Displacement: Indian State’s War on its Own People

This write-up is dedicated to the memory of Ashis Mandloi, Rehmal Punia and Sobha of ‘Narmada Bacho Andolon’, Shri Dula Mandal of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samity, the martyrs of Kalinganagar, Kashipur and Nandigram, and numerous other straggles against forcible land grab.
Asit Das

Asit Das is the Contributing Editor of IndiaResists.com.

He can be contacted at [email protected]

This article is revised and updated version of the paper submitted in a seminar on Displacement orgianised by National Adivasi Allince held in Kodagu (Karnataka) in may 2010.



A bridge with no river

A tall façade with no building

A sprinkler on a plastic lawn

An escalator to no where

A highway to the places

The highway destroyed

An image of a TV

Of a TV showing another TV

On which

There is yet another T.V


The blood bath in Nandigram, Kalinga Nagar reflects the Contradictions between India people and the predatory land grab by the National and International big business. The Indian state in Service of its imperial masters and their agents in India has unleashed a ruthless war on its own people. Under the Neo-liberal regime the Indian state has resorted to brutal terror and repression on its own people especially Adivasis, Farmars, Dalits and other marginal communities to forcibly evict them from their have and habital. World imperialism led by U.S has forced all the subservient third world states to sell thir land, forests, water, natural resources including spectrum for the profit hungry Multinational Corporations and their Junior Partners in third world Countries. If the local regimes refuse to fall into line military aggression is the order of the Day. Iraq was worthlessly invaded millions were massacred and more than 5 million children died for economic sanction just to control Iraq’s oil. Millions are massacred by US forces in Afghanistan to capture its natural resources, Libya is being ruthlessly bombed by Nato forces for its oil resources. Taking cue from their imperial masters the Indian state and its provincial administrations have resorted to massacres, tortures and police trying to facilitate land grab by greedy corporation the massacres in Kalinga Nagar and Nandigram to Police firing and murdering farmers and Adivasis in Bhatta Parsaul, Tappal, Kathikund, Kashipur, Karchhana (Allahabad) Sompeta the list goes on not to mention the genocides, custodial deaths, fake encounters in Kashmir, North East and Central India. Unprecedented in the history of state repression on its own people the Indian state has unleashed operation green-hunt with hundreds of thousands of paramilitary forces, including killer brigades like Cobra, greyhound and special operation group backed by the India army. Operation Green-hunt is launched to grab land, forests, water, minis and other natural resources in resource rich regions of Central and east India like Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh. The National and International Corporations are out of grab the iron ore and other mineral resources of Bastar which the local Adivasis are resisting to save their land, livelihoods and habitat. Salwa Judum has displaced more than two lakh Adivasis from 250 villages in Bastar to hand over the mines to the Corporates.

Millions of hectres of rich multi-crop land, forest land, coastal villages are forcible grabbed by the state for factories, mines, dams, infrastructure, special economic zones, resorts, malls, multiplexes, highways, sanctuaries, national parks etc. Hundreds of dams are built in Uttarakhand, Assam and the entire Northeast which will inundate vast tracts of farm land and forest making millions destitutes.

The entire Ganga will vanish from Uttarakhand making it into a tunnel to generate electricity for private Corporations. According to Shri K.B. Saxena in the past 20 years after the neo-liberal agenda was imposed in India more than 108 lakh hectres of agricultural land has been converted from agriculture to non agricultural use. This is happening at a time where there is an acute agrarian crisis the neo-liberal reforms have terms of trade totally against agriculture, more than 2.5 lakh farmers have committed suicide in the past 10 years both under NDA and UPA regimes. The years since the early 1990, have also been a period when, as a result of long years of neglect by the state, the agricultural sector has been in crisis, with the viability of crop production under challenge in an environment of lower subsidies and higher costs. Yet, for lack of alternative opportunities, land remains an important source of lively hood for the majority. For a few from outside agriculture, however, the diversion of land to new uses appears to be the route for substantial profits. This is partly because, during these years, governments, using the argument that they are strapped for funds, have presented the private sector as a far more important player than in the past in any strategy for development. The government’s role is therefore, seen as one of incentivising and facilitating private sector led development, among such scarce assets one is land. Land is an unusual asset while limited in its availability, it is available in perpetuity and can, even after accounting for geographical characteristics, serve multiple purposes. This makes it more fungible than many other physical assets. So, as countries develop and populations expand, the demand for lands of particular type is bound to multiply.

Not all competing demands can obviously be served. Hence, when first put to human use and at subsequent point in time choices have to be made as to whether a piece of land should be diverted from its natural state, be it forest or desert and as to the use to which it should be put at any particular point in time. The important feature of land is that even in its natural state its value is substantially different. Some lands cover reserves of natural resources that are extremely valuable. Some are covered by forests that can be preserved, worked or logged. And some, because of characteristics such as the nature of the terrain, soil properties, moisture conditions and climatic contexts, are inherently more productive as cropped land than others. Thus, the social or private benefits that can be derived from land within any geographical boundary varies considerably. In all contemporary societies land has become an asset whose ownership rights are assigned to states, particular communities or individuals.

