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The Hindu on indiaserver.com : Tales of displacement

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Thursday, August 26, 1999


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Tales of displacement

Sir, - Ms. Kalpana Sharma's sedulous study (The Hindu,Aug. 15) of two different sets of people - one clamouring for and the other crying hoarse against their displacement - has underscored the truism that, in the present dispensation of our politics and polity, nothing can work except the conscious and concerted efforts of the affected people who understand and demand their rights.

The writer has analysed the ongoing struggle against the Sardar Sarovar Project threadbare. She has justified it on the ground that the people displaced on account of its construction feel that their emotional equipoise is upset, their pastoral life with its frugal food habits loses its rhythm, their shift from the healthy and beautiful atmosphere of the valley to the polluted, congested and fast urban life with all its trappings unnerves their psyche. Most of the official promises made to the oustees are observed more in the breach than in compliance. And if ever any compensation is given for the loss of their land, it is negligible. The most disquieting factor is that in the process of sticking to the schedule of the project, what materialises is the Government's concern for providing enough water and electricity to the urban elite, though at the cost of thousands of villagers displaced and impoverished thereby.

Now, about the other side of the displacement coin. Quite a good chunk of Mumbai's volatile population is living without even a modicum of shelter, water, electricity, and minimum sanitary conditions. Railway tracks and pavements are their abodes, not out of choice. Ironically, a metropolis that provides work to the needy millions does not have enough space to house them.

Though these unfortunate people have been fighting for ``displacement'' to any area with modest housing and basic necessities for a living, the Government is insensitive to their ``just demands.'' However, some thoughtful and active women have formed themselves into Mahila Milan and worked out a scheme to resettle these people and accomplished their mission creditably. Where initiative and hard work go together, success follows.

Despite the contrasting nature of the two displacements Ms. Sharma has thrown light on, there is one striking similarity between them. Which is that the authorities are oblivious of the hopes and aspirations of the people for leading a modest, healthy and hassle-free life.

However, the Mumbai experiment has proved beyond measure that given the will and determination, the oppressed people can rise in revolt and seek justice for themselves.

V. S. Raman,

Chennai


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