Positive Chronicles - Nandlal Master : Harbinger of change
by Sandeep Pandey
Image source : aventure.blogs.liberation Despite the police trying to curb the protest, the voice of the movement against Coca Cola in Mehdiganj is being echoed in the share holders’ meeting of Coca Cola company in the US who are enquiring into why water belonging to the local farmers is being usurped.
And it is Nandlal, who has emerged as a frontline leader in Mehdiganj, who has played a pivotal role in this, inspiring confidence among the villagers that they will win the battle to regain control of their water resources.
The Coca Cola bottling plant in Mehdiganj was emptying the earth of lakhs of litres of water every day and had distributed the sludge coming out of the plant as ‘manure’ to the farmers in the neighbourhood, destroying their crops and fields. The company was also encroaching upon a piece of land belonging to the Gram Sabha and had illegally built a portion of the plant on that. Further, in 1999 when the company bought the plant from Thums Up they had cheated the government on revenue to the tune of Rs. 1,75,00,000.
When it became quite clear that Coca Cola was working against the interest of the local people, Nandlal mobilized supprt and 500 local people decided to assemble at the gate of the plant, demanding its closure. Complaints were lodged with the Uttar Pradesh and Central Pollution Control Boards and the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board decided not to issue the ‘No Objection’ certificate to the Mehdiganj plant for the year 2008 and 2000 local villagers celebrated this small victory for the movement in the presence of Medha Patkar.
Nandlal was born into a saree weaver’s family in a village called Usrapatti in Uttar Pradesh and his father was a moneylender, quite comfortably off. When his father died when he was a young child, the task of raising him and his six siblings suddenly fell on his mother. From a money lender she soon slipped down to being a labourer. Nandlal’s elder sister was already married. When the mother could not manage the family affairs she sent Nandlal to go and stay with his sister in Murgaha-Benipur village for continuing his school. He completed his school from Uday Pratap College and then joined the B.Sc. programme but the deteriorating financial condition of his family forced him to return to his village.
His two elder brothers had separated from the family after getting married and his two younger brothers were working on looms at other people’s places. Nandlal, upon coming back, too learnt saree weaving.
Even in these bleak circumstances, he wished to do something to improve the lives of others. Realizing that most children, like his younger brothers could not attend school due to working on the looms, he started evening classes for them.
Gradually the number of children grew. He had to start centres in other villages. Inspired by Nandlal’s example, educated youth in other villages also started similar education centres for the children engaged in saree weaving task. Slowly Nandlal built up a team of volunteers and Nandlal, the leader emerged.
A setback which turned into a tuning point
Nandlal had started a practice of taking out all the children once in a year for outing. In 1996 when the children were on a trip to Mirzapur, the bus carrying them met with an accident. One child died and 36 of them were injured, some of then very seriously, leaving Nandlal totally shaken.
Many in his position, would have despaired and given up. Not him. Though it was a jolt, he mustered courage and started raising resources for the treatement of the injured children. He was able to raise Rupees. 36,000, mostly from heads of some village Panchayats.
His commitment and integrity did not go unnoticed. Parents of the children injured in the bus accident came upto him and requested him to restart the education classes and he did not disappoint them.
“When the student is ready, the guru appears,” it is said. And so it happened with Nandlal.
When raising funds for the children injured in 1996 bus accident he had met Niti bhai in Varanasi city. Niti bhai introduced Nandlal to Gandhian ideology and inspired him to lay the foundation of a people’s organization, ‘Lok Samiti’ in his area.
Surely, the Mehdiganj victory is just the beginning of many more to come for this emerging leader.
External link Nandlal’s profile [www.ashanet.org/austin/mehdiganj/nandlal.html]
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