Skip to main content

Displacement-induced development

By Rajiv Shah
The year was 2012, when D Jagatheesa Pandian, a Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat, was state energy secretary. Accompanied with two journalist colleagues, I dashed into his room on finding he had no guests to entertain. A seasoned official who became Gujarat chief secretary two years later, Pandian welcomed us with a broad smile. One who had the longest stint at the state-owned Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), almost 10 years, Pandian, to most of us, was synonymous to GSPC’s oil-and-gas exploration. One who can claim to have made Gujarat number 1 in the use of gas by providing most of the over 3,000-km-long gas pipeline network, he was also known to us as Gujarat’s “gas man” for another reason – he took GSPC to the KG Basin off Andhra coast, apart from going “multinational” to Egypt, Australia, Yemen and Indonesia for “exploratory” exploits. It is quite another thing that, not only GSPC’s multinational ventures, even the KG Basin oil-and-gas fields, have been either abandoned or may be put off soon, after they cost the PSU hugely, without few results.
Yet, in 2012, GSPC’s “downturn” wasn’t yet visible, at least on surface. So, we asked Pandian our hackneyed question: Any other success in oil and gas exploration? First Pandian said, blushing, “I am no more GSPC managing director, why don’t you ask Tapan Ray?”, and then told us there was a “possibility” of finding a huge reserve in South Gujarat. “That’s big news, please give details”, I tried inquiring, to know the exact spot where the reserve was located. “Well, it’s too preliminary. It would be premature to write”, he replied. When I persisted, he gave me the location: the industrial town of Ankaleshwar, dubbed by environmentalists as one the most polluted in the country and the world, quoting Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) figures. “Right below it?”, I wondered, and he replied positively, again pleading not to report.
I promptly agreed, but put before him a hypothetical query: What if a huge oil-and-gas reserve is actually found underneath Ankaleshwar? Will the Gujarat government agree to “displace” those who live in the township and demolish all the industries set up there? Pandian didn’t answer the question, but, with pen in his hand, began drawing a map of Ankaleshwar on a blank paper. He drew two lines, connecting each other to make a right angle. One line was supposed to be the vertical pipeline going deep into the surface, outside the township on an agricultural field, and the other, which connected it, was horizontal, taking the pipeline underground towards the spot beneath Ankaleshwar where oil and gas had supposedly been located.
This didn’t impress me, hence I repeated: “Will you displace Ankaleshwar population, and demolish the industries set up atop the oil and gas fields in the name of development?” I didn’t stop here, but continued: “Well, this is what you (I meant Gujarat government) did in Narmada, where thousands of poor tribals were displaced in the name of development for building a dam. If adivasis can be displaced for the sake of development, why spare the city dwellers? If forests, on which adivasis depend on to earn a livelihood, can be destroyed for the sake of the dam, why can’t the same logic be applied to industries for the sake of oil-and-gas exploration?” Pandian smiled in agreement, but wasn’t quite keen to answer. The matter ended, and we moved out of his room.
What the top bureaucrat didn’t want to say, but I think knew well, was this: No state machinery would ever risk displacing middle class city dwellers on a mass scale. And when at stake are industrial units, owned by tycoons, Indian or foreign, the state would never ever agree on a “displacement” plan, as it would for, say, tribals in the hilly regions, or farmers elsewhere in Gujarat. From the officialdom’s angle, the message seemed loud and clear: Those who have meagre means of livelihood have nothing to “lose” – they can be easily displaced and provided with some compensation in the form of cash or land, with a rehabilitation colony to live in. Large number of Narmada dam oustees, who lived in Madhya Pradesh or Maharashtra, have been shifted to Gujarat and are living in resettlement sites, away from the land on which they lived for ages – not out of their own choice. While these colonies are being described as a “model” to be followed for resettling oustees, it’s by now a common knowledge: No section of tribals in Gujarat’s eastern belt – forming about 15 per cent of the state’s population – will benefit from the Narmada project, which is actually situated in a tribal area.
A “reasonable” physical compensation cannot hide the fact that there is a tendency to overlook the psychological scar the communities suffer from after they are displaced from own land. Who is going to compensate for that? And how? One is left wondering: Do we, belonging to middle classes, and those owning industries at places like Ankaleshwar, alone have the right not to be displaced, despite the pollution they create? If it is thought that displacement of tribals and other sections of the rural population by acquiring land – albeit through a “good package” offered by the former UPA government under a land acquisition Act, sought to be “undermined” by the NDA – alone can bring about development, there is reason to ask: Why didn’t the state act to provide health and education before displacement-induced project was thought of? There have been studies on India’s coal belt which say that the condition of tribals has worsened after they were displaced.
Meanwhile, without going into merits of the Narendra Modi government considering to “drop” the idea of doing away with consent and social impact assessment (SIA) clauses of the controversial land acquisition law, the Gujarat government has found a new way to acquire land without even invoking any land acquisition law, old or new. In the south of Ahmedabad, in Dholera special investment region (SIR), the state government has been toying with the idea of applying the town planning Act to take away 50 per cent of the farmers’ rich agricultural land in the name developing a smart city. Farmers of Dholera SIR have received intimations that they must part with their land for development, and they would get 50 per cent of the size of the land they had at a different place for pursuing farming. Not only is there no talk of consent or SIA; the officialdom doesn’t even wish to call it land acquisition!
---
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/true-lies/displacement-induced-development/

Comments

TRENDING

Hold your breath! UK ex-Muslims to celebrate Blasphemy Day on September 30

Soheil Arabi The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), in a suprise move, has decided to observe September 30 as the Blasphemy Day. In an email alert, Maryam Namazie, CEMB spokesperson, has asked anyone interested to join CEMB in celebrating blasphemy by " uploading your photo into our #blasphemyday frame and sharing on social media."

Diaspora protest as Biden failed to publicly address persecution of minorities in India

As Modi addressed UN, human rights groups decried “monstrosity” of persecution of Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and other minorities in India. Demonstrators gathered outside UN to protest fascism, hate campaigns, weaponized rape, apartheid, lynchings, unlawful arrests, attacks on the media, and other abuses in India: A report distributed by the diaspora group Hindus for Human Rights: *** While observers said it was “shameful” that President Biden failed to publicly address widespread persecution of religious minorities in India when he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 24, more than 100 members of interfaith and human rights groups spoke out as Modi addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Speakers condemned the egregious human rights violations and murders of religious minorities in India under a government that openly supports Hindu supremacy. The rally was sponsored by 21 organizations, including Ambedkar International Center, Ambedkar King S

What this veteran Gandhian witnessed at Rajghat is indeed intensely disturbing

Renowned Gandhian, activist and physicist Professor VK Tripathi witnessed an “intensely worrisome” event at the Gandhi Samadhi on his birthday on October 2, 2021. “The children of the Hindutva criminals who assassinated him have captured places which are supposed to keep Gandhiji's heritage alive”, says Deepak Joshi in a Faceook post, insisting, “We should strongly protest against it. It is already too late.”

Forthcoming book explodes Western myth: Personal qualities are biologically inherited

Jonathan Latham, PhD, Executive Director, The Bioscience Resource Project, New York, has said in an email alert via JanVikalp that his forthcoming book about genetics and genetic determinism, provisionally titled "The Myth of The Master Molecule: DNA and the Social Order" criticises the notion that personal qualities are biologically inherited: *** The contention of the book is that the key organising principle of Western thought is the seemingly innocuous and seemingly simple idea that our personal qualities are biologically inherited. That is, our character derives from our ancestors rather than being an always-adapting product of our own experiences, decisions, and education. The book makes the case, first, that genetic determinism is a scientific fallacy. Organisms are self-organised systems and therefore are not genetically determined. Second, the explanation for the myth, which predates Mesopotamian cities of 6,000 years ago, is its utility. Genetic determinism rationa

