By now most people have read the leaked IB report indicting various NGOs in India for being ‘people- centric’ and for ‘questioning the Gujarat model of development’. This report and the consequent fall out got me thinking. Why is it that everyone from Modi to Sharad Pawar is beseeching us to not question the development mantra? And if development projects are all that they are made out to be why do people regularly protest them? Is it all a big conspiracy?
The Planning Commission estimates that Independent India has displaced 60-65 million citizens on account of development projects. This is the largest number of non-conflict related internal displacement in the world. In today’s post, I look at the people who are getting displaced. Whose development is this?
Graph 1 looks at data on total number of displaced tribals, Graph 2 looks at tribals as a % of displaced populations. Graph 3 looks at the % of people that have been resettled and Graph 4 looks at the types of projects that lead to maximum displacement. All data for this post came from this answer to a Lok Sabha question. Since the data is maintained at the state level, I couldn’t access this data for all states. This makes the comparison incomplete, but should give a fair idea of what the situation is across the country.
It seems clear that certain populations are paying a higher price of development than others. Figures show that over 40% of displaced persons are scheduled tribes and a vast majority of all displaced persons belong to the rural poor. Successive governments have failed to develop a structured plan for rehabilitation with a very small minority of displaced persons being resettled by the government. Unsurprisingly, this leads to greater landlessness and increased poverty amongst displaced populations.
India’s ‘development’ mantra doesn’t work for everyone. It disproportionately favours certain populations. Some may argue that every big project requires some displacement, however, the systematic displacement of certain populations without any recompense should be challenged. People have a right to their lands and a blanket narrative which doesn’t include everyone should be up for criticism in a democracy. Instead of trying to stifle it, the Indian government should engage with these populations to create a just plan that still manages to satisfy their thirst for ‘development’.