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Narendra Dabholkar has become an icon of rationalist thought in India, but his works being mostly in Marathi are understood by few non-Maharashtrians for either endorsement or criticism. I am attempting to translate some of his speeches, so that his thoughts may reach more people and inform opinions. This is part 2 of the speech, starting around 11:30 minutes into the speech. Part 1 is here: Narendra Dabholkar's speech on tradition and superstition - English translation Part 1

The act against black magic and superstitions may not have been passed (It was passed after his murder), but nobody noticed that a law containing "Dev" (God) came into force in Maharashtra four years ago. The name of that act is Devdasi Prevention act 1934. It got amended four years ago. Now, if you marry a girl who has completed eighteen years of age to a God, then the person conducting the wedding is a criminal, the person marrying is a criminal, the parents of the person being married are criminals and those attending are criminals. You cannot say that parents and girls are willing, so what is your problem?

When I untangled the first jat (dreadlocks): We oil and comb our hair daily. Poor girls in rural areas may not. Sometimes their hair gets tangled and the tangles keep increasing and they are not able or don't untangle them. Once it starts becoming visible someone says "This is Yellama's jat." Then slowly they start offering her vermillion and turmeric, then applying banyan tree sap, then eventually she starts "channelling the goddess", then she starts taking the goddess for worship around the village and eventually becomes a devdasi and lands up into prostitution.

The jat that this whole thing begins with, the first time I untangled it, was 27 years ago. I still remember there was a beautiful eighteen year old girl called Mangala and I convinced her to untangle her old dreadlock. It was a four year old thick and long dreadlock. But before I could untangle it, the girl's mother came to meet my wife and told her "your husband doesn't know. He is putting his hand on Yellamai's jat. Yellama is a vengeful woman and if she gets enraged, she doesn't rest till she has made a guy wear a sari (emasculated him)." It is over twenty five years since I untangled the jat and I am still roaming around in these (male) clothes only.

From that one dreadlock, there were enough lice to supply the entire district of Satara. So our dispensary (Dr. Narendra Dabholkar practiced medicine till 1982) had women lining up to untangle their dreadlocks. Now the thing is, the woman who has a jat wears a cowrie necklace around her neck. Until that necklace called darshan must be put on another woman's neck, there is no permission to untangle the dreadlock.

You know what idea we did? Not we, my wife, I didn't used to be there. When the woman who wanted her hair untangled said "I have darshan on my neck, what do I do?" My wife used to say "Put it on my neck". So my wife used to wear the darshan and untangle her hair and our dispensary had darshans hung in rows. Nothing happened to us.

Why am I telling you this? Because even today the reality of our society needs to be understood and it isn't as simple and straightforward as it appears.

I had gone to Nashik. Nashik is preparing from now for the arrival of Sinhastha (Kumbh mela) in three years. Last time, a mere (sarcasm) 70 lakh people had arrived on one day to bathe in the river at one auspicious moment. 29 died crushed. Now this time around the estimates are for a crore. India has a fertile mind. So a discovery has happened in India that is found nowhere else in the world. It goes something like this.

Dev (Gods) and danav (demons) together churned the sea. 14 treasures emerged from it, the last of which was amrut. Now logically, if both did the work, they could have shared the proceeds. But Gods decided that they wanted to keep it all and started stealing it away. Both Gods and demons grabbed the vessel with amrut inside. 12 years they struggled to take it. In the process, one drop of amrut spilled on each of Allahabad, Ujjain, Haridwar and Godavari (Nashik). So we have discovered that in those twelve years if you go and at that exact moment bathe in the Godavari, your bank balance (karma) for sin for the last twelve years becomes zero. This facility can be found nowhere else in the world.

So thousands of sadhus arrive in fancy clothes and cars. They need thousands of liters of shrikhand and tens of thousands of liters of milk. When they go for the ritual bath, they fight like little children over who goes first. They smoke marijuana. All this isn't said by Narendra Dabholkar, but the one proclaimed to be equal to a sage in Maharashtra, who got a dnyanpeeth award. Kusumagraj (Marathi poet and author Mr V.V. Shirwadkar) has a poem called Sinhastha - have you read it? He has described all this in it.

[recites the poem - describes the excesses of the celebration and ostentatious "austerity"]

And for this last year, 433 crores were spent out of state coffers. At a time when half the schools in Maharashtra didn't have tin roofs or chalk and blackboard. I had gone there. I had printed copies of this poem and I had gone there to distribute it. Some Akashwani man saw and came over and interviewed me. And after the intervew, he hung his head and asked me if it would be okay if the interview played after the Sinhastha.

The budget for three years later is 1300 crores. What is the priority? Whoever wants to go and bathe can go and bathe. Why is money being spent from our pockets on religious things instead of the malnourished children?

The real problem is that we have all decided not to use intelligence. The biggest problem with traditions and orthodox practices is that we don't understand what we do. This question is not related with anyone's individual religious practices.

