Challenge the Eviction-Loaded Script of Neo-Liberal ‘Development’

Development’ decrees that some must be sacrificed at the altar of the ‘temples of modern India’ – the dams, the steel plants, the mines, the big industries. But the State will compensate and rehabilitate them, and they mustn’t expect more than their due. That is the common sense that we are brought up on. The image of tribals shot dead, their arms, breasts and genitals chopped off, is something relegated to documentaries – rarely does it appear on the screens of the corporate media channels. Even when it does, the dominant opinion that is peddled is that while such police firing and brutality may be lamentable, but inevitable to enforce the eviction that is in the ‘national interest’.
But the Indian State’s promise of ‘rehabilitation’ was always meant to be broken. ‘Sacrifice’ was always meant to be unilateral – tribals and dalits were the ones expected to pay the costs of ‘development’ – for the rich, powerful and the corporates. Never in the history of India has one witnessed police fire a single bullet to ensure that big landowners ‘sacrifice’ their ceiling surplus land ‘in the national interest’. Rather, bullets are fired only to punish the dalit, landless poor when they dare to occupy and redistribute such land in defiance of the powerful landed elites.
Many millions of those displaced by the public sector industries and mines in the first three decades of Independence never received the promised rehabilitation. The massive army of development refugees were left to compete for jobs in industries and mines. The current neo-liberal era is not likely to offer its victims even such paltry respite. By now, the myth that private corporates and MNCs will generate jobs has been proved false; they are heavily mechanized and their capacity for employment is tiny.
Mass eviction is routinely played out in rural and urban theatres all over the country. In Jharkhand, the government is trying to tamper with the Santhal Pargana and Chhotanagpur Tenancy Acts so as to legitimize the usurpation of tribal lands. Attempts are also on to subvert the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act so that the panchayats cannot obstruct the process and the affected adivasis and local inhabitants cannot have a say.
The mineral rich states like Jharkhand or Orissa may be the favourite ‘laboratories’ of development, but the same story is repeated in the slums of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata too. In most states, the key resources including vast acres of fertile agricultural land are being handed over to corporate control.
It is high time this paradigm of ‘development’ received a determined challenge. ‘Development’ cannot be called such if it means devastation, destitution and death for the vast majority. Development cannot mean destroying complex ecosystems and survival mechanisms, plundering precious resources, robbing people of their only livelihood. Generating dignified employment for all must be the condition for development. In the absence of adequate compensation and effective rehabilitation, in the absence of the guarantee of land rights and jobs, eviction can mean nothing short of extinction.
State terror has reached new heights in defence of corporate loot: the mutilation of Kalinganagar’s adivasi men and women is only the latest instance. The incredibly brave and resolute battles waged at Koel Karo, Maheshwar, the Narmada Valley, Chilika, Jaduguda and Muthanga, the remarkable blockade at Kalinganagar that continues to hold out: these must be the rallying point for all democratic forces who seek to defeat the eviction-loaded script of neo-liberal development.