So much so, that any social/political movement of the people that talks about the overall well being of the people let alone radical social transformation cannot ignore the challenge of the new buzzword in corridors of power: development through displacement or to put it from the standpoint of moribund capital that is propped up by the agents of Imperialists in India—displacement as development. For, it has become inevitable for these sections to indulge in such rapacious loot of the masses without which their own survival becomes difficult.
The destructive trail of pro-imperialist development model
We are not saying that this model of development that is being pushed is something very new. In fact, the present phase is the logical culmination of the path of development ushered by the Indian ruling classes in 1947 after the transfer of power from the British. The call of “catching up with the West”, through the outright embrace of western technology and assistance so as to build the “Temples of Modern India” as Jawaharlal Nehru put it had fundamentally the idea of creating islands of prosperity while a vast sections of the masses are living in utter poverty. The same model of development subservient to the needs of imperialism, to extract maximum surplus was met with protests from the most deprived people of India when it was first brought in the form of huge dams like the one in Bhakra Nangal in Punjab or the Hirakud dam in Orissa and also the various steel plants that were put up with foreign assistance, especially from the erstwhile Soviet Union.
What makes the present phase unprecedented is in terms of the magnitude of the havoc that it can create on the general masses; the wide spread destruction and death that it can create. Every nook and cranny of the length and breadth of the country has been sold off through the so-called Memoranda of Understanding signed in plenty by the ministers of the central and state cabinets. Moreover, the number of people who are slated to lose their lands and natural habitats is several hundred times more compared to all those who were displaced in the past 60 years or more put together.
In vast regions of the country millions and millions of people are being driven away forcefully from their homes and natural habitats by the state security and civil administration and big corporate houses, both domestic and foreign, in most brutal ways possible in the name of development and nation building through building Mega Industrial Projects, Gigantic Mining Projects, Special Economic Zones (SEZs), Urban Renewal and Beautification and Organised Retail Trade. SEZs have become symbolic ‘foreign enclaves’ within a ‘sovereign’ country.
A prescription for loot amidst the deliberate hype of prosperity
All this is happening at a time when India is being projected as one of the few countries witnessing growth with the highest GDP rate of 8-9% in the world at present. While this euphoria has filled the media for the last 6 months or more there has been a sudden turn around with stories of gloom pouring in about the slowing down of the economy a truth that was cleverly hidden for several years. This time the truth forced its way out as the pangs of pain of a slowed down economy had gripped the entire region. Amidst the blame game of who had eaten more to create a food shortage making rounds the story of the parasitic industrial enterprises in India is slowly surfacing with a frightening low of less than 2.7 percent growth, which is further threatening to hit rock bottom. So then what is the so-called boom that the Indian economy is witnessing?
The Indian economy is once again in the grips of the land and real estate mafia which is hand in glove with the executive, judiciary and the legislature. Quite recently the former Chief Justice of the Apex Court of the country was in the docks for having influenced the decisions to chalk out the sealing drive which would wipe out the unorganised retailers, the back bone of the economy, from the much sought spaces of the urban, suburban and rural markets. This personal intervention from the Chief Justice was to ensure the benefit of the monopoly capital a la Wal-Mart, Reliance Fresh or Subiksha that wanted to enter the chain which involves a whopping 40 million unorganised entrepreneurs. Along with this is the media hype of the farmers in India not wanting to try any more of their worth in the agrarian sector. The story that is being circulated is that more than 40 percent of the farmers in India would want to switch over to other enterprises as they have found agriculture less promising with meagre incentives.
It should be noted that the retail business in India, which is both traditional and family based is the second largest employer after agriculture (agriculture provides employment to 65% of total population). There are 12 million retail business shops in the country which are going to be displaced and replaced by organised retail business from big corporate like Ambani’s Reliance to Wal-Mart which has signed an agreement with another Indian corporate Bharti Mittal to enter into the retail business in a big way flouting all existing restrictions. Huge number of malls and retail chains are coming up in all urban areas silently displacing millions of unorganised retailers. Roughly 40 million people will be rendered destitute ultimately in this sector.
At the same time 77% of the Indian population live with a meagre amount of Rs. 20/- (less than half a US dollar) per day on an average according to official statistics, while the growing numbers of millionaires in India outnumber their ilk in US and all other imperialist powers.
