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Displacement A Social Concern In India Sociology Essay

Info: 3547 words (14 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Sociology

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The millions of displaced people do not exist anymore. When history is written they would not be in it, not even as statistics. Some of them have subsequently been displaced three and four times…. True, they are not being annihilated or taken to gas chambers, but I can warrant that the quality of their accommodation is worse than in any concentration camp of the Third Reich. They are not captive, but they re-define the meaning of liberty and still the nightmare does not end. They continue to be uprooted even from their hellish hovels by government bulldozers….. The millions of displaced people in India are nothing but refugees of an unacknowledged war. ….

Arundhati Roy

The Greater Common Good

Displacement: A Social Concern in India

Involuntary and forced relocation of people or displacement has come to be acknowledged as the most challenging task for floating in industrial development projects throughout the world. It is estimated that nearly 90 million sons/daughters of the soil have been displaced worldwide due to set up of large dams and industrial projects. In India, the figure touches around 42 million, displaced by such modern temples (India Country Study 2000). Unofficial estimates by scholars reveal about the unimaginable hidden discrepancy between the estimated and the actual figure of the displaced. The World Bank Review found that out of 192 projects assessed, the displaced figure exceeds by around 6,25,000 than the original estimation. In fact, it is well established now that underestimation of figures is the norm rather than the exception (China Report 1999, Scudder T. 1997, McCully, P. 1996). This is without doubt sufficient ground to find a “painful irony, and possible design, in the fact that there are no reliable official statistics of the numbers of people displaced” (India Report 1999:4). Displacement, resettlement, and rehabilitation are however more than a question of sheer numbers (or the lack thereof). Other critical issues involved in the process of displacement include empowerment post rehabilitation, human rights of project affected, participation and self-determination in development, the complexities of resettlement goals, options and strategies, and relevant legal and policy instruments.

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Trauma of Industrial Displacement

Industrial Development-induced displacement has mostly caused downward “spiral of impoverishments.” The long drawn out, dehumanising, disempowering and painful process of displacement has led to widespread traumatic psychological and socio-cultural consequences. It causes dismantling of production systems, desecration of ancestral sacred zones or graves and temples, scattering of kinship groups and family systems, disorganisation of informal social networks that provide mutual support, weakening of self-management and social control and disruption of trade and market links, etc. This also leads to the loss of complex social relationship which used to provide avenues of representation, mediation and conflict resolution. Essentially, the very cultural identity of the displaced community and individual is subjected to massive onslaught leading to very severe physiological stress and psychological trauma (Smitu Kothari 2000).

Objectives of Study

The objective of the paper is to identify the issues and challenges in the industrial displacement of affected inhabitants and suggest measures for adequate resettlement, rehabilitation and empowerment post rehabilitation. The suggestions will be formulated based on the learning’s from past industrial displacement, which will form an effective basis for reflecting into future.

Industrial Displacement in Odisha

The recent sprout of manufacturing industries in Odisha has seen a consequent displacement of native people from their residential and farming lands in the highly populated coastal districts. This has become an important issue before citizens and Government alike. Odisha represents the paradox of rich resources and destitute people, a result of people lack of access to land and forests. We must not ignore the fact of general poverty and dispossession of people of resources. To avoid violence in the displaced area, people should be provided with health care facility, educational support, food facilities, etc. Relief and rehabilitation should be given to them by Government institutions as well as priority to the displaced person’s opinions and experiences. Special attention must be paid to the displaced women and especially female-headed households. We must have a proper R&R policy beneficial to the displaced populace.

Resettlement and Rehabilitation

Resettlement programmes have predominantly focussed on the process of physical relocation rather than on the economic and social development of the displaced and other adversely affected people. This has severely eroded the development effectiveness of resettlement and rehabilitation programmes and heightened the impoverishment risk of the resettlers. According to Cernea (1998) risks to adversely affected people are not a component of conventional project analysis. The key economic risks to affected people are from the loss of livelihood and income sources such as arable land, common property resources such as forests, grazing land, ground and surface water, fisheries, etc and changed access to and control of productive resources. The loss of economic power with the breakdown of complex livelihood systems results in temporary or permanent, often irreversible, decline in living standards leading to marginalisation. Higher risks and uncertainties are introduced when diversified livelihood sources are lost. Loss of livelihood and disruption of agricultural activity can adversely affect household food security, leading to under-nourishment. Higher incidence of diseases associated with deteriorating water quality can result in increased morbidity and mortality.

Most industrial projects have long planning horizons and the actual physical relocation comes a long time after the initial notifications. The interim period is one full of uncertainties and enormous psychosocial anxieties for the to-be-relocated communities. Numerous examples exist of communities being subjected to multiple displacements by successive development projects.

The costs of the resettlement programme have invariably been underestimated and under financed.

Institutional weaknesses, marked by confusions between various departments and the lack of capacity as well as continuity, have been major problems in ensuring effective resettlement.

Generally, participation of the affected people has been superficial.

In the absence of policy and legal instruments and an effective mechanism to monitor compliance, even well-structured institutions with trained staff have failed in consistent implementation of effective resettlement.

