Tuesday, August 31, 2010

31st Aug 2010
Sharmila left at 7:30am for Bombay.
I Washed the bike, and packed all my clothes that were fresh and clean thanks to the washing machine.
After breakfast, left at 10:30am for Sagar,( Madhya Pradesh). 

Have to admit the roads from Pathraad to Bhopal and Bhopal to Sagar were really good.
Shrikant had given me a contact of Mr. R.N.Khare in Sagar. He had been a government employee- the Regional Organiser, Fisheries, Sagar Division.
He gave me this information:The fishing community displaced by the Rani Avantibai Sagar reservoir formed by the Bargi dam is as follows (30 big dams are proposed on the Narmada Sardar Sarovar, the three dams I wrote about yesterday Maheshwar, Omkareshwar, Indirasagar  and Bargi are amongst these see  map below)

19 villages from Jabalpur  zilla, 48 from Sivani zilla and 95 from Mandala zilla- altogether one lakh people were displaced. They were given monetary compensation which was not enough. The people had no means of livelihood they were not allowed to fish in the reservoir. Protests continued. On 20th Sept 1992 a huge rally of fishing boats sailed on the Narmada for 50 km and landed at Bargi. More than 350 boats participated. Many of these protestors were jailed. In 1993 when Madhya Pradesh was under the Presidents rule ( After the demolition of the Babri Mosque) The Governor Kuwar Mehmood Ali agreed to the demands of the protestors. As a measure of rehabilitation, he not only allowed them to fish in the reservoir, but gave them 20% ownership to the catch. i.e if they caught 100 tons of fish, they had to pay the Govt a royalty of Rs. 6 per ton on 80 tons and 20 tons was theirs for free. He also initiated the forming of fishing co-operative societies. 54 co-op socs were formed- each having 25 members (fishermen) When Digvijay Singh came to power he up held the Governor’s decision for rehabilitation of the fisher folk.

Mr. Khare who was now retired from his Govt job, was invited by the NBA because of his sympathies and his experience and expertise to form and manage these Co-operatives, (known as the Bargi dam displaced fishing and marketing co-operative society limited)
Mr. Khare fished out a report that was published and gave me this statistical information: From 6-10-94 to  31-05-95 471.755 tons of fish was caught.                                             
80% of this = 377.404 tons @ Rs. 6/- per ton = Rs 22,64,424/- This amount was paid to the Govt. and the fisher folk earned a profit of Rs.18,87,020/-
In 1998 the Govt. took over the co-operatives and gave the fishing rights to private companies. A terrific instance of successful rehabilitation was axed for no justifiable reason. Protests followed but to no gains. The fishermen are now employed to catch fish and paid Rs. 17 /kg while the same is marketed by the fishing companies for Rs. 100/- to125/- per kilo. The Governments share of earning has also gone down to half of what it received from the co-operatives!
We had tea looking at some old photographs of the working of the Co-op societies. Taking his recommendation on where to spend the night went to look for lodging 

