because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Medha Patkar

In the country of India, where a billion and a quarter people live, as many as half of which are poverty-stricken, the struggle between the poor -- who often don't even have anywhere to live -- and the corporations that are protected and even encouraged by the government to produce ever more profit for private investors has been going on for centuries. One of the heroes of this struggle is an in-your-face woman raised by parents who were themselves advocates and activists for the poor and her name is Medha Patkar.

Deciding more than fifty years ago to live in active opposition to private money-making over the public good, Patkar has been arrested, severely beaten, and harassed at every turn. Because her efforts sometimes block the establishment of chemical or car manufacturing plants (which would bring jobs), Patkar's stance is sometimes misunderstood. But her overall message is clear: declaring money more important than life is never in the best interests of the human race.

Patkar fights tirelessly against the building of dams that will produce electrical power but put thousands of acres of fertile farm land under water and displace tens of thousands of indigenous people with no place else to go. And she demands, at the least, just compensation for families who have suffered the negative impacts of "development" projects calculated to make the already rich richer. Patkar has nearly died on more than one occasion participating in hunger strikes to draw attention to the anguish of the dispossessed. And while her organization (Narmada Bachao Andolan) has won some battles, they have continued to lose the war.  So far.

Still, Medha Patkar is an in-your-face woman. They never give up. They never give in. They know what's important. And they're willing to sacrifice their lives.

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