By K. Raja Rajan
Sterlite Copper, Kudangulam, Neduvasal, Hydro carbon, Nutrino or Chennai – Selam Green Corridor, the problems and the solutions are basically the same.
The people living at Thuththukkudi, Kudangulam, Western Ghats, Nagai – Thiruvarur belt or near the proposed Chennai – Selam new 8 lane highway are not opposed to the idea of development at all. But firstly, we should be clear about the definition of development itself. Secondly, whenever such projects are taken up, fair compensation and rehabilitation should be ensured to the project affected/displaced people – not only the owners from whom land is acquired, but people who loose their livelihood, laborers, traders, shelter less who reside in the proposed project area. Further when such projects affect wildlife, catchment areas, water bodies, all necessary alternative and compensatory actions will have to be included in the project proposal.
Development should mean substantial improvement in the living conditions of the people in the area, in the district, state and the country in general and for the down trodden and marginalized in particular. It shouldn’t be a case of robbing the poor Peter to pay the rich Paul. It should not be a case allowing the rich and corporate to loot public property and amassing as personal wealth. As far this road project, it is anybody’s case that the iron ore or what ever resource is available in that area, should be exploited (the very problem is here – the corporate world always tries to exploit natural resources – instead of making use of) for the benefit of the people. If it is done by the government, there is no dispute. But when private corporations are allowed to loot the resources, we have a perfect brew for a confrontation. Mining and processing of the minerals will bring about employment opportunities and trade and industrial opportunities for sure. There will be other associated developments also and everyone will only welcome these, provided the resulting effluence and pollution are addressed satisfactorily.
The owners of the land to be acquired, should be compensated by paying not just the market rate, but some share of the surplus value created due to the development planned, in addition, and alternate land offered with due compensation for the cost of developing that land for cultivation. In case a holding is bifurcated by the acquisition, land on the same side should offered in exchange. Traders, homeless, wage laborers should be rehabilitated duly with alternate land, shelter and employment. Safe pathways for wildlife with fencing to avert death of wildlife straying on to the road and compensatory afforestation should be ensured.
It should be ensured that such things don’t remain on paper, but the process of compensation and rehabilitation precedes the actual project. At least 60 % of these should be completed before the actual project work begins.
With the impression that the whole polity has turned looters, gaining ground, it is meaningless to expect the people to accept any such project, without putting in place the necessary confidence building measures like announcing compensation – rehabilitation package, wildlife protection, employment guarantee etc. Protests are unavoidable in such a circumstance.
Unless we side line the whole polity that has turned predator, and infuse fresh blood in to polity by ensuring, ‘we the people’ ‘gather, search, select, nominate and elect’, our own representatives to fill governing bodies, we can not expect development to mean what it should. The tug of war will continue till then.
Let us rise as one to usher in the real democracy ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’.
K. Raja Rajan
(A technologist by qualification, farmer by option and a Gandhian by conviction)
President – Gandhian Initiative for Social Transformation – Chennai
Ph: 94441 60839, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org,
Face book: Raja Rajan K, Blog: prithvi-mithra.blogspot.in