Biography of Medha Patkar – Indian social activist

Medha Patkar is a well-known Indian social worker who has worked towards several political and economic issues of farmers, Dalits, tribals, labourer’s and women. After dedicating her life to social welfare from an early age, she initiated and formulated several national policies to fight land acquisition, unorganised public sector workers etc. She started the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which has been going on for the last 32 years, N.B.A. movement fights for the rights of those affected by the Sardar Sarovar Dam project, which aims to build dams over the Narmada river. She was a member of the World Commission on Dams, which worked towards finding the social, political and economic impact of large dams worldwide. Over the years, she has been speaking out against racism, communalism and other forms of discrimination. She along with other activists founded the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) and filed public interest litigation against private real estate manufacturers like Hindustan Construction Corporation, Adarsh Society and Hiranandani. Medha Patkar, an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, is a fearless social worker who has been considered as a common man leader for many years.

Biography of Medha Patkar

Biography of Medha Patkar

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Table of Contents

NameMedha Patkar[1]
Date of BirthDecember 1, 1945
Place of BirthMumbai
ParentsVasant Khanolkar (Father), Indumati Khanolkar (Mother)
EducationEarned a master’s degree in social service from Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai in 1976
OraganizationNational Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

Early Life of Medha Patkar

Medha Patkar was born as Medha Khanolkar on December 1, 1954 in Bombay, Maharashtra daughter of Vasant Khanolkar, a well known freedom fighter and trade union leader while her mother Indumati Khanolkar a gazetted officer in the Post and Telegraphs Department who ran a women’s organization called Swadhar. Coming from such a family background, she grew up to be extremely individualistic, exceptionally brave and not afraid to speak. Patkar had done her B.Sc. from Ruia College and did MA in social work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).

While studying Ph.D. by researching social inequality and social movements, she got involved in the Narmada River Valley Project, She comes to Gujarat and learns about the plight of tribals and farmers in the Narmada Valley. She was a Ph.D. scholar at TISS, studying Economics development and its impact on traditional societies. After working up to M. Phill. level she quit her post as a doctorate research and joined another social worker Baba Amte in the Narmada Conservation Mission.

Also Read : Biography of Mahadevi Varma

Work life of Medha Patkar

Medha Patkar has established the Narmada Bachao Movement and is still working with it with a huge crowd of farmers and tribal communities. He has led peaceful protests and massive rallies against the construction of Sardar Sarovar Dam in India which has submerged vast stretches of agricultural land and forests, displacing huge tribals. She has established the National Alliance of People’s Movements to give strength to the country to promote unity and fight oppression. Her work with the World Commission on Dams included a detailed research and in-depth consultations for planning and building large dams. She has also spoken out against Lavasa city along with other villagers protesting against the environmental damage in Nagpur. She showed open support in Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption campaign by supporting the Jana Lokpal Bill. She has served him to address the sugar-cooperative mission and many other social causes through various projects and campaigns.

Activism of Medha Patkar

Medha Patkar started her career working for voluntary organisations in slums in Mumbai. After working for various organizations for five years, she started working towards the welfare of tribal districts of Gujarat for three years.

He came into the limelight in 1985 when she started the Narmada Bachao Movement. She was part of the movement which involved participation of tribals, labourers, farmers, fisheries and others living near the Narmada Valley. The movement also includes participation of scientists, academicians, artists and environmentalists who have questioned the undemocratic planning of the dam and unfair distribution of benefits. Medha Patkar questioned the strategy of river linking in India, which according to the government is a step towards fighting the problem of water scarcity in the country. Medha argued that the Sardar Sarovar Dam project would displace more than 40,000 families living along the Narmada Valley.  Her argument was supported by many as the government had no rehabilitation plans. She fasted for 22 days protesting against the construction of Sardar Sarovar Dam before winning the battle against the government.

In 1996, Medha Patkar founded the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) along with other activists. The coalition worked towards achieving social justice, equality and political justice for the people. She founded the organization with the aim of fighting abuse and questioning the current development model, which, according to her, is only in favour of a section of people.

In 2005, Medha Patkar started the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Movement which highlighted the struggle for housing rights in Mumbai. The agitation started when the Maharashtra government demolished 75,000 houses in 2005 leaving thousands of peoples homeless. She also protested against the construction of a factory by Tata Motors in Singur which was aimed at manufacturing Tata Nano cars. As a result, Tata announced that the factory would not be cmpleted and that the production of the Nanop will be set up in Sanand in Gujarat.

