Displacement in name of development flayed
CHENNAI: The Guruswami Award for Outstanding Social Work was conferred on Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar here on Monday by the Guruswami Memorial Trust and Guruswami Forum. Ms. Patkar is on a `yatra' across 19 cities along with the National Alliance of People's Movement, of which she is a national convenor, in an attempt to link the struggles of the urban poor for their rights. The yatra concludes in Kolkata on October 28.
Accepting the award, Ms. Patkar condemned the schemes for `urban renewal or infrastructure development,' which displaced people without giving them a voice in the processes of urban development.
The Special Economic Zones were designated `islands' within Indian territory, offering industries spectacular tax exemptions and their own local body. Panchayats in such areas would be wiped out, she said.
The airport expansion plan in Chennai that would displace thousands of people, the proposed `Greater Bangalore' project that would affect several surrounding villages, the Sardar Sarovar Project that would submerge a huge region were all proof of the failure of all arms of governance in the country, she said.
She paid tribute to the late S. Guruswami, former president of the All India Railwaymen's Federation and labour leader. V. Kalyanam, former personal secretary to Mahatma Gandhi, said that following Gandhian values was the only way to wipe out inequality. R. Geetha, Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangam, said Ms. Patkar had succeeded single-handedly in bringing the issue of rehabilitation of the displaced to the fore.