On Monday, June 6, Leftist activist Medha Patkar, known for stirring protests and causing the long delay of the Sardar Sarovar Dam project in Gujarat, was denied entry to Odisha’s Dhinkia village in the Jagatsinghpur district.
As per reports, the so-called ‘environmental activist’ who is often accused of stalling infrastructure projects through campaigns, was stopped by Dhinkia villagers from entering the village and was sent back.
In visuals shared by Kanak News, a large group of villagers are seen gathered on a bridge, asking Medha Patkar why has she come and what is her intention. They repeatedly told Patkar that the villagers are fine, living in harmony and they don’t want Medha to cause conflicts in the village.
Earlier today, Patkar had visited the Kujang jail to meet ‘activist’ Debendra Swain who was arrested back in January following a clash with police. Swain was reportedly leading the protests against JSW’s proposed steel plant in Dhinkia village. Patkar reportedly said that she wanted to meet Swain’s family members but she was met with fierce protests and was sent back.
Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar is in Kujang jail to meet activist Debendra Swain who was arrested following a clash with police during protest over proposed steel plant in Dhinkia; Patkar is scheduled to visit Dhinkia later in the day #Odisha— OTV (@otvnews) June 6, 2022
Protests in Dhinkia village over steel plant
It is notable here that the proposed mega steel plant project in Jagatsinghpur district was met with some protests in Dhinkia village back in January this year. Police had baton-charged a group of protestors who were opposing the steel plant. Following the police action, a number of people were arrested and some had absconded, fearing arrest.
In February this year, a group of so-called ‘environment activists’ tried to visit the Dhinkia village and meet villagers. The villagers and the district administration had stopped the activists and had told them that they can visit the general area without stopping at the village and speaking to any local villagers. A bike-borne group of 7 men had kept the visiting activists’ company and had ensured that they are not allowed to speak to any locals. The activists had alleged that the people who objected to their visit were ‘backed by the Jindal Group’.
JSW Group is planning a massive 13.2 mtpa capacity steel plant at the investment of Rs 55,000 crores in the area. It is notable here that Dhinkia is the village where the South Korean steel giant POSCO had met massive protests. After a long wait of 13 years when the Odisha government failed to procure land, POSCO had left the state. The Naveen Patnaik government then had taken up JSW’s proposal for the mega steel plant. Local betel farmers have been protesting against the project alleging that the acquisition process is not fair and betel leaf farmers may lose livelihoods. However, wary of the lack of industrialisation and resulting outward migrations, the Patnaik government has made clear that land acquisition will be completed soon for the Jindal plant. JSW wants 2800 acres in the Erasma block for its proposed plant.
Medha Patkar and her Narmada Bachao Andolan had kept dry regions of Gujarat deprived of water for decades
It is notable here that Medha Patkar had gained fame for her ‘Narmada Bachao Andolan’ against the Sardar Sarovar Dam and canal project. The long-proposed dam project was delayed for years over trivial issues by the UPA government at the centre and by activists like Medha Patkar. Though the foundation was laid by Nehru in 1961, protests, litigations and government delays had kept the project pending. Finally, it was the Modi government that cleared the project, a month after assuming office in 2014. The increase of the dam’s height from 121.92 metres to 138.68 metres quadrupled the dam’s storage capacity.
In 2017, Narmada waters finally reached the dry and parched region of Kutch.