Monday, August 30, 2010

30th Aug 2010
I spent the night at Radheshyam Patidar’s residence. I slept on a huge wooden swing… slightest movement and it would rock in all directions it was like sleeping on a cloud!
In the morning at 5:00am I woke up with a start- the village temple began blaring songs from B grade Hindi devotional films... one decibel higher and I am sure it would have cracked all the three dams in the area! The music stopped at 5:30 but by then my sleep was pulverized beyond salvage. I lay on my cloud, swinging myself and thinking of what Radheshyamji had told me last evening.
The present village used to be further down by the river. In 1962 there was a major flood and the villagers decided to shift the whole village away from the river. The fishermen and the boatmen stayed put, while the other communities moved and rebuilt the village brick by brick in 1965. The houses are lined neatly along a wide central street and an 80 feet by 80 feet square and a temple at the end. They thought they had moved to a safer ground.
Had tea and got ready to move, bid my good byes and as I was about the move, the engine died! The ignition lights went off!  I had taken a two day intensive crash course at the Enfield service centre - a one stop biker’s paradise at grant road-. (Harsh Sheth and Mustafa of ‘Spark Motion Bikers’ and their team of mechanics-Dinanath, Ziyad, and chotu had taught me all the basic mechanics and repairs of the bike. In fact Harsh was amazing when I went to meet him he just took over… planning what I have to learn, take with me, making lists, organizing all the spares etc giving me all the advice and tips…check them out at www.sparkmotion.in - thanks Harsh!) wow that sounded like a commercial break!! Coming back to Rocinante, I got into diagnostic mode and quickly checked the fuse; it HAD poped! Replaced it and left Pathraad. As I was about 100 km away from Bhopal, an Innova drove up and cut me- a woman’s hand waving frantically … to my astonishment it was Sharmila! (the woman I am married to!)
She had planned to fly to Bhopal and surprise me! She missed her flight got on to the next one going to Indore and took a taxi to Bhopal! We had spoken an hour ago and she knew I was on the same road … she was looking out for me and found me! Totally Bollywood!
Reached Bhopal spending the night at Nirmala Sharma’s (a ceramic artist and friend) place.

29th August

Got up at about 6 and started completing yesterday’s backlog on the blog. We were to leave at 7:30am. Medha Tai wanted us to go to Raj Ghat a memorial to Gandhi. And then to Chikhalda a village across from there on the other side of the Narmada. There they had organized a send off for me! We had tea and Breakfast at Bhagirath Bhai’s place and went to the village square.

 We stood in a circle and small sweet ceremony ensued – Medha Tai introduced me, Kamlu Jiji gifted me a cloth bag made by women from a workshop in Bombay of the displaced urban poor.
 I spoke about my project , and amidst slogans “Tushar Bhai Age Badho Hum Tumhare Sath Hai” (Tushar Bhai  go right ahead, we are with you) and “Tushar Bhai Konna se… Amra se Bhai Amra se” (Tushar Bhai is one of us) I left for Nandra. About 90 Kms away.
Shrikant had contacted the people in two villages and arranged meetings for me as well as fixed my lunch and stay. First time in 6 days the Rain Gods caught up with me soaked me to the bone
At Nandra, met Jagdish Bhai Patidar, and Hariram (from Gogawa village affected by the Maheshwar dam), Lalchandji Patidar, Tarachand Patidar,Karansing Patel, Roopchand Bhai,Vikramsing Chauhan (from Nandra) and Kailash Patidar (from Karondia affected by the canals of the Omkareshwar dam) 

Before the meeting began, I was welcomed with a garland and a long sugarcane, each of them gave me a cob of corn … I was thoroughly embarrassed.
Nandra is affected by the Canals of the Omkareshwar Dam. Lands are going to be acquired for building of canals which the villagers are resisting. Of the area that is claimed as would be brought under irrigation by these canals, 75 % is already irrigated. They are asking for a review of the planning before proceeding with the building as they feel they will lose their lands in vain as the canals are superfluous. Apart from the land acquired for the canals there is a danger of the un-acquired adjoining land getting waterlogged due to the canals.

Had lunch at Lalchandji’s house and I went on to Pathraad 4 Km away to meet Radheshyam Patidar, he was very well informed about all the issues concerning  the dams in the area, local and global politics…
Maheshwar dam will adversely affect 61 villages, of which only one village has been resettled (successfully) whereas the work on the dam has reached 90% to completion. Total area affected by this dam is 872 hectares, of which 106 hectares is in the village of Pathraad and by its canals is 900 hectares. Again this area is already 100% under irrigation thus making the canals redundant.
All the people I met today are from a very affluent and fairly educated farming community, (in fact the boys of the younger generation are studying or have completed their graduation and some even post graduation). they are well aware of their rights, unlike the adivasi (indigenous) farmers I met yesterday and day before.

