Sunday, July 06, 2008

"...suffer in the interest of the nation!"

In 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru, in a public speech to those, who were to be displced by the Hirakud Dam, is supposed to have said:

"If you are to suffer, you should suffer in the interest of the nation."

He may have never envisaged that his words will get operationalised by India not having a comprehensive National Rehabilitation Policy for the DIDs (development-induced-displaced) for many decades, and then developing one, which would bypass those who get affected by "development"...

Much later, in 1974, the then Prime-Minister Indira Gandhi wrote to Baba Amte in a letter:

"I am most unhappy that development projects displace tribal people from their habitat, especially as project authorities do not always take care to properly rehabilitate the affected population. But sometimes there is no alternative and we have to go ahead in the larger interest…."

...and so, for another couple of decades, India - and its sufferers "in the interest of the nation" - continued to live with "no alternative"...

Meanwhile, India built 3,300 large dams, and a study by Indian Institute of Public Administration, suggested that on average a large dam displaces around 44,000 people... which adds upto a whopping 145mn displaced people!!!... and by large dams alone (we - I - don’t have data about the number of victims of development due to highways, large manufacturing plants, infrastructure projects, city beautification projects, etc.)

The experts, ranging from Arundhati Roy to NC Saxena (Secretary, Planning Commission), however, estimate that the number would be around 50mn.... Maybe 80mn... Anyway...

Over period of time, however, India did developed a National Policy for Rehabilitation and Resettlement... Starting from a draft in 1993-94 to a comprehensive policy in 2007. The opening statement of the 1994 draft of the National Rehabilitation Policy also acknowledged that the inhabitants of remote and backward areas and the tribal regions are the ones who are most affected by the "developmental projects":

"It is expected that there will be large-scale investments, both on account of inter­nal generation of capital and increased inflow of foreign investments, thereby creating an enhanced demand for land to be provided within a shorter time-span in an increasingly competi­tive market-ruled economic structure. Majority of our mineral resources… are located in the remote and backward areas mostly inhabited by tribals".

Though the overlap of tribal land and mineral-rich area was never mentioned again in the R&R policies of 2004 and 2007, but the National Rehabilitation & Resttlement Policy 2007 did stipulate that to those affected by the projects should be consulted in drafting plans to rehabilitate them. To quote:

"...the Administrator for Rehabilitation and Resettlement shall prepare a draft scheme or plan for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected families after consultation with the representatives of the affected families including women and the representative of the requiring body."

The 2007 R&R Policy also stipulates that:

"6.14.3 The draft scheme or plan may be made known locally by wide publicity in the affected area and the resettlement area (or areas) in such manner as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government.

6.15.1 The draft rehabilitation and resettlement scheme or plan shall also be discussed in gram sabhas in rural areas and in public hearings in urban and rural areas where gram sabhas don't exist.

...and incase of Scheduled Areas (i.e., the tribal and NE regions):

"7.21.2 The concerned gram sabha or the panchayats at the appropriate level in the Scheduled Areas under Schedule V of the Constitution or as the case may be, Councils in the Schedule VI Areas shall be consulted in all Cases of land acquisition in such areas including land acquisition in cases of urgency, before issue of a notification under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 or any other Act of the Union or a State for the time being in force under which land acquisition is undertaken..."

All this sounds very hopeful - that the interests of those affected are safe-guarded, that they can have a say in their lives... Till one reads stories like this (from page 48-49 of Caterpillar and the Mahua Flower):

"That companies are coming by the dozen to Chhattisgarh to mine its mineral wealth is hardly surprising. The state is rich in natural resources, with abundant deposits of iron, gold, tin, diamonds, coal, uranium, bauxite, corundum, dolomite, copper, limestone and other minerals. It’s estimated that the state has 35,000 million tonnes of coal, 2,336 million tonnes of iron ore, 3,580 million tonnes of limestone, 606 million tonnes of dolomite, 96 million tonnes of bauxite, and 29 million tonnes of cassiterite. With such bounty, Chhattisgarh accounts for over 13 percent of India’s total mineral production, worth around Rs 4,000 crores a year. Most importantly, 23 percent of the country’s iron-ore deposits are located here...

....While the government cheered about the MoUs with Tata and Essar, the locals were curious about the agreements’ terms. How much land had been given to these two steel giants? Whose land was it? Would tribal land be confiscated? Would there be compensation, rehabilitation, or employment for the locals at these units? But no replies were forthcoming from the government on these issues.

MoUs have always been considered as public documents but a veil of secrecy hung over the government’s agreements with Tata and Essar. When the people demanded a copy of the MoUs under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the answer they obtained was both shocking and surprising: it was stated that a condition in the MoU prevented the government from revealing it to a third party!"

..."a third party"!!!??

On second thoughts, the "you" who was asked to suffer for the interest of the nation, was obviously not seen as a part of "the nation"...


  • Dams, Displacement, Policy and Law In India by NC Saxena, Secretary - Planning Commission

  • National Rehabilitation & Resttlement Policy 2007

  • Land as livelihood vs land as commodity - InfoChange India

  • Caterpillar and the Mahua Flower


    xsup said...

