Award winning social activist Medha Patkar's fan base in her home territory, Konkan is shrinking. Patkar has been refusing to participate in agitation against the proposed Jaitapur nuclear plant, thus making activists unhappy.
Patkar declined the invitation from a group of medical professionals from Maharashtra's Sindhudurg district to be a part of their campaign to save Konkan from the nuclear plant at Jaitapur and rampant mining. "She told us that she was busy with her agitation against Sharad Pawar's Lavasa project and with the Narmada Bachao Andolan," said Dr Jayant Parulekar from Sawantwadi. He said that they were impressed by Patkar's speech at a college in Rajapur last year where she had aired her views on how the nuclear plant was a threat to the ecosystem of Konkan. "She is originally from Vengurla district in Konkan. We thought she would voluntarily be a part of our campaign but we were wrong," said Dr Parulekar.
A local activist with the Konkan Samruddhi Rakshak Committee told this newspaper on the condition of anonymity that since political parties like the CPI(M) and the Shiv Sena were using local sentiments for political gains they approached Patkar. They thought she would lend her voice to them. "Sadly, we were proved wrong. The Lavasa project has been on every social activist's radar since it involves high profile names and prime property. The nuclear plant has been approved by the Central government and national projects are never shifted. The poor villagers of Jaitapur, Mabban, Mithgavane, Niveli Karel and Nate stand to lose a lot," he said.
Medha Patkar confirmed that she was approached for help but she decided against getting involved because "too many players" are already involved to save Konkan and yes, she is busy. "I didn't think at that point that it was a desperate situation. One cannot go for everything. There are other organisations working on this and besides I am busy, not only because of Lavasa but Narmada Bachao Andolan too is taking lot of my time. We are in 20 states now and I have to rush to all places. I hardly sleep for 25 days a month. There is also the Ghar Bachao Andolan where I am fighting for the land rights of Mumbai's slum dwellers," she said, recalling her fight against the Enron project at Dabhol a few years back where people from all over India had joined the fight and added that she will go there if necessary.
Mohan Keluskar, President of Konkan Vikas Aghadi observes that Patkar has been going everywhere but her efforts are not bearing results. "She has been fighting for slum dwellers, against corporates etc but in the end she has this tendency to abandon issues she herself has created awareness for, to further her own purpose. Hence one cannot take her seriously anymore."