day long on 25-26 February 2013. They were demanding immediate action by the government to start work to stop erosion lest their villages and fields may again get submerged and destroyed by the fury of the swelling river. A population of 50,000 people residing in 20-25 villages are threatened to be displaced by the rising and shifting waters of river Sharda.

"About 800 families are living on roadside for the last two years on a road which abruptly ends over river Sharda in Reusa Block. Their villages have been erased from the face of earth as the furious Sharda changed its course by 7 kms over several years. However, the Sitapur district administration or the UP government do not have any plans either to arrest the erosion due to Sharda, which threatens to engulf more people in the coming monsoon, or to rehabilitate the people uprooted over the past years. Even the relief administration has doled out is pittance such as Rs 2000 for those who lost their hut, and the people really consider it a disgrace to their dignity," said Arundhati Dhuru, senior social activist and national convener of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM).

As per the records of the Tehsil, 2074 houses were wiped away due to river fury in 2010-2011 and 4 people died. In 2011-2012, 1040 houses were wiped away by swelling river waters which included: 123 pukka houses, 89 kachcha houses, and about 850 huts, said Richa Singh, who is leading the protest under the banner of Katan Roko Sangharsh Morcha.

Over the last half a century Sharda has devoured many villages in four Blocks of Sitapur District - Reusa, Sakran, Rampur Mathura and Behata. Villages which have been completely erased include Kashipur, Senapur and Mallapur among others.

People have even committed suicide out of sheer frustration and hopelessness. About 5 people committed suicide in the past one year, said Richa Singh. Over a period of time, more than 1500 families have been displaced. Another person, Sudhakar, died during a meeting of displaced people on 22nd October 2012.

Although the district administration has assured that they are acting upon the demand, but no work has commenced to stop erosion and protect people from fury of river Sharda.

People are demanding that the state government must sanction Rs 3.52 crores to irrigation department so that work to stop erosion in river Sharda can begin immediately. Although this is a temporary measure but nevertheless a very important one to provide immediate relief to the local community. Richa Singh told Citizen News Service - CNS that this measure of putting ‘geo-bags’ in river Sharda will protect a population of 50,000 people living in 20-25 villages.

Witnessing the resolve of villagers who have been facing displacement repeatedly year after year to unite and stage a non-violent, peaceful and powerful protest against the insensitive administration, has certainly left an indelible mark on me. Hope this melts the apathy in the state government and sanity prevails.

Bobby Ramakant, Citizen News Service - CNS
February 2013

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