2 DECEMBER 2000
24 Seven information
|FLOODS WERE ‘DAM-MADE,’ SAYS MEDHA|
By Our Correspondent
Kolkata, Dec. 1|
Medha Patkar has only one problem about Kolkata: Arre, Bangal mein to koi mujhe kaam karne hi nahi dete. Far cry that from what people are used to hearing: Arre Bangal mein to koi kaam hi nahi karta hai.
In fact, the people of Bengal work too hard for Medha. “People won’t even let me carry my own bags here,” she complained. Known for her crusading passion, not being allowed to work by various NGO activists here is “awkward” for Medha. Some activists have even mobbed her for autographs something she finds strange.
And talking of dams her favourite subject she minces no words. “The recent floods in the state should be an eye-opener, the widespread devastation was caused by the failure of the Tilpar and Massanjore barrages. It is all a question of flood management and not flood control, big dams are never a solution for anything,” she said before rattling out a host of statistics in support of her argument.
Most development projects in the country are lopsided and the benefit does not reach the grassroots, said Ms Patkar who has done her doctorate in development economics. When asked to comment on the recent floods which were described as “man-made” by a certain section of the political spectrum, Ms Patkar replied they were certainly “dam-made”.
Ms Patkar has a lumbar problem and, therefore, cannot sit on chairs. She either stands or just flops on the floor. But there is no let up in her convictions.
“The governments have used force to remove the people from the dam site, in many cases entire villages have been submerged. The argument is that the number of people who are affected is far less than those who are benefited, but I think when it is a question of life, comparison in numbers is unfair” she said.
Dams have been her passion for the last fifteen years and she still feels her efforts to stop the Sardar Sarovar Project will be successful.
“The recent judgement has definitely been a set back but now we are going ahead with another section of our programme which includes a review petition in the court,” she said. She believes the final solution for the SSP will be to stop work immediately and leave the unfinished dam as “a monument” .
She also spoke out against the proposed nuclear power plant in West Bengal. “The future of the country is not in big nuclear plants but in micro gobar gas plants. None of the affected villages get electricity from these plants while it is the big cities which benefit. If you think I am talking of the eighteenth century, I must tell you this is what will happen in the twenty third century,” she argues rather forcefully.
Of late, the Magsaysay award winner has spoken stridently about court judgements, specially the ones that have allowed construction to continue at the SSP. “I am told that my criticism can be construed as contempt of court but if courts cannot protect a citizen’s right to life, I think they should be held responsible for contempt of the constitution,” she said.
Ms Patkar strongly feels the recent turn of events could be the handiwork of some corporate houses, which for once, wanted to put an end to all such movements.
“I am convinced the corporate house were responsible for all this,” she said. She also ruled out any possibility of her joining electoral politics. “Parliament is nothing but a costly tamasha,” she signs off.