A new template for rehabilitation

One of the key drivers of development is industrialisation, which requires land. Fresh after Independence, India had a population of around 330 million and a land area of about 3 million sq km. There was sufficient elbow room to acquire large tracts for the growth of industry.

Six decades later, the scene in the country is radically different.  While the population has multiplied three-fold to over 1 billion strong, the total land area remains the same. Vacant land available for industry has shrunk to almost next to nothing due to a spread of human habitation to almost every corner of the country. Moreover,  the number of industrial projects vying for land has multiplied several-fold.

One way out of the impasse is to desist from industrialisation. That would, of course, reduce displacement of people. It would also condemn the nation to a low rate of growth, create social tensions due to lack of new  employment opportunities for the burgeoning new entrants to the labour force (don't forget, a majority of our population is young) in both rural and urban areas. If industrialisation is inevitable for a more prosperous future for the country as a whole, then the problems associated with displacement have to be sincerely addressed. The National Policy for Resettlement and Rehabilitaton, promulgated in 2003, mainly  covers issues such as compensation for loss of land as well as  income (in case of the landless) and provision of resettlement colonies.

But  displacement is not just about losing one’s source of income. It also includes the social and psychololgical trauma of  being  transported from a familiar to an alien environment. It involves picking up the basic threads of life all over again from the beginning. Those who have undergone the stress of transfers across the land during their service life will know what this means — finding a suitable new home, getting admissions to good local schools for the children, hiring a trustworthy housemaid  etc.

Rehabilitation that does not ease this pain is inadequate. Displacement involves not just losing the roof over one’s head but a loss of familiar livelihood. Sure, the altered dispensation promises new sources of livelihood but these are usually out of reach of  the displaced since they do not have the requisite skills.  A rehab plan that does not address this issue is ineffective. This writer has seen several rehab efforts for the displaced resulting from dams, industrial projects and urban reconstruction. Most have been half-hearted efforts throwing up rehab colonies that look like slums, resentful and despairing dispossessed,  vagrancy due to unemployability in the new circumstances and the inevitable drift of the youth into crime. The compensation, of course, usually gets exhausted in the first year itself — either drunk or gambled away or diverted to pay off debt.

One of the points of failure in resettlement colonies of other projects is that the displaced persons are left to manage the colonies themselves after being transferred from their original habitations. Since they have no knowledge of taking care of such things as water supply, sewage, electric power, these services soon fall into disrepair and  the colonies become run down. It was a pleasant surprise to come across a resettlement programme which shows encouraging signs of being holistically planned, enthusiastically but systematically executed and has incorporated all the requirements written about in  this article. This programme is being run by Tata Steel  for the benefit of the inhabitants of the land which is being acquired for an integrated steel project in the  Kalinga Nagar Industrial Complex at Duburi in Jajpur district, some 300 km north of Bhubaneswar.

Better quality of life

The key objective of the programme is ensuring for the displaced  a sustainable and better quality of life, income and happiness than they had experienced in their original villages.

Beyond providing the mandatory resettlement colony with all urban conveniences, the programme has provided for avenues of extra income for the women by organising them into self-help groups running micro-ventures like pickle making, poultry, mushroom cultivation etc.  The younger men are being rendered employable by training them, with the help of instructors from Bangalore's  NTTF, in various vocations like masonry, welding,  electrical repairs etc. This will enable them to get jobs when construction of the steel plant commences. For the older men, many of whom were farmers, an additional piece of land has been provided to each settlement for agro-forestry on a cooperative basis. 

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