The long history through which the ownership and user rights to land came to be vested with states, communities or individuals is replete with instances of occupation, forcible eviction and acquisition endured though the use of force. In the event, the claims of some are better defined than those of others. What matters is that, when well defined, such rights can be transferred, making land a tradable asset like any other. While limited in terms of physical availability, the value of land within a geographical boundary can be enhanced considerably by investment. Such investments can be directed not just at improving the physical productivity of land, but at building infrastructure, obtaining and exercising the right to mine resources, establishing factories or construction living spaces. The returns on such investment include not just cost and revenues that can be estimated reasonably, but also the uncertain extent of appreciation in the value of that land given the way markets are structured, the prevailing prices of land do not reflect adequately the gains that would accrue to the buyer because such appreciation. Thus, finding a price that shares fairly between the buyer and seller the capitalized return from land over some reasonable period is difficult. Since the appreciation of land value that accompanies its first use is uncertain, the land market tends to attract investors who look to gain from appreciation and therefore look for land that is likely to appreciate or can be made to appreciate in value because of independent or influenced decision taken by other agents.

The recent police firing and atrocities in Bhatta and Parsaul reflects the conflict between corrupt politicians, speculators, the builder’s mafia and under world. Noida and greater Noida authority had forcibly acquired land from the farmers for Rs. 700 per square meter and sold it the builders for Rs. 10,000 per square meter. The builders mafia then sell prospective flat buyers and make many times more money. In the seventies the Noida authority has acquired land for as low as Rs. 11 per square meter. Hence the farmers in Noida, greater Noida feel cheated and they  have revolted under the banner of Kisan Sangharsh Samity. Tens of thousands Hectres of land has been acquired for the Yamuna express highway and handed over to the builders. The 9500 Crore Express way will need 43, 000 hectres of land. As many as 1191 villages have been notified for the project. The high tech city is expected to affect nearly seven lakh people and 334 villages in six districts of Noida Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Mathura, Agra and Mahamayanagar. The average land holding in this area is two to four heelers. The Ganga expressway, a public-private partnership project with JP infratech. This high way seeks to link greater Noida in western Uttar Pradesh and Ballia in Eastern Uttar Pradesh a stretch of 1847 kms. To be built at an estimated cost of 40,000 crore, it requires more than 10,000 hectres of land and will displace more than 5000 villagers.

In the neo-liberal era which has resulted in crony capitalism, the compradors, the robber barons have used the subservient state to snatch millions of hectres driving people to destitution. More than 50 million farmers, Adivasis, Dalits and marginal communities have been displaced since past sixty years. A majority of them without any dignified and secure livelihood land up in urban slums to join the brutalized city underclass. It is necessary to say here that this forcible land grab is justified in the name of employment. But in reality what we are seeing in the neo-liberal world is jobless growth. Since the start of economic reforms two decades ago the general job situation has become much worse. Retrenchment of employees in the public utilities, computerization and privatization all contributed to job loss. The Indian state cut back sharply on development spending, especially in rural areas, and the results are there to see from successive national sample survey studies a sharp rise in daily and weekly status unemployment for male and female workers, both rural and urban, and a rise in the numbers of the usual status openly unemployed. The net change in employment between 1993 and 2005 has been adverse. In such situation of job alternatives, the rural producer with a bit of land will naturally cling to it and resist any attempt at dispossession. That bit of land is security against unemployment and destitution. No matter if the neoliberal attack on agriculture, combined with exposure to global price volatility, has caused acute a grain distress and forced land grab leading to forced proletarianisation.

The millions of dispossessed farmers, agricultural laborers and Adivasi whose lands and livelihoods has been forcibly snatched by the brute force of state power land up in urban slums as a huge army of reserved labour for super exploitation. In an anti poor anti labour economic regime they are forced to work in the informal sector and sweat shops for super profits.

This is the most horrifying aspect of this modern primitive accumulation or Accumulation though dispossession with brute state violence where direct producers are forced out of their means of production to work as cheap labour at very low insecure subsistence wages. This is the hard reality of the US led neoliberal world where the Indian lackeys are too happy to lick the boots of their imperial masters.

In the neoliberal age, corporations are able to roam the world, with most obstacles to free trade that is the free mobility of capital removed while labour, unable to move easily, is rooted in particular nations and localities due to immigration laws, language, custom and numerous other factors. What David Harvey has called “accumulation by dispossession” associated with mass global removal of peasants from the land by agribusiness and peasant migration to over crowded cities, as greatly increased the industrial reserve army of labour world wide. On top of this the fall of the soviet Bloc and the integration of china into the Capitalist World Economy increased the number of workers competing with each other world wide. All of this has led some corporate analysts to speak of the great doubling of the global capitalist work force.

This means that the global reserve army of labor has grown by leaps and bounds in the last couple of decades, making it easier to play increasingly desperate workers in different regions and nations off against each other (for details see David Harvey “The new Imperialism”  . New York, oxford University Press 2003) what has grown in the world especially by forced land grab is inequality. Inequality in all its ugliness, is, if any thing deeper and more entrenched. Today the richest 2 percent of adult individuals own more than half of global wealth, with the richest 2 percent of adult individuals own more than half of global wealth, with the richest 1 percent accounting for 40 percent of total global assets. (James B. Davies, Sussanna Sand Strom, Anthony Shrroks and Edward N. Wolff. “The world distribution of house hold wealth in James B Davies  edited”. “Personal wealth from a Global perspective” oxford University press 2008)

Explaining the present onslaught of capital in the name of Globalization John Bellamy foster, Robert W Mcchesney and T. Jamil Jonna Say “The supreme irony of the internationalization of monopoly capital is that this entire thrust towards monopolistic multinational corporate development has been aided and abetted at every turn by neoliberal ideology, rooted in the free market economics of Hayek and Friedman. The rhetoric invariably promotes human freedom, economic growth, and individual happiness or democracy in popular parlance on a global scale, with no outposts of “tyranny” remaining. There are in the Hayekian view, two enemies of this rosy future, labour and the state (insofar as the latter serves the interest of labour and the general population).

This neoliberal campaign for the internationalization of monopoly capital is not merely an attack on the working class. Rather it must be understood, more broadly as an attack on the potential for political democracy, that is, on the capacity of the people to organize as an independent force to counteract the power of corporations. With no clear notion they are contradicting themselves, much less denying reality, neoliberals paint a picture of small “liberation” state that gets out of the way individuals, business, and free markets world wide. Yet to paraphrase the old calypso song this millionaires “libertarian” heaven is the poor person’s hell.

In fact, state spending across the planet has hardly shrunk, instead, states increasingly serve the needs of national and international monopoly capital, by aiding and abetting “the take” of their own giant corporations with political elites corrupted by pay offs, which come in innumerable forms. At the same time, these Quasi privatized state systems have become ever more preoccupied with incarcerating and oppressing their domestic populations (see John Bellamy foster, Robert W Mcchesney and R. Jamil Jonna “Internationalization of Monopoly Capital” Monthly review June 2011)


This predatory neoliberal regime in world and India has not only created a social crisis like displacement and destitution but also an severe ecological crisis which threatens the very existence of this planet.

“Not with standing the depth and horror of the social crisis, an even worse crisis is looming, threatening to knock down the basic pillars of the economic production and development process. This crisis has to with the ecological foundations of not only the economic production process but life itself. The logic of capital accumulation and the economic process of industrialization and modernization have pushed the system well beyond its ecological limits. Ecologists of various persuasions have raised their voices in unison about an impending ecological crisis evident in clear signs that the carrying capacity of the Earth’s ecosystem has been stressed well beyond its limits, with irreparable and irreversible damage to the systems that sustain human life and livelihoods.” (James Petras and Henry Velt meyer in “ System in crisis- the dynamics of free market capitalism”. Aakar books New Delhi-2010)


However the heroic peasants and Adivasis of India has refused to be forcibly evicted by the Indian state who acts as an bloodthirsty agent for rapacious greed of the corporate sector. They have put up brave resistance against forcible displacement acress the length and breadth of the country.

Peasants and Adivasis have valiantly fought the state terror and encroachment of their habitat in Kalinganagar, Nandigram, Gopalpur, Koel Karo, Raigad, Kathikund, POSCO, Niyamgiri, Aligarh and numerous places. Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh has became a theatre of war between people and the state. Farmers and Adivasis have put up a strong resistance against proposed nuclear power plants at Jaitapur (Maharashtra), Haripur (West Bengal), Fatehabad (Haryana), Mithivirdi (Gujarat) and Chutka (Madhya Pradesh).

The six year long anti-POSCO struggle of Dhinkia, Gadkujang and Nuagaon Panchayat of Jagatsinghpur district Odisha under the banner of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samity has become an inspiring symbol of resistance against forcible disposseion. It has become one of the advanced outposts of anti imperialist struggle in the third world challenging the might of a giant transnational corporation POSCO. Since 4th June this year thousands of Men, Women and Children of Govindpur, Dhinkia and Patana have forwed a human barricade lying down on hot sand in the scorching heat preventing.

This ruthless accumulation through violent dispossession has been done by the state using the anti people colonial. Land acquisition act 1894. which confers the power of “Eminent domain” to the state which shamelessly uses it for ruthless capital accumulation by the MNC’s and their lackeys the Indian Corporate sector.

Various Mass movements and progressive organizations have been struggling relentlessly to scrap the act. Sangharsh a collective of different mass movements are holding a Dharana at Jantar Mantar From 3rd August 2011 to 5th August demanding the scrapping of the oppressive land acquisition act.

Displacement in India an the trajectory of destruction:  

After the transfer of power in 1947, the Indian state chose a strategy of development which perpetuated dependence on imperialist capital and preserved the legacy of colonial rule. The state of the Indian economy was alarming at the end of the Second World War. A stagnant market, absence of infrastructure for industrial development, and absence of capital goods industries meant that the needs of the economy could not be left purely to the market forces. Thus began the era of Nehru’s planned economy. What followed were large PSUs, dams like Hirakud, heavy industries, roads and mines. Licenses, quotas and nationalization of banks benefited the domestic big industrialists who could avail the quotas and licenses because of their close association with the government. Dependence on foreign aid, loans and technical knowledge from countries like the US, Germany and the Soviet Union meant that India was not really independent. Feudal land relations in the countryside did not fundamentally change through these years. Token land reforms ensured that large landowners and dominant castes remained in power.

Conditions of the people remained miserable even after two decades of planned economy under the care of a welfare state; social and economic indicators of poverty, inequality, illiteracy and disease did not improve much. Development projects, heavy industries and the Green Revolution did not benefit the workers, peasants, labourers and the unemployed. These people, many of whom had to make way for this development, had hoped that the benefits would reach them too, sooner or later. Over the years, this hope gave way to despair and disillusionment. In 1980s, the big industrialists had taken advantage of the infamous license raj to grow further and consolidate their position in the economy. Now, they no longer needed the government controls. Instead, they required foreign collaboration and investment. This was needed both to venture into newer sectors of the global economy, as well as to enter those industries, which it could not have done earlier, because of its own limited capacity. This was also the period when the advanced capitalist world was trying to recover from recession. One of the ways out was to export capital goods and luxury consumption goods to underdeveloped countries like India. The interests of the imperialist Capital and the domestic big industrialists converged. The post-1990s saw conditions worsen for the majority of the people. The rhetoric of planned development and the veneer of a welfare state have been finally abandoned. Inequalities have widened and the poor have become more impoverished and marginalized. Disparities have increased between the beneficiaries and the victims of reforms and development.

