The ruthless economics of development ensures that displacement is defined in the narrowest terms possible, says GLADSON DUNGDUNG
Satish Kishku at a public rally
Everything has changed in the last 60 years of independence in India but the unending pain of "displacement" has become as part and partial of the life of 50 years old Satish Kishku of Takkipur village, situated near Canada Dam widely known as Mayurakshi Dam of Dumka district in Jharkhand. Kishku's family was displaced for the first time when he was merely 10 years old. The family had more than enough land for sustaining their generation for years. But their land was acquired for the Dam and the family was given merely 2 acres of land with little money in the name of rehabilitation. The remaining amount of compensation is still hanging in the government office. Now Satish Kishku lives in a small hut with 10 members of his family including his grandchildren and earns livelihood from daily wages.
Satish Kishku had lost his mental balance in February last year when the government officials had gone to conduct survey in his village as the state government of Jharkhand has proposed a Steel Plant in the areas, where 12 villages including Satish Kishku's village Takipur, Kulvanti, Ektala, Sukhjoda and Naraungi village of Raneswar block will face the agony of displacement once again. All these 12 villages were rehabilitated out of 144 villages, which submerged in the Mayurakshi Dam in 1967. The irony is that the Dam was constructed for the irrigation purposes but water does not reach to the rehabilitated villages because water supply has been stopped since1993 but at the same time, the water has regularly been supplied to the state of West Bengal. The electricity, health and sanitation facilities are not available in these villages.
Most of the displaced families across the country have more or less the same pathetic story as Satish Kishku has. Those who surrendered their land, forest, water, culture and identity for the Dam, Industry, Mining and development projects are struggling for survival today. Their children are with bare back, empty stomach, malnourished, illiterate and without shelter today. And those who resisted against it were coined as the "Anti National" or "Naxalites" so that the ruling elites can get a license to kill them and nobody can question about their cruel and inhuman acts. In both the cases tribals, Dalits and Poor are the losers. But does it mean that these people will stop claiming their ownership rights over land, forest and water which their ancestors have protected for them?
The 60 years of independence has taught many lessons to the displaced people about the politics of development, displacement and rehabilitation therefore this time they are determined not to surrender their livelihood resources at any cost for the sake of development though the governments promise them for a rehabilitation package. According to Shatish Kishku, the "rehabilitation package" is the most dangerous weapon to betray the poor. He questions that how can trees, culture and identity be rehabilitated from place one to another? Now he is putting hard work to mobilized people under the banner of "Krishi Bhumi Raksha Samity" and fighting against the displacement proposed by the state government of Jharkhand at Raneswar.
He was one among those 10 thousand displaced people of Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar and Manipur, gathered at Rourkela on 9 March, 2008 to raise their voices, share the agony of displacement and chock out their strategy for the struggle against displacement, SEZ Policy and communal fascism. Their core slogans are "Stop displacement in the name of development", "Jindal, Mittal, Tata and Bata go back", "Withdraw the unjust SEZ policy", "We will neither give our life nor land" and "Don’t kill people in the name of religion". These people have taken pledge not to give even one inch of land for Industry, Dam, Mining, Power Plant and any other development project. The three leading alliances Crej Jan Mukti Andolan, Voice for Child Rights and Nafre Jan Andolan are facilitating the whole processes to unite villagers, People's Organizations and people's movements in a platform to challenge the unjust policies of the state and central governments. The Convener of Crej Jan Mukti Andolan K.C. Mardi who played a crucial role in throwing out Jindal Steel, Bhushan Steel and Essar Steel from the Kolhan areas of Jharkhand last year says that the 60 years of Independence has only given tears to the tribals and local inhabitants. They are betrayed in the name of development therefore we have taken pledge for not giving even an inch of land for Industry, Dam and Mining. The member of Nafre Jan Andolam Lakhi Das says, "We oppose the corporate development model and SEZ policy, which induce displacement, destroy the livelihood resources, culture and identity of tribal and poor therefore now we are determined not to lose our remaining livelihood resources for the sake of development".
But the fundamental questions are that why people do not want to give their land for the Industries, Dam and development projects? Why they are throwing out Jindal, Bhushan and Essar Steels from their land, who can provide them job? And why people are raising their voices everywhere against displacement and SEZ policy in the country? One must have to go back to the history of displacement to understand that why these people are against of development projects today. One would be shocked to see the data which suggests that after the independence, approximately 3 crore people were displaced for setting up the Power Plants, Irrigation Projects, Mining Companies, Steel Industries and many more development projects in the country. Among them, 40 percent displaced people are tribals and 20 percent are Dalits, which means the 60 percent displaced people are from the marginalized communities, who sacrificed everything for the sake of the "development" but they are still untouched of the development.
The data of Jharkhand shows that 24,15,698 acres of land were acquired in the name of development, where 17,10,787 people were displaced. In every project approximately 80 to 90 percent tribals and local people were displaced. Merely 25 percent people were halfway rehabilitated but there are also in the miserable conditions and no one has any idea about the rest of 75 percent displaced people. The benefits of all these development projects were only enjoyed by the Landlords, Project Officers, Engineers, Contractors, Beaurocrats, Politicians and outsiders.
Another thing is that there are numerous laws made for protection of the rights of underprivileged people but these were never enacted honestly. The Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act 1908 and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act prohibit the sale and transfer of tribal land to non tribals but the land were snatched from tribals in the name of development. The constitutional rights, provisions for the sixth scheduled Areas and the Extension of Panchayat Act 1996 were never been implemented with the true spirit in the tribal regions. The ruling elites always misused these laws for their benefits.
The government of India is unable to make the rehabilitation policy even after the 60 years of independence but SEZ policy was introduced. Similarly, when the Jharkhand state was created the first chief minister Babula Marandi brought the Industrial Policy and his successor Arjun Munda even went two steps forward and created history in signing MoU but at the same time, the same state is not able to make a rehabilitation policy even after 7 years. This is why the intention of the state was always questioned and the people are resisting against displacement eveywhere. The people were displaced from one place to another in the name of development but they were not rehabilitated. Hence they feel that they are betrayed in the welfare state in the name of "development". The marginalized people of this country have lost their faith on the governance that is the major shift, where they are firmly decided not to allow laying down the foundation of the corporate development model over their graves.
The displacement is not just shifting people from one place to another but it is destruction of their livelihood resources, culture and identity which they develop by nourishing for the ages. The resources are sold at market rate and production power of the poor has been changed into service providers. Those who were engaged in producing grains now work as domestic workers, care takers of bigwigs and daily wage labourers therefore it is indeed need of the hour to rethink on the present development model because the "state" is duty bound to create atmosphere where people can enjoy their rights and privilege guaranteed by the constitution of India.
Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist associated with "Child Rights and You"