Medha Patkar

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Medha Patkar
Patkar in 2002
Born (1954-12-01) 1 December 1954 (age 68)
Other namesMedha tai
EducationMA in Social work
Alma materTata Institute of Social Sciences
OrganizationNational Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM)
MovementNarmada Bachao Andolan (NBA)[citation needed]
AwardsRight Livelihood Award

Medha Patkar (née Khanolkar; born 1 December 1954) is a politician and activist working on certain political and social issues raised by tribals, dalits, farmers, labourers and women facing injustice in India. She is an alumnus of TISS, a premier institute of social science research in India.[1][2][better source needed].

Patkar is the founder member of the movement called Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) in three states: Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. NBA has been engaged in a struggle for justice for the people affected by the dam projects related to the Sardar Sarovar dam project, especially those whose homes will be submerged but have not yet been rehabilitated.[citation needed] She is also one of the founders of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), an alliance of hundreds of progressive people's organizations.[3] In addition to the above, Patkar was a commissioner on the World Commission on Dams, which did thorough research on the environmental, social, political and economic aspects and impacts of the development of large dams globally and their alternatives.[4] She was the national co-ordinator and then convenor of National Alliance of People's Movements for many years and now continues to be an advisor to NAPM. Under the banner of NAPM, she has participated in and supported various mass struggles across India against inequity, non-sustainability, displacement, and injustice in the name of development. Her work challenges Casteism, Communalism, and all forms of discrimination.[citation needed] She has been a part of numerous teams and panels that work on initiating and formulating various national policies and enactments including those related to land acquisition, unorganized sector workers, hawkers, slum-dwellers and forest-dweller Adivasis. NAPM filed several public interest litigations including those against Adarsh society, Lavasa Megacity, Hiranandani(Powai) and as well as other builders.

In 2000, Medha Patkar was included in the 100 heroes of the 20th century by Time.[5] However, noted Economist Swaminathan has criticized Medha Patkar in hindsight, saying she was wrong on the Narmada project. Prime Minister Modi said that Medha Patkar and her “urban Naxal” friends had opposed and delayed the Narmada project that had greatly benefited Gujarat.”[6] Expansion of the project in subsequent years has further brought further benefits from the dam, with irrigation water now available throughout the year to farmers across the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. [7]

Early and personal life[edit]

Medha Patkar was born as Medha Khanolkar on 1 December 1954 in Mumbai, Maharashtra, the daughter of Vasant Khanolkar, a freedom fighter, and labour union leader,[8] and his wife Indumati Khanolkar, a gazetted officer in the Post and Telegraphs Department.[9] She has one brother, Mahesh Khanolkar, an architect.

Medha Khanolkar earned an MA in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. She was married for seven years (hence her surname Patkar) but the marriage ended in divorce.[8]

Career as an activist[edit]

Medha Patkar worked with voluntary organizations in Mumbai's slums for 5 years and tribal districts of North-East districts of Gujarat for three years. She worked as a member of the faculty at Tata Institute of Social Sciences but left her position to take up the fieldwork. She was a Ph.D. scholar at TISS, studying Economics development and its impact on traditional societies. After working up to M.Phil. level she left her unfinished Ph.D. when she became immersed in her work with the tribal and peasant communities in the Narmada valley spread over three states.

Medha Patkar in 2011
Medha Patkar in 2011
Medha Patkar speaking at the Bhopal Jan Utsav 2017 organized by All India People's Science Network
Medha Patkar at the Right Livelihood Award foundation.

About Narmada Bachao Andolan[edit]

Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) is a social movement protesting against the dam on river Narmada which began in 1985 consisting of Adivasis, farmers, fish workers, labourers, and others in the Narmada valley along with the intellectuals including environmentalists, human rights activists, Scientists, academicians, artists who stand for just and sustainable development. Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat is one of the biggest dams on Narmada where the non-violent people's struggle has questioned social and environmental costs, undemocratic planning, and unjust distribution of benefits. The struggle is still on in the Sardar Sarovar affected areas and also other large and medium dams on Narmada and its tributaries. It has led to thousands of project-affected families receiving land-based rehabilitation and continues to fight against submergence and displacement without rehabilitation of more than 40,000 families residing in these submergence areas of Sardar Sarovar to date. Many of its claims and critique on economic, social, and environmental aspects of the Sardar Sarovar and Narmada valley development project stand vindicated today.[citation needed] Patkar has also questioned the wisdom of the currently popular developmental strategy of linking rivers in India as a means to address issues of water shortage.[10]

