A noise filter for the State

Published: Thursday 31 July 2008

The great Indian State no more sits on the fence, has crossed over to the industry's side

on the sidelines of G-8 summit in Hokkaido, Japan, the Indian Prime Minister committed to his South Korean counterpart he would try his best to help posco begin constructing its steel plant, at Jagatsinghpur in Orissa, by August this year. Is the pm aware of widespread opposition from the affected people? Does he know land acquired so far has been through the use of brutal force by the state? Scores have died protesting?

Perhaps the pm wanted to reinforce his government's committment to economic reforms and industrialization. This was his promise when his government came to power four years ago. But he had also promised reform "with a human face". Looking at India's protest map, only one word comes to mind: inhuman. "Development" in India has become inherently violent.

It is virtually a open house for the corporate houses, a no-hold-bars situation . This has led to urbanization, but the rural economy is stalled. Projects have been given fast-track clearance, often ignoring national policy. All voices of dissent are ignored. Moreover, in a clear slap in the face of people genuinely affected, the Union government has ordered Goa to compensate companies affected by scrapping sez projects in the state. The Goa government had wanted to scrap all sez projects in the state because it realized this was a wrong, intensely agonizing route to development for the state. In any case, none of the projects had ever really taken off. So it is doubly ironic that the Centre is demanding compensation for corporations, when millions of genuinely affected people all over the country are left impoverished.

As a result, what has emerged is a slew of problems, mostly emanating from rural or tribal areas in the country. When issues about land acquisition, displacement, loss of livelihood, water sharing and environmental pollution are highlighted by people affected by these development projects, they are often sidelined. Communities who demand a share of this development are not heard.

The pm's recent assurance sends a signal to the local administration that the highest authorities want the project to be executed at the soonest possible. This means they have to deliver at all costs and remove all hurdles in the way. Such a heady, even headless, rush for development is not only detrimental but can make India into a country where a few would gain, but the majority would be left destitute. The Lok Sabha elections are due soon. The government is sure to put on its human face. The question is: what afterwards?

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