28th Aug 2010
Left Dhadgaon at 7.30am
I headed for the rehabilitation site at Chikhl, Madhya Pradesh, 43 km from Dhadgaon. Chetan had given me directions till Masavad where someone would come to pick me up and take me to the site.
Kona Pawra came just as I was reaching the spot. He told me to wait till he poped inj the market. I thought I could grab some breakfast while he did that… breakfast quickly gobbled, not wanting to cause any delays, I sat on the bike ready to leave..A crowd of people gathered around me because of the side car… I had to answer all sorts of queries about myself and the bike.
At the rehabilitation site at Chikhli, I met Oarsing Guruji, Rahadya Pawra, Manglya Pawra, and Sukhlal Guruji. Between them they told me that they were shifted here in 2007
70 families have been allotted houses and farm plots…
of these12 from Bhadal Village, 3 from Atti, 2 from Udaddya and 1 from Sawariya… these 18 families have brought their building materials from the old house and rebuilt their houses.
The rest are living in transit camps on site for the past 3 years… these are made of tin sheets making them excellent ovens in summer months but kind of difficult to live in… there are no proper drains or sanitation facilities- for 3years… there has been no electricity- for 3years and no water connections to the houses- for 3years There are 4 hand pumps for 70 families, of which 3 have been broken- for the past 2years. There is no electricity as the person from whom the land was acquired had defaulted majorly on his electricity bills so the line was cut, the back log of payment remains to be cleared- for the past 3years.
The people who have built their own house were to be provided roof tiles by the government, they have not yet got them. Some went and bought their own so that they could shift in. The others are living with plastic sheets or hay on the roofs which is not a complete relief from the rain but they cant not live there as their belongings and other wood for further building is lying in the plot and if they were to live in the transit camp till the tiles arrived then their other belongings could be stolen.
The plots are a flat piece of land punctuated only by defunct electricity poles, and a very tall and a very dry water tank    what a striking contrast from the rolling lush green slopes of the Satpudas, the ample trees to collect fruit and honey and resin from, and the ever flowing Mother of rivers with it’s bounty full fish.
With such blazing precedents which sane person would want the rehabilitation package… nicely wrapped in paper that has corruption written all over and tied with a pretty bow of red tape?
Left for Badwani the NBA office in Madhya Pradesh… a 150 km journey that should have I taken me at the most 3 hours took me 7 hours …
I was really really worried about Rocinante, and praying this does not take a toll on it’s suspensions and front fork which takes the load of the sidecar… The Three Gorges Dam was still a long way.
But how much can I complain about the road or its non existence! While I inched along with deep furrows on my city bred forehead and expletives on my lips, I was amazed to see fellow riders with women and children, friends riding pillion with big smiles or in casual conversations.
Reached Badwani at 6:00 pm. The NBA office is a live-in office… everybody lives and works from there- from Medhatai to student interns to visitors. Asentered the office a French team that was making a film on the andolan was leaving the office, Shreekant another old acquaintance from the NBA greeted me over a pile of papers and files with a “Zindabad”(a customary greeting )  Medha Tai was on the phone, when she saw me she had a warm smile and with an approving nod pointed to a seat. She got up still in conversation about some irrigation canals, and got me a glass of water.
I freshened up had tea and started to crack the uploading of images on the blog with limited default software on the new laptop… which I had yet to figure (hence the first blog has only 2 images very high rez which took eons to upload)
Had a chat with Medha Tai about the current status, between talking to me, and on numerous phone calls including some from TV channels asking for comments, she was issuing instructions for what and how much to make for dinner. Shegave me some books and reports to go through. Later she tied me a Rakhi and rushed to the kitchen to cut cucumbers and tomatoes while we watched her on NDTV India arguing against the proposed amendments to the bill on land acquisition, and in favour of Development Planning Displacement and Rehabilitation Policy which was prepared by National Advisory Council.
Dinner was kadhi, khichadi and salad. After dinner Medha Tai before we knew it got busy doing the dishes, cleaning the mess of papers, clothes, folding mats …There were 12 of us -4 students from Tata Institute of Social Science, 2 from Delhi and other volunteers and full-timers- any of us could have done the chores she kept doing in her overstretched physical and mental faculties but she insisted… there was nothing that was of lesser importance.


