Displacing millions of people for the heck of development happens a casual affair for the state. But this draconian decree sets up upheaval whose repercussion devastates a throbbing societal edifice. The pariah, minority and the weaker section of the society including women and children get smothered into oblivion. The state rehabilitation remains a sham, a far outcry falling upon the deaf ears of the state and the cr?me-de-la-cr?me. Besides the bugbear of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) has wreaked havoc. In this volume, Lyla Mehta pores concerns and empathy over gender, displacement and development at a critical juncture when the blunders of the past have squarely proven its imprudence and futility. This volume having contributions from devout social workers has two impending aims. First to apply gender analysis to development-induced displacement and resettlement in the Indian context. Second, the book projects the glaring injustices inflicted upon the society.
Every year, over 500,000 people are displaced for the sake of infrastructure construction, hydroelectric and irrigation projects, mines, industrial complexes, super-thermal and nuclear plants. The estimate of total displaced people hitherto is between 21 million and 50 million. Displacement-induced displacement has raked in contentious politics in India today. This is an outcome of the seeming appeasement policy for the cry-foul raised by the displaced people.
Medha Patkar in her foreword to the book says, ?development? as a magic word securing maximised extraction harnessed to the expropriation of natural sources, and with consumerism and modernism as the basic paradigms proposed and imposed on the majority, the eviction of both urban and rural communities has reached an unprecedented scale?. In January 2006, during protests against creation of SEZ for Tata Steel Plant, twelve adivasis including two women and a young boy were shot by the police in Jajpur district of Orissa. Then followed Nandigram in 2007 when peasants were shot for resisting appropriation of their land. During the imposed displacement ?not only is their cultural milieu bulldozed and snatched away, but the so-called environmental and social assessments rarely capture their environmental, social and cultural loss,? says Medha Patkar.
Budhiben rouses to be an iconic figure of hapless women victims lost in the fray. She was a zealous adivasi activist entrapped in the submergence zone of the Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat. She was instrumrntal behind cogent protests against forced evictions in the early 1990s. Budhiben met a tragic demise in 1994 under the morbid snare laid by both state-sponsored and gender-based violence. And so the book is dedicated to ?Budhiben and her struggle for justice?.
This volume has a contribution from Ramkuwar ? ?We will never forgive the Government? that stands a personal testimony of her travails and irreparable damage inflicted upon her and her adivasi community. She alleges that her community had been tricked ??The officials had lied to us?.We lived in ignorance for a long time?.The Government officers had never ever mentioned that we were entitled to land?. Dana Clark has devoted her chapter on the World Bank resettlement policy adopted in 1980 to ?provide substantive and procedural protections for people who are displaced from their homes and livelihoods by World Bank-financed projects?. India till this day has rampant gender-bias subverting resettlement plans that get flawed at the very outset. Hari Mohan Mathur in his contribution argues that ?women are often forced to bear a greater burden through displacement than their male family members?. Hari Mohan examines the gender biases in a range of resettlement policies and programmes in India and of international agencies.
Usha Ramanathan in her contribution says, ?A word on eminent domain? castigates upon the sanctity of the colonial Land Acquisition Act of 1894 being a non-justifiable draconian act. ?Eminent domain? is the power bestowed upon the State that it may exercise over all land within its territory. She reproves the very notion of ?eminent domain? as an obnoxious malaise pervading the state.
What is development if one section of society is shorn off its resources and is subsequently usurped by a more affluent section? Should we remain mute witness to our steadfast nemesis or become discerning citizens to strive towards building a welfare state. The book enthuses a fresh lease of hope and a corrective methodology to surmount our erstwhile pitfalls. This book might also ennoble policymakers and administrators to ?embrace new visions of development to be able to resist displacing options?. Till then development shall remain a veritable wild goose chase and prove futile.
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