Thousands of millions of rupees are going into these mega projects by big business and TNCs. The amounts involved are mind-boggling. Hundreds of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) are being signed practically carving out lands and resources for outright sale. For example, Laxmi Mittal whose residential abode is in London has signed MOUs with the Jharkhand and Orissa governments for 12 million ton per annum steel plants in each of the states planning a huge investment of $ 10 billion each. All these gigantic projects are allowed massive tax and other concessions apart from providing with raw material at nominal prices. All these agreements are signed and kept in high secrecy without being disclosed to the public. Even the people who are going to be thrown out from their lands and homes are not informed about these deals. Another example is that more than 500 SEZs alone will displace at least 2 million people from farming and labouring households, who will be rendered jobless and destitute.
In Orissa alone 65 MOUs are signed for major industrial plants and large-scale mining. In Jharkhand 42 MOUs are signed involving 3, 00,000 acres of land. Similarly, in Chhattisgarh 80 MOUs are signed, again involving several hundred thousand acres of land. There is a long list of MOUs like this for every region of the country.
Export Processing Zones—Precursors of SEZs
Export Processing Zones took off as way of more foreign exchange to beef up the needs of the domestic industrial sector and for the entry of TNCs in a big way and to stave off the balance of payment crisis.
Thus, the precursors to the SEZs were the Export Processing Zones (EPZs) that were set up in Gujarat, Kerala, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. In Gujarat, the first Export Processing Zone was set up in the late sixties. It was followed by the EPZ in Santa Cruz in Mumbai in 1973. In the early 80s another four EPZs were established at Kochi in Kerala, Falta in West Bengal, Chennai and Vishakapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. In the overview to Special Economic Zones the reasons for setting up EPZs were justified as necessary in order to “overcome the often repeated shortcomings on account of the multiplicity of controls and clearances; absence of world-class infrastructure, and an unstable fiscal regime and with a view to attract larger foreign investments in India.” But there is hardly any review of how much the policy of establishing Export Processing Zones have helped correct the “unstable fiscal regime”.
EPZ in Mumbai had eaten up the labour intensive small scale industries—most of them of the cottage industry status—by displacing it with a highly mechanized jewellery industry which accounted for more than 55 percent of the total jewellery exports in 2002-03. The collaboration of the Tatas with Burroughs an American company, 1977 in EPZ saw the beginning of India’s exports in software and peripherals.
Citibank established a 100 percent foreign owned export oriented, offshore software company in EPZ in Mumbai in 1985. The first private EPZ started operations in 1998 in Surat, Gujarat. All these eight EPZs, including the one at Surat, have since been converted to the new SEZ scheme.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to the total investment in EPZ was a low at 16.7 percent. Despite all the hype and expectations the share of EPZ in the country's export was a mere 5 percent in 2004-05 accounting for 1 percent of employment in the factory sector and 0.32 percent of factory investment. This also indicates that India is yet to come out of its traditional resource based exports. This is also a reflection on the incapability of the big capitalists of India who are not able to carve out in the international race of subcontracting and also near incapability of the former in developing a market based on manufactured industrial goods on their own as their interests are fundamentally tied with the ups and downs of the imperialist market and capital.
Thus in the 70s, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and India accounted for over 55 percent of all the Third World industrial production though this was mainly exports based on traditional resource base as these countries had a large natural resource endowment. Many of these exports comprised of products made from foodstuffs, tobacco, wood, textiles and leather. India specialized in textiles, leather and footwear and clothing.
Special Economic Zones: The image of imperialism in the third world
The Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Policy was announced in April 2000 offering more lucrative incentives/benefits for private investment. During the period 1 November 2000 to 9 February 2006 SEZs functioned under the provisions of the Foreign Trade Policy with all existing zones being converted into SEZs. Statutes to formalize the fiscal incentives became operational subsequently.
The SEZ ACT: its implications
The Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act, 2005, was passed by Indian Parliament with all political parties accepting it without much debate in May, 2005 receiving the Presidential assent on the 23 June, 2005. The SEZ Act, supported by SEZ Rules, came into effect on 10 February, 2006. The new SEZ law covers activities limited not only to manufacturing, but also services and trade, and has the much simpler objective of generating exports and earning foreign exchange, with no predetermined value addition component or minimum export requirements.
SEZs will be notified as ‘industrial townships’ under Article 243Q of the Constitution which exempts them from the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution that provides for elected local governments. An Industrial Township Authority is constituted with the same powers and duties as a municipal body. The Development Commissioner along with the Developer effectively replaces local democratic institutions centralizing powers with every arm of the state such as public services, police, judiciary and local governance coming under the control of the Development Commissioner, the Developer and the Central Government.
