CSD, New Delhi, is an independent research organization Established in 1970 by a group of scholars and policy makers in social development led by Durgabai Deshmukh and C.D. Deshmukh CSD, through its research and advocacy seeks to secure a just and equitable development For more information, log on to: www.csdindia.org www.csdindia.org
Critical Issues in Displacement and Resettlement
Background One of the most contentious issues in development today is the resettlement of people displaced from their lands and livelihoods Displacement is neither new nor uncommon in development projects. But in recent years, the scale of displacement has assumed serious proportions due to massive and indiscriminate acquisition of land The lack adequate resettlement of those displaced, leading to their impoverishment, is now fuelling resentment, which has never been as vehement as it is now.
The Impact of Displacement Large projects have disgorged hundreds and thousands of people from their homes, lands, livelihoods and communities Some displaced even more than once But no official count kept of the exact number displaced According to one estimate 60 million people have been displaced since Independence, and mostly reduced to a state of permanent poverty It is no development if it leaves millions impoverished
Displacement is an inherently disruptive and impoverishing process It gives rise to severe social, economic and environmental problems Impoverishment is the most visible impact on the lives of those forcibly displaced Those forcibly displaced confront the risks of impoverishment, and end up worse off than before Those worst affected happen to be mostly poor (from tribal, rural areas but now also from urban areas)
The problem of displacement/resettlement is not going to fade away or even slow down in the foreseeable future Henceforth mining, industry, energy, infrastructure projects are will trigger displacement on a massive scale, not seen before even during the big dam era. Globalization, liberalization and privatization processes have opened the doors wide open for private sector projects to invest in development projects The demand for land for private industry, MNCs in particular, and now SEZs is rising and seems insatiable
No Equitable Sharing of Development Gains and Pains Displacement hurts all project area people, but the poor bear the brunt most (lose land, remain inadequately compensated, get forcibly moved to unfamiliar places) Mostly it is better off groups (including investor, city dwellers) that tend to benefit The poor displaced then get the feeling of being abandoned, of being sacrificed to the march of progress Much opposition to project arises because of this sense of injustice, for the sacrifices they make the displaced do not see benefits enough coming their way
The Land Acquisition Conundrum Land acquisition never been a hassle-free process, but the current surge in protests in unprecedented There is no project that is not in trouble over the land issue (The Noida Expressway is the latest in the growing list of projects in trouble) It is becoming impossible to acquire land for new projects, FDI is shrinking, jeopardizing the growth story The issue needs to be addressed upfront
Farmers have enjoyed through generations a kind of security that only land can provide, and they are unwilling to lose it (especially tribal people) The fact is that under the present flawed laws and policies the compensation that they get does not reflect the true value of their land Their fear is that they will not get compensation enough to buy land again and will lose completely once their lands are gone While the land value keeps going up and will go up further due to developments in the surrounding areas they get only the present value of land
1Government Response In the past, there has been a largely residual approach to dealing with project-affected people The focus of projects was on evicting, not on resettling, the affected people Resettlement was taken as done once compensation was paid for lands acquired Even now it remains a neglected issue in Government It pops up as an urgent problem only when a crisis situation erupts, threatening to spin out of control Ad hoc steps then hurriedly taken in a knee-jerk reaction fail to address the real concern of the displaced people – the assurance of a sustainable livelihood
From all accounts, the government track record in rebuilding the lives of people affected by projects has been pathetic It has not even kept the count of how many people the projects have displaced Displacement on a massive scale has gone on for decades But until recently India did not even have a national policy The interest in displacement/resettlement issues that government has shown in recent years is widely seen as a move to neutralize hostility of protestors
However, current efforts to improve legal and policy framework that the government has taken are a step in the right direction The government has recently introduced in Parliament a Land Acquisition and Resettlement and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 (LARR Bill 2011) This will convert Resettlement Policy into a Law, making it enforceable But the issue of balancing the concerns of farmers with the need for industrial development remains inadequately addressed
Government needs to do more to ensure that as a result of development the displaced people also improve their level of living and not get poorer than before For resettlement to succeed, a strong government commitment is essential And not just laws, policies, not even large funds Important though they are) There should be a properly equipped agency in a project exclusively to manage resettlement and rehabilitation issues. Affected persons should be adequately represented in all stages of planning, implementation and monitoring. The agency responsible for implementation must set up an easily accessible Grievance Redress cell, and ensure that the grievances are redressed promptly.
2 The Role of NGOs The role of NGOs must be applauded for bringing displacement/resettlement issues on the development agenda Since the effects of projects often prove disastrous for the poorer groups, some activists want that no land should be acquired for new projects even if that means halting the development process altogether. While projects can be designed to bring down the number of people requiring resettlement, the demand for stopping all development is clearly unrealistic The fact is that projects involve displacement are needed to promote poverty reduction and inclusive development goals
The relationship between governments/corporations and NGOs need not be entirely adversarial. The interests of both converge in that everybody now wants a fair deal for those whom development projects tend to displace and impoverish Resettlement will lead to much happier results for the affected people when collaboration replaces the confrontational stance of some NGOs NGOs can contribute significantly to resettlement effort. After all, NGOs do have strengths that can complement those of the government
3The Overall Watchdog Function of the C&AG Under the Constitution of India, the C&AG is uniquely positioned to play a vital role in seeing that development in all sectors proceeds in conformity with the policies, laws, procedures The role is not limited to checking the accounts to ensure that that wasteful expenditure is avoided Displacement/resettlement issues that are currently so prominent not only on development agenda, but public debate, do deserve to receive as close a scrutiny as other issues have received so far
The goal of resettlement policies is that the income levels of affected people as a result of development must go up, but in no case must there be any slippage. It is necessary to ensure that funds required for meeting this basic resettlement are not only provided adequately, but also utilized in the manner intended C&AG should ensure that resettlement programmes are regularly monitored and the reports of such monitoring are publicly accessible The government should produce a document providing the experience of displacement/resettlement over the past 60 years or so, with details of number of people displaced, and those not displaced with reasons for resettlement failure
Concluding Comments Displacement and resettlement are issues that India has to live with Development projects are needed to remove poverty, create jobs and improves lives for all It is however important that those who make sacrifices for development also benefit from the process Otherwise, the policy and practice of development would remain unjust, a source of social unrest
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