Medha Patkar

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Medha Patkar
Medha Patkar, 2002 (cropped).jpg
Medha Patkar in 2002
Born (1954-12-01) 1 December 1954 (age 66)
Other namesMedha tai
EducationMA in Social Work
Alma materTata Institute of Social Sciences
OrganizationNational Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM)
MovementNarmada Bachao Andolan (NBA)[citation needed]
AwardsRight Livelihood Award

Medha Patkar (born 1 December 1954) is an Indian social activist working on various crucial political and economic issues raised by tribals, dalits, farmers, labourers and women facing injustice in India.[1][better source needed] She is an alumnus of TISS, a premier institute of social science research in India.[2]

Patkar is the founder member of the 32 years old people's movement called Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in three states: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. NBA has been engaged in a struggle for justice for the people affected by the dam projects related to the Sardar Sarovar dam project, especially those whose homes will be submerged, but have not yet been rehabilitated.[citation needed] She is also one of the founders of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), an alliance of hundreds of progressive people's organisations.[3] In addition to the above, Patkar was a commissioner on the World Commission on Dams, which did a thorough research on the environmental, social, political and economic aspects and impacts of the development of large dams globally and their alternatives.[4] She was the national co-ordinator and then convenor of National Alliance of People's Movements for many years and now continues to be an advisor to NAPM. Under the banner of NAPM she has participated in and supported various mass struggles across India against inequity, non-sustainability, displacement and injustice in the name of development. Her work challenges Casteism, Communalism and all forms of discrimination.[citation needed] She has been a part of numerous teams and panels that work on initiating and formulating various national policies and enactments including those related to land acquisition, unorganized sector workers, hawkers, slum-dwellers and forest-dweller Adivasis. NAPM filed a number of public interest litigations including those against Adarsh society, Lavasa Megacity, Hiranandani(Powai) and as well as other builders.

Narmada Bachao Andolan and Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, founded by Medha Patkar with others are allies of NAPM.

Early and personal life[edit]

Medha Patkar was born as Medha Khanolkar on 1 December 1954 in Mumbai, Maharashtra, the daughter of Vasant Khanolkar, a freedom fighter and labour union leader,[5] and his wife Indumati Khanolkar, a gazetted officer in the Post and Telegraphs department.[6] She has one brother, Mahesh Khanolkar, an architect.

Medha Khanolkar earned an MA in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Career as activist[edit]

Medha Patkar worked with voluntary organisations in Mumbai's slums for 5 years and tribal districts of North-East districts of Gujarat for 3 years. She worked as a member of faculty at Tata Institute of Social Sciences but left her position to take up the field work. She was a PhD scholar at TISS, studying Economics development and its impact on traditional societies. After working up to M.Phil level she left her unfinished PhD when she became immersed in her work with the tribal and Peasant communities in the Narmada valley spread over three states.

Medha Patkar in 2011
Medha Patkar speaking at the Bhopal Jan Utsav 2017 organized by All India People's Science Network
Medha Patkar at the Right Livelihood Award foundation.

About Narmada Bachao Andolan[edit]

Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) is a social movement protesting against the dam on river Narmada which began in 1985 consisting of adivasis, farmers, fish workers, labourers and others in the Narmada valley along with the intellectuals including environmentalists, human rights activists, Scientists, academicians, artists who stand for just and sustainable development. Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat is one of the biggest dams on Narmada where the non-violent people's struggle has questioned social and environmental costs, undemocratic planning and unjust distribution of benefits. The struggle is still on in the Sardar Sarovar affected areas and also other large and medium dams on Narmada and its tributaries. It has led to thousands of project affected families receiving land based rehabilitation and continues to fight against submergence and displacement without rehabilitation of more than 40,000 families residing in these submergence area of Sardar Sarovar till date. Many of its claims and critique on economic, social and environmental aspects of Sardar Sarovar and Narmada valley development project stand vindicated today. Patkar has also questioned the wisdom of the currently popular developmental strategy of linking rivers in India as a means to address issues of water shortage.[7]

NBA has been running JEEVANSHALAS- schools of life, since 1992 with about 5,000 students having passed out and many graduated. Tens of them are under training in athletics and some have won many awards. NBA also successfully established and managed two micro hydral projects which got submerged due to SS dam. It has been working in many sectors over last 30 years including health, employment guarantee, Right to Food and PDS, rehabilitation and environment protection.

Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan[edit]

It is a struggle for housing rights in Mumbai, started in 2005 and continues to fight for rights of slum-dwellers and those cheated by the builders in various rehabilitation and re-development projects. It all began when the government of Maharashtra demolished 75,000 houses of the poor in 2005, against its own promises before election. Strong people's movement was founded by Medha Patkar and others when she gave the slogan in a large public meeting at Azaad Maidaan Mumbai. It was through mass action that the, communities were re-built on the same sites and continue to assert and attain their right to shelter, water, electricity, sanitation and livelihood. As members of working class GBGBA respects the slum-dwellers for contribution to the life of the city and involves them in equitable and inclusive planning for urban development.

National Alliance of People's Movements[edit]

The National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) is an alliance of people's movements in India, with the stated aim of working on a range of issues related to socio-economic justice, political justice and equity.[8] Medha Patkar founded the National Alliance of People's Movements with the objective of "facilitating unity and providing strength to peoples' movements in India, fighting against oppression, further questioning the current development model so as to work towards a just alternative". She is the national convener of the NAPM.[9] NAPM | शांति, न्याय और जनतंत्र के लिए कार्यरत | National Alliance of People's Movements

Tata Nano Plant Singur[edit]

Tata Motors started constructing a factory to manufacture their $2,500 car, the Tata Nano at Singur.[10] She protested against the setting up of the plant at Singur, West Bengal. Patkar's convoy was assaulted, allegedly by CPI(M) activists, at Kapaseberia in East Midnapore district while on her way to strife-torn Nandigram.[11] At the height of the agitation, Ratan Tata had made remarks questioning the source of funds of the agitators.[12] In October 2008 Tata announced that the factory would not be completed and that the production of the Nano will be set up in Sanand, Gujarat.

Nandigram land grab resistance (2007)[edit]

She participated in and initiated various supportive actions including a fast during Diwali in Kolkata, mass-mobilisation, complaints at various national fora and building support of intellectuals and various citizens across the country. The battle was ultimately won in favour of the local people who had to lay their lives in large numbers during state violence.


Lavasa is a project by Hindustan Construction Corporation, in Maharashtra. It is a yet-to be completed city. Lavasa Project is criticised by P. Sainath for unjust use of water in a worst hit farmer suicide state.[13] Medha Patkar with villagers of Lavasa protested for the environmental damage in Nagpur.[14] She also filed a PIL in Supreme Court against the Lavasa project.

Golibar Demolition[edit]

A demolition took place on 2 and 3 April 2013 in the Golibar area, Mumbai, Maharashtra evicting 43 houses and displacing more than 200 people. the whole project is to displace thousands of families and 50–100 years old communities that are demanding in-situ and participatory housing rights. Medha Patkar with more than 500 slum dwellers set on indefinite fast to protest against any further demolition until the inquiry into the matter is completed.[15] Patkar has alleged corruption and "atrocities" by builders in the city's slum rehabilitation scheme, and called for the halting of six projects by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority, until a proper inquiry is conducted. The inquiry was conducted giving partial solutions hence communities continue with their struggle.[16]

Save Sugar-Cooperatives Mission[edit]

To save Sugar-Cooperative sector in Maharashtra from falling into the hands of politicians including tens of ministers in the Maharashtra cabinet till 2014, Medha Patkar organised protests. She explained that "the politicians are interested in the prime plots of land, old equipment and machinery," of sugar co-operatives and accused the state government of selling assets of industry at throw away rates. A case against Girna Sugar factory at Malegaon, Nasik, Maharashtra and members of Chhagan Bhujbal Family pending before the Supreme court of India and the unused land of the factory is re-occupied and cultivated by the local farmers who were the donors of the cooperative that was privatized by the former minister purchasing it at throw away price.[17]

Hiranandani land scam[edit]

Medha Patkar along with other activists registered in PIL in the High Court of Mumbai, alleging violations by property tycoon Niranjan Hiranandani in building luxury flats instead of affordable houses. Hiranandani had signed a lease for the 230 acres of land in 1986 at rate of Re 1 per hectare in a tripartite agreement with the state and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority.[18] Responding to PIL Maharashtra High Court judges says that" we appreciate the elegance of the construction and the intent on creating an architecture marvel for the city of Mumbai, we see the specific intent of wholly ignoring the most vital, and perhaps the only, condition in tripartite agreement (to create affordable houses of 40 and 80 sq m)".[19] If calculated according to the current market price, the quantum of the scam will be around Rs. 450 billion.[20] The judgement of 2012 directed Hirandani to build 3,144 houses for the low income groups before any other construction at Hirandani gardens which is yet to happen. The case is at the stage of final hearing at HC of Mumbai.

