Bharat ki Chhap - Episode 12: Independent India 1947 to the present
Director: Chandita Mukherjee; Cinematographer: Ranjan Palit
Duration: 00:52:45; Aspect Ratio: 1.366:1; Hue: 322.819; Saturation: 0.026; Lightness: 0.378; Volume: 0.305; Cuts per Minute: 8.605; Words per Minute: 73.996
Summary: This episode discusses a post-independence India. We start by understanding self-sufficiency in energy through visits to ONGC rigs and an investigation into hydro-power projects like the Sardar Sarovar Dam. We also study the effects of the Green Revolution – both the good and the bad. Finally we travel to Bali Raja Dam which is built with consensus of the local communities, by them and of local materials.
Bharat ki Chhap: EPISODE 12
From 1947 to now
1. This twelfth episode begins at the time of freedom. One of the characters recalls that he was just 8 years old when it happened. All night people stayed awake. Everyone was wildly enthusiastic and giving out sweets. There were great aspirations and hope for the future, in spite of the ragged feeling after partition. The new government involved people like P.C. Mahalanobis the mathematician, Homi Bhabha, Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar, Meghnad Saha. These were people brought into the process of planning for the new country. Ofcourse it was a statist agenda, rather there was a firm belief that the state was acting on behalf of the people. There was not much debate of the sort that we may like to have today, nor were there many contrary opinions to most development and science projects. They all more or less believed in that idea rational planning would see us into the future.
The government through laws had very hefty controls on the business class. Capitalism was not running rampant as it is today. There were a lot of restrictions. It was the time of the license raj which has been characterized by media as a form of oppression, but it was put into place to safeguard people’s rights and environment and so on. This was a different, very optimistic India, that wanted all the latest things in the world, wanted to do space science, set up a nuclear power plants, all sorts of ambitions.
Nissim: I was eight years old, but I do recall some things. The joy, sweets, processions - and now when I look back, I understand that energy, enthusiasm, those dreams.
Maitreyi: And we had to make sure those dreams came true. Using the touchstone of reality we had to plan well, and judiciously allot our limited resources, to create a model for independent India.
Nissim: Only after Independence was it possible for us to implement our own plans. The Independence struggle gave rise to feelings of unity and nationalism in us. And finally we won the right to take decisions for ourselves, and plan our own future.
Maitreyi: The British, using science and technology, had drained our resources and reaped the fruits of the farmers' labour. But we were going to use science and technology for development, and to make India self-reliant. India was to freed from external pressures. And so, along with non-alignment policy, the public sector and heavy industry were stressed. Our leaders had assumed perhaps, that science and technology could solve all our problems.
2. All the pulls and pushes on the process of establishing science in this new India are also talked about in this segment. Some people were interested in research, in technological applications, or to start educational institutes and research centers. Homi Bhabha said you have to have fundamental research and not just applications and putting food on the table. There has to be other kinds of work for the future. Vikram Sarabhai believed in certain kinds of application of technology, like satellites for education. They all made opportunities for themselves and did various path breaking work.
Nehru once said that only science could eliminate ignorance and superstition, prevent the waste of our vast natural resources and solve the problems of this hunger-stricken yet fertile land. So the participation of scientists was necessary when it came to planning. Among the scientists who took part in planning were PC Mahalanobis, Homi Bhabha, Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar and Meghnad Saha.
Homi Bhabha, TIFR
4 August, 1956. Apsara - India's first nuclear reactor, went critical. Twenty years earlier, Homi Bhabha had foreseen that we were going to require nuclear power to meet our energy needs. At that stage we should have to seek help from abroad. It's significant that he stressed self-reliance and thought so far ahead. The Apsara reactor helped people to believe that our scientists would use modern technology well.
Bhabha was then trying to organise science here in a new way. Opportunities to study science were limited, nor was there a vision that scientists could work in industry or for national development. A few colleges did teach science. But there, too, neither basic research nor science as a profession were stressed. The only exception was the Indian Institute of Science, in Bangalore. Even there, large-scale technological research was not being done. Some scientists - including Homi Bhabha – were aware of this. These people dreamt of a new future. The young Bhabha wrote in a letter that it was essential for India to start research in fundamental physics. Not only advanced branches of physics but industry, too , could benefit from this. And so he was to found, here in Bombay, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.