The magnitude of displacement due to development projects has increased manifold. According to studies, as many as sixty million people have been displaced and affected due to various development projects in the country from 1947 to 2000. The beneficiaries of development and the victims of displacement have not changed over the years. What has increased, as has its intolerance and repression? (See “Abandoned: Development and Displacement”, Perspectives, New Delhi.)

It is the small and marginal farmers, landless, Dalits and Adivasis who bear the brunt of displacements. A Planning Commission study has shown that 73 percent of cultivable land in the country is owned by 23.6% of the population. An increasing number of farmers are being displaced through land acquisitions for SEZs, food processing, technology parks or real estates, accumulating land further in the hands of the elite and resourceful, with Chief Ministers acting as agents of the corporate. Farmers are forced to handover their land. Food security and food self-sufficiency are no longer the country’s political priorities.

The World Bank has estimated that 400 million Indians would willingly or unwillingly move from rural to urban centres by 2015. Subsequent studies have shown that massive distress migration will result in the years to come. For instance, 70% of the population of Tamilnadu, 65% of Punjab, and nearly 55% of the population of Uttar Pradesh, is expected to migrate to urban centres. These 400 million displaced agricultural refugees will constitute the new urban underclass. According to the Ministry of Steel, the Government of India’s target for the steel industry stands at 110 million metric tonnes by 2019-20, an achievable number if all the MoUs signed recently come through. Different state governments have signed more than 102 MoUs. This will add up to 103 million tonnes (mt) in steel capacity and investments of over 5,994 million dollars – of these more than 40 are in Orissa alone. Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are the other two states that lead in signing MoUs in the mining sector. Of the total investment committed, about 17.9 billion dollars form the FDI component coming from two large steel projects. The first by the South Korean steel giant Posco in Orissa, and the second from Mittal Steel in Jharkhand. What is really a matter of concern, is the negative fallout of the pro-market policies that will affect natural resources and livelihood of many dependent on these mineral rich areas, which are mostly forested, and dominated by Adivasis and other indigenous populations. However, this has not acted differently for a country that is globalizing its economy by exploiting its mineral wealth. These projects have invariably led to the marginalization and impoverishment of affected people, creating an alarming situation, particularly for those from the weaker sections. The manner in which these projects have been implemented has raised questions of equity, fairness, justice and equality before the law in the matter of distribution of benefits and the resultant destitution.

More than one lakh hectares of forestland (almost 11% of the total forest area diverted in the entire country since 1980) has been diverted for non-forest use in the three mineral rich states of Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

The neoliberal development process currently taking place in India has led to the destruction of basic livelihood sources of the majority of the people, predominantly Adivasis and Dalits. These resources include land, water and forests. Degradation of the environment is the direct outcome of the process of capitalist development. Forests in the ongoing development programmes are considered just for consumption or for mining. Consequently, in the scheme of economic growth, forest as a resource does not exist. The current development model does not consider the need to strengthen the relationship between natural capital and economic growth resulting in an acute livelihood crisis for the vast majority depending on these resources for survival. A target number of problems are emerging for the livelihood of poor people. Adivasis have faced displacement and extreme hardship since the early 1950s, when planned development was introduced with greater emphasis on infrastructure development such as dams, industries and power. Aggressive growth-centered development has adversely affected all sections of rural people nationwide. States with a high tribal concentration such as Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, face the worst scenario. The nature of consumption, access to goods and services, and cultural forms, have all been adversely impacted. There has been a rapid collapse of stable livelihood among the peasantry and a perceptible change is visible in the pattern of work that used to ensure minimal level of income. The traditional forms of protection based on family and community groups, are fast receding and institutions created over the years for public protection are fast becoming redundant.

There has been very significant increase in open unemployment rates; people are unable to find any kind of a job – be it part time, a subsidiary job, or even very small low-paying jobs. Another offshoot of this aggressive growth is unprecedented migration in search of livelihood, from rural to urban areas. The current development paradigm is aggressively reducing the ability of small-scale producers to survive, resulting in the collapse of rural employment generation. The aggressive growth model being pursued violates the fundamental legal obligations of the state, regarding non-transferability of tribal land, for the benefit of corporate sector. Projects belonging to the mining industry, power, information technology and other sectors, are causing total disruption of livelihood, cultures and the physical environment. Over the years, people have developed sustainable systems of utilizing and maintaining natural resources. Communities, rather than individuals and governments, have been central to such a system. Principles of conservation and moderation, rather than exploitation and profit, have driven these systems. Face market economics, rolled in the concept of individual profit rather than in community sustainability, does not just disrupt such a system but creates inequitable and exploitative relationships between people and nature.

The displaced people, deprived of their land and livelihood, normally do not get employed in other sectors of the economy. The growth of employment in the organized sector has been very low since 1991.

The marginal increase in organized sector employment from 1991 to 1997 was more or less completely reversed by 2003. The rate of growth of employment has fallen every year from 1997 to 2001 – even now the precipitous slide continues. In this scenario of declining opportunities, the displaced have little chance of getting employed, as most of them have not been trained for the required skills. Experience and statistics show that there has been a consistent decline in the number of people employed even in the mining and quarrying sector. This is in spite of an increase in the number of mines and their output. Although the number of mines rose from 2,480 in 1996 to 2,518 in 2001, the total employment declined from 7,16,183 to 5,99,301 over the same period. According to the Tenth Plan document, between the Ninth Plan and the Tenth Plan the incremental capital output ratio, which shows the increase in the mining and power sector, shot up from 5.44 to 7.99 indicating a massive leap in the mechanization and capital in pensive methods in the mining sector.