NBA has been running JEEVANSHALAS- schools of life, since 1992 with about 5,000 students have passed out and many graduated. Tens of them are under training in athletics and some have won many awards.[citation needed] NBA also successfully established and managed two micro-hydro projects which got submerged due to the SS dam. It has been working in many sectors over the last 30 years including health, employment guarantee, Right to Food and PDS, rehabilitation, and environment protection.[citation needed]

Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan[edit]

It is a struggle for housing rights in Mumbai, started in 2005, and continues to fight for the rights of slum-dwellers and those created by the builders in various rehabilitation and re-development projects. It all began when the government of Maharashtra demolished 75,000 houses of the poor in 2005, against its promises before the election. Strong people's movement was founded by Medha Patkar and others when she gave the slogan in a large public meeting at Azaad Maidaan Mumbai. It was through mass action that the communities were rebuilt on the same sites and continued to assert and attain their right to shelter water, electricity, sanitation, and livelihood. As members of working-class GBGBA respect the slum-dwellers for contribution to the life of the city and involve them inequitable and inclusive planning for urban development.

National Alliance of People's Movements[edit]

The National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) is an alliance of people's movements in India, with the stated aim of working on a range of issues related to socio-economic justice, political justice, and equity.[11] Medha Patkar founded the National Alliance of People's Movements with the objective of "facilitating unity and providing strength to peoples' movements in India, fighting against oppression, further questioning the current development model to work towards a just alternative". She is the national convener of the NAPM.[12]

Tata Nano Plant Singur[edit]

Tata Motors started constructing a factory to manufacture their $2,500 car, the Tata Nano at Singur.[13] She protested against the setting up of the plant at Singur, West Bengal. Patkar's convoy was assaulted, allegedly by CPI(M) activists, at Kapaseberia in East Midnapore district while on her way to strife-torn Nandigram.[14] At the height of the agitation, Ratan Tata had made remarks questioning the source of funds of the agitators.[15] In October 2008 Tata announced that the factory would not be completed and that the production of the Nano will be set up in Sanand, Gujarat.

Nandigram land grab resistance (2007)[edit]

She participated in and initiated various supportive actions including a fast during Diwali in Kolkata, mass-mobilization, complaints at various national fora, and building support of intellectuals and various citizens across the country. The battle was ultimately won in favor of the local people who had to lay their lives in large numbers during state violence.


Lavasa is a project by Hindustan Construction Corporation, in Maharashtra. It is a yet-to-be-completed city. Lavasa Project is criticized by P. Sainath for unjust use of water in a worst-hit farmer suicide state.[16] Medha Patkar with villagers of Lavasa protested for the environmental damage in Nagpur.[17] She also filed a PIL in Supreme Court against the Lavasa project.

Golibar Demolition[edit]

Demolition took place on 2 and 3 April 2013 in the Golibar area, Mumbai, Maharashtra evicting 43 houses and displacing more than 200 people. the whole project is to displace thousands of families and 50–100 years old communities that are demanding in-situ and participatory housing rights. Medha Patkar with more than 500 slum dwellers set on indefinite fast to protest against any further demolition until the inquiry into the matter is completed.[18] Patkar has alleged corruption and "atrocities" by builders in the city's slum rehabilitation scheme and called for the halting of six projects by the Slum Rehabilitation Authority until a proper inquiry is conducted. The inquiry was conducted giving partial solutions hence communities continue with their struggle.[19]

Save Sugar-Cooperatives Mission[edit]

To save the Sugar-Cooperative sector in Maharashtra from falling into the hands of politicians including tens of ministers in the Maharashtra cabinet till 2014, Medha Patkar organized protests. She explained that "the politicians are interested in the prime plots of land, old equipment, and machinery," of sugar co-operatives and accused the state government of selling assets of the industry at throw-away rates. A case against Girna Sugar factory at Malegaon, Nasik, Maharashtra and members of Chhagan Bhujbal Family pending before the Supreme court of India and the unused land of the factory is re-occupied and cultivated by the local farmers who were the donors of the cooperative that was privatized by the former minister purchasing it at a throwaway price.[20]

Hiranandani land scam[edit]

Medha Patkar along with other activists registered in PIL in the High Court of Mumbai, alleging violations by property tycoon Niranjan Hiranandani in building luxury flats instead of affordable houses. Hiranandani had signed a lease for the 230 acres of land in 1986 at a rate of Re 1 per hectare in a tripartite agreement with the state and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority.[21] Responding to PIL Maharashtra High Court judges say that" we appreciate the elegance of the construction and the intent on creating an architectural marvel for the city of Mumbai, we see the specific intent of wholly ignoring the most vital, and perhaps the only, condition in tripartite agreement (to create affordable houses of 40 and 80 sq m)".[22] If calculated according to the current market price, the quantum of the scam will be around Rs. 450  billion.[23] The judgment of 2012 directed Hirandani to build 3,144 houses for the low-income groups before any other construction at Hiranandani gardens which is yet to happen. The case is at the stage of final hearing at HC of Mumbai.[24]

