Sonali Kudva, Pulitzer Student Fellow
As I continued to try and meet more people to understand the Nira-Deoghar issue better, I kept hearing of an organization that stood apart from the others, namely Prayas. This organization had for all intents and purposes been the most successful and had played the largest role in having the process of privatization halted or stalled. I called Sachin Warghade from Prayas to ask if he would meet with me. He agreed. And he also provided me with the phone numbers of several other organizations involved in this movement.
I met with K.J. Joy and Suhas Paranjpe of SOPPECOM (the Society for Promoting Participative Ecosystem Management) at the Railway station in Pune. They were on their way to Mumbai. The railway station was loud, a little smelly and very busy. I knew I was going to get no footage there, and so I just decided to indulge them in conversation. I spoke with them for about 5 mins before they had to leave.
What was interesting while talking to them was the knowledge that yes, a lot of the opposition to the notion of privatization was backed by political agendas. Nothing overt, but definitely an undercurrent of something darker at play here, I feel.
SOPPECOM, the organization that they have formed as the name suggests, promotes a form of water management that involves the farmer that benefits from the water under question. This is an interesting concept and one that I was to hear more on from others in the next few days.
The following day I met with Sachin Warghade of Prayas. I knew that this meeting was key to my entire understanding of the Nira-Deoghar issue. Prayas was an organization that had initially rallied the villager who had been displaced.
Prayas is an organization that mainly dealt with the electricity sector, and was now engaged in water issues due to the proposal to privatize certain water issues. Sachin Warghade explained the way Prayas became involved with the Nira-Deoghar issue and then went on from there.
Warghade continued to explain the hierarchy of the situation, the various stakeholders involved in this issue. Prayas considers itself to be an organization that is on the side of the people involved and affected by the move toward privatization. It considers itself an agency that will be involved in this issue mainly to see that the regulator, the government and the people involved are all treated fairly and as per the law.
It was very interesting for me to learn that Prayas did not get involved with the Nira-Deoghar project with an intention toward protesting against the move toward privatization. The petition and all other moves against privatization did not appear ideological, but instead appeared to have arisen from a scientific and detailed study of all the socio-economic factors. These factors appeared to have made them realize that privatization was not feasible in this case, primarily due to the discrepancies in the law that governed the privatization process. These discrepancies appear also to make it clear that public interests would not be served if the move toward privatization were continued. Thus the petition by Prayas is to ensure safeguards are in place for the people's best interests.