It is a well-known fact that both natural and human made disasters force people to move out of their land. For example. Tsunami in South Asia in December 2004, Latur and Gujarat earthquake, the Orissa super-cyclone and scores of floods and droughts in other parts of our country have rendered thousands of people homeless and jobless. Disasters, like the Bhopal gas tragedy in Union carbide factory, derailment of trains, are examples of human made disaster.
Strategies for rehabilitation of thus displaced people are in the first place by way of preventive action. For instance, care is taken to build earthquake proof houses, gather advance information about cyclones and arrange for timely evacuation, build appropriate bunds in flood prone areas, maintain bridges that take regular up and down passing of trains/ road transport vehicles on them in order to avert likely disasters.
Secondly, advance preparation on the part of administration and local communities are made to face the consequences of sudden calamities. For both these remedial steps, the primary necessity is that of building awareness among the people in general and among administrative personnel in particular.
The scope for advance planning in the cases of natural and human made calamities is however quite limited and in comparison we can certainly plan better in the cases of development projects which are planned in advance.
Development projects come into existence after a fairly long period of planning and awareness of displacement caused by such projects already exists among those who initiate the projects. The tragedy is that despite this prior knowledge of the extent of displacement, those in-charge of development projects pay little attention to the processes of resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced people.
Development projects instead focus on economic efficiency and not on those who stand to lose all that they have, their land, means of livelihood and stable patterns of social and cultural life. Those who give up substantial portions of their assets for the sake of development projects need to be recognized as stakeholders in development projects. They too need to be a part of development.
The strategies formulated for resettlement and rehabilitation of those displaced by development projects can of course be equally applied to those displaced by natural and human made calamities. As far as our country’s preparation for coping with the impact of natural and human made calamities is concerned, we have begun to feel a little aware of negative impacts of such events because they are now occurring at frequent intervals.
As a result there are some institutional measure have been taken by the government by way of constituting committees at various levels. They exist on paper and their immediate response to the actual events is yet to come in any significant manner.
But we can say that a beginning has been made and we need to further consolidate the initiatives already taken so that such measure can bring some relief to disaster victims by way of their resettlement and rehabilitation. At present, we find that ad hoc relief measures are adopted to cope with the gravity of problems caused by such disasters.
Objectives of rehabilitation
The following objectives of rehabilitation should be kept in mind before the people are given an alternative site for living:
- Tribal people should be allowed to live along the lives of their own patterns and others should avoid imposing anything on them.
- They should be provided means to develop their own traditional art and culture in every way.
- Villagers should be given the option of shifting out with others to enable them to live a community based life.
- Removal of poverty should be one of the objectives of rehabilitation.
- The people displaced should get an appropriate share in the fruits of the development. I should say that it is really a good move by ISC to share its profits among the active contributors.
- The displaced people should be given employment opportunities.
- Resettlement should be in the neighborhood of their own environment.
- If resettlement is not possible in the neighbor area, priority should be given to the development of the irrigation facilities and supply of basic inputs for agriculture, drinking water, wells, grazing ground for the cattle, schools for the children, primary healthcare units and other amenities.
- Villagers should be taken into confidence at every stage of implementation of the displacement and they should be educated, through public meetings, discussion about the legalities of the Land Acquisition act and other rehabilitation provisions.
- The elderly people of the village should be involved in the decision making.
Reasons for displacement of people
- Natural disasters like earthquake, cyclones, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, prolonged droughts conditions, floods, hurricanes etc.
- Man made disasters like industrial accidents ( e.g. Bhopal gas tragedy), nuclear accidents( Current disaster in Japan), oil spills( Exxon Valdez oil spill), toxic contamination of sites etc.
- In search of better employment opportunities.
- Developmental projects like:
- construction of dams, irrigation canals, reservoirs etc.
- Infrastructural projects like flyovers, bridges, roads etc.
- Transportation activities like roads, highway, canal etc.
- Energy related project like power plants, oil exploration, mining activities, pipelines like HBJ pipeline etc.
- Agricultural projects
- Projects related with the conservation of wildlife like national parks, sanctuaries and biosphere reserves.
As per the World Bank estimates, nearly 10 lakh people are displaced worldwide for a variety of reasons. I have tried to mention a few of the sufferings that these people have to face but we are unable to feel for them:
- Little or no support: Displacement mainly hits tribal and rural people who usually do not figure in the priority list of any political authorities or parties. Why do you think that the rural people have become the red Robinhoods of today which are the Maoists?
- Meager compensation: The compensation for the land lost is often not paid, it is delayed or even if paid, is too small both in monetary terms and social changes forced on them by these mega developmental projects.
- Loss of livelihood: Displacement is not a simple incident in the lives of the displaced people. They have to leave their ancestral land and forests on which they depend for their livelihood. Many of them have no skills to take up another activity or pick up any other occupation. Usually, the new land that is offered to them is of poor quality and the refugees are unable to make a living.
- Lack of facilities: When people are resettled in a new area, basic infrastructure and amenities are not provided in that area. Very often, temporary camps become permanent settlements. It is also a major problem of displacement or resettlementthat people have to face.
- Increase in stress: Resettlementdisrupt the entire life of the people. They are unable to bear the shocks of emptiness and purposelessness created in their life. Payment of compensation to the head of the family often lead to bitter quarrels over sharing of compensation amount within the family, leading to stress and even withering of family life. Moreover, land ownership has a certain prestige attached to it which cannot be compensated for even after providing the new land. With the loss of property and prestige, marriages of young people also become difficult as people from outside villages are not willing to marry their daughters to the refugees.
- Increase in health problems: Lack of nutrition due to the loss of agriculture and forest based livelihood, lead to the general decline in the health of the people. People are used to traditional home remedies. But th herbal remedies and plants gets submerged due to the developmental projects.
- Secondary displacement: Occupational groups residing outside the submergence area but depending on the area for the livelihood also experience unemployment. Village artisans, petty traders, laborers etc, lose their living.
- Loss of identity: Tribal life is community based. The tribal are simple people who have a lifestyle of their own. Displacement have a negative impact on their livelihood, culture and spiritual existence in the following ways:
- Break up of families and communities are the important social issues of displacement. The women suffer the most as they are deprived even a little compensation.
- Inter-community marriages, cultural functions, folk songs and dances do not take place among the displaced people. When they are resettled, it is generally individual based resettlement, which ignores communal character.
- Resettlement increases the poverty of the tribal due to the loss of land, livelihood, food insecurity, jobs, skills etc.
- Loss of identity of individuals and the loss of connection between the people and the environment is the greatest loss in the process. The indigenous knowledge that they have regarding the wildlife and the herbal plants are lost.
- The land acquisition laws do not pay attention to the idea of communal ownership of property which increases stress within the family.
- The tribal people are not familiar with the market trends, prices of commodities and policies. As such, they are exploited and get alienated in the modern era. My mother often says about the plight of people from Nepal who came newly to the city of Gangtok. Earlier, when they demanded four meters cloth piece, the shopkeeper used to measure the same from all the four sides of the piece. Actually it was only one meter in length but they used to charge the priced of four meter cloth.