Medha Patkar, a popular socialist of today’s times in India, caught the eyes of global leaders. As a social activist, she is behind many good causes. She is known for her active role in Narmada Bachao Andolan. Violence was never in her agitation, those were a complete reconstruction of Gandhiji’s Non-Violence Movement.
Childhood & Education:
Born on 01 December 1954 in Mumbai, to Indu and Vasant Khanolkar, a trade union leader and freedom fighter, Medha Patkar was keen on public service from a very young age. She developed interest in social service. Her father being a trade union leader, she was brought up politically and socially, letting her understand the problems of people. Her father took active part in the Indian Independence Movement, while her mother was member of Swadar, an organization formed to assist and support women who are financially weak, and helped them in getting educated. It was an inherent property for Medha Patker from her parents, to serve the needy.
She completed her M.A in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Science. She got married to Mr. Patkar but divorced later.
The two main events which brought Medha Patkar into limelight were:
- Narmada Bachao Andolan
- Lavasa project (Maharashtra)
And she was an active member to fight against corruption along with Anna hazare.
Narmada Bachao Andolan:
It was after a tribunal’s judgment, granting permission to construct 30 major, 135 medium & 3000 small dams and increasing the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam. In 1985, Medha Patkar along with her colleagues visited the project site. They found it was being shelved by Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt. Of India. The primary concern of Medha Patkar was about the people living in that area. She noticed that the people living there had no information about the project. The second factor was regarding Rehabilitation. Later she took up task of “fasting”, for 22 days, in which she almost dead. In 1993 she repeated the same. Later Narmada Bachao Andolan office was attacked by some politically motivated people in 1994, where they were physically assaulted and verbally abused. They resisted all these attacks on them. Medha Patkar was adamant. Later she filed a petition in The Apex Court (The Supreme Court of India), requesting stoppage of construction works. Court decision was finally in favour of her petition.
Lavasa is a lavish project by Hindustan Construction Corporation, in Maharashtra. It is a yet-to be completed city. This was in news because of Political corruption, environment damage, land acquisition, usage of water resources, etc. Medha Patkar could not resist environmental damage. She filed a PIL-Public Interest Litigation in Supreme Court against the Lavasa project.
She was criticized for not taking part in the konkan area, Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant. She was severely criticized for not volunteering in an agitation against this Nuclear plant. Konkan was her home town. Reportedly, Medha patkat has declined a request from group of medical representatives to be a part of this agitation. The main reason behind her refusal as reported was “She told us that she was busy with her agitation against Sharad Pawar’s Lavasa project and with the Narmada Bachao Andolan”, as told by one of her associates.
Meanwhile many political party leaders approached her seeking her support to fight against the project, but she clearly declined. She quoted the same reason, “I didn’t think at that point that it was a desperate situation. One cannot go for everything. There are other organisations working on this and besides I am busy, not only because of Lavasa but Narmada Bachao Andolan too is taking lot of my time. We are in 20 states now and I have to rush to all places. I hardly sleep for 25 days a month. There is also the Ghar Bachao Andolan where I am fighting for the land rights of Mumbai’s slum dwellers”.
As a result, a news magazine Sunday guardian quoted “Medha fan base shrinks in Konkan”.
Awards and Recognition:
Service rendered by her for the sake of environment and her agitations against the illegal on behalf of the people, gained her many laurels. A few are mentioned below:
- Right Livelihood Award-1991
- M.A.Thomas Vigil national Human Right Award from Vigil Movement-1999
- Human Rights Defender award- Amnesty international.
- Deen Nath mangeshkar Award.
- Mahatma Phule Award.
- Green Ribbon Award by BBC for Best International Political campaigner.
These are very few awards, her recognition list is endless.