Mehdiganj Conference 29/03/08

On the 29th we moved to Mehndiganj around 12’o clock. I was so excited for Medha Patekar. When I reached there, I found Regional Pollution Control officer giving speech. I was shocked to see him. I just couldn’t believe it. He is anti Lok Samiti guy. I had interviewed him 2-3 times with other researchers and he was always so rude with us. I remember once he got mad on us while interviewing him and told me to don’t come again to his office. But his speech seemed so nice, he was talking in favor of Lok Samiti. He said ” I am here because I care about environment, and I am so happy to see that other people also think about it. Usually I am so busy but when Nandlal invited me for this conference I couldn’t stop myself by coming here. ” I knew that everything was a lie.

I asked Nandlal about how he was there. Nandlal said that he went to his office to invite him but he was not agree to come. Then Nandlal told him that if he would not come, he should be ready to face the result. It was funny. During this time Medha Patekar came in conference. She was sitting next to me. She was so simple dressed. Regional pollution control officer wanted to meet Medha Patekar. He contacted Nandlal and Nandlal got him meet to Medha Patekar.

Regional pollution control officer came and touched her feet. Then Medha Patekar asked him about the water and pollution condition in Mehndiganj and he said “water level is decreasing in Mehndiganj.” Then Medha Patekar asked why it is decreasing in Mehndiganj? Then Pollution control officer replied because of less rain. Then Medha Patekar asked if Coca-Cola is doing any damage? He said “NO”. It was funny to hear him saying “NO”. Everybody knows that less rain is the biggest problem in Mehndiganj but we cant say that Coke is not responsible. We don’t have any control over rain but we can control Coke.

While Medha Patekar was talking her, other social activists also jumped at him. Everybody was asking him about pollution level and he was trying to satisfy them but hecouldn’t do it. He was like a goat with 10-15 other lions. He was sweating a lot. He had brought some official documents to show to Nandlal and Medha Patekar. He showed a letter written by Coca-Cola to state pollution control board, Lucknow requesting them to renew their license of waste disposals. That letter was written in July last year.

That officer said that government had not renewed the license yet. As social workers heard it, they all jumped on him. Coke was not supposed to operate the plant even for one day without that license but the plant had operated several times after July. It was a new issue for social activists. They wanted a copy of that document but officer didn’t want to give it to them. Somehow while watching the document Nandlal went to market and got it xeroxed. I also got copies of those documents.

The officer invited Nandlal and other social workers to his office in Varanasi to discuss about the situation and he promissed that help them as much as he can. I know he would not help Nandlal or his organization.
After he left, we went for lunch. After the lunch it was Medha Patekar’s turn to hold the mike. She was something, she was a true lady, very strong. She could make others do what she wants them to do. She had very practical ideas. I liked her speech a lot.

She talked about situation in other states also. She was notonly against bad companies, but she was talking against government policies also. She said about a story from Chattisgarh state where state government had sold a part of river to some private bottling company and that company covered that part of the river with ropes and hanged a board saying that “this river is property of the company andno individual is allowed to use the water of this river without company’s permission.”

It created a huge problem for the people who live along the bank of the river. Sheis still fighting against that issue . After her amazing speech, 29th was over. It was amazing day in Mehndiganj. I heard Medha Patekar and other social workers. I saw Regional pollution control officer sweating. Amanda talked to Sandeep Pandey, Medha Patekar and Amit Srivastava also. It was incredible day in Mehndiganj.

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