Indigenous/tribal peoples displaced by big projects the experience has been extremely negative in cultural, economic, and health terms.

Resettlement sites are invariably selected without reference to availability of livelihood opportunities, or the preferences of displaced persons themselves. Sometimes even temporary shelters are unavailable.

The question of livelihoods is a major issue in resettlement and rehabilitation policy. There is reluctance on the part of Governments and lending agencies to adopt and make operational policies requiring that the loss of agricultural land be compensated with alternative land, especially in the face of increasing pressure on land and the limited availability of arable land as well as its high price. This is despite the fact that most non-land-for-land programmes have failed to foster successful self-employment and other non-land-based livelihood strategies, especially in the critical areas of employment, skills, and capacity building.

Forced relocation usually results in people being transplanted from a social ecology in which they were primary actors to one in which they are aliens; they are not only very vulnerable but also end up in most cases as an underclass in their new socio-cultural milieu.

Communities of displaced people are invariably fragmented and randomly atomised, tearing as under kinship and social networks and traditional support systems. Communities and often even large families are broken up and resettled over a wide area. The outcomes are psychological pathologies and alcoholism, etc common among displaced populations. It has been documented that this greatly enhanced psychological and psycho-social stress caused by involuntary resettlement heightens morbidity and immorality.

The special vulnerabilities and specific needs of indigenous and tribal peoples have been inadequately addressed. Resettlement sites have been under-prepared in terms of basic amenities and essential infrastructure such as health, schooling, and credit.

Generally, displacement as result of acquisition is legally sanctioned while, with few exceptions, there is no legal framework that governs the process of displacement itself.

Compensation Issues

Compensation has largely been understood to refer to specific measures intended to make good the losses suffered by people displaced and/or negatively affected. Compensation usually takes the form of a one-off payment, either in cash or kind and is principally about awards to negatively affected persons (Bartolome et al 1999).

Compensation is most often awarded only to persons in possession of undisputed legal title. Tenants, sharecroppers, wage-labourers, artisans and encroachers are rarely considered eligible for compensation, whereas they are paradoxically the most vulnerable and in need of support. Community assets and common resources like grazing grounds and forests, which again may be critical for the livelihood of the poorest, are not compensated for under the acquisition process.

The losses incurred by people affected by the creation of infrastructure such as project offices and township, canals, transmission lines, and other activities are not usually properly accounted for and so these losses have not been adequately compensated.

The limited provisions in law to challenge the rate of compensation are, in practice, inaccessible to the negatively affected persons, because they may not be aware of the legal nuances or else cannot afford the expensive remedy of courts. Even those that are able to access Courts fritter away a substantial proportion of the gains that they achieve in legal costs.

Many studies have recorded how cash compensation is depleted by negatively affected persons in short periods, by fraud, for repayment of old debts, in liquor and conspicuous consumption. A lifetime of livelihood security or shelter is squandered in months, sometimes weeks, condemning displaced persons to assured and irrevocable destitution.

Rehabilitation and Development

Rehabilitation can be envisioned as a process that would reverse the risks of resettlement. Cernea suggests a risk and reconstruction model of rehabilitation that would be marked by a series of transitions from:

landlessness to land-based resettlement;

joblessness to re-employment;

food insecurity to safe nutrition;

homelessness to house reconstruction;

increased morbidity and mortality to improved health and well being, and

social disarticulation and deprivation of common property resources to community reconstruction and social inclusion (Cernea M.M. 1998:47).

Rehabilitation is only possible where development takes place. Thus resettlement must be planned as an integral part of the comprehensive development project (Jain, L.C. 2000). In this sense rehabilitation is really an outcome of resettlement that is conceived not as physical relocation or mere restoration of incomes but as development. This brings us to the question of development in the context of resettlement and rehabilitation.

A resettlement programme in order to qualify as development must therefore centre around: (i)enhancement of capabilities; and (ii) the expansion of social opportunities by addressing the social and personal constraints that restrict peoples choices. This would mean that resettlement with development entails questions of resources and rights that would affect the quality of life of the people.

The Resettlement Plan

As already indicated, worldwide experience of the resettlement component demonstrates that unless the resettlement and rehabilitation component is based on collective negotiations with the affected people and planned and implemented as a development project, rather than as an attempt to restore pre-project income and living standards, the large majority will be further impoverished following removal. Resettlement cannot be reduced to the physical removal of relocatees or to the reproduction of their pre project living conditions.

Resettlement must aim to improve the quality of life of the people by raising living standards beyond the pre-project levels. Resettlement must be planned and implemented as a development project over a minimum of two generations and include not only protective measures, but also the provision of new rights, resources and strategies.

The resettlement as a development programme should aim for;

“a) A sustainable improvement, both in terms of objective indices as well as of subjective criteria

employed by the relocatees themselves, of the quality of life of the majority of relocatees, and particularly of the poor and the marginalised.

b) A cumulative and lasting empowerment of relocatees, resulting from their effective participation in the decision-making process relating to the development project (and particularly to those parts of it which relate to its resettlement component), and manifesting itself in a greater degree of control over their day to day affairs. Successful resettlement thus embodies both procedural elements relating to the fruits of genuine participation, as well as more concrete outcomes” (Bartolome et al. 1999: 13).

