Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, the economist cum columnist, has recently made honest comment, in his weekly column, on the deceitful activity of a well-known environmental activist with whom he collaborated during the Narmada Bachao Andolan time. Very rarely do people own their mistakes more so in public. In that sense Swaminathan Aiyar is an exception and his confessional column needs reach readers with a comment on the ‘activists’ and their ‘activism’.
Swaminathan Aiyar titled his article “Medha Patkar was wrong about the Narmada project” and went on to explain why he came to that conclusion. His conclusion on Medha Patkar’s wrong doings is not based on heresy but basing on the results of a research project, he undertook, funded by the London School of Economics. Neeraj Kaushal of Columbia University was the collaborator of the project. They made a comparative study of the living conditions of those tribals who were rehabilitated by the Gujarat government with that of those tribal people who were still living in the forest dwellings. It was after this empirical work that Aiyar’s explosive comment on Medha Patkar and her role to stall the dams across Narmada River was presented. The environmental activists led by Medha Patkar did a relentless battle against the development of parched areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan. Every action starting from the conception of the project to the foundation laying, the government projected benefits through the Narmada dams were challenged both in public domain as well as in courts. The result was the project delay, escalation of the costs and spread of fear through the minds of tribal communities. Innocent tribal people were used as cannons to fire against Gujarat government and those tribals were made to suffer through the delayed benefits.
The reasons Aiyar gave should open the eyes of thousands of blind followers of ‘activists’. The followers are made to believe that the ‘activists’ are right and the government’s developmental activities are detrimental to the people. For the Indian ‘activists’ whose activities are supported by the countries, agencies which are inimical to India and its progress. The western countries still retain the Churchilian mind of pre-1947 where the belief of “India not fit to be self-rule, can’t progress with native rulers”. The self-sufficient activities of nationalistic leaders are anathema to these western countries and its funding agencies. Since India chose to progress in its own way and overcome the obstacles in the way of development, the western thinkers are worried. More so since BJP started dominating the Indian political scene with their strong nationalistic narrative starting with Gujarat. Narendra Modi who took over the reins of Gujarat and chartered a new path with innovative ideas and developed a new successful Gujarat developmental model the ‘activists’ and NGO’s in India are engaged to run down the Nationalist forces and their development model. The negative mindset of ‘activists’ succeeded earlier because of the collaborative UPA. The anarchic activists were given prime place in Sonia Gandhi headed advisory council to Manmohan Singh government. Since 2014, when Narendra Modi came on the national scene the ‘activists’ and ‘NGO businessmen’ are made answerable to the laws of the land. This action on the part of the Modi government is causing huge loss to the business of activism and NGO work. With illegal funding successfully tracked and curbed, the ‘activists’ are starved and suddenly turned silent. They are now busy with reconstructing their account books to avoid the wing of Economic offences which is more active under Modi.
Who are these activists and NGO runners? What are their qualifications and motives in running such organisations? ‘Activism’ is a mysterious activity and ‘activists’ are suspects. They are not for protecting the national interest but to create schisms in the Indian society. For the ‘activists’ service is a façade to hide their nefarious anti-national activities. The deceit, dishonesty of many such organisations is well exposed in recent times. In the name of ‘human rights’ mobilising people against the democratically elected governments was done. Some other NGOs are into the business of conversions and some other are training the religious terrorists. The nexus between these organisations and activists is open. The link of Urban Naxals with jungle Maoists is well documented.
There are many profession in this country. By the very name of the profession we know the job they do. Everyone knew what a goldsmith do or what a ironsmith do. But we are not sure what an activist do. Is that a paid profession? If so who pays them? We all know that each profession needs a kind of skills to do and for a job there is a prescribed academic qualification. In both cases there will be an appointing authority and also a scrutiny for the eligibility before the responsibility is assigned. Once placed in the position the person is expected to do that with responsibility and is also answerable to some authority.
Compare this with that of professional ‘activists’. No academic qualification, no scrutiny, not answerable to any one on the actions and finances. They are against peace in the society and any kind of developmental activity to the benefit of the poor and deserving. All those organisations under the banner of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) caused havoc by dragging the Dams across Narmada River to the court and delaying the project by several years. In fact the world funding agencies were given all negative reports by these organisations. The Gujarat government was forced to give up the World Bank Funding and build the dam with their own resources acquired at a very high interest rates which one time threatened that financial viability of the state Gujarat. That the state survived and reaped all the benefits of the Sardar Sarovar Dam because of the tenacity and imaginative management of finances by Narendra Modi government.
What did Medha Patkar and her brand of ‘activists’ achieved by delaying the Narmada projects? All their contentions were rejected by the Supreme Court of India and all theirs projections ultimately proved wrong. Medha Patkar projected, post Sardavar Sarovar Dam execution, “the tribals will fail to cope with the commercial life in resettlement villages. They will get trapped in debt, lose their land, and become paupers in urban slums, with their women becoming prostitutes”. Medha Patkar further said that “the water through the Dam will benefit the rich farmers near the canals and no water will ever reach needy farmers in areas like Kutch”.
Swaminathan Aiyar after visiting the irrigated area concede that he along with many intellectuals were carried away by the persuasive speeches of Medha Patkar arguments and unnecessarily wrote against the Sardar Sarovar Project. He saw the benefits the farmers and tribals now enjoying in Gujarat. The irrigation now done through sprinklers and drip irrigation is more efficient than conventional canal irrigations. The resettled tribals are far better off in ownership of land, dwellings, tractors, bore wells, TVs, motor cycles, cell phone and other parameters. Tribals have better access to schools, hospitals, drinking water, electricity and government offices. The tribal culture is intact and not disturbed. Even those who stayed back in forest now say that they are ready to move out if the same compensation is offered. The forest dwelling tribes were also reaped the benefits through Dam related activities and water availability through reservoirs.
Should the country still allow these ‘activists’ to create havoc in this country’s developmental plans? The negative mentality of the ‘activists’ has to be challenged by the ground level beneficiaries of the developmental projects. The ordinary people should see the change in the government’s sincerity. Unlike the earlier Congress lead governments where common people were left to fend themselves during the projects implementation this governments lead by Narendra Modi and other BJP governments in various states are prioritising the benefits to the common man. This is high time the nation realise the inherent dangers involved in the Urban Naxal activists and their activity.
By Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao