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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Indian becoming refugees in their own land

- Neeraj Jain Ever since1991, when the Indian government decided to accept the conditions of the World Bank-IMF and begin the globalization of the Indian economy, remove all restrictions on inflows of foreign capital and goods and remove all restrictions on profiteering, the people of India have become second grade citizens, or non citizens, in their own land. Helots, as the Roman citizens used to call the others. The country is now being run solely for the profit maximisation of giant corporations, both Indian and foreign. Laws are being modified to facilitate their plunder. All welfare services, including education, health, electricity, transport, the public distribution system designed to provide food to the poor at affordable rates, even drinking water facilities, are being taken over by these corporations and transformed into instruments of naked profiteering. The corporations want to take control of the agricultural lands, forests, rivers, mountains, coastal lands. So that they can commandeer the resources – bauxite, iron ore, coal, water... Or set up special economic zones, infrastructural projects… Or build resorts, golf courses, villas, etc. Overnight, the people living on these lands and forests since times immemorial have become encroachers, and have been told to shoo off. According to the Amnesty International Report of 2008, people are being displaced in every state in the country, including West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Maharashtra and Meghalaya. How many are being displaced? No one knows. The Government collects volumes of statistics every year, on every aspect of the economy. But it does not have a figure for the number of people that have been, or are being, displaced by big projects or sacrificed in other ways at the altars of 'National Progress'. What happens to these displaced people? How do they earn a living? No one knows. The government of India does not have a National Rehabilitation Policy. According to the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 (amended in 1984), the Government is not legally bound to provide a displaced person anything but a cash compensation. Most tribal people and small farmers have as much use for money as a Supreme Court judge has for a bag of fertilizer. In any case, most adivasis do not have formal title to their lands and therefore need not be given compensation. Many millions are being displaced. Where do they go? No one knows. They don’t exist anymore. A great majority of the displaced eventually land up in the slums existing in the peripheries of our great cities. To live and work in the most degrading, dehumanizing conditions. True, they are not being sent to the gas chambers, but their quality of life is not better than Hitler’s concentration camps. Still their nightmare does not end. They continue to be uprooted even from their hellish hovels so that big corporations can build huge residential complexes, shopping plazas, multiplexes, airports… ●●● The people are obviously not willing to be displaced without a fight. And so the Indian rulers are using every possible weapon in their war on the people: friendly courts, trigger friendly police, most draconian laws, corporate friendly media… Ever since the beginnings of globalization, the higher Indian judiciary has taken a nakedly pro-corporate stance. They have passed judgements permitting displacement and thereby destruction of livelihoods of lakhs of people, in violation of their own previous judgements wherein they had declared the right to food, education, shelter as being fundamental rights. In the Narmada Bachao Andolan case, the courts allowed the project to go ahead, despite the fact that the mandatory environmental impact studies had not been done. In the Tehri Dam case, even though the government’s own expert committee had pointed out serious irregularities in the environmental clearance given to the project, the Supreme Court gave the go-ahead to the construction of the Dam. Likewise, the Supreme Court gave permission to Vedanta to mine bauxite from the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa, despite the fact that its own environmental panel had accused Vedanta of violating environmental guidelines and urged that the environmental clearance given to the project be cancelled. The project will displace thousands of adivasis living in the area and destroy the pristine environment of the region. Four years ago, in a absolutely shocking judgement, the Delhi High Court, at the behest of the Delhi government, ordered the demolition of slums in Yamuna Pushta, affecting nearly one lakh people - the government wanted the land cleared so that five star hotels and shopping malls could be built there. In an even more blatant display of pro-rich bias, the courts have ordered demolition of slum in cities without even issuing notices to the people whose homes were being demolished, simply on the grounds that they were polluting the environment! Likewise, orders were passed for removal of hawkers from the streets of many cities. Orders were also passed to remove cycle rickshaw pullers from Delhi roads, just so that the rich can drive their luxury cars comfortably on what are supposed to be public roads and on which everyone should have equal rights! The police are behaving like the private armies of the corporate elites. To evict people from their homes, they are resorting to indiscriminate arrests, brutal lathicharges, custodial torture and in many cases firings with the deliberate intention of killing the agitating people. The Amnesty International Report of 2008 mentioned above alleges that in several states where big projects are being implemented resulting in displacement and destruction of people’s livelihoods, unlawful methods are increasingly used to deal with such protests, and impunity for abuses is widespread. In Nandigram (West Bengal), where people refused to give their fertile lands for a special economic zone, the police and private militias owing allegiance to the ruling CPM brutally attacked the people, and indulged in unlawful killings, abductions, sexual assault on women; in open collusion with the attackers, the authorities denied access and information to the media and human rights organizations, harassed human rights defenders and even denied justice to the victims. Just a few months ago, in December 2008, police opened fire on a peaceful protest by 7000 adivasis in Dumka, Jharkhand, murdering at least 3 people. The adivasis were protesting against the setting up of a 1000 MW coal based power plant in their area by CESC, an RPG group company. In Jagatsinghpur, Orissa, the state has deployed thousands of armed police to brutally crush the local people who have been fighting for the last three years to prevent their lands, resources and livelihoods from being taken over for a mega steel plant and port by POSCO, a South Korean giant. Not very far from there, in Kalinganagar, on January 2, 2006 police gunned down 13 people in a bid to terrorise and subjugate tribals protesting against acquisition of their lands for a massive steel plant being set up by the Tatas. Five corpses returned after post-mortem were mutilated; one dead woman’s breast was ripped off, and a young boy (also killed in the firing) had his genitals mutilated. All had their palms chopped off. Since September 2007, government officials and police have virtually unleashed a war on the people of two mandals in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh an effort to forcibly acquire 4000 acres of land for the Kakinada SEZ. Nearer home, in 2004-05, the police and local administration brutally demolished homes of more than 4 lakh slum dwellers; probably another million more will have to suffer the same fate; the state government is seeking to acquire their lands for huge infrastructural projects and transform Mumbai into Shanghai. Likewise, most of the city’s 300,000 hawkers are being evicted.(PNN) (This is the first part of a long article ) (Neeraj Jain, an Engineer b y training,is a social activist based in Pune and attached to ‘Lokayat’ He the author of the book Globalization or Recolonization .)

issued by PEOPLE NEWS NETWORK (PNN) - (An alternate media service devoted to promote struggles against corporate colonialism and to establish ‘Poorna Swaraj’ in India) E-mail- peoplenewsnetwork@gmail.com

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