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The Hindu on : Dams and development

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Wednesday, August 11, 1999

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Dams and development

Sir, - Ms. Gail Omvedt has rightly pointed out in her two-part article, ``Dams and bombs'' (TheHindu, Aug. 4 and 5) the inherent flaws in many of today's environment movements - the NBA in particular. Most of the development projects, dams in particular, with their focus on natural resources have been at the cost of tribal and other peripheral communities. Seen in this context, the aggressive posture adopted by the anti-dam activists seems just and rightful. But this is where apparent logic ought to give way to deeper vision. Development, the industrial version of it, is a necessary and inevitable agent of social change. No sane reader of history can discount the positive impact the tea industry has had on the lives of people in the hilly areas, mostly tribals. Ms. Omvedt is right when she says that such form of development, if not obsessed with bigness but development all the same, is what restructures the social and individual lives of these communities. The NBA, while guilty of projecting a skewed picture of the Sardar Sarovar Project, is doubly wrong when it fails to provide concrete alternatives. Smaller projects under local administration, given the caste structure, will ultimately work against the same people whom the NBA is trying to protect now.

Ms. Arundhati Roy, with her rhetoric against the SSP, has but glamorised an already elite travel all the way from town to enlighten the rural folk on the benign beauty of primitive innocence, after which they go back home - to the town. Stretching Ambedkar's view to the extreme, I would say that the Dalits and the Bahujans would benefit not by being in the countryside but in the city, whether they go there willingly or are thrown in.

U. N. Sudheer,

Chalakudy (Kerala)

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