Kovvada Nuclear project[edit]

Patkar expressed a strong opposition to the land acquisition in Kovvada of Ranasthalam mandal in Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh saying that the nuclear plant would be a disaster for ecology as well as people of region.[21]

Medha Patkar in March 2012

Career in politics[edit]

In January 2004 during the World Social Forum held in Mumbai. Medha Patkar and other members of National Alliance of People's Movement initiated a Political Party 'People's Political Front[22]' also called as 'Lok Rajniti Manch'. However, Medha did not participate as an active politician, but adhere herself in creating an atmosphere and environment by organising a fifteen days Maharashtra state-level campaign. She was accompanied with two young activists, Maju Warghese and journalist Jaspal Singh Naol (Jal). Meetings were organised under her leadership in each district of Maharashtra. Most of the members had asked Patkar to stand for election, but she denied.

In January 2014, Medha Patkar joined the Aam Aadmi Party, a political party led by Arvind Kejriwal. She and her organisation, National Alliance of People's Movement, provided support to the Aam Aadmi Party during the Lok Sabha campaign.[23]

Patkar also contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election for the North East Mumbai constituency as an Aam Aadmi Party candidate.[24] She lost, receiving 8.9%[25] of the vote cast in North East Mumbai constituency, trailing at third position behind Kirit Somaiya (BJP candidate, winner) and Sanjay Patil (NCP candidate).[26] She resigned from Aam Aadmi Party's primary membership on 28 March 2015.[27]

Awards and honours[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Patkar, Medha (18 September 2013). "'The unprotected class of workers is the real India". Rediff. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  2. ^ "TISS official website - About TISS". TISS. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  3. ^ "National Alliance of People's Movement Website".
  4. ^ "Final report of World commission on dams" (PDF). United Nations Environment Programme.
  5. ^ "A mother speaks: I worry for her but I know Medha is right". The Times of India. 19 April 2006. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012.
  6. ^ "Medha Patkar's mother dead". Deccan Herald. 25 January 2018.
  7. ^ Patkar, Medha (1 August 2004). River Linking: A Millenium Folly? (1 ed.). National Alliance of People's Movements.
  8. ^ "Website National Alliance for People's Movement". NAPM.
  9. ^ "National Conveners Team National Alliance of People's Movements". National Alliance of People's Movements.
  10. ^ The Hindu Business Line, 26 November 2006 Archived 5 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Medha Patkar's convoy attacked". NDTV.
  12. ^ "Tata has some values: Medha Patkar". DNA. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  13. ^ "How the other half dries". The Hindu.
  14. ^ "Lavasa battles to get environmental clearance". CNN IBN. Archived from the original on 5 December 2010.
  15. ^ "Medha Patkar enters Day 8 of indefinite fast". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 13 April 2013.
  16. ^ "Aruna Roy seeks Sonia's help to end Medha Patkar's fast". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 17 April 2013.
  17. ^ "Medha Patkar, Anna Hazare on sugar co-operative save mission". CNN IBN. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013.
  18. ^ "Efforts to bury the Rs 45,000 crore Hiranandani land scam in Powai, Mumbai?". Money Life. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  19. ^ Shibu Thomas (23 February 2012). "Hiranandani can't build in Powai sans HC okay". The Times of India. Mumbai, India. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  20. ^ "Case against builder Hiranandani, senior bureaucrat, others for Rs. 30,000-crore land scam". The Hindu. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  21. ^ "Medha Patkar cries halt to Kovvada nuclear project". The Hindu.
  22. ^ "Medha Patkar forms political front". The Hindu. 18 March 2004.[dead link]
  23. ^ Patkar extends support to AAP Indian Express, 14 January 2014
  24. ^ "AAP to field Medha Patkar, Anjali Damania for Lok Sabha polls; releases first list of 20 candidates". The Economic Times. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  25. ^ Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP needs a future plan; fatigue sets in for party’s small-time drama The Economic Times
  26. ^ Maharashtra – Mumbai North East, Results Declared Archived 17 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine Election Commission of India, 2014
  27. ^ "Live Updates: AAP Releases Video Of Arvind Kejriwal's Speech at Controversial Party Meet". 29 March 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  28. ^ "Laureates 1991-Medha Patkar & Baba Amte / Narmada Bachao Andolan". Archived from the original on 13 November 2007.
  29. ^ Malhotra, Aditi. "A Guide to Aam Aadmi Party's National Candidates". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  30. ^ "Medha Patkar selected for 1999 M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award".
  31. ^ "Quicktakes Indian Express". The Indian Express. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  32. ^ "Medha Patkar – The People's Protestor". Tehelka Magazine.
  33. ^ "Basavashree Award for Medha Patkar". The Hindu. 29 April 2001. Retrieved 31 January 2018.[dead link]
  34. ^ "Dailyhunt". Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  35. ^ "Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice held on Sunday". dna. Diligent Media Corporation Ltd. 11 November 2014. Retrieved 14 December 2014.

External links[edit]