As increasingly more and more communities are awakening to their traditional rights under threat from modern development projects, in particular, and their human rights, in general, they are throwing up more resistance all over the world. The Governments will ignore these democratic resistances and demands at its own peril.
The Government of Andhra Pradesh (India) has acquired 340 acres of village common lands, 70 acres of temple lands from the Endowments Department and 500 acres from the local Gram Panchayat — China Mambattu of the Tada Mandal in Nellore District to set up a Special Economic Zone here. Some private industrialists have purchased another 100 acres of agricultural lands in the vicinity. 400 acres of the SEZ have being given to Apache to set up a shoe factory.
Three hamlets of the panchayat, N.M. Kandrika, China Mambattu and Peda Mambattu are being affected by this SEZ. There are weavers, shepherds, barbers, washer men and women and Yanadi tribals living in these villages. The most vulnerable among these are the Yanadis because they do not have any land ownership making them ineligible to receive any kind of compensation in lieu of the displacement caused by the SEZ. The question of such communities and their livelihoods which are non farm based and dependent on natural resources and Community Property Resources is the most crucial one here.
Bandi Polamma, a member of the Yanadi community says that because of the land being sold they are losing their daily wages. The water bodies too are either being taken over by the company or are being polluted as a result of which fishing is becoming increasingly difficult as a livelihood option. Apache is setting up a fence which is making it difficult to access the forest which was a source for firewood. The tribals used to earn a part of their income by selling firewood. Hence the life and livelihood of this community is getting seriously affected due to the setting up of the shoe company here.
The local community facing displacement was promised jobs, education for their children, etc. However, it turns out that all promises were false. The displaced people have been left to fend to for themselves. Only two women have got sweeper’s job in the Apache shoe factory! The people feel let down and are in a public hearing organized in Nellore on 31st January, 2007 by Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union and Andhra Pradesh Matsyakarula Union they have expressed their intention to wage a struggle for their basic rights. Earlier a public hearing organized by the Government on 6th January turned out to be a sham as no people were allowed inside the hearing.
The people are demanding that every family displaced by the SEZ must be provided 2 acres of agricultural land with irrigation facility within the Panchayat limits, a housing site with low cost house built by the government, fishing nets worth Rs. 3000, one bicycle and a compensation of Rs. 10,000 per annum for the next 25 years.
At the same public hearing people from the Midderevu village of Muthukur Mandal of the same district also presented their woes. 1329.43 acres of land in three Panchayats, Krishnapatnam, Muthukur and Thamminapatnam is being acquired by the Government to set up Krishnapatnam Greenfield Port and Krishnapatnam Ultra Mega Power Project.
Midderevu village is next to Kandaleru creek and Bay of Bengal. Land along seashore is used for parking of boats, nets, catamarans, etc. People use common lands for grazing and firewood collection. They have also planted casurina in ten acres along the seashore. The village was hit by Tsunami and was only beginning to recover from the economic shock. In violation of the CRZ regulations, the villagers are being asked to cut the casurina plantation now. They are being asked to resettle at a distance of 7 km from the seashore and the local district collector has promised jobs for every youth.
180 families living in the village, including 20 Yanadi, mostly depend on fishing for livelihood. They are completely baffled by the idea of doing fishing from a distance of 7 kms. The fish move in groups and the colour of the sea is to be watched on a regular basis to determine when to begin the fishing operations. Parking of boats and gear would become a problem. In addition they would have to buy wood and fodder, imposing extra burden on their income. The people of Midderevu also face the dilemma of how to repay the Rs. 38 lakhs loan they had collectively borrowed from fish merchants in the post-Tsunami phase on the condition of supplying their catch.
People of Midderevu would not get any compensation because they do not own any agricultural land. Their traditional occupation has been fishing. But the existing legal framework doesn’t recognize fisher people’s right over the sea, for payment of compensation.
The people of Midderevu are determined in their resolve not to be displaced before the promises being made to them are fulfilled. They want that each family being displaced be given 2.5 acres of agricultural land, house constructed for them with a cost of Rs. 1 lakh, a compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs for forgoing fishing (rights) on the sea and adequate compensation for all plantations in the households and along the sea. Collectively they want repayment of Rs. 38 lakhs loan by the government on their behalf to the fish merchants, construction of fishing harbour for safe parking of boats and gear and provision of basic infrastructure like roads, drinking water, electricity, schools and community hall, etc, at the resettlement and rehabilitation site.
The demands being made by the people of China Mambattu and Midderevu are quite legitimate considering that most of the families may be forced to completely alter their lifestyles and livelihood options. The respective compensation package being demanded in the two cases will at least ensure that the families will have a one generation cushion to rehabilitate and resettle themselves. But since the authorities are not known to be very sympathetic to the people facing displacement in such cases, it is unlikely that the demand will be met easily. However, as increasingly more and more communities are awakening to their traditional rights under threat from modern development projects, in particular, and their human rights, in general, they are throwing up more resistance all over the country. The Government will ignore these democratic resistances and demands at its own peril.
By Dr. Sandeep Pandey , The Seoul Times , 7 March 2007
Dr. Sandeep Pandey, is a recipient of Ramon Magsaysay Award (2002). He is the former faculty member of IIT Kanpur and leads National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) in India. The author writes for The Seoul Times on the freelance basis. He can be contacted at: ashaashramATyahoo.com