The judicial and policing functions are altered with 'No investigation, search or seizure shall be carried out in a Special Economic Zone by any agency or officer' without the permission of the Development Commissioner under Section 22 of the Act with the exception being only in the case of 'notified offences', notified by the Central government under section 21 of the Act, which are also to be intimated to the Development Commissioner. Special courts are provided under the Act in SEZ's for both civil and criminal matters who alone can try and adjudicate any civil dispute within an SEZ or any trial of a 'notified offence'. Ordinary criminal trials of non-notified offences can take place in ordinary courts, but investigation of such crimes is not possible without the authorization of the Development Commissioner. Appeals from the special courts will lie directly with the High Court of the State. These provisions produce a system of a separate judiciary for the SEZ with the Development Commissioner playing a key role. The net effect is the transfer of power over resources, governance and people within the Zone to big business and investment capital, and the creation of a new economic, geographical and political reality.
Workers are told that they could not organise trade unions because of the 'zone' status which are declared public utility services, a designation under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947. Labour inspectors are reportedly issued orders by the Commerce Ministry not to visit the zones without prior permission from the Ministry. There is also the unemployment caused due to land acquisition or change in land use in and outside SEZ. The long term impact such as impact of pollution and change in land use in the surrounding areas could be colossal if one is to go by past experience.
With favoured position and pampering along with relaxation of regulatory mechanism, SEZs could become the hub of economic offences. For instance, the 33rd Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance found that show-cause notices had been issued for more than Rs. 3,400 crores between 2002-2003 and 2004-2005 for fraud in Export Oriented Units (EOU's) and some other export schemes.
A whole range of incentives and facilities are offered under the Act including duty free import/domestic procurement of goods; 100% Income Tax exemption on export income; exemption from minimum alternate tax, Central Sales Tax, Service Tax and State sales tax and other levies, customs/excise duties, and dividend distribution tax; external commercial borrowing up to US$500 million in a year is permitted without any maturity restriction; provision of standard factories/plots at low rents with extended lease period, and infrastructure and utilities. Most taxes and cesses are not applicable to goods procured from the Domestic Tariff Area. The fifteen year income tax holiday consists of total exemption for the first five years, 50% for the next five years, and 50% on reinvested export profits for the following five years, while Developers get a 10 year 100% tax exemption. Electricity taxes and duties are to be removed for electricity that is to be used within the processing area.
Incentives to deepen disparities
The incentives dished out to SEZs will create a tilted playing field between SEZ and non-SEZ investors. Given the incentives, SEZs, rather than start new initiatives, would simply attract existing enterprises to relocate themselves from the domestic economy to SEZs to avail of the incentives in order to maximize profits. This would amount to a mere shift in existing investment from the outside to the SEZs rather than new investments. Of the SEZs notified, IT/ITES constituted the bulk of them with single sector IT SEZ forming the majority. This is followed by Textiles/Apparel/Wool and Pharma/chemicals. It looks that the relocation process is in effective swing as can be noticed by the exceptional number in the IT sector. The government in November 2006 itself decided to stop further in-principle approval of IT SEZs. The Software Technology Parks Initiative, the main scheme is also scheduled to end by 2009. The majority of SEZ investment is from the private sector. Real estate sector applicants form the majority in the private sector followed by IT companies forming nearly three quarters of non-public sector approvals. IT and multi product SEZ's, form the bulk of all applications by real estate companies. Real estate development rather than export generation is a factor to reckon with.
As indicated earlier, relocation of industries from outside to the SEZs to take advantage of the relative advantage would simply mean mostly the translocation or migration of existing labour than generation of new employment. In addition, the likely negative impact of SEZs on manufacturing outside the SEZs could spell a decline in employment outside. Between 1998 and 2003, while investments grew by 73%, employment growth showed only a 13.7% rise in EPZs. Net increase in employment, considering the growth in employment in SEZs, would therefore be actually far low.
Objections to the SEZ from within the Government
The objections to the SEZ are multifarious. Each wing of the government has a different reason to be circumspect of the feasibility of the project. The finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India are unhappy with the SEZ policy on grounds that the policy offers excessive exemptions which will lead to revenue loss and spur real estate speculation. The loss to the government on account of SEZ is incredible. In 2004 - 2005, the government already incurred a loss of Rs. 41,000 crores - a staggering 72% of customs revenues and 23% of total indirect tax revenue of any kind. The Finance Ministry estimates that Rs. 1.75 lakh crores will be lost over the next five years.
