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The Hindu on : NBA is a battle for justice: Medha Patkar

Online edition of India's National Newspaper on
Sunday, May 06, 2001

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NBA is a battle for justice: Medha Patkar

By Our Staff Correspondent

CHITRADURGA, MAY 5. The leader of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), Ms. Medha Patkar, has alleged that the Union Government has produced fake documents to the court over the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), and that it is was duping tribal people by "lying" to them about their rehabilitation.

Speaking at a function after receiving the Basavashree Award, instituted by the Murugharajendra Bruhanmath, here on Saturday she termed the NBA as "dharma yudda" (battle for justice), and said the Union Government had not yet formulated a proper rehabilitation plan for the displaced tribal people.

The award, presented to her by Sri Shivamurthy Murugharajendra Swamiji, comprised Rs. one lakh in cash and a citation. (In terms of cash it is equivalent to the Pampa Award instituted by the Karnataka Government).

Reiterating her crusade against the construction of big dams she said that mini-dams and mini-canals were needed in the country.

Ms. Patkar claimed that the great economist, Chanakya of the Gupta period, and former rulers had advocated the construction of mini-dams and mini-canals, which did not block water in a particular place but instead allowed it to flow and thus re- charge ground water. But the present government policy denied the people the right to use river water, which was the source of life.

The NBA leader said that big dams were destroying the relationship between man and nature. She said the NBA was not against the development of the country, but only insisted that development should be based on equality and social justice.

Cultural threat

Ms. Medha Patkar scoffed at multinationals for ``threatening'' indigenous culture. She said that unwanted products were being produced in the country in the name of industrialisation. The Union Government had adopted a wrong economic policy. It was "selling" the nation to multinationals at the cost of indigenous culture, she added.

Referring to electric power, she said although the Government claimed that one lakh MW of power was being produced, it was reaching only 40 per cent to 60 per cent of the poor. Nearly 90 per cent of the adivasis in the country were deprived of electricity. She said "Chetana" within every human being was greater than any other power. The environment and the "chetana" should be protected and they should exist together.

Ms. Patkar said society should be free from gender and caste discrimination. "Casteism in politics and politicisation of caste is destroying Indian society." She said she was receiving the award on behalf of every activist of the NBA.

Two tribal activists, Mr. Dadalya and Ms. Geetha, of the NBA, were with her when she received the award. Mr. Dadalya alleged that the Centre had decided to implement the Sardar Sarovar Project without consulting the tribal people.

The Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Mr. V.Srinivasa Prasad, and the Chairman of the Kannada Development Authority, Prof. Baraguru Ramachandrappa, were present.


Mr. Srinivasa Prasad said that most maths in the country were discriminating against dalits. He said untouchability still existed in Hinduism and many swamijis were not making an effort to eradicate the evil. However, he said the Murugharajendra Bruhanmath was an exception in this regard.

Referring to a documentary, Caste At Birth, produced by a foreign woman on the condition of dalits in the country, he said that it dealt with the severity of unteachability in the country. Although the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) propagated Hinduism, it was unable to curb untouchability. The minister said he had discussed this aspect with Sri Vishwesha Theertha Swamiji of the Udupi Ashtamaths recently.

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