International Energy Agency floats new plan to end oil, gas, and coal expansion

In major shift, International Energy Agency (IEA)’s World Energy Outlook has mainstreamed 1.5°C pathway, showing need to end oil, gas, and coal expansion, insisting on new fossil fuel phase-out benchmarks in order to test government ambition ahead of COP26. A report by Oil Change International, distributed by BankTrack: *** For the first time, the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s flagship annual report on global energy pathways, used worldwide to influence trillions of dollars in investment, details an achievable roadmap to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C). By making a 1.5°C scenario the benchmark of this year’s World Energy Outlook (WEO), the IEA challenges governments and companies to back up lagging Paris pledges with immediate action to shift the energy system away from fossil fuels. Notably, this year’s WEO solidifies the policy conclusion, first presented by the IEA in May , that no new oil, gas, and coal extraction projects should be approved under a 1.5°C-

UN Food Systems Summit paved the way for greater control of big corporations

In a sharp critique of the  UN Food Systems Summit, a statement released by the People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty, a global network of NGOs, has accused UN meet of being steered by big corporations, even as the Global South was pushed back. *** The Global People’s Summit (GPS) on Food Systems slammed the recently concluded UN Food Systems Summit (UN FSS) for paving the way for greater control of big corporations over global food systems and misleading the people through corporate-led false solutions to hunger and climate change. “It was just as we expected. While branding itself as the ‘People’s Summit’ and even the ‘Solutions Summit,’ the UN FSS did not listen to the voices of marginalized rural peoples, nor forward real solutions to the food, biodiversity and climate crises. Instead, it let powerful nations and big corporations play an even bigger role in determining food and agricultural policies. The UN has finally made it clear what ‘multilateralism’ is all about—paying l

Ex-official: Why not offer Vaishnaw loss making BSNL, Air India to prove his worth?

By Rajiv Shah A senior chartered accountant, whom I have known intimately (I am not naming him, as I don’t have his permission), has forwarded me an Indian Express (IE) story (July 18), “Ashwini Vaishnaw: The man in the chair”, which, he says, “contradicts” the blog (July 17), "Will Vaishnaw, close to Modi since Vajpayee days, ever be turnaround man for Railways?" I had written a day earlier and forwarded it to many of my friends.

Known to have assissinated O'Dwyer, Udham Singh chose not to apologise to the British

Udham Singh (26 December 1899 – 31 July 1940), best known for assassinating Michael O'Dwyer , the former lieutenant governor of the Punjab in India , on 13 March 1940, done in revenge for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919, for which O'Dwyer was responsible, was subsequently tried and convicted of murder and hanged in July 1940. While in custody, he used the name Ram Mohammad Singh Azad, which represents the three major religions of India and his anti-colonial sentiment. Writes a well-known analyst, "He too could have apologised. He chose the noose instead!" Udham Singh's speech prior to sentencing in UK: *** “I say down with British Imperialism. You say India do not have peace. We have only slavery Generations of so called civilisation has brought us everything filthy and degenerating. known to the human race. All you have to do is read your own history. If you have any human decency about you, you should die with shame. The brutality and blood

Gujarat cadre woman IAS official who objected to Modi remark on sleeveless blouse

By Rajiv Shah Two days back, a veteran journalist based in Patna, previously with the Times of India, Ahmedabad, phoned me up to inform me that he had a sad news: Swarnakanta Varma, a retired Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat, who was acting chief secretary on the dastardly Godhra train burning day, February 27, 2002, which triggered one of the worst ever communal riots in Gujarat, has passed away due to Covid. “I have been informed about this from a friend in Jaipur, where she breathed her last”, Law Kumar Mishra said.

Indian Doctors for Truth want Modi to stop overzealous universal vaccination drive

At a time when there is a huge demand to ensure that vaccination should be universal in order to gain immunity against the pandemic, an organisation called Indian Doctors for Truth, have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “urgent need to stop the overzealous universal vaccination drive against Covid-19.  Read the letter, signed by 18 doctors and a health expert: ***