Ramaswamy Iyer: Ode to a legend in the Hydrology – Ecology Sector
New Delhi, September 10 : NAPM, NBA and various associated movements, organizations and concerned citizens are deeply pained at the demise of Ramaswamy Iyer-ji, whose decades of engagement with issues of water management, environmental and pro-people development across the country remain as an unforgettable source of light and strength to all of us.
As one of the few bureaucrats in the Water Resources Ministry, who not only handled but contributed significantly as the Secretary, his clear vision on numerous issues be it on the costs – benefits of large scale irrigation projects, the implications of river-linking, the environmental impacts of large projects etc, with a clear scientific as well as rights-based approach was a valuable contribution.
His remarkable openness to engage with the issues raised from the ground, his profound understanding of water woes across the spectrum of legal, social and political dynamics, his significant role in the process of evolution of international treaties on water law, his pertinent analysis, hard-hitting questions in a soft-spoken manner, were few of the many strengths of Ramawamy-ji.
His unique strength also lied in the fact that he never came across as “anti-establishment”, although he challenged the establishment at every stage, with his convincing analysis and feisty factual knowledge. Until his last breath, he has been writing articles, books and reviews, a treasure for one and all.
At Narmada Bachao Andolan, we still remember how, as a key official in the Water Ministry, way back in 1993, he patiently sat through the proceedings of the 5-Member Review Committee and worked as the Committee’s backbone, painstakingly trying to understand and later convince himself and other members of the costs and benefits of the SSP. The Report of the 5-Member Group is nothing short of a classic.
We can never forget how Iyer ji stayed for the entire 3-days in the Narmada valley with his family, during the mega events marking the 25 years of the struggle, interacting and expressing solidarity with the tribals and farmers in the hills and plains. As a petitioner before the Supreme Court in the Narmada petition, filed along with other eminent citizens such as Prof. Upendra Baxi, Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander, BD Sharma, etc, he questioned the unconstitutionally of displacement by offer of meagre cash compensation to the Sardar Sarovar oustees.
Equally respected both by the State, civil society and people’s movements, a man of such erudition and with an unflinching commitment towards people’s causes is rare in today’s times. In this moment of incalculable loss to the entire progressive community in India and elsewhere, we stand in solidarity with all his near and dear ones. Today, we need more and many more people like Ramaswamy ji to battle the lies and in the name of development. We miss you Ramaswamy ji, but vow to keep up the struggle for our rivers, natural resources and people dependent on it.
Medha Patkar – Narmada Bachao Andolan and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM); Prafulla Samantara – Lok Shakti Abhiyan & Lingraj Azad – Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM, Odisha; Dr. Sunilam, Aradhna Bhargava – Kisan Sangharsh Samiti & Meera – Narmada Bachao Andolan, NAPM, MP; Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe – NAPM, Maharashtra; Gabriel Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN; C R Neelkandan – NAPM Kerala; P Chennaiah & Ramakrishnan Raju – NAPM Andhra Pradesh, Arundhati Dhuru, Richa Singh – NAPM, UP; Sister Celia – Domestic Workers Union & Rukmini V P, Garment Labour Union, Maj Gen (Retd) Sudhir Vombatkere, NAPM, Karnataka; Vimal Bhai – Matu Jan sangathan & Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand; Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant – Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat; Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan & Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar; Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, NAPM Haryana; Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan; Amitava Mitra & Sujato Bhadra, NAPM West Bengal; B S Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini & Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar and Shabnam Shaikh– NAPM, Delhi
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