Vata savitri is worshipped. Shyamchi Aai (classic by Sane Guruji) describes how Shyam's mother is ill and she instructs him to go around the banyan tree on her behalf, and Shyam being male is ashamed to do it. She asks him, what is to feel ashamed in doing something good? I extrapolated this to what today's Shyam's mother would say and what today's Shyam should say. Shyam is Sane Guruji. For the last fourteen years, I'm the editor of Sadhana, established by Sane Guruji, so I have a right to ask this question.

What is the meaning of this? Firstly, after doing the vata savitri puja, the husband's life gets extended, and secondly, every birth, for seven years, she gets the same husband. This is what the vata savitri tradition tells us. So, for a doctor like me running a hospital, it is very easy. Put on a saline drip for the patient inside, plant a banyan tree outside and give a bundle of thread to the wife. Tell her "here, your husband has been started on saline, you wrap this thread around the tree seven times. By whatever reason, what matters is your husband will be saved"

The man you called Hindu Hriday Samarat, that Swatantraveer Savarkar has written that the banyan tree will shade the traveler under it, but when it is old and diseased, it will collapse on the traveler under it. Worshiping a banyan tree that doesn't even understand whether to shade or crush the traveler under it is worshiping falsehood. This isn't Narendra Dabholkar talking, it is the first Hindu Hridaysamrat Veer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar who said it.

In Kolhapur, women were worshiping the banyan tree on the vata savitri day, going around the tree. A jeep came at full speed, one of the women was pulled into it by her arm, and it took off. It was outrageous. A woman was worshiping in the village and she got kidnapped like this, and people gave chase on motorcycles. The jeep wasn't going fast and they caught up with it. They asked "don't you understand anything? The woman was worshiping and is this appropriate?" The man who had pulled her asked the people "Do you know who I am?" "Who are you?" "I am her husband."

The people were surprised. "What's wrong with you? Your wife was worshiping for your long life and to get you as a husband for seven births, what is your problem?" The man replied "Two years since we married, she didn't even stay with me two months, I'll stay like this or what for seven births?"

I asked a woman who seemed clearly uninterested in the motions of the worship whether she was asking for the same husband for seven births, and she replied "I did ask for this same husband for seven births, only wished that this was the seventh birth."

What are we doing? What are we examining? We don't even understand that the traditional practices and rituals we do.

This is the end of part 2. Part 3 will be posted soon.

On day 2 of Modi on the job, his cabinet has passed the ordinance for the Polavaram project. It is waiting for Pranab Mukherjee's signature.

Apart from 136 villages, 211 hamlets and 7 mandals being transferred from Telangana to Andhra, as per the Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan study conducted by Agricultural Finance Corporation Limited, on behalf of the irrigation department, the backwaters of Indira Sagar dam, once completed, will submerge 2,929.07 hectares of reserve forest, spreading across mostly Khammam (2,820.61 hectares), followed by 70.71 hectares in West Godavari and 37.75 acres in East Godavari. Another 293.08 hectares of reserve forest would have to be acquired for project and canal. Thus, a total of 3,223 hectares of reserve forest would disappear totally under the project.

That will teach the anti-national animals to not vote for Modi in the next election.

The National Board of Wildlife (headed by the Prime Minister) had cleared the wildlife aspect of Polavaram (Indira Sagar) project in 2006 after considering various aspects of submergence of the Papikondalu Wildlife Sanctuary (187 hectares) in a meeting attended by BJP's favorite enemy A. Raja. Clearly the "developmental harvest" will be reaped at the cost of the tribals and wildlife he sold out anyway.

The project, proposes to irrigate 232,000 acres in Krishna, Godavari (east and west) and Vishakhapatnam districts (in other words, less than 1.5 times the 1,57,406 acre area that will get submerged - or in other words, there are industrial uses for most of the water), and generate about 960 MW electricity. Water from this project will also feed the proposed Vizag-Kakinada Industrial Corridor; two Special Economic Zones, the Apparel Park, Pharma City, probably a Naval Establishment, and perhaps an atomic research station. The project's stated aims are to irrigate 54 mandals in 4 districts - Krishna, Vishakapatnam, West and East Godavari; to sustainably increase agricultural production; to assure water supply for drinking in Vishakhapatnam and towns en route; to link the Godavari and Krishna rivers, thus reducing pressure on the Krishna waters; and also facilitate recreation, pisciculture, etc.

Over 276 tribal villages in the agency areas of East and West Godavari districts and Khammam district will be submerged. Based on the 2001 census of these areas, it is estimated that 237,000 people will be displaced. About 53 per cent of those displaced will be adivasis, two-thirds of them being Koyas and Konda Reddis. More than 300 hectares of prime forest land, comprising the Papikondalu Wildlife Sanctuary, will also be inundated. The likely agricultural loss is also phenomenal; in the submergence area, cotton is grown in over 10,000 acres, each providing an average of 150 person-days of work. Paddy is grown in 10,000 acres, providing an additional 75 person-days of work each. Tobacco is grown in 6,000 acres and gives 250 person-days of work per acre. And losses in other livelihoods will worsen this situation further. The levels of displacement of lives and livelihoods, besides destruction of environment from this project will far exceed the impact of the Sardar Sarovar dam over the Narmada river. What is more important, a lot many more tribal households stand to be displaced in this project when compared to the latter.