    Don't know if you remember our discussion on the increasing urbanisation of India, and the Magarpatta model. You had said that the Magarpatta model was a one-off due to various reasons. Well, I just came across this today:

    "Real Estate Venture by Nanded Farmers

    Following close on the heels of the Magarpatta township experience, nearly 250 farmers from nearby Nanded have come together to set up a real estate company for developing properties on the Pune Sinhgad Road. Together, they have pooled in their land to create a 700-acre township for the Nanded city township. With agriculture becoming increasingly an unprofitable business, these farmers have decided that property development is a much better proposition. They met Satish Magar, the chief promoter of Magarpatta city, who decided to replicate his model township in Nanded village. Unlike other real estate projects that thrive on private equities and foreign investment, this one will be executed with the help of money generated by the company and farmers. The Magarpatta Township Development and Construction Company will hold a 51 per cent stake in the new venture. The rest of the stakes will be distributed in proportion to their holdings among the farmers who own as little as half-an-acre to 100 acres each. Over the last 10 years, with the city edging closer to the farms, the production has gone down miserably. In addition to the pollution from the city affecting produce, there has been a dearth of labourers, as everyone wants to work in the city where they earn much more. Mango and sugarcane production have been hit so badly that that one can hardly hope to recover costs.

    The second generation of all locals here will be involved in various works that goes into creating a township, like canteen facilities, constructing roads, stone quarrying and transportation. The foundation stone for the project was laid by the Chief Minister and the farmers expressed little apprehension about the fact that the land that once sprouted sugarcanes will now sport apartments, bungalows, gymnasiums, joggers park, riverside resorts, eco parks and adventure park, malls, theme restaurants. Employment hubs will include IT parks, gaming and animation centres. The commercial spaces would not be sold, but rented out so that it becomes a constant stream of revenue for the farmers as well as the company."

    And, I believe that there are two other groups of farmers doing the same thing near Nasik and Amravati - but could not find an authentic source for this.


    Madhukar said...

    @Thanks Supratim,

    the reason I had mentioned doubts about Magarpatta "model" (model being something which can be replicated easily), were the specific conditions of its context:

    - Satish Magar is hardly a representative of a typical indian farmer. He is well-educated, comes from a well-to-do, and politically connected family (his maternal grandfather used to be mayor of Pune, and one of his uncles was an MP, etc.... moreover,Satsh Magar had never done any farming himself>

    - all the land in Magarpatta belonged to the same caste, and Satish Magar's family owned the largest piece of land (I think almost 50%+)

    - Magarpatta existed much before the media discovered it (in the wake of criticism of the corporate land-grab, aka SEZ - our previous discussion was also in that context). Magarpatta city was inaugurated in Dec 99 - and was never replicated by any other group of farmers. Even the current Nanded City is being planned and rolled out by Magar's firm.

    - Lastly, this "model" may be suitable for farm land, which is near developed cities-and which are looking for further development - Not for far-flung farm land, which is virtually unconnected from the urban world.

    xsup said...

    RE: your points -

    1. Fair enough - but changes can be driven top down, or bottoms up. The sustainability and the impact of the change is what counts, rather than the direction. The fact that others are seeking his help to replicate his success makes it a "model", albeit in a limited sense for now.

    2. Okay, don't know about this.

    3. If Magar can replicate this another 3-4 times, it would become a model!

    4. Fair enough, but you got to start somewhere! I was reading an article in the Indian Express recently about the cotton farmers in Maharashtra getting some advice from previously debt-laden farmers in AP, which was interesting and addresses a couple of your questions. I will see if I can find the link.

    BTW, my beloved state, Goa has managed to kick out the SEZs!

    Madhukar said...

    <"4. Fair enough, but you got to start somewhere!">

    start for what?
    and for that matter "model" for what?

    xsup said...

    Start moving people away from non-remunerative agriculture to other activities.

    And, a model to make unremunerative farms remunerative for its owners.

    Madhukar said...

    Thanks for the clarification, Supratim!

    I know we differ on this... but for me a more sustainable approach would be, how to make farming remunerative for those who subsist on it.

    Magarpatta model is fine when your farmland is going to be engulfed by expanding cities - and I admire that as a social innovation. But dont see that as a model for the larger populace...

    I mean, if a groups of school teachers decide to become BPO employees, because BPO pays more than being a school teacher (it does), that does not make it a model for a sustainable society... does it?

    xsup said...

    Dear Prof,

    From what I have read on the subject there is a limit to productivity of land in agriculture.Irrigation, multiple-cropping, new nutrients, natural farming, mechanisation take you up the steps, but they all have natural limits. And, in India, one of the other constraints is the smaller size of holdings, which may also be limiting productivity.

    So, while the land may have supported 250m productively, how do you get it to support 750m as well? I am not sure if it is even possible.

    RE: Teachers and BPO - there are two issues here - first is one of personal liberty - if someone would rather be a BPO worker, than a school teacher, that is his/her prerogative, I don't think we can comment on that. Second, if that has a deleterious effect on "society", then society should be willing to rectify it by making the teaching profession more attractive to prospective hires. IMO, that is all there is to it.