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"The Supreme Court decision has taken the light out of the lives
of these villagers"

Medha Patkar 's name is synonymous with the
Narmada Bachao Andolan. The Supreme Court's
ruling which called for the construction of the dam to continue in spite of widespread protests, has come as
a big blow for her andher team of activists in Barwani, Madhya Pradesh. Shamya Dasgupta caught up with her to get her opinion on what went wrong and what she thinks of the NBA's future course of action.

Barwani, October 22

Were you expecting a decision of this kind at all?
You know what Justice Bharucha has said in his report? His report is just about 30 pages, while the one of Justice Kirpal stretches for over 50 pages. All Kirpal has written in his report is the history of the problems and how nothing related to the construction of the dam will affect the villagers. Bharucha has taken every point put down by Kirpal and questioned their sanctity. Bharucha has written in the beginning that "I am not questioning any
of the points of Kirpal, but that doesn't mean that I am
in agreement with him." The decision is completely
anti-human. And the best part is that the entire world knows who is right and who is wrong. What the Supreme Court decision has done is to show the world the truth
of the Indian judicial system. You asked me whether
I was expecting a decision like this. I will answer that by saying that with the Indian judicial system nobody should expect anything at all. But no; I was expecting the decision to go in our favour. We have done so many surveys and studies and we provided the court with all
the material needed.

What was your initial reaction to the decision?

I was in Bombay with my mother. She is in the hospital and I had to look after her. I didn't believe the decision at first. And then my reaction was that if I go to the valley after this, I am going to be stoned for cheating the people all these years. But all is not lost. We can restart the protests and the agitation and try our best to reverse the decision again.

"Ididn't believe
the decision at
first. And then my reaction was that
if I go to the
valley after this,
I am going to be stoned for cheating
the people all
these years. But
all is not lost "

After visiting all these villages and seeing their reactions to the decision, do you feel that they have lost all hope and are more likely to give in? That is what came across to me.

No, see it is like an accident. When you have an accident, it takes a couple of days to come to terms with it. The decision is only four days old. The whole decision reeks of insensitivity.
And the decision is certainly anti-human rights. The authorities have not done anything substantial in the last 25 years. They have just relocated 20 per cent of the families in Madhya Pradesh, not even rehabilitated, only relocated. Of these, most families were not provided with the kind of land required for a livelihood. The soils on their land were too barren and of low quality for any kind of agricultural activity to take place. Most of these families have returned to their original villages since. And all this was when the height was lower. How do they expect to relocate and rehabilitate so many families, now that the height has been increased further? It is a ridiculous decision and one that will present the highest law enforcement body in the country in very
bad light.

What do you think caused the decision? Do you think that the decision was due to external pressure?
I think that the decision was caused by a combination
of a number of factors. Yes. I think that the government directly or indirectly influenced the decision by putting pressure on them. It is obviously because of their own vested interests. Another thing is that, as per Justice Kirpal's report, the beneficiaries have been included in the decision-making process, which is absolutely wrong. One very wrong hypothesis that the two majority judges took was that they actually said that nothing went wrong in the rehabilitation processes in any of the other similar dam constructions. That is absolutely wrong. They don't have their facts right at all. And not just that, they have actually said that the places and the resettled people
are better off today than they were. See, they may have considered the fact that if work were to be called off completely here, protest groups in other places would also jump up and say, we won't let work happen here. The other thing is that these people sitting here are ignorant about rural India and its issues and complexities. They have probably never come anywhere in the vicinity. There is also a very unhealthy nexus that have formed between the judiciary and executive.

Sonia Gandhi
Chhota Rajan

Sushmita Sen

strologer Uma Shankar Shukla
will be providing
a weekly health
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