Quite curiously, the IMF and the Asian Development Bank have criticized the tax exemptions being provided making SEZ ‘business friendly’ rather than ‘market friendly’, inherently violating market principles and market reform which they ardently promote.
The Rural Development Ministry objected to the large-scale acquisition of agricultural land threatening spinning off further food insecurity. The establishment of SEZs, and a large number of them, requires substantial land to be acquired by developers. About 2 lakh hectares are required for establishing the approved and in-principle approved SEZs (till 2006). Now this figure must have shot up drastically. The notorious Land Acquisition Act 1894 has been used to acquire lands in many cases whether the developer is a public sector or private sector, at a price well below the market prices not taking the dependants of the land as an affected party in the acquisition normally. Land can be acquired under this Act only for 'public purpose' which are defined in Section 3(f) of the Land Acquisition Act and does not include companies. However, the judiciary has deftly reinterpreted the law to say that once the government has acquired a land, the government can sell, dispose or transfer rights of its land at will to whomsoever it wants to, irrespective of the original intent of acquisition. In effect, land acquisition by the State has made a decisive shift from 'public purpose' to also 'private profit'. But with militant resistance, the developer purchasing land directly from the owner without the mediation of the state is now practised by the Government.
Creating new landlords and real estate boom
Acquisition of prime agricultural land became a major issue with all its serious implication which is now attempted to be restricted with restriction of acquisition on single crop agricultural land alone beside waste and barren land. Double cropped agricultural land, if necessary, is to be limited to 10 percent of the total land. More over such areas have powerful farming interests and is at the heart of agricultural economies. That the category of waste and barren land most often constitute survival resource base for the most marginalized in vast numbers is ignored. Land acquisitions, or alternatively land purchases, are therefore to increasingly focus on the marginal and tribal areas. Official rehabilitation schemes rarely work satisfactorily be it by the state or the private sector. However, holding the state responsible is easier than the private purchaser in a democracy. The proposition to take the land on lease is also floated to ostensibly ensure permanent income to the oustees.
Already in Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, the government's oil refinery and SEZ that is to be built along with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation on 10,000 acres has run into problems, with farmers in the area refusing to give up their fertile land.
The lands are invariably located in close proximity to raw materials, urban centres and transportation facilities. At least 35 percent of the acquired land is to be used as processing area while the rest could be for residential and recreational facilities. The acquisition bypasses and belittles local self-governance institutions of the panchayats. The SEZs moreover become the nodal points for speculation fuelling large scale real estate activities around the Zones with the emergence of powerful land mafias in connivance with authorities to dispossess people of their lands in the surrounding areas driving land prices up within SEZs and around it. The attraction to SEZs is likely to vanish in due course defeating the main attraction of low cost SEZ. Almost as though recognizing this reality, the Reserve Bank of India has asked the banks to treat SEZ lending as real estate business and not infrastructure.
Now the SEZs will be required to at least use 50 percent of the land for processing unit as compared to the earlier 35 percent so that the real estate component would be lower. Finally, the export requirement has been made more stringent compared to earlier.
Among the many concessions being offered to the developers of the SEZs, one is cheap land close to cities and new highways. Land is being allotted much in excess of the requirement of industries. The implication is clear that land is being seen as urban real estate where huge profits can be made.
There is another reason for the rush to set up these huge estates. In the last three years, the corporate sector profits have been growing at an average of 30% so that they have a lot of cash to invest. Real estate is a good proposition to park their funds in. Thus, we are witnessing the creation of a large number of new landlords.
A Planning Commission study has shown that 73 per cent of the cultivable land in the country is owned by 23.6 per cent of the population. With more and more farmers being displaced through land acquisitions, either for SEZ or for food processing and technology parks or for real estate purposes, land is further getting accumulated in the hands of the elite and resourceful. With chief ministers acting as property dealers, farmers are being lured to divest control over cultivable land. Food security and food self-sufficiency is no longer the country's political priority.
The excess land being allotted to the SEZs will result in the creation of new landlords. Government is creating new landlords 60 years after independence and long after it was thought prudent to end landlordism in the country. Reports suggest that some large SEZs being set up by the corporates will be known as "…desh", like, Bangladesh, where the well off will live in style.