It is true that Bhabha did not lack opportunity - yet how many in place would have used it thus? He studied abroad for several years, met major scientists like Einstein. On his return in 1940 he worked at the Indian Institute of Science. At this time his work changed direction while engaged in theoretical physics he began to feel he could play an important role in national planning as well and stressed the setting up of big industries.
Maitreyi: The first Five Year plan came into effect in 1952. Emphasis was laid on a scientific infrastructure, funds marked for scientific and industrial research. Modern labs and research institutes were set up.
Nissim: Under the Second Five Year Plan in 1958 it was resolved to further scientific progress. This was the Scientific Policy Resolution. It was thought that involving scientists and technicians would have many advantages. Along with progress in science and technology living standards would improve, and society would move ahead.
Maitreyi: Were our hopes in science and technology fulfilled? Was our confidence justified?
3. A lot of manufacture was started in India. About 60 or 70 years ago, something with a stamp ‘Made in India’ was rare. Even the needle and pin was imported from England. Today you can get many things in India. Again with globalization the trend has been reversed, because lots can be made in China at one third of the cost. But still the license raj and kind of economy that India was, meant that a lot of manufacture took place within India, there was pride in being able to make it yourself even if it was basically reinventing the wheel. In the process people did learn a few things and learnt to do it for themselves.
'Made in India' Today you can get whatever you need with the stamp of India on it. And forty years ago, it was said that not even needles were made here. So how did we come this far?
Bombay – India's industrial capital. What can you not get here? It's hard to believe that barely 100km away, people live without clean drinking water, let alone electricity, medicines, education and so on. Are workers in the cities better off? They work on the latest machines in factories but most of their home lack basic comforts. Is industrialisation, then, benefiting everyone? Can setting up industries ensure overall progress? Clearly, national development is an issue larger than industrial development. We'll discuss just one aspect - indigenous technology.
Suppose we were to import this car engine? Our capital would go abroad, employment would suffer, we wouldn't possess this know-how. The aim is to generate our own resources. Basic industries were set up in the public sector - so that our dependence on foreign industry would gradually decrease.
4. The next section is about energy and we make a visit to Bombay where ONGC (Oil and Natural Gas Commission) is drilling oil in the middle of the sea. The whole issue of energy for self-reliance is what we are talking about here.
Energy generation or extraction and its relation to the environment, costs paid by ordinary people, global warming – a lot more is understood about these issues now than was the case in 1988 when we were shooting this. In retrospect it seems there is a kind of shallow dimension to our perceptions of development when BKC was being made. The interest was all about we are meeting our own energy needs, that we are not getting the oil in from Saudia Arabia or some other oil field in another country, that we are conserving our precious foreign exchange resources because it was in fact so precious at that time. So something like ONGC and digging oil from the sea was something we were very proud of, because it certainly meant saving up resources for the country. As makers of BKC we also kind of superficially went along with these dominant perceptions while shooting these episodes about post independent India. Saying that we are great, that we can extract oil, do all these things ourselves – all of which made everyone happy in the 80s. Now we would look at it a little differently.
5. Liberalization was something which most of us were not prepared for, it just happened. And the changes it brought about were very rapid; those of us who made this film and people like us were quite hostile to it. We could see the erosion of the notion of self-reliance, the take over of whole society by consumerism. Lot of people who believed in self-reliance were upset by erosion of the capacity to fend for yourself. Its not merely a protectionist or nationalist notion. What happens when you stop making your own machinery, transistors, you also lose the capacity to invent new things or to stay at the cutting edge. You end up a passive consumer. That is the dangerous erosion.
We remember when almost all our petrol, diesel, kerosene had to be imported. All such petrol pumps were owned by foreign companies. A gas connection for the home wasn't easy to get. We saved up plastic bags and re-used them. What has happened since, to change the situation?
I went to Bombay High, out at sea, where the Oil and Natural Gas Commission's oil rigs are. After Independence, the question of energy arose. Only a few multinationals had the knowhow for oil. Their experts came, and gave discouraging reports. But leaders like Nehru and KD Malaviya realised that for energy, self-reliance was a must.
They kept on with the search for oil and the ONGC was established in 1956. I met Col SP Wahi, ONGC Chairman.
Ranjan: Initially, the knowhow and equipment must have mainly been imported. How was an Indian technical base created?
