16 June, 2021

The Greater Common Good

India has 3,600 big dams—they have devoured 50 million people already. Silently. Now it's the turn of the Narmada.

The Greater Common Good

"If you are to suffer, you should suffer in the interest of the country." 

--Jawaharlal Nehru,
speaking to villagers who were to be displaced
by the Hirakud dam, 1948

I stood on a hill and laughed out loud.

I had crossed the Narmada by boat from Jalsindhi and climbed the headland on the opposite bank from where I could see, ranged across the crowns of low, bald hills, the tribal hamlets of Sikka, Surung, Neemgavan and Domkhedi. I could see their airy, fragile, homes. I could see their fields and the forests behind them. I could see little children with littler goats scuttling across the landscape like motorised peanuts. I knew I was looking at a civilisation older than Hinduism, slated—sanctioned (by the highest court in the land)—to be drowned this monsoon when the waters of the Sardar Sarovar reservoir will rise to submerge it.

Why did I laugh?

Because I suddenly remembered the tender concern with which the Supreme Court judges in...

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