Friday, April 28

Development v/s Displacement

It's the same old debate. They call it development. For 100 odd families of Sanghera, Dhaula and Fatehgarh Channa it's displacement from their ancestral land. A first hand account by Jatinder Preet of the villagers' last ditch effort to withstand the whole state apparatus, bending backwards to help a private company


Deolan Wala Chontra, village Khuddi Kalan near Barnala in Sangrur district

A loudspeaker blares from village Gurdwara appealing to people to come and join the other group of villagers who have come in the shape of a cavalcade here. A speaker exhorts the people to speak up, "It's them today it could be you tomorrow." The protesters comprising of old women who can barely walk to young woman with a child in her lap besides men of all ages nod in unison. They understand the pain of being uprooted. The crowd swells as the cavalcade sets off to village Jodhpur. A young man sings of travails of farming community. Speeches follow on the bank of a pond in the shade of grove of banyan and neem. A posse of bored policemen waits for them to move on. Next stop is village Cheema.
A quite people's movement is taking shape in the villages around Barnala to save their land being taken away. Its 100 odd families helped by farmers groups versus Trident Group of Companies assisted by the state government.
Trident plans to spend Rs 2000 crores over a span of three years in which it plans to set up a sugar mill, a distillery, expansion of its power plant, paper mill and textile mill on 376 acres of acquired land. Mega projects, as the state government officials led by chief minister Amarinder Singh like to call them which the faithful media parrots along.
For the villagers though it means losing land which they have been tilling for generations. Unlike the company and the state this is not mere land for these villagers, its entire support system which sustains these village economies. Right from the farmer who tills the land to the dalit labourer who gets for himself an year's foodgrain every rabi season besides wages to village shopkeeper whose income is on hold till the farmer harvests and sells his produce - everybody is affected.
"After all you can't eat money" a village elder laments. For the record Trident is offering money to the farmers to sell their land. What more can an industrialist do? He needs land to expand and he is paying for it. "Why not pay Amarinder Singh for the land where Moti Mahal is and set up his factory there," suggests a farmer.
Fifty years old Gurjant Singh of Chhana village has suddenly seem to have grown older. All of his ten acres are located in the area where Trident is expanding. Barbed wire fencing has been erected around it where police stands guard. Gurjant Singh tells he has been offered Rs. 9 lacs for his land while a piece of land just adjacent to his has recently been sold for Rs. 13 lacs. Anyway that does not matter as he does not want to sell his land. He has nowhere else to go. "What would I do with the money in this age and where would I go?" asks Gurjant Singh.
There are no answers. In fact, there is no one to answer. The whole state machinery is busy paying obeisance at the altar of "development". Likes of Gurjant Singh are just few sacrificial lambs.
Do you ask lambs for their permission before sacrificing them?

1 comment:

bhupinder singh said...

Much as one sympathises with the displaced residents, I don't perceive this to be something to be opposed as long as those displaced are being compensated adequately.

Precisely for this reason, this will not become a mass movement.

It is the different conceptualization of society- cash society vs a land based one that is at work here. It is a painful change, but an inevitable and not unnecessarily a regressive one.