Pratibha Shinde

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2005
Lok Sangharsh Morcha, Lok samanway pratisthan


This profile was prepared when Pratibha Shinde was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2005.
The New Idea
There are 30 large, 135 medium, and 3,000 small dams planned under the government’s Narmada Valley Development Project. The construction and flooding will leave millions homeless, but the government has only given minimal thought to what must be done to help these ‘refugees.’ Rehabilitation packages stop at arbitrary land allocations, and simply don’t provide enough to meet the needs of all the displaced. Though the effects of displacement spill over state borders, there is no coordination between states and no uniform policy for dealing with the problem.

Pratibha realizes that rehabilitation cannot be piecemeal. Unlike other activists, Pratibha is organizing the people to participate in local self-governance through tribal self-rule councils and village committees. She arms them with the power to negotiate suitable land use, map livelihood options after relocation, and demand functional amenities like education, health care, and basic infrastructure and access to government employment schemes.

Much of the land set aside for the displaced citizens is actually already inhabited. The original inhabitants of those areas are usually small minority tribes, deemed ‘encroachers’ by the government and denied any rights to this land under the Forest Conservation Act. The government feels that, since these people have no legal right to the land, it is free to reallocate the land as it sees fit. Despite what the laws say, these tribes feel a strong connection to the land and resent the sudden influx of refugees, whom they consider to be trespassers. Pratibha knows that the key to getting the whole plan to work is to get tribals and refugees to get along. She is working out guidelines in partnership with the government to resolve inter-community conflicts.

Pratibha works in the state of Maharashtra, and her efforts have yielded stunning results. She and her organization, Punarvasan Sangharsh Samiti (The Struggle for Rehabilitation Group) have made Maharashtra the first state in India to announce a comprehensive rehabilitation policy that takes into account all the people, both refugees and tribals, affected by dam projects. Now Pratibha is expanding her model into the state of Gujarat, where no rehabilitation policy exists. She is also in the process of drafting a national rehabilitation policy for the government that would monitor six Indian states affected by dam displacement—Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat. With a national policy in place, it would make it mandatory for rehabilitation to precede displacement. She is instigating at the grassroots level to effectively reach state and national ears.

Her vision goes beyond just people displaced by dams. She hopes that in future, the national model she is promoting will be applicable to people displaced by other major public works projects, such as the government’s grand river-linking project.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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