Wednesday, April 05, 2006

An Un-Glamorous Public Protest in New Delhi

During last one month, New Delhi, the Indian capital has seen two public protests.

One which was extremely rang de basanti-type photogenic protest, and inspired the urban middle class imagination to join for the cause. It was about the acquital of the accused in the murder of a model in an up-market café. It was well-covered/ discussed in MSM and public for a - and brought the issue of justice the "common man" to the forefront.

But this post is about the other less-covered/discussed and less-glamorous public protest by those who are perhaps not even considered as "public" by those others who define themselves as public:

Here is what this protest is all about - The DID-Victims:

Economists, policy planners and politicians have this very deceptive term called "Development-Induced-Displacement" (DID).

It is deceptive since at its best, it seems to communicate that one is the beneficiary of development - and at its worst, that one is a martyr for a larger nobler cause (as is sometimes ambiguously mentioned - due to "compelling and overriding public interests")

What it actually means is being forcibly uprooted, losing one's livelihood, heritage and community to make way for someone else's development....

This issue is particularly relevant for India, where since independence the estimates of DID-victims ranges from 21mn to 40mn. In 1994 the Govt. of India admitted that 10 million people displaced by dams, mines, deforestation and other development projects were still "awaiting rehabilitation" (a figure that is considered as gross underestimation by most independent researchers).

Since I had played a very miniscule - but personally insightful and still, troubling - part in the "calculation" - for want of a better term - of the number of those needing rehabilitation about 2 decades back, I can vouch for the inaccuracies... That was My Road to Harsud... and contributed to such havocs in lives of people:

One of the major contributions to this "DID population" comes from the construction of large dams (which often blur the boundaries between a developmental project and man-made disasters). The UN World Commission on Dams concluded that large dams "produce benefits that accrue to groups other than those who bear the social and environmental costs".

India is the third largest dam-builder in the world, with about 3600 large dams and another 700 or so under construction.

However, this post is not even about building of a dam, but about raising the height of a dam - The Sardar Sarovar Dam - by about 10 meters - from 110.64m up to 121.92m, which will submerge an additional 220 villages - and 35,000 families - in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra...

...and without any assurance of rehabilitation (Going by the past records, only about 10% of the total number of families, affected due to the Sardar Sarovar Dam, have been rehabilitated over the years...)

This decision was taken by the Narmada Control Authority in March '06 - in contravention to the decisions by the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award and the Supreme Court order of October 2000 and March 2005, upholding the right of the DID-victims to land based rehabilitation 6 months prior to submergence.

This is a public protest to uphold justice given to citizens of India by its own Supreme Court - and yet, ironically, there will be no candle marches, TV interviews and debates, newspaper editorials to demand that the judgement be implemented.

So in case you are really interested to contribute your small - yet significant - bit, here is what you can do:

- sign a petition

- join them at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi

- send mails/fax to the officials/politicians given in this list:

...and just in case, you are not aware of what this is all about, here is a backgrounder:
The Greater Common Good

Development-induced displacement: internal affair or international human rights issue?
Non-violent struggles are being ignored
Global Overview of DID
Large Dams and Displacement in India
Road to Harsud


pallav said...

this land of the mahatma weeps silently as a peaceful protestor has been labelled with the charges of"attempt to suicide".
this is most shameful that the strong willed followers of the "father" are turning out to be the symbols of 'justice denied'.
the need of the hour is immediate response to the myriad issues concerning the displaced millions for whom ms. patkar has been fighting for so longand not the hospitalisation gimmick to show concern for her deteriorating health status. if development comes at the cost of playing with the life and bread of a section of the society and that too the lowest rung in the indian socioeconomic heirarchy it defies the meaning of development itself .
the government should plan a proper rehabilitation and resettlement programme for those affected.
a nationwide support for this gandhian agitation is expected from every nuke and corner of india and especially from the so called "intellectual" and elitist middle class

Abrar said...

Wow... the 2 protests are quite differnet... kindda shows the different nature of ppl whoa re actually carrying the protest out and the way they attract or fail to attract attention towards their causes.