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Indians displaced by industry, infrastructure

india Updated: Dec 20, 2007 10:26 IST
Jonathan Allen

More than 1.4 million Indians have been moved from their land in four states alone in the last decade to make way for industry and infrastructure, and most of them are unhappy about it, a report said on Wednesday.

"If I am going to be displaced from the land of my birth in the name of progress, I have every right to ask to be the first beneficiary of that progress," said Shabana Azmi, an actor and campaigner for ActionAid agency that did the survey.

But this is not how things turn out, according to the anti-poverty group's account of its interviews with more than 1,700 displaced people.

Most of those displaced are among the poorest in the country and yet live in areas rich with minerals and other resources.

This has led to fraught and sometimes deadly battles between developers of factories, dams, mines and powers plants. India's poor and the authorities are still trying to work out how to resolve these tensions as India industrialises.

In October, the government announced a relief and rehabilitation policy to ease anger over the issue, under which those affected would be provided alternative land, jobs in the project, housing benefits and vocational training.

ActionAid said most of those surveyed belong to tribal communities. Nine in every 10 respondents said they had not received enough compensation for moving.

Many said they had only moved in the first place because of threats from developers' agents.

Although most projects promise to resettle affected people, two-thirds said no such assistance had come by.

At least 34 people have been killed this year in Nandigram in West Bengal during protests by farmers who refuse to give up their land for industry.

Britain's Vedanta Resources is having difficulty trying to get India's Supreme Court to let it shift a tribal community in Orissa so it can mine a bauxite-stuffed hill range considered sacred by the tribe.

Similar disputes can be found in many parts of the country.

In two of the four states studied, around two-thirds of shunted people had not found a new source of income. Newly created jobs at the project for which they gave up their homes typically went to people from outside the affected community.

ActionAid arrived at the number of displaced people by studying thousands of government land acquisition documents for Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, which record the transfer of more than 10 million acres of land.