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Sep 09, 2004
Villagers teach how projects impact people

He was the man who became the ears and mind of the villagers. He hopped on the Internet and found that the International Finance Corporation [IFC] of the World Bank was funding the project. Thakkar lit an electronic fuse that exploded in distant Washington. The IFC commissioned public hearings to be conducted by Shekar Singh of the Centre for Equity Studies in New Delhi. Singh roped in Arvind Kejriwal of Parivartan and Dr Shailja Vohra, a consultant ecologist. And so began some extraordinary fair play on behalf of people.

The Civil Society print article, with field reports by Colin Fernandes is very detailed and it is hoped it will become available online one day. For it unveils what fine—and deeply sensitive— concerns people do bring to the fore when asked.

The village of Jagatsukh was parting with little land but most of the water and its concern was in one direction. Prini was giving most of the land—though little water—and it asserted its rights to get the best prices it can. Women were concerned about the nearly 2,000 single men who would descend to labour on the project. Everyone were concerned about loss of traditional foot paths to places of livelihood. They also proved alive to pollution of noise and dust that would accompany blasting in the hills. What of the effects of these on their livestock? What happens to the debris? Ram Krishna Sharma a village elder, detailed the flora and fauna that were endangered. In the wind that gathered from these queries, the no-objection certificate [NOC] that Bhilwara had obtained from the village pradhan blew away from view.

It appears discussions are still on. Maybe eight years is too long a lead time for a small power project, but whose fault is it? The dialogue with villagers began barely four months ago.

How many villages are lucky to have Himanshu Thakkars? How many complaining, educated Indians are willing to be Thakkars? Also, why the blind damnation of the World Bank [—though it manages to deserve it most of the time]. In this instance, it delivered where the Indian state failed. The point is, whether or not you are ready to take positions in the globalisation debate, the information world is already globalised. In some ways, if you marshall the Net, it’s not so hard to be a Thakkar.

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