The Narmada Dammed
I recently read The Narmada Dammed: An Inquiry into the Politics of Development by Dilip D'Souza. This is his second book and it was published three years ago. Since I read Branded by Law, Dilip D'Souza's first book, sometime early this year, I was looking forward to reading his book on the Narmada too. Branded by Law was an eye opener; in fact I had almost not heard of the so called 'criminal tribes' before reading that book.
The Narmada Dammed is also a great work. It's not just that the author has thought a lot about the issues at hand. His thoughts as well as his scepticism took him to various villages on the banks of the Narmada, and one strength of the book comes from his experiences in these villages. Dilip has also carefully gone through a large chunk of manuscripts and publications (including the October 2000 Supreme Court judgement), and does a splendid job in dissecting the official data and the logic there, systematically pointing out the contradictions and the factual errors.
All of us may have our own viewpoints about huge dams. Some of us may equate the dams with progress, some of us would think that the dams bring in more destruction than good. But that's not the main point of The Narmada Dammed. The thrust of the book is to build a critique of the Sardar Sarovar Project based only on the failed resettlement and rehabilitation measures. Why the underprivileged need to constantly sacrifice their land and livelihood for the 'greater public good' which may materialise at some future point? Why the authorities never show the enthusiasm that they have for building the dams when it comes to rehabilitation of the oustees? The book indeed diligently scrutinizes what has been 'achieved' with respect to resettlement and rehabilitation vis a vis the promises. Whether one is for the dam or against it, one should take a serious look at how the authorities went about R & R.
The book also mentions alternate (and compromise) models for the Narmada project. Also instances of achievements of those who concentrated on small scale projects. (Here's a relevant excerpt from the book). And here's a slightly detailed review by Sucheta Dalal.
Closely following an author who is dissecting official manuscripts paragraph by paragraph can turn out to be boring. But it is not so in this work, thanks to the superb quality of writing.