Kovvada Nuclear project[edit]

Patkar expressed strong opposition to the land acquisition in Kovvada of Ranasthalam Mandal in Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh saying that the nuclear plant would be a disaster for ecology as well as people of the region.[25]

K-Rail (SilverLine) Project[edit]

Patkar said what the state needed was development not destruction. She was speaking at a protest meet against the CPM-led Kerala government's ambitious SilverLine semi high speed rail corridor project on 24th March 2022. "This has become an internal war. This is not Ukraine, this is Kerala. This is to save our country from the high speed development tragedy," she said.[26]

JSW Steel project[edit]

Patkar has been opposing the JSW steel project in Odisha citing environmental reasons. However in June 2022, when she tried to meet her aide at Dhinsukia village in Odisha, the villagers opposed her presence and protested following which police intervened and Patkar had to go back.[27][28]

Medha Patkar in March 2012

Career in politics[edit]

In January 2004 during the World Social Forum held in Mumbai. Medha Patkar and other members of National Alliance of People's Movement initiated a Political Party 'People's Political Front[29]' also called as 'Lok Rajniti Manch'. However, Medha did not participate as an active politician but adhered herself to creating an atmosphere and environment by organizing a fifteen days Maharashtra state-level campaign. She was accompanied by two young activists, Maju Varghese and journalist Jaspal Singh Naol (Jal). Meetings were organized under her leadership in each district of Maharashtra. Most of the members had asked Patkar to stand for election, but she denied it.

In January 2014, Medha Patkar joined the Aam Aadmi Party, a political party led by Arvind Kejriwal. She and her organization, National Alliance of People's Movement, provided support to the Aam Aadmi Party during the Lok Sabha campaign.[30]

Patkar also contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election for the North East Mumbai constituency as an Aam Aadmi Party candidate.[31] She lost, receiving 8.9%[32] of the vote cast in North East Mumbai constituency, trailing at third position behind Kirit Somaiya (BJP candidate, winner) and Sanjay Patil (NCP candidate).[33] She resigned from Aam Aadmi Party's primary membership on 28 March 2015.[34]

On 16 November 2022, she participated in the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi in Washim, Maharashtra.[35]

Awards and honours[edit]