The fruits of the mining and industrial projects have no relation whatsoever with the needs of the people who have been living in these areas for generations. The output of the mines and the industries is meant either for generating private profits or for consumption.

Rehabilitation of the displaced people has been negligible. Despite talk of a more human rehabilitation policy, evidence till now has shown utter callousness and contempt for those displaced. Even in sheer numbers of people rehabilitated, the experience has been dismal. For example, twenty-five years after the massive Bhakra Nangal project was completed, only 730, of the 2,180 families displaced in the early 1950s from the Bilaspur and Una districts of Himachal Pradesh, have been resettled. Official indifference and callousness is also evident in the lack of data regarding the total number of people displaced by different development projects.

The story of other big dams is not very different. Hydroelectric and irrigation projects have been the largest source of displacement and destruction of habitat. Apart from the fact that people displaced on account of big dams are usually not the beneficiaries of the same, there is also a debate as to whether big dams are strictly required and whether small dams and watershed projects with much lower human costs can provide the same benefit.

Globally, conflicts created 20-22 million internally displaced persons. In India, internal displacement caused by development projects was over 21.3 million in 1990 and is probably 30 million today. [“India Disasters Report: Towards A Policy Initiative”, by S. Parasuraman and P.V. Unnikrishnan. Oxford University Press, New Delhi (2000)]

Displacement, as a result of development, has recently become a highly politicized and globally important issue. Big dams, mines, industrial establishments, wildlife sanctuaries and parks are not phenomena restricted to India. Nevertheless, there seems to prevail a certain disease of gigantism specific to this country, which is not likely to be questioned in the near future. As a consequence, a large number of people, among them a high number of tribals and Dalits, have to endure the trauma of being displaced from their natural habitat.


Since Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand are the centres of conflict over natural recourses, major anti-displacement struggles are being waged here. I am giving an analysis of the problems of displacements in the three states. These states are also bearing the brunt of Operation Green Hunt. There has been massive state repression on the anti-displacement struggles in these states.


The state of Orissa occupies a unique place amongst the underdeveloped states of India because of its large concentration of tribal population. The most striking observation one can make about Orissa is that while it is rich in resources, the people are poor. Orissa, though a relatively backward state in economic development, possesses a vast amount of water, mineral and forest resources. It covers 2 percent of the land area of the nation, yet it has 10 percent of two surface runoff. The rich mineral resource of the region has led to the establishment of large-scale industrial and mining projects in this state. After independence particularly, a process of socio-economic development was initiated in the state in successive plans. Although development activities in Orissa began in the late 1940s, it gained real momentum in the early 1950s, with the introduction of planned development.

  • Notable projects in the 1950s were the Rourkela Steel Plant and Hirakud Multipurpose Dam.
  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Talcher Thermal Power Station (TTPS), and Balimela Hydroelectric Project in the 1960s.
  • Rengali, Upper Kolab, Upper Indravati Multipurpose Dam and Subarnarekha Major Irrigation Dam in the 1970s.
  • IB Thermal Power Project, Talcher Super Thermal Power Station and National Aluminium Company (Nalco) at two locations in the 1980s.

Along with these mega projects, open cast coal mining also started in the state in the 1960s resulting in large land acquisition – mainly agricultural lands for mining operations. These projects were executed in resource-rich regions, which have been traditional names of tribal and rural poor. Although these development projects have brought manifold benefits to the state, yet these have resulted in large-scale deforestation not only for raw material exploitation, but also for acquisition of vast areas of land under cultivation for the establishment of factories, reservoirs and needed residential complexes. The unintended consequence of such action has not only meant loss of habitat for the rural tribal poor, but also of their means of livelihood, which had been mainly agriculture, and utilization and sale of forest produce. The groups displaced have been mostly the weaker sections of the society, belonging SCs, STs and OBC. In the first decade of the post-independence era, development process under the five-year plans started in this state with the establishment of two giant projects in three different fields – agriculture, energy development and industrial development, namely Hirakud Dam Project and Rourkela Steel Plant.

According to Government of Orissa, the total number of families displaced from 1950 to 1993 is 81,176 families, but the actual numbers are quite high. Out of this, about 80% are displaced due to irrigation and hydropower projects.

Tribals are the worst affected population in Orissa due to various development projects. The rehabilitation and resettlement scenario of the project oustees indicated high backlog even in the official estimates.

  • Of the total oustees of Hirakud Dam numbering 22,144 families, only 4,744 families have been rehabilitated; of which 3,098 families are yet to receive full compensation.
  • The Rengali Project has displaced 10,897 families; of which only 2,986 have been either resettled in colonies or allotted land, and cash grant was given to 7,901 families.
  • Similarly, Rourkela Steel Plant has displaced 2,364 families; of which only 1,721 families were allotted house plots.
  • Nalco Damanjodi has displaced 610 families for mining and alumina plants, from which only 462 families are resettled in colonies.

The ground realities are totally different. Nobody knows the fate of the thousands of Adivasi families displaced from HAL, Naval Armament Depot, central cattle breeding farms at Sunabeda in Koraput district; and the Adivasi oustees of Macchkund Kolab and Indravati dams.