Friday, August 27, 2010

 27th Aug 2010
Rajendra Gunya Pawra came to pick me up at 7:00 am. We loaded a 40 litre diesel can into the side car and set off for Bilgaon. After negotiating 20 km of pockmarked and curvaceous roads we reached the hamlet. We parked the bike at a friend’s place and struggled down the valley with the diesel can to the bank of the river Uday (this further joins the Narmada). A boat that belongs to the NBA was to take us to the submerged Adivasi villages Anjanwada(30 km upstream on the Narmada) and Bhitada (15 km from Anjanwada). Shivlya the boatman (he should actually have been called Godot) arrived after my sweat drenched clothes had almost dried. We charged the boat with the diesel and began chugging on the river over submerged adivasi villages. Varvali, Busha, Sakarja, Sadri, Udadya were all now under water. The inhabitants of these villages were now all dispersed. Their rehabilitation embroiled in corruption and exploitation. After an hour and a half we reached Anjanwada. But all the villagers had gone away to offer prayers on some hill and would be back only at 3:00pm. We proceeded to Bhitada. Here we met the teacher of the Jeevan Shala  Govind Guruji (Jeevan Shalas are boarding schools run by the NBA the only ones in these areas. There are 13 in all with a total strength of about1500 students. These kids receive books, uniforms, food, and education till the 5th standard. It is strange that these kind of remote  villages suddenly become visible on the map of India when there are mines to be dug or dams to be built but not when it comes to providing them education or electricity or health care) The villagers gathered in the school to chat, Nagarsingh Dhansingh told me that the village has 262 households- each having alteast 10 members. In 2006 when submergence came (due to the Sardar Sarovar Dam) 32 houses  and their respective farms which were on the lower slopes went under water. The village Sarpanch (headman) Manya Khumsing said these families were offered rehabilitation in the neighbouring state of Gujarat but 19 in one place and 13 in another. Rail sing Loti who was one of the 19 joined in and told us that they all returned to Bhitada after 3 years as the land that they were given was low lying and each year it would get heavily waterlogged with the rains and all their crops would get destroyed.
Tarkya Pida from the other 13 group says they will not move till they are (all 32families) rehabilitated together at some location that is livable and conducive to farming.
Lunch : bajra rotis lentils and khichri very tasty.
We took our leave and left for Anjanwada hoping the villagers would be back… they were Khajabhai Supa, his elder brother Budhiya Supa Zhanzhadiya Mangtya, Lalsing Danya and some others were in fact waiting for us. Over really sweet black tea and freshly plucked cucumbers we started talking. Their village was affected by submergence much earlier in 1998, and they lost about 100 houses . 19 families took the rehabilitation package 3 years ago, 22more have been declared ‘eligible’ and the othe remaining 60 have been left with nothing. Kanjibhai is among the 22 but has refused rehabilitation as his other 5 five brothers have been offerd rehabilitation in Madhya Pradesh and he in Gujarat. The brothers have refused to move if they are not together.
It was getting late now it wa already 4:30pm We had a 90 minute boat ride and then a 40 minute ride back on the motor cycle, I was supposed to go back to Dhadgaon, load my luggage and continue on my journey. But by the time we got back it was almost 7 and the light was fading. It was risky to attempt the ride down the mountains in the dark so I stayed back. 

