Goats help villagers fight India development projects
RAHUL WADKE, The Hindu Business Line
MUMBAI, JUNE 3:
The Konkan region of Maharashtra has witnessed a number of protests by local villagers over land acquisition by large power and petrochemical companies.
This ecologically-fragile region is home to the numerous endangered plants and animals.
SEEKING DIVINE INTERVENTION
Villagers have now started seeking divine intervention and some novel protest methods to help them fight against these companies.
They are putting their faith on a newly found ally – the domestic goat. It is this humble animal that is now helping them ‘ward' off companies.
GIFTING GOATS TO TEMPLES
Villagers have the practice of gifting goats to the temples of the local goddesses. While gifting, the villagers invoke an incantation - against the companies and the locals, who assist them in land acquisitions.
Once the goat is sanctified in this manner, it is allowed to roam freely in villages, where the project is proposed to be set up. The land, which has been traversed by the goats, cannot be sold to anybody. It evokes fear among the villagers and prevents them from selling their lands.
Unlike the usual custom of slaughtering such goats and eating its meat as ‘prasad', these goats are protected by the villagers. They are seen as the messengers of the goddesses.
Due to this unusual protest method, the HPCL's new refinery project at Tavsal village in Ratnagiri district has been stalled as the farmers are not even allowing land survey to be undertaken.
Same is the fate of the Dhopave thermal coal plant, which is coming up in the same district.
Using goats as means for organising the villagers and putting up a fight with the companies is the brainchild of Sadanand Pawar, former Economics professor and local resident.
He has been opposing mega projects in Konkan for the past ten years.
Pawar says that the protests are carried out peacefully for the conservation of land and protecting its biodiversity. The goat is the protest symbol of the villagers.
Pawar also claims some impressive scalps using this method.
“In 2002, we protested against Enron power project at Dabhol village in Ratnagiri. We sought help from our goddess and gifted a goat to the temple. We got the result in the form of Enron filing for bankruptcy,” he said.
Asked if this would not tantamount to spreading superstitions and rely on blind faith, he said, “People have criticised me for using the goat, they have accused me of spreading blind faith. But I believe that destroying environment by helping to set up environmentally harmful projects is a far more serious crime.”
Pawar said that Konkan requires projects, which does not hurt the local ecosystem.
“We never oppose any of the railway and port projects or any agro processing projects, which were set up in Konkan.
But thermal, coal and nuclear power projects, we will definitely oppose,” he said.