Capitulation to money bags
Ashok Kumar Bhattacharya, an independent analyst, managing editor of the 'Business Standard' newspaper, says that the new provision—cutting to 50 percent the land area in a SEZ that could be used for non-commercial purposes—was a reaction to "a group of smart, rent-seeking industrialists seeking to acquire large tracts of land for real estate development in the name of establishing industrial or commercial ventures."
Baviskar, a sociologist who works on issues relating to the impact of land acquisition on the environment and development, said the Indian government's policy so far had been akin to "land reforms in reverse" whereby rights to land had been transferred from underprivileged sections to affluent business elites.
SEZs will aggravate regional disparities. Over three-quarters of all approved SEZs are located in six States - Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh alone account for more than a third of all approvals. The other states like Jharkhand and Orissa or Chhattisgarh, land is being grabbed from the tribal tracts for large-scale mining.
Further, given the concessions, much of the investment in SEZs is likely to be at the expense of the investment in the rest of the economy. Finally, some may even close their units in the rest of the economy to shift to the SEZs. Due to these three factors, the net investment will turn out to be much less than what would be the gross flow of investment to the SEZs. In fact, because the price of output from SEZ is likely to be lower than that in the rest of the country, a lot of smuggling will take place and the output in the rest of the economy will be adversely affected. This will further affect employment.
Further, due to smuggling of cheap goods from SEZs to the rest of the country, there will be further loss of tax collection. When smuggling takes place easily from outside the guarded borders, it is not difficult to imagine that this would be easy from the unguarded SEZs. The resultant revenue losses will aggravate the deficit in the budgets and will result in cut back in expenditures to fulfil the FRBM Act requirements. Most of the time these cuts tend to be in the social sectors which will worsen the situation for the poor.
If the overall gains from SEZs are so unclear and the government is going ahead with the scheme, then it can only be because it wants to give concessions to certain sections (who are pushing for it). The central government is playing the same role as the World Bank and IMF do in making nation states to compete for capital and give concessions to it. The SEZ policy is making the states compete with each other to get capital. Those states that do not go for SEZs will suffer because others will go ahead and attract investment.
The long journey of the republic from Nehru’s “cooperative farming” in the early 50s of the last century to Manmohan’s “corporate farming” after 60 years of the transfer of power has the same theme: increasing parasitism of the capitalist-landlord-money lender-trader on the Indian economy with the vast sections of the toiling masses struggling to eke out an existence. Without doubt development planning and its implementation in India have taken place till date under the watchful eyes of Imperialism. Today this development model has reached a flash point from where the only way out for it is through a violent restructure of the existing economy in favour of a much more brutal exploitation of the people and the resources.
The spectre of rising protests of the people
The model of development that has been followed by the Indian ruling classes in the last 60 years created huge displacements of people in many pockets of the country. The first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru while inaugurating the Bhakra Dam in Punjab and Hirakud Dam in Orissa described dams and big industrial projects as ‘Temples of Modern India’. Ever since Nehru, all rulers have been asking the poorest of the poor to sacrifice for the sake of national interest. But the people have now come to understand what this rhetoric means for them from their own experience. Now the people in every area of displacement say that they are not ready to give up even an inch of land. Further they are saying, “We are ready to give up our lives, but not land”.
A vast majority of the people displaced by the ‘Temples of Modern India’ was never rehabilitated or provided with any compensation. Families displaced by Hirakud, Bhakra or Nagarjuna Sagar or Narmada Dams or major Steel plants like the Tatanagar, even after 50 years of their construction the displaced haven’t been rehabilitated, despite all promises of attractive rehabilitation packages announced by the governments from time to time.
The people of Kendu Jhar district in Orissa are fighting against land acquisition of 8000 acres by Laxmi Mittal for a huge steel plant. They have learnt from the people of Rourkela where 32 villages were displaced 40 years ago to build a huge Rourkela Industrial Township. The people of these 32 villages are still fighting for rehabilitation and to get back their lands which still lay unused by the Township Authority.
Similarly the people living in the proposed area for POSCO Company in Orissa have learnt from the real stories of rehabilitation packages from the nearby area people who were displaced by oil refineries.
