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In the belly of the river

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Environmental movements took place several times only for the sake of development. Author Amita Baviskar tries to depict this hard reality in her book “In the Belly of the River”. The book talks about the impact on the Bhilalas community due to the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam that threatened to displace the community from their own homeland. Sardar Sarovar Dam is the second largest dam after the Grand Coulee Dam in terms of volume in the world. The dam was constructed to provide electricity and irrigation facilities to the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. The author did her anthropological field work in the Jhabua district, MP to be familiar with the reality of this movement. To know about the history, economy, social structure, ecological situation of the Bhilalas she chose inductive analysis rather than deductive analysis. She also visited the place Badwani (headquarter of the Andolan) and met with Medha Patkar who was the motivator of this movement.

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Therefore, in this bottom up perspective, she could place herself in their shoes and realize the pain and the impact of the andolan. In her book she talked about the Gandhian view of development and the Nehruvian plan for rapid industrialization. But industrialization doesn’t means to snatch the happiness of others. During her anthropological journey she used to stay in the Anjanvara village. By staying there she learnt a lot about the Bhilalas community in deeply, how much they were depending upon the nature, there rituals, traditional and cultural practices etc. The Bhilalas community had poor lands which was mainly depending upon the rainfed farming. They have the idea of organic agriculture which helps them to maintain the sustainability and the inputs are easily available e. g. cow dung, cow urine, leaves, organic manure etc. Everyone has some fields and have the idea of crop rotation, intercropping, mixed cropping which increases the yield as well as the resistance power of the crop to prevent from the pest. Their production was for to continue their livelihood but in the bad time they used to take loan or grain from the moneylender. It seems that they are all not educated but they have the skills of farming. Education actually just provide the basic knowledge but those people have their own ancestral knowledge which helps them to continue their livelihood. They might be economically poor but they are happy with whatever they have to continue their livelihood. In the present era the definition of development is also changing. Development means desirable positive changes which is needed.

Development for one person may not be development for an another. But still people are doing only to fulfill their needs therefore some people have to suffer from the ill impacts of this. Author wants to go to the depth and there she found out that the relationship with nature is changing with the flow of development. She also experienced the “salient system of social differentiation” which separated the hill adivasis and bazaarias (those who lives in town). Adivasis are also human being and they also have their feelings. But now people doesn’t think about them. All is changing with the flow of the money. They don’t have enough money to do completion in the market but they are happy whatever they have. In her book Baviskar mentioned a very good line which is said by a villager that “they born and brought up in forest. Forest is their home, God land. God gifts them this land. People from the town came here and try to catch the the land and gives threaten to displace them. In their own God gifted land they cannot stay with happily”. They are try to impose policies as they want. So what is real meaning of development and the policy should be made by need based or generalized? Nature has a big power which controlling us. Our life directly or indirectly depending upon the nature’s law. To maintain the sustainability, farmers are playing their major roles. But human being always want to impose new things through development which resulted good or sometimes bad. So the contradiction between man and nature remains from the past times. In this book Baviskar tries to represent this situation very well. She also dictated their agricultural cycle very nicely and also their dedication towards the work. April-May is the time for sowing, May-June is the timing for turning of branches, June-July is the starting of monsoon showers which is used for harrowing and ploughing, July-August is the time for hoeing and weeding, August-September is using for harvesting the crops e. g. maize, bajra and chaula. September-October is observed to dedicate respect to the temporal power, October-November is the month for harvesting, threshing and also the storing of cattle feed, and the month November-December is selling for chaula, groundnuts and other cash crops.

The full agricultural cycle depends on the water of Narmada river and people were living there from their ancestral times. Suddenly the new policy came and told them to be displaced. Do we think about the effect of the policies, should it be positive or negative?Narmada Bachao Andolan also known as Jal Satyagraha, was one of the biggest movement in the Indian history to stop the construction of Sardar Sarovar Project. Lots of money invested in this project and it was also a very challenging plan. Many livelihood depends upon the Narmada river whom were mainly affected through this project. To the irrigation purpose and to earn high revenue Govt. has made this plan. The fight for this project is to keep their own rights and also to protect their own ancestral land. Baviskar also said in her book that it was “the single largest river valley project in India” which includes the build of 30 major dams, 135 medium dams and 3000 small dams among them Sardar Sarovar Project is the major. Sardar Sarovar Project was built to provide water for irrigation and drinking but due to this project 27000 families were threatened to displace from their ancestral place. The first plan of the Sardar Sarovar Dam was made by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on 5th April 1961.

World bank also agreed to give fund for this project in 1985 but the implementation of this project becomes a controversial issue. Medha patkar, Baba Amte, Arundhati Roy, Amir Khan plays a key role to lead this Narmada Bachao Andolan movement. In 1989 the movement turns into a new side with the helps of NGOs. In 1996 world bank stopped the funding for this project when the movements turns into a big issue and then again resumed it after taking the order of Supreme Court with some conditions. The power dynamics is changing which affects a lot because the power is confined in the hands of such people who are controlling the whole system and start experimenting of their own. Their is same connection in the implementation of this project. People don’t find it feasible because such solutions does not involve huge money. Baviskar tries to depicts this whole reality very nicely and politics also plays a major role for this ‘developmental’ project.

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