By Deepak Lokhande | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Years ago, when I had gone to cover Medha Patkar’s agitation seeking review of Sardar Sarovar dam that would displace thousands of tribals in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, she had asked a question which I then thought was pretty absurd.
“Living in the plush urban settings, you Mumbaikars will never understand the pain of displacement. Wait till the government finds gold or crude in Mumbai and asks you to leave your houses and take the rehabilitation package they are offering to these tribals. We will see you then,” she had said. I had not even bothered to respond.
Almost 15 years later, her words came back to haunt me as one saw Juhu citizens asking MMRDA to the review elevated metro project and consider taking an underground route.
An elevated Metro will cause traffic jams for years and render the road useless for further expansion, they say. MMRDA’s reasoning that it will cost much more and that there is no place to dump the rubble, doesn’t resonate with the residents of Juhu.
If you ask the residents, they will say the government agency is too arrogant. Exactly what Patkar and her colleagues had said about the Maharashtra and Gujarat governments then.
Let’s look at the Jaitapur villagers who will be displaced by the nuclear power plant. The government is willing to pay them ten times the normal rehabilitation package, but they don’t want any of it.
The plant, that is expected to generate 10000MW of electricity, will cause irreparable environment damage and hence they don’t want it in their backyard.
It’s the same issue from Sardar Sarovar, to Juhu and to Jaitapur. But we react to them differently to each of them. Medha Patkar was antinational (she is, even today, to most urban people), Juhu residents are a poor lot who the government must listen to, and Jaitapur villagers should look at the power crunch in the country.
“What more do they want?” is a question most of us will want to ask.
I have a different question: Whose development at whose cost?
Sardar Sarovar oustees fought hard before a rehabilitation package was designed and then gave way to the dam being built.
Today, the waters have brought some respite to some parts of Gujarat (Patkar and her colleagues say that it benefits only the haves).
Elevated Metro will cost much less (about Rs50,000 crore as per the MMRDA claims) and hence could be a viable option. And there is no denying that Maharashtra and indeed, the nation, needs that 10000 MW electricity.