How does the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) manage to insert expensive advertisements in publications like The New York Times, Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times? Does it receive foreign funds? These were among the questions raised by the Action Research in Community Health and Development (Arch) Vahini, at a recent press conference in Bombay organised by the Narmada Abhiyan, supporters of the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP).
Arch Vahini activists Anil Patel and Sudershan Iyengar wanted to know who paid the $60,000 required for the advertisements soliciting donations to the NBA. They also held that an extensive study of the Narmada project has convinced them that opposition to it was "baseless and illogical".
However, these imputations of "ulterior motives" have been brushed aside by the NBA. Himanshu Takkar of the NBA described the allegations as "ridiculous". "It is very easy for us to get foreign funds, but we have repeatedly said we will not take a single paisa", he iterates. But he does accept that the advertisements appeared and explains, "They (the advertisements) were put in by organisations campaigning against the World Bank funding of projects like the SSP." In fact, Takkar says the NBA has even refused to utilise prize money from international awards like the Right Livelihood Award and the Goldman Environment Prize, worth over Rs 32 lakh.
The NBA claims to be raising its own resources. It recently netted Rs 1.10 lakh by organising an art auction on July 18 this year, depicting the plight of the dam oustees. The works of art on display at Bombay's Chemould Art Gallery were the result of a close interaction between several Bombay-based artists and project-affected persons. Nine exhibits, including a sculpture, were inspired by the association. Only 3 paintings were sold -- a Navjot-Altaf for Rs 45,000, a Jinshook Shinde for 35,000 and a Lalita Lajmi for Rs 30,000. Although the works were modestly priced at 5-figure sums, it was pointed out traditional buyers of art like industrialists have business interests in Gujarat and would not like to be publicly associated with a NBA auction.
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