In the same way the Dam on Subarnarekha River was supposed to give water to the agricultural fields in the border areas of three states – Orissa, West Bengal and Jharkhand; but now water is diverted to Tata Company in full scale including that belongs to the people. Recently in 2007, 20,000 people came out as a protest rally in the water catchment area of Hirakud Dam demanding to stop the diversion of their water meant for agriculture to industries. The people in Bhubaneswar and surrounding areas are protesting against diversion of river water of Mahanadi for POSCO Project – a gigantic project of Steel plant, Port and iron ore mining. In Andhra Pradesh a huge dam is planned to be build on the second longest river in the country–Godavari. It not only submerges a huge area inhabited by tribal people (indigenous people) who are specially protected under Indian Constitution as ‘scheduled tribes’. This dam is being basically built to divert water to the Coastal Industrial Corridor which is a long chain of Special Economic Zones on the East-coast of Andhra Pradesh. In all these areas mentioned above people learnt from the previous experiences; of people affected by the past projects. The resistance is growing day by day. In fact the people of Nandigram fought so fiercely from the day one of announcement of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in their area as they themselves were displaced people 30 years ago by the Haldia Industrial Township, a few kilometres away from Nandigram on the coast of Bay of Bengal.
Hundreds of dams are planned all over the country which will displace several of millions of people. Most of them are the tribals and landless and poor farmers. For example, under Damodar Valley Corporation, Tenughat, Methane and Konar dams are being opposed by adivasis in Jharkhand. A surfeit of dams have been planned on the rivers like Narmada, Tapti, Brahmapurta etc. apart from a disastrous inter-river linking project which has been in the planning with an idea to link all rivers in the country. Lakhs of crores of rupees would be wasted on this fool hardy project which has been debunked by many well meaning scientists who question the veracity of such myth making.
The people of Karnapura Pargana in Hazaribagh of Jharkhand have been successfully protesting large-scale mining entrusted to NTPC, a Public sector enterprise and an Australian coal mine company. The entire area has 203 villages. Out of these 185 villages will be evacuated if the agreements are to be implemented. For the last two years people have been fighting and stopped the entry of these companies. What is interesting in this struggle is that the local people have built an alternative power plant of 1 MW without displacing any people or degrading environment by collecting required money from the people themselves. They showed the way for alternative model of development.
In Richubuta area of Latehar District of Jharkhand Indalco Company has been prevented by the people. The officers of the company were made to run away by the people. In the same way in Pakud area people stopped a company when it started surveying the area. Similarly in Chhattisgarh in Rajnandgoan, an SEZ was announced in 7 villages near Kopedi village. The people of these villages raised the banner of revolt and cowed down the Chief Minister of the state to give them in writing officially stating that this SEZ will not be constructed in their villages. The Chief Minister bowed down to their pressure did what the people demanded. But after some months the local administration announced the formal acquisition of land for the SEZ. Then, again, the people not only met the Chief Minister, but also got a court order to stay the project debunking the Chief Minister’s false promise.
On the whole, all the projects causing massive displacement of people should be understood as the mechanism of transferring the natural resources like land, forests, rivers and water to a small section of elite capitalist class for the purpose of corporate profits. The most crucial of all resources of people in a predominantly agrarian country like India is the land that is being given to big capitalists and TNCs in the name of development projects. The state has been shameless in its efforts to satisfy the big capital—imperialist as well as domestic big capitalists. For facilitating the transfer of land it has gone unabashedly to use the colonial Land Acquisition Act, 1894, through which large tracts of agricultural and forest lands are being given away for ‘public purpose’ to private companies. In reality this only serves the purpose of accruing astronomical profits that would fill the coffers of the parasitic ruling classes of this country.
Nandigram, Kalinganagar and Jagatsinghpur (POSCO area) have become symbols of state brutality in its race to hand over the land of the country to TNCs and the local agents of imperialists. Special Economic Zones, captive plantations like that of Jatropa, captive mines, scrapping of the land ceiling Acts, are different ways of conducting the transfer of people’s resources to the domestic big capitalists and imperialist MNCs and TNCs.
Even the rivers and ponds are sold out to the big capitalists. Sheonath, a river in Chhattisgarh is a good example in the case. Similar acts of selling rivers and ponds have been witnessed in Kerala and Maharashtra. This is nothing but accumulation of private wealth through dispossession and open loot of the vast masses of people. Is it possible for the present model of development to be pro-people by any stretch of imagination that the learned academia and the pro-market intelligentsia are trying to portray? Are all these things that are emerging just an aberration to an otherwise visionary, pro-people policy of the early day rulers of India like Nehru as the CPI and CPI (M) et al would want us to believe? All these parties have reached their tethers end when confronted by the question of a self-reliant pro-people Indian subcontinent.
