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The Hindu on : Dams & activism

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Tuesday, May 09, 2000

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Dams & activism

Sir, - I read with bemused interest certain lopsided arguments presented by Mr. P. V. Indiresan in his write-up ``Dams & Activism'' (The Hindu, May 5).

On the issue of infringement of property rights, the author is of the opinion that ``though the total quantum of infringements is much less with big dams than with small ones, the issue stands out only in the case of large dams. Something similar happens in an aircrash which causes huge dismay, but the far larger numbers that get killed daily in road accidents do not cause even a ripple. The same is happening with large dams. If the objective is minimising displacement, anti-dam activists should be against small dams, not against high ones!'' By that logic, we should be agitated by daily killings in the Kashmir valley by Pak-sponsored terrorists but ignore large-scale aggression by Pakistan as happened in Kargil.

Lamenting on the misplaced notion (of his) that civil engineers aren't any more ``worshipped'', the author wonders if, like big dams, ``the same fate overtakes information technology''... with demands for ``down with computers... down with the cultural pollution of the internet.'' The answer could be yes if intrusion into private homes of undesirable information to pollute impressonable minds, or because of increasing plagiarism of some authors' works through this medium, becomes uncheckable and widespread.

Calling all anti-dam agitators as people with zero-competence on technical decisions, I think the author made a sweeping generalisation. And lastly, his simplistic argument (favouring large-scale eviction of tribals) that the most glorious pages of human progress have always been preceded by the trauma of migration, forced or assisted, is ill-founded logic. Ask the Kashmiri pandits, the Sri Lankan Tamils, or any of the post-'47 riot victims, and the author will get a fitting reply.

J. Banerjee,


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