Prof T Shivaji Rao commented on the India Together post this article refers to extensively saying:

The Polavaram Dam issue is not properly understood by the general public in either Andhra pradesh, Orissa, Chattisgarh or CWC in Delhi with the result that the Courts at the state or central level are not scientifically briefed about the complete environmental implications of the project. Firstly,the project was strongly opposed in May 1983 by Dr.K.L.Rao,the top most expert in irrigation Engineering on the ground that the spill-way is highly under-designed and wrongly sited and it will collapse one day or the other.

Secondly,it is not clear if Orissa and Chattisgarh states are opposing the dam on the ground that their original agreement was based on assumption of spill-way design for a Maximum Flood Discharge of 36 lakhs cusecs with a return period of 500-years which is not in tune with the CWC Design standards of 1000-year return period which means raising the peak flood to 49.5 lakh cusecs. Further,the Environmental Impact Assessment, Risk Analysis, Disaster Management including the Rehabilitation and Resettlement reports are based on the old design [2004] criteria of 36 lakh cusecs peak flood while the revised project design based on peak flood of 49.5 lakh cusecs [September,2006] does not take into consideration the need to make a corresponding revision of EIA, RADM and R&R packages. Under the inter-state Agreement,it is the CWC which has to design the project and the determine the back-water curve that is crucial for identifying the areas to be submerged due to extreme floods.

We shoud not put the cart before the horse. In one of the cinemas "Vaddate Dabbu",N.T.Rama Rao as hero instructs his engineers to construct the top floor of the building first so that the basement can be taken up for construction later. Today the politicians and the bureaucrats seem to follow this advise in total that means even without the Central Water Commission taking the primary step in calculating the maximum peak flood for spillway design as per the norms prescribed by the Central Government and the norms followed in other countries and also without the directions of the Central Water Commission on the configuration of the backwater curve that presence the scenarios of submersion in the upper states of Orissa and Chttisgarh and Andhra Pradesh no organization can make a proper assessment of the environmental impact, risk analysis, disaster management plan including rehabilitation and resettlement schemes. But in the present case it appears the reverse process has come into operation and the non-governmental organizations and the Ministries of Environment and forests at the state and central levels seem to be helpless spectators while implementing the rules under the Environmental Protection Act and Forest Conservation Acts.

Unfortunately when the Bachawat Tribunal was giving the award 1982 on Godavari water the peak flood at that time was of a far lesser magnitude and consequently the peak flood was raised to the expected peak level of 36lakh cusecs. Consequently the Bachawat Tribunal accepted the interstate agreement for a peak flood of 36 lakhs cusecs and put a condition that the clearance for the polavaram project was considered for the dam height fixed at an elevation of 150ft. and that the submersion of villages due to back water curve in the upper reaches of the river in Orissa and Chattisgarh states must be limited to +150ft only. Unfortunately in August 1986 the Godavari river experienced a peak flood discharge of 36 lakhs cusecs and hence this unexpected event of extreme magnitude leads to a corresponding increase in revising the peak spillway flood discharge to be about one and half times the historically recorded flood and consequently the state Government has been directed by the central Water Commission in August 2006 to revise the peak flood to 49.5lakh cusecs.

Consequently the Orissa and Chattisgarh state governments are arguing that in view of this revised extreme flood the inundation in Chattisgarh and Orissa will be far higher than originally contemplated at the time of interstate agreement made in 1980. Hence the environmental clearances and forest clearances obtained on the basis of a peak flood of 36 lakhs cusecs does not hold good because more extensive areas will be inundated due to the peak flood of 49.5 lakh cusecs as revised in Aug-Sep 2006. Hence the non-governmental organizations, the state Governments and the courts must take into consideration this new aspect which throws all the earlier reports on Polavaram dam out of gear and hence fresh reports must be prepared to confirm to the rule of law for ensuring a safe environment for the dam and the people who are likely to be affected both on the upstream side and downstream side. Prof.T.Shivaji Rao, Director,Centre for Environmental Studies, GITAM Engineering College,

These people will be moved to cheaply provided accommodation that usually never reaches all those who are displaced and a 40,000 rupee alternative cannot compare with the loss of your own home. The tribals live off the land and forests and have no skills for economic survival in other environments. On top of losing their homes and getting some half hearted compensation that can never compete with the quality of life they have, they will also have to figure out how to survive in an environment they don't have the skills for.

As usual, the person deciding on how their life should unfold is some guy sitting on a stack of notes elsewhere, who will not have to face a moment's discomfort over their devastation.

Once more, development hit tribals will sacrifice for the "greater good" of those who already have more than them. Us, elitist leeches will never tire of sucking the life out of them.