SP Wahi: Our leaders appreciated the need to expand our technical manpower. Technical institutes were started at the worker's and at the executive levels. Today we're proud that we can compare with the biggest and best companies worldwide. Our success ratio in exploration is 1:3. The world average is 1:5. Everything requires hard work and struggle but our scientists, engineers and technicians are so capable that they grasp things very quickly.
Ranjan: In its efforts towards self-reliance what ties has ONGC formed with other industries?
SP Wahi: Some 300 companies supply materials, services and equipment to ONGC. We've achieved roughly 60% self-reliance. Very sophisticated equipment is made here - drill ships, check-up rigs, off-shore structures, Christmas trees, compressors, generators, many type of material.
Ranjan: Oil and gas are resources that will dry up one day. In this context, what are ONGC's plans?
SP Wahi: We'll be supplying 65 million tonnes of oil and 55 million tonnes of oil equivalent of gas by the year 2005. The balance requirement will have to be met by alternative energy sources. Solar energy, geothermal energy, tidal energy – we're funding research and development in all these areas.
Yet we can't deny that the developed countries are ahead of us in many respects - such as electronics and computers. So we have to buy foreign knowhow in certain fields. But now we're not the kind of buyers we were in 1947. Today we have an industrial base. We can choose what to buy. So what will we choose?
Ranjan: Your uncle's car is just like a foreign car!
Raghu: It is
Ranjan: But it's made here, right outside Delhi.
Raghu: It's assembled
here. That doesn't make it Indian.
Amrita: But why make everything yourself? If something is good, why not copy it?
Shehnaaz: Copying is easy. But let's assume you want a ten, not a five-horsepower engine. Everything changes. You can't simply double each part. It isn't just copying – it needs creativity.
Raghu: Yes. Technology changes and becomes outmoded so fast. Our electronics industry is still assembling outmoded components. Even buying technology is creative task. If we buy foreign technology unthinkingly we'll grow more and more dependent on others.
Ranjan: I feel all this is related to self-confidence. Do we trust our scientific capability, our creativity, our scientific heritage and institutions?
Amrita: But foreign goods are often superior. Can we match their quality? And isn't it unfair to expect the consumer to buy something only because it's Indian?
Ranjan: Does everyone look for quality alone? How different are the various toothpaste brands? People are influenced by ads, and go for names.
Raghu: Anyway, quality will take time. We also started later. Must we think only of the consumer? Naturally he wants his VCR, today!
Shehnaaz: But we are
self-reliant in some sphere, Raghu - space science, nuclear power. You could ask who'd have helped us in these areas anyway? But in machine tools and heavy electricals there are groups doing good work too.
Raghu: Yes, but why isn't that true of every field? Even the public sector has foreign collaborations. I've spoken to many scientists who have no enthusiasm left. So many CSIR processes - low-cost housing technologies etc -just lie around, while similar projects are undertaken with foreign collaboration! I'm angry because this is what stifles creativity. Can you blame those who go abroad?
Shehnaaz: But have you any solution?
Raghu: That's just what I don't have! Many people, many interests, and attitudes are involved. But you can't turn away from it all - the world is changing so fast I'm afraid we'll become dependent.
6. We criticize the Maruti car for copying technology. We say copying is easy, and that you have to be creative. In retrospect some of these positions seem naïve and unnecessary.
7. What would I change about this episode in the light of what we now know about liberalization, or the critique of it? I would change maybe the details of this episode. Now I would not lambast the Maruti car, but have a little bit more perspective.
If we redid these latter episodes of BKC, our concern now would be about the environment.
Maitreyi: Even if we adopt a certain technology and gain self-sufficiency in it it's bound to affect society and environment and we must understand these effects in advance.
Nissim: Last time we saw the work done here in science, in the early decades of the twentieth century. The post-'47 developments can be discussed at length. Let's talk instead of the effect of science on our daily lives - on food, water, land environment. Besides, technology keeps changing and improving. We, too, must keep pace – and change – with it. A technology useful at one time can later pose problems.
8. In this episode we look from a rather positive perspective at the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) drilling off the coast of Bombay. Then the episode shifts the scene to the Green Revolution. Here we are fairly critical of the achievements of the Green Revolution and some of the people on our advisory committee didn’t like it. They believed that self-sufficiency in food was such an important achievement that it didn’t matter if you depleted the soil of its primary productivity or some workers got cancer from pesticides.
