Unlike a typical IIT-ian, white-collar jobs did not hold much attraction for Shripad Dharmadhikary. Which is why having passed out from IIT Bombay with a BE in Mechanical Engineering in 1985, he remained associated with the engineering industry only for a couple of years. His is a different vision -- he dreams of a pollution-free India and a better world.
Based in Madhya Pradesh, this 'weird' IIT-ian,' as he is fondly referred to by his friends, is now bent on spreading the word of a cleaner, greener and better world. By setting up Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, a non-profit organisation in the Narmada Valley dealing with water and energy issues, Dharmadhikary is working tirelessly towards fructifying his dream.
In a telephonic interview with Senior Associate Editor Indrani Roy Mitra, Dharmadhikary shared his vision.
On what motivated him to go off the beaten track
In the initial years, Dharmadhikary too, thought of working in the engineering industry and took up relatively well-paying jobs in Pune. From 1985 to 87, he worked with a number of small scale industries as design and marketing consultant in Pune. From 1987, he worked with Systems Research Institute in Pune working on developmental issues. He also worked on developing and using computer simulation modelling for analysing developmental issues.
However, this ex-IIT-ian wasn't too happy with his jobs. This is not what he wants to do -- he told himself. He wanted to do something else. It was then that 'Narmada Bachao Andolan' happened to him.
Born and brought up in Baroda, he had already heard a lot about the movement and was somehow drawn to it. To translate his thought into action, Dharmadhikary joined the Narmada Bachao Andolan in 1988.
On responsibilities that he handled
In NBA, Dharmadhikary lived among and worked with the affected people. Responsibilities that he handled included documentation, research and analysis, village level mobilisation, planning and participating in mass programmes, networking with other organisations, manning international campaigns.
This former IIT-ian lent valuable support to campaigns and movements related to Sardar Sarovar Project, Maheshwar Project and Bargi Project, among others.
He represented the NBA in national and international meetings, workshops, seminars and conferences. He did a considerable amount of writing on water- and dams-related issues for the media and for some specialised journals.
On his institutional participation
Dharmadhikary has been on several committees set up by the government to resolve issues related to the Narmada dam. These include the Resettlement Planning Committee for Bargi Dam Oustees and the Task Force to Review Narmada Projects -- both set up by the government of Madhya Pradesh.
He was involved in national networks of social and environmental movements and organisations, including those of the people affected by various dams in India.
Dharmadhikary has been associated with the World Commission on Dams since its inception in Gland, Switzerland, and later became a member of the WCD Forum.
He represented NBA on the Steering Committee of the UNEP - Dams and Development Project from 2001 to 2004. He was named an Alternate Member of the NBA till the end of the project in 2006.
On setting up Manthan Adhyayan Kendra
From October 2001, Dharmadhikary relinquished day-to-day responsibilities in the NBA and started a centre to research, analyse and monitor water and energy issues.
The centre -- Manthan Adhyayan Kendra -- is based in the Narmada Valley, but is independent of the NBA. Dharmadhikary is the centre's founder-coordinator.
Manthan researches, monitors and analyses water and energy issues with a focus on privatisation and globalisation of these sectors, its implications, a post-facto evaluation of a major dam project (Bhakra Nangal) in India, dissemination.
Manthan has brought out four publications so far on these issues, has organised or participated in meetings, seminars, workshops and conferences. it goes without saying that Dharmadhikary has been the prime force behind of these gatherings.
Dreams make you feel alive but they do not feed you and no one knows it better than Dharmadhikary. While NBA took care of his basic, minimal needs of living, for Manthan, he had to bank on individual donations for sustaining it. In this regard, he does not forget to express his gratitude to Booker Prize-winning author and activist Arundhati Roy for lending a helping hand in times of need. Thanks to her and many more like-minded people, Manthan is now a full-grown baby out to improve the condition of living of innumerable adults around.
Despite its growth, however, Manhan has not forgotten its mother -- the NBA. Rather, it has vowed to work in tandem with the parental organisation and delve into issues so that the world can be a better place to live in.