The above account of rehabilitation and resettlement in official estimates suggests a large-scale backlog. Significantly, some of the backlogs are from the earlier projects way back in the 1950s and it is extremely difficult to even trace out these families. It is recognized that displacement is the logical outcome of destructive development projects. The burden of displacement and the trauma associated with it is borne mainly by the underprivileged, such as tribal people and other vulnerable sections of the population, who have to make a highly disproportionate sacrifice for being the involuntary victims of displacement from their habitat, society and culture. There are equally traumatic situations, when deprivation and destitution are the results of development processes, which result in physical displacement of vulnerable communities. This trauma is accompanied with lowering of quality of life, exposure to new kinds of ailments and health risks for the displaced people in general, and greater drudgery and physical strain for women and children in particular. Moreover, even when the Government provides them with civic amenities in rehabilitation colonies, the displaced people encounter hostility from the host population and insensitive conduct of the project bureaucracy. Having been physically uprooted from their traditional moorings, they forge new links among themselves, although originally belonging to different villages, ethnic groups, etc. This process of developing community feelings among the diverse ethnic groups from several social ecological zones in the region, is both very slow and painful.

Ties established, nurtured and reinforced through decades and generations in respect of sharing the commons and other resource sharing, market access, social intercourse and cultural and ritual performance, a network of human, animal flora and the supernatural, all break down or are completely snapped. These cannot be easily repaired much less replaced. These relationships are sometimes remade, reshaped, or even restructured. It takes a long time and effort to forge new ties, new links and new networks. The other neglected dimension of displacement is its adverse impact on women. Their trauma is compounded by loss of habitat – for fuel, fodder and fruit, the collection of which inevitably requires much greater pauperization and they have to bear the vagaries of the labour market. Similarly, children are adversely affected since not only does schooling become less accessible, but also in most cases there is a disruption of the traditional socialization process. What is still worse is that in some cases the displaced people have had to go through more than one displacement and undergo the same traumatic experience more than once.

The Tragedy of Multiple Displacements in Orissa

Due to displacement, the oustees undergo a tremendous psychological trauma and face an identity crisis. The tragedy intensifies manifold when the same group of people get displaced repeatedly. The case of the oustees of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Hirakud Dam Project in Orissa is illustrative of this human tragedy. Most of the oustees of HAL in Koraput district, who where displaced in the 1960s for the first time, faced the trauma of a second displacement in the 1980s due to the construction of the Upper Kolab Multipurpose Dam Project, and were again displaced for the third time because of the establishment of the Naval Armament Depot and agricultural farms. Similarly, the oustees of Hirakud Multipurpose Dam project, who were displaced in the mid 1950s and resettled in Brajarajnagar area of Jharsuguda district, faced displacement for the second time due to the construction of the IB Thermal Power Station in the late 1980s and some others because of the IB valley coal mining project in the 1980-90 project.

The following Table shows the amount of land and village lost due to mega projects.



Acquired Land

in Hectares

Total Displaced


1. Irrigation large dams 20,493 900
Medium dams 14,403 118
Large dams proposed 12,160 92
2. Industries 48,358 177
3. Mines 10,947 N.A.
4. Sanctuaries and wild life parks 81,155 771
Total 1,91,679 2,170

Source – Kundan Kumar “Dispossessed and displaced: A brief paper on tribal issues in Orissa.”  epgorissa.orgApril 2007.

Percentage of Total Workers (Main and Marginal) Dependent on Agriculture;

and Literacy Rate in Select Districts of Orissa


Agricultural Labour

Dependent on Agriculture









Malkangiri Rural











Koraput Rural











Bolangir Rural











Jajpur Rural











Rayagada Rural











Jharsuguda Rural











Jagatsinghpur Rural











Keonjhar Rural











Kalahandi Rural











Source: Census of India, 2001

List of Steel Plants

For which MoUs have been signed by the Orissa Government

(As on 3rd November 2005)





Capacity in MTPA

Investment (Rs. Crore)

Date of MoU

1. Bhushan Group of Companies Lapanga, Sambalpur Phase-I






2. Aarti Steels Ltd. Ghantikhal, Athagarh, Cuttak Phase-I






3. Neepaz Metalicks Ltd. Chadrihariharpur, Rourkela, Sundargarh Phase-I






4. Scaw Industries Gundichapada, Dhenkanal Phase-I






5. Deo Mines and Minerals Bonai, Sundargarh



6. Visa Industries Jhakhapura, Duburi, Jajpur



7. SMC Power Generation Hirma, Jharsuguda Phase-I






8. Shyam DRI Power Ltd Pandoli, Rengali, Sambalpur



9. Sunflag Special Steel Bomlai, Sambalpur Phase-I






10. Orissa Sponge Iron Gurla, Govindpur, Sambalpur Phase-I






11. SPS Sponge Iron Badmal Growth Centre, Jharsuguda



12. Maharashtra Seamless Kalinganagar, Duburi, Jajpur Phase-I






13. OCL India Ltd. Rajganjpur, Sundargarh



14. AML Steel and Power Kalinganagar, Duburi, Jajpur



15. Rampel, Khuntuni, Cuttak



16. Maheswary Ispat Mangalpur, Dhenkanal



17. Aryan Ispat and Power Ltd Bomlai, Rengali, Sambalpur



18. Maithan Ispat Ltd Kalinganagar, Duburi, Jajpur



19. Sree Metaliks Ltd Loidapada, Barbil, Keonjhar



20. MSP Metaliks Ltd Marakuta, Jharsuguda



21. Action Ispat and Power Ltd Pandiripathar and Marakuta, Jharsuguda



22. Agrim Steel Industries Ltd Marakuta, Jharsuguda



23. Tube Investments India Ltd. Kalinganagar, Duburi, Jajpur Phase-I





24. Patnaik Steel and Alloys Ltd Purunapani, Joda, Keonjhar



25. Rathi Udyog Ltd. Potapally-Sikridi, Sambalpur



26. Viraj Steel and Energy Ltd. Gurupali, Pandaloi, Sambalpur



27. Deepak Steels and Powers Ltd Topodih, Barbil, Keonjhar



28. Konark Ispat Ltd Hirma, Jharsuguda



29. Beekay Steel and Power Ltd. Uliburu, Barbil, Keonjhar





Like Orissa and Chhattisgarh, the Jharkhand State Government also went on a signing spree of MoUs after the economic reforms in the 1990s. The state is rich in mineral resources, that is why successive Chief Ministers after the formation of the state are selling off the fertile land, forests and mines to profit-hungry corporations at a throwaway price to national and international big business.