In keeping with the fundamental principles of participatory development and democracy, there is a need to move away from forced relocation and displacement to a voluntary and collectively negotiated process which recognises and respects people’s rights while keeping social costs to a minimum.

People have to participate in the decision-making process not as negatively project-affected but as primary actors who contribute to the socioeconomic value of the project through their acceptance of its costs and benefits.

Critical Areas of Concern

Social cost – Displacement has certain visible costs and can be given a monetary dimension. Its invisible costs like family crisis, social dislocations, emotional crisis and disturbances, loss of community attachments and local culture and threat perceptions can be imagined but cannot be calculated. Making investments in steel may be easier than building schools and equipping them with the right kind of teachers. It is still more difficult to create a sustainable source of income and livelihood for the affected people. Plants can be set up but the wasted Common Property Resources cannot be created. Once displaced, people may find alternative ways of earning a living but will not forget the trauma of separation from their ancestral land. Overshadowing all the cost and benefits is the future of children of the displaced families. It is their education, their health, their minds and their physical well-being which are likely to suffer the worst. It requires sincere efforts to resettle the students once they have been dislocated and disturbed. The real problem will be in restoring the academic environment for the students and instilling in them the joy of reading after the change which they had to accept reluctantly. Industries interested in providing schools and health facilities for the displaced families have to address such sensitive aspects of these problems. Yet there may be an undercurrent of fear of social disorders in the minds of the displaced households. Under these circumstances the future of these people and their children would hang by the thread depending on so many unknown factors.

Lack of basic amenities – Most of the industrial development projects failed to provide basic amenities to the displaced people, which is a critical area of concern.

Non-availability of wage work – Avenues of wage work are severely restricted in the resettlement colonies, forcing many ousters to migrate to places outside the district and even the State.

Decline in the Role of Women and Relationship in the Family – Women play a vital role in the family, community and society. But after displacement, their income has either dwindled or has come to a halt altogether. They have become totally dependent on their husbands or sons for household expenditure. This makes their role and status very limited. The cordial and intimate relationship of the pre-displacement period is now disrupted. Decrease in family income have created conflicts and bitterness among them.

Problems arising out of cash compensation – Most of the project authorities pay cash compensation to the Project affected, which is often misutilised by the male members on consumer durable items or liquor. Increased alcoholism has led to a rise in crimes in these areas.

Increasing difficulties in arranging marriage for Daughters – Women oustees now face great difficulty in getting married because of the demand for more dowry. Use of cash compensation on the marriages leave the family pauperized.


Leasing the Land – Another option is for the farmer to not sell the land but to lease it to the company or SEZ. Thus, the land remains the farmer’s and he draws a regular income in the form of lease rent which, if made out in the name of husband and wife, can overcome some of the concerns indicated earlier. People like Ramesh Ramanathan have written about institutional forms which can ensure a fair deal for both the lessor and the lessee and this is worth pursuing. The difficulty with this solution, of course, is that it does not take care of the interests of the landless who, as we know, are perhaps the worst off economically and socially. Some additionalities need to be factored in, like reskilling and alternative enterprises, to make this work for the landless. Also, it is unlikely that a farmer will be able to make ends meet through the rent or, indeed, spend his life doing nothing productive. So, this by itself is not an option but is certainly part of the solution.

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Landless person – A landless person should be provided with a livelihood which he has the skills to pursue. If this is not possible, then he must be reskilled to pursue what is possible. When one applies these conditions, it is no surprise that cash compensation simply does not make any sense. But the question is what does? Such person should be formed a part of inclusive growth.

Reskilling and Facilitation – Since technology provides limited opportunities for people skilled in agriculture (calling them unskilled is a disservice), there is clearly a case to invest in reskilling them so that they can either be employed or be a supplier of goods and services to the companies – again an opportunity unique to industrial displacement.

The Road Ahead

If growth with a human face is to mean anything, rehabilitation of displaced persons must mean that people being displaced take their rightful place in the centre of the “public purpose” for which they are being displaced. This requires imagination and commitment. The first we have; do we have the second?

The paper concludes that a successful resettlement with development is a fundamental commitment and responsibility of the State. Odisha is a poor State. It naturally will give priority to industrial development. Industrialisation will remain an unfinished business here unless these problems are addressed and dealt with tact and understanding to ensure the desired outcomes in terms of industrial development. No development project can result in complete alienation of the rights, customary and legal, of people through payment of a one-time compensation or facilitated relocation. On the contrary, the process must result in the creation of new rights that will render people direct beneficiaries of the development project. Just as displacement is not an inevitable consequence of infrastructure development, resettlement need not necessarily result in impoverishment. Central to positive resettlement and rehabilitation will be the empowering of people, particularly the economically and socially marginalised, as a result of both the process and outcomes of resettlement with development.


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