In 2007, she launched several agitations to prevent forcible land grabbing in Nandigram in West Bengal. Hindustan Nirman Nigam launched a major project called ‘Lavasa’  in Maharashtra which is yet to be completed. Lavasa project is criticized by P. Sainath for unjust use of water in a worst hit farmer suicide state. Medha Patkar along with villagers of Lavasa protested against the project saying the project would use excessive water for farmers. Patkar also filed a public interest litigation against the project in the Supreme Court.

In 2013, she launched another protest against the government’s decision to demolish thousands of houses in Maharashtra. While the government had already evicted 43 families and displaced more than 200 people, the protest had further wreaked havoc. An inquiry was conducted but only a partial solution was offered. So, the communities continued to protest.

There was another popular protest led by Medha Patkar which was aimed at protecting the sugar cooperatives mission in Maharashtra from falling into the hands of politicians including tens of ministers in the Maharashtra cabinet till 2014, Patkar organized protests. She explained that “the politicians are interested in the prime plots of land, old equipment, and machinery,” of sugar cooperatives. She accused the state government of selling industrial assets to politicians by reducing prices.

She argued with other activists registered in PIL in the High Court of Mumbai, alleging violations by property tycoon Niranjan Hiranandani in building luxury flats instead of affordable houses for the poor. She opposed the proposal of The Kovvada Nuclear Power Plant at Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, saying the project would pose a major threat to the environment as well as the people of the region. Medha Patkar also joined Anna Hazare in his fight against corruption.

Patkar entered politics in January 2014 by joining the Aam Aadmi Party a political party led by Arvind Kejriwal. She and her organization, National Alliance of People’s Movement, provided support to the Aam Aadmi Party during the Lok Sabha campaign.

Patkar also contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election for the North East Mumbai constituency as an Aam Aadmi Part candidate. She lost receiving 8.9% of the vote cast in North East Mumbai constituency, trailing at third position behind Kriti Somaiya (BJP candidate, winner)) and Sanjay Patil (NCP candidate). She resigned from Aam Aadmi Party’s primary membership on March 28, 2015.

Recognition of Medha Patkar

Medha Patkar is well known for the Narmada Bachao Movement through which he fought for the rights of people living along the Narmada Valley. Construction of Sardar Sarovar Dam put thousands of people’s habitat at risk. Since 1992, N.B.A has run several schools in the Narmada Valley, about 5,000 students have already passed out of school. In the last 30 years, N.B. A has been consistently working in several areas such as health, environmental protection, employment etc.

Criticism of Medha Patkar

Medha Patkar was criticised after she refused to participate in the protest against the Proposal for The Jaipur Nuclear Power Plant in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. It was reported that she refused to participate as the situation did not demand protests at that time. She also said that she had to rush to 20 states to participate in the Narmada Bachao movement and hence there was not much time to hold fresh protests.

Awards and honours

1991: Right Livelihood Award

1992: Goldman Environmental Award

1995: Green Ribbon Award for Best International Political Campaigner by the BBC in England

1999: Human Rights Defender’s Award from Amnesty International, Germany

1999: M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award from Vigil India Movement

1999: Person of the Year BBC

1999: Deena Nath Mangeshkar Award

1999: Kundal Lal Award for Peace

1999: Mahatma Phule Award

2001: Basavashree Award

2013: Matoshree Bhimabai Ambedkar Award

2014: Mother Teresa Award for Social Justice.


Medha Patkar is a well-known social worker in India who fights against various important economic and political problems in India. During each movement, several Indian tribals, Dalits, farmers, labourers and women stood when they faced injustice against Medha Patkar. Patkar who was honoured with many awards solved the problems of the people. This well-known social worker who speaks out for public progress is an inspiration to Indian women.


1. When and where was Medha Patkar born?

Ans: Medha Patkar was born on December 1,1945 at Mumbai.

2. Who initiated Narmada Bachao Andolan?

Ans: Narmada Bachao Andolan was initiated by Medha Patkar along with other colleagues.

3. Who started Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan and what was the main purpose of the movement?

Ans: In 2005, Medha Patkar started the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan which highlighted the struggle for housing rights in Mumbai.

4. When did Medha Patkar founded National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM)?

Ans: In 1996, Medha Patkar founded the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) along with other activists.

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