Friday, July 23, 2004

My Road to Harsud



Since last few years, whenever I came across any news item of the Narmada Project, it has always made me uncomfortable...

This week when I read yet another report - The Road to Harsud by Arundhati Roy - the 700 year old town in MP which will be submerged, and its people left rootless, for the "larger good"...

....I thought I might as well write this down:

It was back in 1982-83, when I was working in NPC. We had got a project to estimate the number of villages which will be submerged, and people displaced, as a part of the project feasibility report for the Narmda Dam Project. We had a very small role: visit a small area near Indore, find out the numbers, and collate them and submit the report.

Narmada Sagar Dam had seemed a distant and impersonal - almost an imaginary - reality then, and in any case, this work would get us some "consultancy" revenue. Two of us were given the task, and we visited these places. We did a "sample survey" of villages - i.e., visited a few representative areas and villages, and made guestimates for the entire population of villages in that area. What I also recall is that there were no updated official records of population available - the 1981 Census results had not yet got published - but the report with "figures and facts" had to be submitted...

... we did what seemed a reasonable exercise in making educated estimates: we talked to the Gram Pradhan, the VLWs (Villege Level Workers), the BDO (Block Development Officers), etc. - cross-checked their estimates as much as we could.

These were 10 hectic hot days of travelling on loaded buses, bullock carts, and even walking a few miles through difficult terrains.

At the end of the project, we could churn out a report, which we felt had a high accuracy level in the reported figure (even though there was no way to verify them) - and the NPC sent the Consultancy Report with the bill.


Now when I read these reports, of villages getting submerged, tens of thousands of people deprived of their land, roots, livelihood, self-identity (and sometimes even their family), I wonder at my own role - however small - in making this happen to them...

I can justify by believing that I was in my 20s then, just a few years into my job, and did not understand the context of what I was doing; I was, after all, just doing my job...
... and then realise that this is exactly what the prisoners in Nuremberg Trials, and the wardens of Abu Ghraib had said: I was just doing my job...

1 comment:

Dileep Mouleesha said...

only one word... "touching"...

on one side we are here enjoying the luxury of life only to realize that we are ignorant to other peoples crys...

atleast after reading your blog my heart bleeds... thanx for setting in the context...