While this is being written more than 10000 people are rendered homeless in a planned carnage of the people of Nandigram by the West Bengal government with its fascist cadres notoriously called the harmads. Hundreds of women have been raped by the goons of the CPM while the state police force stood by as mute witnesses. All the houses of the defiant masses have been burnt down for refusing to give away their lives and livelihoods for the setting up of a Chemical Hub and for fighting tooth and nail the repressive fascistic tactics of the CPM cadres.
Not far away from West Bengal, the people of the Jharkhand state have united against all kinds of policies that would bring large scale displacement for them. There have violent protests in the state against such policies. The state has not been successful so far in putting up a vigilante force like salwa judum in Jharkhand under the banner of Nagarik Suraksha Dal (Citizens Protection Force) due to the stiff resistance of the masses. In Orissa the people are up against the massive displacement in Jagatsinghpur, Kalinganagar, Kashipur etc. In the Neighbouring state of Chhattisgarh the state is fighting a bloody battle with the Maoists under the shade of the vigilant gang called salwa judum. In Andhra Pradesh the people are up against bauxite mining in Vishakapatnam and the mega dam at Polavaram which will displace more than 200000 tribal people. This shows a clear pattern that is emerging in the days to come. With people on one side and the brutal state repressive machinery in service of imperialism on the other. And this is going to be turbulent days.
All these parties have realised that their survival as lackeys of the moribund imperialist capital cannot be without following the World Bank dictated pro-imperialist development path that would make the entire South Asia totally dependent on the needs of imperialism. So to expect from these sections any kind of alternatives that are concrete and real is to be illusory about their road shows. And as I have pointed out this struggle cannot be successful without having a comprehensive vision which would decisively move away from all the pillars that are propping up the imperialist beast in our country, the sub-continent.
Model of development
A pro-people model of development can be built only by smashing the present model of development which is subservient to imperialism and in turn serves it. This model of development is people-centred based on a self-reliant economy which is free from all kinds of imperialist control and subjugation. Such a model of development allows the natural resources of the country to be used in a way best suited for the needs of the masses, not for surplus generation for the capitalists and imperialists or for the extravagance of a decadent, parasitic class, feudal in existence and colonial in taste. This would move towards a structural change in the economy with redistribution of land and a thoroughgoing shift in political power in favour of the toiling masses. The direct implication of going for an internally induced development is to undermine the existing class/caste hierarchy which is holding back the economy. Such a development which would have successfully addressed the question of possible ways of avoiding displacement or lack of participation or lack of opportunities for the vast sections of the masses was not in the interest of the ruling classes of this country.
Mass participation central in pro-people development
Pro-people development could only be built as part of the large-scale resistance of the people to the present exploitative model of imperialist development. The resistance struggle of the people against the present model of development cannot be successful without destroying all the pillars of this subservient and retrogressive State that perpetuates exploitation, oppression, mistreatment and violent denial of the right of the human being to lead a dignified existence. To put it differently, the present pro-imperialist model of development displaces, reduces the human being to the subhuman where every possible dimension of his/her existence becomes meaningless. Any alternative against this murderous, beastly existence cannot escape the effort to move the centre of development from capital generation to the innumerous productive potential of the human being to make and remake the world in his/her own image—where the mental and manual labour have broken the shackles imposed on it by the exploitative society and have merged to create a new world free from all forms of exploitation.
In the place of the present exploitative development, indigenous industry that generates employment and displaces none from their natural habitats should be developed. The South Asian subcontinent is abounding with such possibilities. Not only protecting labour rights should be the policy while pursuing the building of the indigenous industry, but the industry should be run and managed by workers themselves.
The pro-people model of development is possible only when we start from below by depending on and developing agriculture sector through distributing land to the landless peasants. The agri-based industry which serves the purpose of absorbing the agrarian produce and surplus labour from the rural sector should be developed. This model should develop with an aim to drive towards ‘community ownership and individual right to use land and industry’. Land should not be allowed to concentrate in the hands of a few nor should it be allocated to build large and mega industrial complexes. The infrastructure projects should in fact concentrate on building people’s health care and education systems instead of building super high ways or mega malls. Protection of environment, developing regeneration methods of natural resources should be integral part of this alternative developmental model. Industry and business that aims at super profits could never address this question. It’s only by smashing the concept of surplus generation in the hands of a few people that one can build towards environmental regeneration. People take the decision-making power into their hands in this developmental model. Reproduction of everlasting methods of equitable distribution of resources and produces should be ensured.
