Alok Agarwal

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Alok Agarwal
File:Alok Agarwal, Narmada Bachao Andolan activist and Aam Aadmi Party member.jpg
Born 1967
Lucknow, India
Residence Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, India
Nationality Indian
Citizenship Indian
Education Bachelor of Technology, Chemical Engineering
Alma mater Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur
Occupation Social activist, Politician
Years active 1990-present
Organization Narmada Bachao Andolan
Political party Aam Aadmi Party

Alok Agarwal (born 25 Aug 1967) is a leader and activist of the Narmada Bachao Andolan, a social movement by tribespeople, farmers, environmentalists, and human rights workers against the construction of a number of large dams being built across the Narmada river and to secure improved rehabilitation of the displaced. Since January 2014 he is also a member of the Aam Aadmi Party of India and will be contesting the Lok Sabha 2014 polls from Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh.

Early life and education

Alok Agarwal was born on 25 August 1967 in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. He is the son of a retired government veterinary doctor. Due to his father's transferable posting in the early days, Alok's schooling and upbringing was spread at many different places. In 1989, he received his Bachelor of Technology in Chemical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Alok is unmarried and resides in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh.

Social work

During his stay at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, Alok taught underprivileged children of disadvantaged neighborhoods of Kanpur. After graduating he visited several social organizations that worked on Gandhian principles and in 1990 joined the Narmada Bachao Andolan as a full-time social worker.

Narmada Bachao Andolan

From 1990 to 2000, Alok Agarwal was an active member of the Narmada Bachao Andolan team, which, along with the people of Nimar plains, has mobilized many protests against the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam. Owing to the stiff resistance from this movement, the World Bank undertook an independent review of the project plan that concluded the project to be falling short of World Bank policies and guidelines of the Government of India. Subsequently, in 1995 World Bank's participation was cancelled by the Government of India.

From 1998 onwards, Alok and his colleagues launched a series of protests in the area of other large dams on the Narmada river, namely Maheshwar, Indirasagar, Omkareshwar, Upper Beda and Maan. [1] In 2002, Alok along with the Narmada Bachao Andolan team was instrumental in procuring a compensation of INR 10 crore for the families displaced by the Maan dam project. In 2005, Alok and his team won a High Court ruling against the state government which prevented the latter from using the police force and bulldozers in the Indirasagar Dam area for the displacement of people. The court ruling also granted a compensation amounting to INR 11 crore for the displaced people.

Alok, Chittaroopa and their colleagues initiated Jal Satyagraha, a form of peaceful resistance where protesters stand in water to demand compensation and rehabilitation of the families displaced by the Omkareshwar and Indirasagar Dam dams. In response to these protests in 2011-12, the Supreme Court of India ruled in favour of the displaced people and ordered the government to give “land for land”. In the initial survey done for the Indirasagar Dam area, the government had initially excluded about 8000 houses and 5000 acres of land coming under submergence from the scope of the compensation. However, after prolonged protests from Alok and his team, these areas were included in the scope, and compensation was granted to the families.

In 2012, in response to a 17 day Jal Satyagraha by Alok and his colleagues, the government kept the level of the Omkareshwar Dam to 189 meters [2] [3] along with an additional rehabilitation package of INR 224 crore. This package consisted of an additional payment of INR 2 lakh per acre for all the farmers and a payment of INR 2.5 lakh for each of the landless families. Moreover, a compensation of INR 11.5 crores was granted to 113 tribal families whose forest lands were encroached by the Omkareshwar Dam’s embankments. Additionally, the efforts from Alok Agarwal’s team have resulted in CBI and Lokayukta inquiry into several instances of corruption in disbursement of compensation money.

In September 2013, Alok’s team of Narmada Bachao Andolan led another Jal Satyagraha in three districts of Madhya Pradesh – Khandwa, Dewas and Harda, to press their demands of maintaining the height of the Indirasagar to 260 meters.[4][5] [6]

Alok Agarwal has also been an activist against the privatization of water and electricity. In 2003, his Narmada Bachao Andolan team took a lead role in a state-wide “Bijli Bachao-Azadi Bachao” movement [7] organized by Jan Sangharsh Morcha (a federation of several social movements of Madhya Pradesh) against the privatization and rise of electricity tariffs. Similarly, the organizations working against the privatization of water have also been receiving active support from Alok. Considering the need for a common front to respond to the multiple kinds of problems faced by the farmers, tribals and workers of the region, Alok’s team helped form the “Nimar - Malwa Kisan Mazdoor” organization. [8]

Alok has also led water harvesting projects to ensure the availability of water in the tribal areas. Along with his co-workers Alok Agarwal spent a month in the rehabilitation and relief work after the Gujarat earthquake.

Political career

In January 2014, Alok Agarwal, along with fellow NBA leader and activist Mehda Patkar, joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).[9] Alok will be contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2014 from Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh.[10][11] He is one of the twenty-nine candidates of the party who will be contesting from Madhya Pradesh.