According to 2001 census, Adivasis constitute only 26.3% of the population. This explains the story of eviction and marginalization of the Adivasi population who bore the brunt of predatory industrialization and mining, resulting in the widespread eviction since decades when the first Tata Steel Company was established in the 1930s. This process continued with Damodar Valley Corporation, Heavy Engineering Corporation in Ranchi, numerous power projects and mines coming up in the state since the past six decades. In the globalization period, the state has signed 74 MoUs with different companies, which include mining and steel plants by ArcelorMittal, Bhushan Power & Steel, Jindal Steel, and thermal power plant and dam by ECSC.

The execution of these projects will result in displacement of thousands of persons – predominantly tribals, damage to the natural resources, flora and fauna, and diversion of rich agricultural land and forestland for non-agricultural purposes. As these tribal areas are designated as ‘scheduled areas’ under the Constitution, the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996  [The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992, commonly known as PESA Act] is applicable; besides several special laws like Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908 and the Santhal Parganas Tenancy (Supplementary Provisions) Act, 1949. The prior consultation of Gram Sabha is necessary under the PESA Act for acquiring tribal land for any developmental project and for their resettlement and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, when it comes to the land grab by corporations, none of the above tribal acts are used. For the land to be acquired for the projects of ArcelorMittal/Bhushan Power & Steel/Jindal/Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC), etc., the revenue authorities go out of their way in illegally mutating the documents of tribal land.

Despite massive investment, the human development indicators are abysmally low. According to Planning Commission data of 2004-05, 40.3% of the population is living under the poverty line and the figure is almost twice that of all-India figures. Health indices show that only 34.2% of the total child population in the age group of 12-23 months is fully immunized in 2004-05 in the state, which is far behind the national average. Another important set of indicators of development are related to education as it improves the quality of life by adding human capital. The overall literacy rate is 58% – only again, lower than the national average. Only 45% children above 10 years completed primary schooling in Jharkhand. Considering the availability of educational infrastructure, the number of pre-college institutions and schools per million people decreased from 817 in 2001-02 to 802 in 2005-06 which is not only unexpected from a democratic government, but also critical for a state, which severely lacked social infrastructure through the plan period.


The above evidence suggests that large-scale industrialization does not necessarily result in sustainable, inclusive development. There have not been any automatic links between industrial expansion and people welfare. The result actually depends on the linkages present in the economy – such linkages can be of different nature. Whether the industrialization process has been able to create sufficient jobs for the people is the most critical issue. The rapid industrialization in this area since 1980s, which is dependent on the availability of local minerals and electricity, has not created enough jobs in Jharkhand. The low labour intensity of the projects under private multinationals in the post-globalization era has worsened the situation even more. The second issue is whether the local people of Jharkhand can take advantage of whatever employment is created. Extremely poor education and health scenario answers the question in negation. The poorly educated people, particularly the tribals, stand excluded from the process of industrialization; still 62.48% of total population are non-workers, while another 13.59% are marginal workers in the state according to census 2001 data. Also, the net out-migration from rural areas of Jharkhand was 0.87 males and 1.47 females per 100 populations between 1991 and 2001. This figure explains the same fact that the rural people in the state rarely got any opportunity to work here. The higher women’s migration might hint at the existing feminization of casual workers all over the country in the post-globalization era. In the agricultural sector of Jharkhand, Planning Commission data reveals that 81.3% of total rural households have land in this state. The net irrigated area in Jharkhand, however, is lowest in India, only 9.3% of total agricultural area was irrigated in 2005-06. According to RBI figures, the farmer’s access to institutional credit is extremely low in this state. These two have collectively resulted in low yield per acre. However, one startling fact about Jharkhand is that in spite of low productivity in agriculture, a very small proportion of the total population is food insecure. 59 forced displacements is the logical outcome of the aggressive industrialization in Jharkhand. The large dams and factories have so far displaced a large population, a significant share of it being tribals. The total number of people displaced in Jharkhand from the year 1951 to 1995 is 15,03,017 out of which 6,20,372 are Adivasis and 2,12,892 are Dalits. The displaced people do not have any houses in most of the cases. These rural people, owning land and continuing subsistence agriculture within villages, are being ruined once their land is taken away. A large proportion of them are also migrating out to other states.

The neoliberal projects, as they are aggressively implemented, can be discerned if one makes an analysis of the project profiles of some of the projects coming up in the districts of Gumla, Khunti, East Singhbhum and Dumka in the state of Jharkhand. The material resources, which belong to the state, have to be utilized in such a manner that they empower the people and the ultimate goal of equality is achieved. This is what our constitution provides. The project profile of these companies will show not only the questionable modus-operandi of the industries in getting hold of the land and resources in these areas, but the same is also being done in collusion with the Government officials. The prominent projects, among others, which are coming up in the above-mentioned districts are as follows:

  1. Mittal Projects – Gumla and Khunti districts
  2. Bhushan Steel Project – East Singhbhum district
  3. CESE Project – Dumka district

Mittal Projects

ArcelorMittal and Jharkhand government signed a MoU on 8.10.05 for setting up an integrated steel manufacturing operation. The project encompassing 10,000 hectares in Gumla and Khunti districts comprises of a steel mill of 12 million tonnes per annum capacity iron ore and coal mines – a captive power plant of 2,500 MW. The total investment is Rs. 47,000 crores.