This model envisages mass participation, with the needs of the masses forming the propellant factor giving a sense of direction to the industries resulting in the production of items that are useful for the everyday life of the people, for leading a dignified meaningful existence. This would necessitate the orientation of an economy sensitive to its resource base and indigenous technology; an impetus for local innovations that would destabilise the present hierarchy of production relations with the ‘expert’ at the top. The self induced / internally induced development is an inclusive model which cannot be implemented without unleashing the productive potential of the masses. Without land reforms, without distributing the land to the tiller this becomes impossible. Land reforms are a pre-requisite for this model.
The initiative of the masses of Chhattisgarh is a definite step in this direction. The Indian state is quick to dub them as terrorists, anti-national. Organised under the CPI (Maoist) they have fought the efforts of the state to implement the pro-imperialist model of development in their immediate social formation which is primarily a tribal economy.
In this mode of production, pro-imperialist model of development had its imprint in the form of the local contractor who had come to collect kendu leaves, the forest officials denying the tribals the right to their natural habitat, the mining corporations who have come to extract minerals and also big hydel power projects.
t is this potent threat of a resistance in the form of a peoples’ model of development—the only way that development can be conceived—that has forced the Indian state backed by imperialism to clamp down on this people through a Salwa Judum. But then any form of practice that defies the logic of imperialism, of moribund capital is bound to face a violent response which is essentially the characteristic of predatory capital. Any resistance that would want to build a new world with the human being at the centre cannot shy away from the fact of defending it. It is that the heroic struggles of the people of Nandigram, Kalinganagar, Kashipur, Jagatsinghpur, Lohandigudi, Koel Karo etc.
Towards a United Struggle
What do we mean by displacement? Does it only comprise of the people displaced due to the construction of dams? Of Super highways? Of mining? Of big industries? We have to move beyond the conventional way of looking at displacement. Then only can we find the root cause of the reasons of an economy that promotes displacement as the fundamental principle of its reproduction; its perpetuation; its survival strategy i.e. to benefit a few at the cost of many. In that sense the fundamental necessity of a development that engenders displacement is the common running thread when one talks about Special Economic Zones, dams, mining, super highways, urban beautification, retail marketing by monopolies and so on. Here we have to grasp the point that all these forms of displacement are intertwined so as to reinforce each other in realizing the fundamental axiom of imperialist globalization—that of value and profit maximization. The strategy is to retain all regressive structures within the sub-continent economy that would facilitate and perpetuate this process while weeding out all possibilities within the economy that can generate a dynamic of resistance primarily in the form of development while not ruling out other forms of resistance.
The enormity of the crisis that is gripping the ruling classes is getting manifested in various forms. The initial inference is the readiness of the state and its various arms to break the law of the land. The manner in which the repressive machinery of the state is being mobilised to brow beat the people into submission by violating constitutional guarantees and other norms and procedures of a democratic polity speak volumes about the need of the ruling class to some how go ahead with these policies. At the same time the state is also enacting new laws to clamp down all forms of dissent. The state is trying to divide the people fighting against various forms of displacement. The struggles against various kinds of displacement should be integrated taking into consideration the underlying commonality of the issue that is confronting the various sections fighting against displacement. This can only make a mighty stream of struggle that can ensure an alternative not only as empty slogan but also as a reality. The people in their local areas have been building valiant struggles all over India against various projects displacing millions of people from their local habitats. These projects have been either under way or are in pipeline through MoUs signed by the Union Government or state governments.
These struggles waged at the local areas of displacement which erupt at different spells of time are being crushed by the governments using the police and paramilitary forces along with local goons, ruling party henchmen, and the good old ‘divide and rule’ tactics of the private company involved in the project. A network of people’s struggles at all India level or let us says the sub-continent level is the need of the hour so that these diverse grass-root movements are expanded by collectively facing the onslaught of state repression.
Friends, we have broadly yet with a perspective discussed the contours of the direction in which the Indian subcontinent is moving towards. There are definite indicators without doubt that show a clear direction. We believe that this assembly of anti-imperialist, anti-feudal people’s movements will rally round with the emerging struggles of the peoples of the sub-continent. Only such solidarities and unified actions can give fatal blows to the imperialist beast and their local henchmen.