  • In April 2022, the Government of India's law enforcement agency The Directorate of Enforcement (ED) filed an FIR against activist Medha Patkar over money laundering during Narmada Bachao Andolan.[44]
  • In June 2022, Social activist Medha Patkar faced massive protests at Dhinkia village in Odisha's Jagatsinghpur district, where a stir over a JSW steel project had broken out recently, with locals asking her to "go back" as she apparently tried to make her way to the residence of a jailed agitator.[45]
  • In July 2022, an FIR was registered at the Barwani police station on the complaint of one Pritamraj Badole, a resident of Temla Bujurg village. Mr. Badole has alleged that Narmada Navnirman Abhiyan (NNA), a trust registered in Mumbai, misused funds collected for running residential educational facilities for tribal students of the Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, as per the FIR.[46] During the preliminary investigation, the police discovered that the Narmada Navnirman Abhiyan trust had collected Rs 13 crores in the last 14 years,whose source and expenditure were unknown. Cash worth more than Rs 1.5 crore, whose audit for withdrawal and expenditure remained unclear, was also recovered during the probe. [47] British human rights activist William Gomes wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi condemning the FIR against Medha Patkar as malicious.[48][49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "TISS official website – About TISS". TISS. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  2. ^ Patkar, Medha (18 September 2013). "'The unprotected class of workers is the real India". Rediff. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  3. ^ "National Alliance of People's Movement Website".
  4. ^ "Final report of World Commission on dams" (PDF). United Nations Environment Programme. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 December 2018. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  5. ^ Golden, Frederic (26 April 2000), "A Century of Heroes", TIME, vol. 155, no. 17, pp. 54–57, PMID 12025333
  6. ^ "Medha Patkar was wrong on Narmada project". The Times of India. 4 September 2022.
  7. ^ "How Sardar Sarovar Dam is providing irrigation water in summer for the first time in history". Indian Express. 9 June 2022.
  8. ^ a b "A mother speaks: I worry for her but I know Medha is right". The Times of India. 19 April 2006. Archived from the original on 15 March 2012.
  9. ^ "Medha Patkar's mother dead". Deccan Herald. 25 January 2018.
  10. ^ Patkar, Medha (1 August 2004). River Linking: A Millenium Folly? (1 ed.). National Alliance of People's Movements.
  11. ^ "Website National Alliance for People's Movement". NAPM.
  12. ^ "National Conveners Team National Alliance of People's Movements". National Alliance of People's Movements.
  13. ^ "The Hindu Business Line : Tata Motors' small car to roll out of Singur by 2008". 5 June 2009. Archived from the original on 5 June 2009. Retrieved 16 July 2022.
  14. ^ "Medha Patkar's convoy attacked". NDTV. Archived from the original on 19 December 2021.
  15. ^ "Tata has some values: Medha Patkar". DNA. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  16. ^ "How the other half dries". The Hindu.
  17. ^ "Lavasa battles to get environmental clearance". CNN IBN. Archived from the original on 5 December 2010.
  18. ^ "Medha Patkar enters Day 8 of indefinite fast". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 13 April 2013.
  19. ^ "Aruna Roy seeks Sonia's help to end Medha Patkar's fast". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 17 April 2013.
  20. ^ "Medha Patkar, Anna Hazare on sugar co-operative save mission". CNN IBN. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013.
  21. ^ "Efforts to bury the Rs 45,000 crore Hiranandani land scam in Powai, Mumbai?". Money Life. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  22. ^ Shibu Thomas (23 February 2012). "Hiranandani can't build in Powai sans HC okay". The Times of India. Mumbai, India. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  23. ^ "Case against builder Hiranandani, senior bureaucrat, others for Rs. 30,000-crore land scam". The Hindu. 6 July 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  24. ^ Sequeira, Rosy (2021). "Mumbai:Panel to verify affordable flats by Hiranandani". Times of India. No. 4 March 2021. TNN. Retrieved 11 October 2021.
  25. ^ "Medha Patkar cries halt to Kovvada nuclear project". The Hindu.
  26. ^ "Kerala govt didn't learn anything from floods, Medha Patkar at SilverLine protest". OnManorama. Retrieved 24 March 2022.
  27. ^ "Row over JSW project: Medha Patkar denied entry in Odisha village by protesters". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  28. ^ "Odisha: Supporters of Steel Plant Block Activist Medha Patkar's Entry to Dhinkia Village". News18. 7 June 2022. Retrieved 8 June 2022.
  29. ^ [1] 2004/03/18[dead link]
  30. ^ Patkar extends support to AAP Indian Express, 14 January 2014
  31. ^ "AAP to field Medha Patkar, Anjali Damania for Lok Sabha polls; releases first list of 20 candidates". The Economic Times. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  32. ^ Arvind Kejriwal's AAP needs a future plan; fatigue sets in for party's small-time drama The Economic Times
  33. ^ Maharashtra – Mumbai North East, Results Declared Archived 17 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine Election Commission of India, 2014
  34. ^ "Live Updates: AAP Releases Video Of Arvind Kejriwal's Speech at Controversial Party Meet". 29 March 2015. Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  35. ^ PM Modi hits out at Rahul Gandhi for walking with Medha Patkar during Bharat Jodo Yatra 20 November 2022,, accessed 13 July 2023
  36. ^ "Laureates 1991-Medha Patkar & Baba Amte / Narmada Bachao Andolan". Archived from the original on 13 November 2007.
  37. ^ Malhotra, Aditi (17 February 2014). "A Guide to Aam Aadmi Party's National Candidates". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  38. ^ "Medha Patkar selected for 1999 M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award".
  39. ^ "Quicktakes Indian Express". The Indian Express. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  40. ^ "Medha Patkar – The People's Protestor". Tehelka Magazine.
  41. ^ [2] 2001/04/29[dead link]
  42. ^ "Dailyhunt". Retrieved 13 November 2018.
  43. ^ "Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice held on Sunday". 11 November 2014. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  44. ^ "Patkar NGO let off hook for 17 years".
  45. ^ "Row over JSW project: Medha Patkar denied entry in Odisha village by protesters".
  46. ^ "FIR in Madhya Pradesh against Medha Patkar, 11 others for 'misuse' of funds; she denies allegations". The Hindu. 10 July 2022.
  47. ^ "FIR registered against Medha Patkar, 11 others for misusing funds". Mathrubhumi. Retrieved 23 June 2023.
  48. ^ Gomes, William Nicholas. "British human rights activist condemns malicious FIR against Medha Patkar | News Ghana". Retrieved 16 July 2022.
  49. ^ "British human rights activist condemns malicious FIR against @medhanarmada". Retrieved 16 July 2022.