BHOPAL: Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Bala Bachchan on Tuesday claimed the Sardar Sarovar Dam was filled up to the full reservoir level "ahead of its schedule" to facilitate celebration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's birthday at the project site in adjoining Gujarat.
He said this disturbed the relief and rehabilitation works underway in the areas in Madhya Pradesh submerged under the dam water.
Modi, who turned 69 on Tuesday, visited Kevadiya in Gujarat to take part in the 'Namami Narmada' festival being celebrated by the western state's government to mark the filling up of the Sardar Sarovar Dam (SSD) to its full reservoir level of 138.68 metres.
Bachchan claimed that according to the Narmada Control Authority's (NCA) schedule, the dam was to be filled up to its full reservoir level by mid-October.
"However, it was filled to the full level nearly a month ahead of its schedule so that the prime minister could celebrate his birthday at the site," he told reporters here.
This change of schedule has disturbed the relief and rehabilitation works underway in the areas submerged under the dam water in four districts of MP, he said.
"It would have been better if Modiji had paid attention to the Madhya Pradesh's people affected due to the Sardar Sarovar Dam's backwaters," he said.
The prime minister should have sanctioned immediate relief to these people, he said, adding the Centre had earlier promised Madhya Pradesh proper rehabilitation of the dam- affected people "but it was not yet fulfilled".
Bachchan's charge was repeated by his cabinet colleague, Public Relations Minister PC Sharma, who accused the BJP government in Gujarat of ignoring the interests of Madhya Pradesh, ruled by the Congress.
"The Sardar Sarovar Dam was to be filled at a rate of 30 centimetres every 48 hours. But the Gujarat government ensured it was filled much faster. The dam reached its highest water level of 138.68 metres now when it should have reached this mark in mid-October," Sharma claimed.
"The flood crisis in MP has been created by the Gujarat government," he said, adding the neighbouring state was yet to pay MP Rs 10,000 crore under various heads like forest and revenue land that is part of the submergence area of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
He went on to claim that the Centre has withheld disbursal of another Rs 10,000 crore meant for MP at the behest of former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and other BJP leaders so that they can politicise the issue.
Taking the fight over the state's floods to the Kamal Nath government, Chouhan demanded a white paper on "excessive" water storage in the Gandhi Sagar Dam on the Chambal river in Madhya Pradesh.
This excessive storage, he claimed, led to flooding in Mandsaur and Neemuch districts, where thousands of people had to be shifted to safer places.
Stating that the water level of the dam is fixed for the months of July, August and September, Chouhan said the floods were a "man-made crisis and not a natural calamity".
"The flood in Neemuch and Mandsaur could have been avoided if sluice gates of the Gandhi Sagar Dam were opened in time. But the administration was sleeping," the former chief minister alleged.
Residents of nearly 178 villages in MP's Barwani, Dhar, Alirajpur and Khargone districts were affected due to the SSD's backwaters, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar told PTI on Monday.
The NBA is demanding that the gates of the dam, built on the Narmada river, be opened immediately given that its backwaters have partially or fully flooded 178 villages in Madhya Pradesh.
The floodgates of the dam were closed on June 17, 2017, 56 years after the foundation stone of the project was laid by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
For the first time since the height of the dam was raised in 2017, the water level reached its highest peak at 138.68 m on Sunday evening.