This is an exaggeration and nobody actually said the above. But what they did say and often said was that it’s a small price to pay for the fact that you no longer have famines like the 1966 in Bihar, or mass migrations of people walking and trekking for hundreds of kilometers because they have nothing to eat. Those nightmares at least are of the past. But we believed that the critique of the Green Revolution was essential and we fought and insisted on including this segment.
We had some arguments and debates within our advisory committee, and ultimately we decided to stay with the slightly critical view of the three-way package of the Green Revolution – water, pesticides and fertilizer. We said that all this was going to deplete the land of its primary productivity, and this would not be good in the long run.
Take the Green Revolution. The yield from our fields increased by so much that it really was like a revolution - as when humans first began farming, 9000 years ago.
We know how, earlier, people lived by hunting and food gathering. They could choose from some 2000 plants and each plant had several varieties. So those farmers of 9000 years ago sowed 10 to 12 varieties of the same crop. Drought, flood, an attack by pests -
one variety or another would survive all these.
In the last 100 years, agricultural scientists have developed high-yield, fast-growing hybrids. The more popular these become the sooner the older varieties die out. Soon we'll have just 50 rice varieties left - and rice is one
In contrast to the new, high-yielding seeds the older varieties survived erratic rainfall. The risk of pest damage, or frost, was also less as each region had its special varieties which had grown accustomed over centuries to the local soil, climate, water, pests. These seeds evolved as the environment changed, while the high-yielding new seeds are delicate - so the user has to buy fertilisers, pesticides, invest in irrigation etc. Why, then, did we opt for these new seeds?
8. The point being made here by P.C. Joshi is that when you adopt certain sciences and technologies, you have to see whether it suits you or not rather than to borrow wholesale packages from another country and society and expect it to work in our context in the same way. And that is the problem with the Green Revolution
At this point one was overwhelmed with the memory of acute famine and starvation in India. We really saw Green Revolution as one of the achievements of independent India. Younger people criticizing it on the basis of a long term perspective or on environmental grounds was not appreciated at that point.
Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi
Dr PC Joshi Institute of Economic Growth
At one time drought and, in some parts, floods forced us to import grain to meet our needs. The western nations that had surplus grain took political advantage of the situation. We were given grain on condition that we accept their policies. Therefore our leaders had to find a way for us to become self-reliant in food. But in the Green Revolution strategy
we chose created problems. The Green Revolution was confined to wheat and this confined to Punjab, Haryana, west UP etc. and even there, to a few districts - in fact, to the large holdings of big farmers. On the other hand Taiwan, South Korea, Japan had Green Revolutions too - but after land reforms had taken place. Technological change followed land reforms. But here the gap between big, middle and small landowners remained.
Raghu: Can poor farmers afford tractors, pesticides etc?
Farmer1: Well, these new techniques reach us years later - and the seeds propagated are unavailable or not accompanied by enough information about what fertiliser, how much water to use etc.
Raghu: And is the fertility of the soil affected?
Farmer2: All these things affect the soil adversely. As it is, we lack proper irrigation facilities - we don't get canal water, the subsoil water is bad. So with more fertilisers, pesticides and this water being put in, the salinity of the soil increases. We usually can't grow the crops we used to - such as chana
Farmer1: No scientist had analysed the soil for us and told us why productivity has declined. We're just guessing it's the water or there's too much fertiliser, or something.
Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi
Shehnaaz: What would you recommend in these circumstances?
PC Joshi: Let's look at it as our first experiment in science as applied to farming. First, we must use science in a way that suits us rather than borrow packages from the West and expect them to work in our context.
Raghu: Yet, hasn't life improved with the Green Revolution?
Farmer2: Oh yes. Earlier, these facilities didn't exist so people couldn't grow as much. The problem was one of survival. Now we have enough to eat and are also able to save a little for the future.
Farmer1: Our worry is that our soil is growing less fertile. The government, or scientists do so many experiments. Something, surely, could be found to help us?
Raghu: Hybrid seeds require appropriate fertilisers, pesticide, water etc. Must we, then, encourage their use? Or should we, instead, use those seeds that can be grown widely, even without such facilities?
Dr NS Randhawa – Secretary, Min. of Agriculture
Dr.Randhawa: These new seeds yield 5 or 6 tonnes per hectare. This optimum yield calls for adequate nourishment, water, safeguards against disease. But we are looking for ways to gain high yields even if water is scarce. We have an integrated pest management scheme, and hope to get optimum yields with fewer inputs through integrated nutrient management.
Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Delhi
Maitreyi: The Green Revolution shows us that we have to look at science in a new way. For centuries we've taken nature for granted. But today we must realise we can't hope to live by disturbing the balance of nature.
Nissim: There's another thing – development But whose development? And for whom? We might adopt new techniques, but the cost? And who will pay? It's dangerous to ignore these questions - as a look at the Narmada Project reveals.
9. The BKC series does talk about being necessarily wary of adopting new techniques without evaluating costs paid by people, but the general mood was that people were only interested in the results and not the means to achieve it. This is why we here talk about the Narmada river project which was a series of dams on the river, we look at the cost benefit ratio, we interview Vinod Raina and Medha Patkar.
10. The sequence on the Narmada Dam when finally shown on television was just totally removed. We were very surprised, the whole scene was removed while telecasting because the government didn’t want any controversy. Since the government is building the dam, they thought that government television should not be showing anything critical.
If you see the version of BKC that is up on Arvind Gupta’s website, the scene about Narmada dams has been removed, and this is because he had got the tapes from Department of Science and Technology.
11. All these scenes with Medha Patkar were thrown out. Oh, she looks so young!
12. We were critical of the Narmada dam and we showed another sort of science being practiced by the people working in the Baliraja dam project. Here the people of a village Elowdi have built their own dam which is managed by people themselves and has to be constantly renovated with stones and sand. This was done by the Mukti Sangharsh Andolan. We talk about this dam and how they built it.
Many of the people taking part in Mukti Sangharsh Andolan were ex mill workers from Bombay who had experience of trade unionism.
The Narmada river. Its source is at Amarkantak and then it flows for 1300 km through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat - past countless habitations and forest, to the sea. These are the famous Marble Rocks near Jabalpur. Here the river has created a natural reservoir where the Narmada rests awhile. Most of its water flows unutilised into the sea. Efforts have been on for twenty years to harness the water for electricity and irrigation. 30 big, 135 medium and 3000 small dams are planned. It is hoped this will boost agriculture in the Narmada valley and its environs. Also animal husbandry and fisheries. Industries will flourish, urbanisation will occur.
Omkareshwar, Khandwa Dist., Madhya Pradesh
Hoshangabad Dist., Madhya Pradesh
One estimate is 250 billion rupees. But this statistic only partially reflects the real cost, to be borne by all of us.
Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh
I learnt of the economic aspects from Vinod Raina of Eklavya, a Bhopal-based voluntary organisation.
Raina: These statistics for the Sardar Sarovar Dam are what the Tata Consultancy Services gave the Gujarat government. These are projections till 1995 - the total cost was to 61.05 billion rupees. And the benefits? One, electricity. Two, irrigation. These benefits are translated into money. The cost-benefit ratio works to 1:1.329. So a rupee spent brings back 1 rupee, 39 paise. So that's the benefit.
Some people examined these figures again and found that certain costs were not included. These add 10.99 billion to the initial 61.05 billion the revised cost-benefit ratio is 1:1.17. That means only a 17 paise benefit on each rupee.
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
Shehnaaz: But the Planning Commission recommends a 1:1.5 ratio!
Raina: Set aside all else - the impact on environment, people being displaced - even economically speaking it hardly seems viable.
Omkareshwar, Madhya Pradesh
The Centre for Science and Environment, Delhi, reports that the Project will submerge 128,000 hectares. 44,000 hectares will be submerged by the Indira Sagar Dam alone. Omkareshwar, a pilgrimage spot near Indore falls within the area to be submerged. I was with environmentalist Om Prakash Rawal.
Amrita: The government says it will plant new forests.
Rawal: The government can only plant trees - and lay good land to waste by planting eucalyptus! But forests cannot be replaced. I don't mean just wildlife - which must be saved too, but there's more at stake. A forest generates water, enriches the atmosphere and soil. Forests prevent soil erosion and release oxygen, so necessary for humanity. And in recent years the droughts all over have made people aware of the role of forests in the recharging of water.
Shehnaaz: How, then, are such policies made?
Raina: Well, it's claimed they're in the national interest. So the question is - how do define 'national interest'?
Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
Barwani Dist., Madhya Pradesh
The Narmada Dam will displace 200,000 people. So it's not in their interest. Every year various developmental schemes of all kinds render some one million people homeless. This question needs to be urgently debated - if this progress in the name of science makes so many homeless, if its cost-benefit figures are bring questioned so widely - for whom is it happening? And how do such policies come into being?
That land will be given for land is an assurance to cultivators only. What is the plan for the rehabilitation of the boatmen of this Nimad region? What will be given to the landless tribals who work are labourers? The MP government had made no promises -'The landless will get either land or jobs' - What that means should be clear to anyone not naive.
A seminar on the impact of the Narmada Project was held at Barwani, near Indore. Medha Patkar was among the participants. She has been working among the oustees.
Shehnaaz: What are the main provisions of the Narmada Tribunal and the World Bank that are being ignored?
Patkar: One condition of rehabilitation is that land be given to every agricultural family and to the eldest son of each family. But where is
this land? In 20 years, non of the three state governments have shown they have enough land to resettle just the agricultural families of 245 villages. And the problem goes even deeper. These tribal people have their own way of life. The govt has not provided more than 1% literacy and the people here depend on the forests, land etc. Do we, people from an alien culture and society, have the right, to uproot these tribals?
The options we have for energy on a vast scale are nuclear power, thermal power and hydro power. Hydro power is certainly the safest source. And we do need energy. So we can't deny the importance of big dams. But can't we find a way to obtain energy without harming people or the environment?
Maitreyi: We'd thought science would give rise to a new India, and solve our every problem. Big industries were meant to make us self-sufficient. Technological progress would end our backwardness. 50 years after Independence, we see industrialisation occurred and big dams were built, electrification projects completed, we became self-reliant in food, entered the realms of atomic energy and space, and moved ahead to a great extent.
Nissim: But the basic problems? Poverty, hunger and unemployment make a mockery of our plans. The question now is - can science and technology by themselves radically change society? Or do we first need to change many other things? Perhaps we do
It's impossible to change our past
But together we can alter the present
And the present we can only grasp
If we know the past and what it meant
Science was born in the Stone Age
through everyday things
In the Harappan cities
techniques and craft took wing
Then caste came in and raised some high
While others could not aspire to learning
Some things have changed, some have not
Superstition dogs us still
On the path of progress
Rahu-Ketu sway us still
In each age from new lands have people come
Bringing new knowledge and customs
And we Indians of today are heirs to all of them
Would we have come this far had division ruled us then?
We lost to the British when we fell back in science
We'll lose again, unless we learn self-reliance
Baliraja Dam,Balawadi, Sangli, Maharashtra
13. From the Baliraja dam project, we can see that the government builds things for you as does the PWD department, but this may not be of lasting value to the people of the area and would just bring profits to the contractor. Since people are building their infrastructure for themselves, their whole approach, the quality of work and maintenance of it, is very different
We also tried to show that there may be different ways even for the government, for building public works – through community meetings and discussions where everyone has a right to speak; that the output of the dam and the water that comes will be distributed equally to everybody. It will have nothing to do with how much land a person owns and how influential they are in the panchayat samiti and so on.
The other thing is that the people who built the Baliraja dam for themselves, also resolved not to grow sugar cane because they don’t want to grow crops which use water intensively. They preferred crops like pomegranates, which are commercially viable but also less water intensive. They tried to grow trees and then use the leaves for composting. Along with their rights to their own kind of development, they also became aware of their responsibilities to the environment and other factors. This dam was the outcome of people’s hard work and mutual struggle and cooperation with each other.
14. Our objective in hihglihgting Baliraja dam was as an alternative to the binary of the big dam or nothing, that its possible to have many little dams with local materials and local resources. To share output equally. With a big dam people don’t even really know when the water will come flooding into their paddy fields, and are never told about schedules. Influential people and groups always collar the water first and get largest amounts of water.
15. Nuclear power, hydro power and thermal power are used on a large scale in India. Hydro power is the safest source and we do need energy. We can t deny the importance of dam, but can’t we find a way to obtain energy without harming people and environment. This is the concern amongst people who thought like us at that time. This is what led to Narmada Bachaon Andolan, and all that would happen in the years to come.
I guess that side lost and all these projects that benefit contractors and harm people and environment, are getting sanctioned, they are burgeoning and growing even when sitting on dangerously seismic zones. And each time there is a struggle to get them put off.
