Posted Thursday , April 06, 2006 at 11:13
Updated Thursday , April 06, 2006 at 12:58
New Delhi: Medha Patkar or Medha tai (aunt) – as she is popularly known – has been fighting for the right to life and livelihood of those sections of people who get nudged to the sidewalks of life in a nation’s search for growth and prosperity.
Her odyssey, spanning 21 years, is a struggle against an unjust system that deprives common people – especially the natural resource-based communities – who pay the cost for the benefit of those who already have much more with them.
Hers is a philosophy focussed on achieving marginalised people their rights. The following words, her own, best reflect her wisdom, her vision and the meaning of life according to her.
“I have raised the issue of mega projects, the development planning, democratic and human rights, economics and corruption of monetary and natural resources by such projects and suggested that just and sustainable alternatives in water, energy and other sectors are possible,” says she.
“Most of those that I work with in the Valley are going to lose their lands, their homes, their forests, their community, their culture and indeed, their very identity because of this project. I have taken up their cause because I can feel their loss, I can identify with them they are indeed like my family. I will continue to fight for them in every forum and in every way that I can.”
Patkar was born on December 1, 1954 in Mumbai. Her father was a freedom fighter and later a trade unionist. Her mother worked in a women’s organisation named Swadhar.
After earning an MA in social work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, she worked with voluntary organisations in Bombay slums for five years as well as the tribal districts of North-East Gujarat for two years.
She left her position on the faculty of Tata Institute of Social Sciences as well as her unfinished PhD when she got immersed in the tribal and peasant communities in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat – which she eventually organised as the Narmada Bachao Andolan.