Jawaharlal Nehru the first Prime Minister of India was committed to a socialist model of economic policies. He favoured modernisation and was all for government participation and control of the key industries. The first five year plan outlined government spending in industrial and agricultural sectors, and for strengthening of the rural quarters. He reckoned dams were the ‘Temples’ of the resurgent India. My journey is a pilgrimage from one such temple in India -the Sardar Sarovar project to the Three Gorges dam in China.
This Journey has references to the many travels that were undertaken by heroes and legendry figures – journeys that changed the course of their lives. The short journey that Prince Siddharth Gautama took (on his horse Kanthaka) through the city of Kapilavastu when he saw the four sights changed his outlook towards life. Prince Siddhartha gave up his riches to embrace ascetism.   The long youthful adventure By Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara round Latin America on his motorcycle (La Poderosa II) was an initial step towards realising the revolutionary in him.
My journey is perhaps more Quixotic than heroic but more than a journey from point A to B it is a journey towards myself.
That sounds good as a concept note!
But...I am neither an ‘adventurer’ nor a ‘biker’!! In fact I rode a bike after 23 years when I got it home from the show room… to top that I had never ridden a bike with a side car. Contrary to my belief, it was more difficult to maneuver and handle… and I barely got two days- to be precise an hour and a half on two mornings from 5:00 am to 6.30 am, to practice and get accustomed to the bike.
3-4 days before I set off on the trip, frankly I was really stressed and nervous… How could I have proposed this project?  What was I thinking!!
 My departure got postponed twice adding to my distress… I knew once I got on the road I would be alright.
23rd Aug 2010
Left home at 6:15am
When I finally left, I drove for 10 hours with just 2 twenty minutes breaks… and that was my schooling… and I think I came through with flying colours! The roads were wide and smooth, and I got enough space to practice my maneuvers.
Total traveling time 10 hours, 416 Km.
Took a halt in Baroda, as I have now joined as visiting faculty and conducted classes for two days.24th and 25th
26th Aug 2010
Left the M.S University at 6:30am
Mrugen an ex-student of the Faculty of Fine Art dropped me to the outskirts of the city. The road to Sardar Sarovar is called Pragati Path (Road to Progress). A beautiful road lined by thick trees that shed their golden yellow flowers on either side of the road. A road as appealing and alluring as it’s name.  
I reached the dam site got my entry pass and drove to ‘View Point I’ The dam is big but it did not take my breath away… till I climbed on a hillock opposite ‘View Point III’ to look at the reservoir behind the wall. Though it affords only a glimpse of the huge catchment the thought of the sheer volume of the block of water behind the dam which currently stands at 121.92 meters, full to the brim was chilling.
Left for Dhadgaon which is the head office of the Narmada Bacchao Andolan (NBA) in Maharashtra by 11:00am .
Lunch at Akkalkua
I had 2 options to go to Shahada and then take the road up to Dhadgaon which meant 110 Kms... but an easy route up -hill or to take on the mountain at Akkalkua itself. That would mean only 60 km but a really tough road up. I decided to brave it as I knew I had to finally do the Himalayas !! Might as well face it now and learn! It was my absolute first experience on a mountainous terrain and to make matters worse two different groups of people saw me on the road and asked me if the bike would be able to take the steep gradients! I knew I had to treat this as my secondary school! The road was indeed indeed wicked but I managed and I think very well.
The sky was over cast throughout the day so luckily no sun and thankfully no rain either.
I was greeted at Dhadgaon by old friends and full timers with the NBA- Geetanjali, Yogini, Rewati and Chetan.
The motorcycle because of the side car drags to the left so I need to constantly balance this with a push by my right hand and a tug by the right… between making the side car behave it self and spotting the scraps of road between the potholes and staying on them, had my neck and shoulder muscles in knots. An old lady from the neighbor-hood was called to give me a rub. She made me wince in pain but relieved me of the aches. A warm bath was the icing. Incidentally it was Chetan’s birthday. We had a small cake cutting ceremony, dinner and we rushed to catch Medha Patkar on CNN IBN in a discussion about forced land acquisition. We called her up at 11:00 pm. She chided me for undertaking this project at such short notice.
She will be arriving in Barwani on the 27th Aug and I hope to meet her on the 28th when I reach there.