The Sardar Sarovar Dam which is the centerpiece of the multi-billion dollar Narmada Valley development project, one of India’s most grand schemes that are expected to provide water and power to millions of people in four states was finally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his 67th birthday on Sunday.
Modi while addressing a rally at the Dam site had said that no other project in the world has faced so many hurdles as this “engineering miracle” which many people had “conspired to stop”.
He dedicated the dam to the nation and said that India finished the job despite the objections of environmentalists and the World Bank.
He added, “Many false allegations were hurled on us. Many people conspired to stop this project. But we were determined not to take make it a political battle. I have knowledge (‘kacha chittha’) of everyone who tried to stall this project, but I will not name them as I do not want to go that route. ”
These statements did not go down very well with the Congress. The party’s media in-charge Randeep Surjewala said Modi had to indulge in “misconceived electoral hype, hyperbole, and hoopla by yet again inaugurating the Sardar Sarovar Dam”.
“Using the world’s second largest dam built by efforts of Congress party and people of Gujarat as an electoral gimmick has become the centerpiece of BJP’s ‘Gujarat Model’: for this is the only tangible project that would ameliorate people’s conditions, when actually completed,” he said.
The committed project has run into inter-state disputes, land acquisition and environmental problems and the rehabilitation and resettlement of those displaced by the project—issues that had a polarizing effect on the country.
It also saw the birth of a massive movement against the dam, the Narmada Bachao Andolan, led by activist Medha Patkar. The agitation prompted the World Bank to withdraw lending to the project and consider it afresh.
Unable to meet the revised standards set by World Bank, the Indian government decided to forgo the bank’s funding in March 1993.