Paranjoy Guha Thakurta

  • Homeless and jobless? How Adani’s ‘redevelopment’ of Mumbai’s huge slum will impact residents.

    Dharavi in Mumbai is Asia’s largest slum. Adani has won the right to redevelop it by demolishing this huge shantytown and then re-housing its inhabitants. But many people fear they will be made homeless and jobless. Here, an urban-planning expert articulates those concerns to veteran journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

  • Sreedhar Ramamurthi: A geologist who campaigned for Mother Earth


    On 28 December 2023, Dr Sreedhar Ramamurthi died in the Indian city of Mumbai. He was 67. Sreedhar was the founder of the Environics Trust, an organisation dedicated to tackling the unsustainability of mining and other resource-extractive activities in India. In recent years, instruments of the Modi government had hounded both Sreedhar and the Environics Trust, causing them stress and hardship. Sreedhar was a learned and gentle man, but possessed of deep conviction in his efforts to protect the environment of his beloved India from plundering corporations.

    Sreedhar Ramamurthi was a scientist as well as an activist who worked to ameliorate the condition of those impacted by reckless mining all over India. He worked with many others who shared his ideals about the need to conserve the planet with care. He was no starry-eyed social worker who believed he could change the world overnight. He was down to earth and practical about what could be achieved and what could not, and the extent to which the government could be convinced to support the under-privileged when their interests were pitted against those of the rich and the powerful.

    He was a grassroots person. He travelled the length and breadth of the country. The vested interests who made big bucks by damaging the ecology of India – its jal (water), jangal (forests), jameen (land) – feared him. For he always knew what he was talking about.

    Towards the end of his life, he, and the organisation he founded, Environics Trust, were hounded by the Income Tax Department and the Ministry of Home Affairs that administers the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. In a letter, the department alleged that the trust had collaborated with the Mineral Inheritors Rights Association for supporting those who were protesting against the coal-mining projects being operated by the Adani Group in Odisha in eastern India, among other such projects. The tax authorities claimed that funds were spent ‘not as per the objects of the Trust’. The cases against the Environics Trust continue but the man who was the driving force behind the organisation is no more.

    Dr Sreedhar Ramamurthi was only 67 when he passed away in Mumbai where he was on vacation with his family.

    In 1977, Sreedhar completed a bachelor’s degree in science from Osmania University, Hyderabad, with an unusual (by Indian standards) combination of subjects: mathematics, physics and geology. He spent the next two years at the prestigious University of Roorkee (now an Indian Institute of Technology) in Uttarakhand studying applied geology. He later did a short course on environmental risk management at Salzburg, Austria. He worked with the public sector Oil and Natural Gas Corporation and in the Atomic Minerals Directorate of the Indian government’s Ministry of Atomic Energy, in Hyderabad.

    However, a secure government job was clearly not what Sreedhar wanted. He chose to live and work with ordinary people. He was instrumental in setting up the Environics Trust as its managing trustee and became closely associated with several non-government organisations, including, notably, Mines, Minerals and People, the Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC), and the Mineral Inheritors Rights Association. He became deeply interested in the environment of the Himalayas and studied the seismological impacts of hydro-electric projects in the mountainous terrain of India and Nepal. He was a visiting professor at reputed educational institutions in India and outside the country, wrote dozens of scholarly papers, and established close contacts with many others in different countries who had interests and concerns that were similar to his.

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