In Maharashtra's Khanapur taluka
the Yerla flows between Balawadi and Tandulwadi, full of sand and stones. This entire area is drought-afflicted. A dam being built here, the Bali Raja Smriti Dharan. The legend is that Bali was king of the farmers. He fought against injustice - and this dam is really a movement to fight drought. There are thousands of drought-affected villages. What happened here to inspire people to come together in this way?
How is this dam different? First, only local materials are being used such as sand and stones. After a long struggle the people of Balawdi
have also won the contract for selling the sand. The dam costs 50% less than is usual. Most significant is the people's participation at every stage. Here, the Mukti Sangharsh Andolan had a vital role.
The Andolan arose from a struggle against injustice and corruption. After Bombay's textile mill strike in 1982-83 many jobless workers returned to their villages and with the workers of Khanapur taluka
began this movement.
I spent some days here meeting the villagers. Till 1980, they said, conditions were not so bad. Later, the drought worsened. It was interesting to talk to the women. I wanted to know more about their involvement. They took part in the demonstrations. And now they feel more aware of their rights. They're self-confident and unconcerned about what people say. They're not even scared of the police!
There were also villagers and college students doing voluntary labour at the dam site. K J Joy of the Mukti Sangharsh explained some technical aspects of the dam. Sluice gates here will reduce the siltation. Pressure gates will let out excess water.
The villagers told me it's been a constant struggle. Drought-affected areas have govt schemes for employment, but here they had to fight for one. And they wanted work that would be relevant and of lasting value.
I went to their weekly meeting where all participated equally. They told me their objective had been to understand how drought, irrigation and crops were linked. Everyone participated at each stage - from planning, to choosing the dam site and deciding how the water should be used. People will have equal water rights regardless of whether, or how much, land they own. Experiments are under way on five acres to find the most efficient ways of using water and to get relief from drought. The approach has been scientific
Jaywant and Ransingh demonstrated some simple methods any farmer can use, such as gauging the loss of water through evaporation. Instead of crops like sugarcane, crops which need less water – like pomegranate, will be encouraged - nutritious crops which earn good money too.
Trees good for fuel and wood, such as Australian babool
and teak are being grown. Their leaves can be used for making compost - All this points to a method of farming which enables self-reliance and doesn't harm the environment. When people thought about their rights they became aware of their responsibilities too. They made a plan, and tackled their problems. And so, Bali Raja is not just a dam - it's a symbol of the people's struggle.
This song in episode 12 is that it’s impossible to change our past but together we can alter the present, and the present we can only grasp if we know the past and what it meant. The song says that science was born in the Stone Age and through everyday things. Essentially this is the theme of the whole series. It is in everyday things, in how people live, and in the way that they choose to solve their problems of food, transport, energy that we can understand something about society.
The song also reasserts that we loose unless we learn to be self-reliant. This is already lost in the world after globalization or has no resonance any more with people. As long as the latest gadget released in the west, is released here on the next day, preferably at a cheaper price, people don’t really care about self-reliance. They are content living in a world of satellite television that we fill up with all the latest in the world. Criticality has died, even the kind that was sentimental and nationalist has died.
17. BKC was a mainstream TV show being shown on Sunday morning at 9 am. Everybody watched it. Some people and policy makers criticized it. Like Sunil Alagh of the Planning Commission wrote a letter to Professor Yashpal saying that the criticism of Narmada dam was nonsense. Even though they cut out some scenes, like the interview with Vinod Raina. But Alagh was upset even with the scenes that were not directly critical of the dam.
Today in Gujarat if anything is said against the Narmada dam, you will beaten up and called desh drohi and Pakistani/ISI agent and various other things. Today it is more difficult to criticize Statist projects of ‘big science’, because there are financial and economic implications for other players like corporations and firms, and many of these determine the media agenda. My opinion is that now critical thinking and such filmmaking is marginalized. Even if there are people who make films which show injustice and inequity, these are made for film festivals or distribution amongst friends and small circles. These filmmakers have to be content with only a few thousand people seeing their films.
18. This episode ends with the Baliraja dam and with a kind of hope that these are the new ways in which people can use science and technology of a scale they can manage and they can benefit from.
The past tells us who we are
'What's past is past' but it brought us here
And here is where we can seize the day
To shape our future in a different way