The 10,000 hectares are spread out in four blocks covering 54 villages. ArcelorMittal has been unable to acquire land from the villagers and has been fraudulently getting them to sign agreements on bond paper pledging their land to the company. These ikrarnamas were conspicuously introduced in several villages by the company middlemen who coerced the villagers to sign them. On getting news of the same, people’s organizations and village samitis confronted the middlemen and the innocent villagers understood the evil intentions of the company behind the ikrarnama – it was rejected and the malicious campaign withdrawn by the company’s middlemen.

As per the MoU, the Government of Jharkhand will endeavour to provide the required land. It will endeavour to facilitate grant of all statutory clearances for withdrawal of water, power diversion of forestland, etc. ArcelorMittal will be given the first fill reserved for its requirement of 10 million cubic meters per hour water from North Karo or South Koel river, which will be taken in addition to the Latratu dam water. In the face of the severe protest from all the villages in the project area, the state government has recently in March 2009 offered 1,000 acres of government owned land in 10 villages of Kamdara block at the cost of Rs. 1,548 crores. Interestingly, this land, which the government claims to own, is in collective ownership with the people, and also includes the village religious and cultural plots of land which the government cannot alienate as per the tenancy laws in a tribal area.

Bhushan Steel

Bhushan Steel signed its MoU with the Jharkhand government on 23.7.05 for setting up an integrated steel plant of 3.1 million tonnes per year capacity. The total investment is of Rs. 7,000 crores and the project is spread over an area of 3,400 acres in Golmuri and Potka blocks of East Singhbhum district. The project includes a thermal power plant of 900 MWs. The company has already acquired about 100 acres directly from the farmers and will get 333 acres from the government.

Jindal Steel

Jindal Steel signed a MoU with the Jharkhand government on 5.7.05 for setting up an integrated steel plant of 5 million tonnes per year capacity with an investment of about Rs. 20,000 crores. The project will acquire 3,000 acres in three blocks of East Singhbhum district.

CESC Project

Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) of RPG Goenka group signed a MoU with the Jharkhand government on 15.9.05 to set up a 100 MW thermal power plant at an estimated investment of Rs. 4,000 crores. The project requires about 700 acres of land in Aamgachi and Pokhria villages of Kathikund block in Dumka district. CESC has been allotted captive coal mines at Mahuagarhi coal block which is about 12 kms from the proposed power plant site at Aamgachi by the Ministry of Coal in 2008. The project would require 3.33 million cubic meters of water per month to be made available from Brahmi River during five months of the monsoon season. For the rest of the year there is a proposed check dam with capacity to store about 25 million cubic meters, for which more land is required. Out of the proposed production of 1,000 MW, the company would provide 250 MW to Jharkhand State Electricity Board (JSEB) at a regulated price, while the remaining 730 MW would go to the national grid. The firing on 6th December 2008 in Kathikund was just before the 154th Foundation Day of Santhal Parganas, which came into existence on 22 December 1855 following the Santal Hul led by Sidho and Kanhu against the British.





Sr. No.

Name of the Company

Product to be Manufactured

Proposed Investment (Rs. In Crore )

Land Proposed to be Acquired

District/ Proposed Site

Date of Signing MoU

1 M/s Monnet Ispat Limited, Mohta Building 3rdFloor, 4 Bhikaji, Cama Place,New Delhi-110066.Ph-011-6176705, 6176706-7,9

Fax No. 6102567

Integrated Steel Plant (DRI based) 1400.00 500 Acres Hazaribagh 05.02.03
2 M/s Vallabh Steel Limited, Ludhiana Sponge Iron, Power Plant, Steel Plant 288.00 118 Acres Saraikela-Kharsawan 26.02.04
3 M/s Aadhunik Alloy & Power Ltd. Jamshedpur Sponge Iron, Power Plant, Steel Plant 970.00 Saraikela- Kharsawan 26.02.04
4 M/s Nilanchal Iron & Power Ltd., Kolkata Sponge Iron, Power Plant, Steel Plant, Mining 450.00 300 Acres Saraikela- Kharsawan 26.03.04
5 M/s Jharkhand Ispat Pvt. Ltd., Hazaribagh Sponge Iron, Steel Plant 400.00 300 Acres Ramgarh 26.02.04



Sr. No.

Name of the Company

Product to be Manufactured

Proposed Investment (Rs. In Crore )

Land Proposed to be Acquired

District/ Proposed Site

Date of Signing MoU

6 M/s Abhijeet Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd., Nagpur Sponge Iron, Captive Coal Mine, Ferro Alloy 300.00 272 Acres Hazaribagh 26.02.04
7 M/s AML Steel & Power Ltd., Chennai Integrated Steel Plant 2,000.00 1,000 Acres Saraikela- Kharsawan 26.02.04
8. M/s Corporate Ispat Alloy Limited, Kolkata Sponge Iron, Captive Coal Mine Ferro Alloy 300.00 272 Acres Hazaribagh 26.03.04
9 M/s Annpurna Global Ltd., Kolkata Sponge Iron, Captive Coal Mine, Power Plant 500.00 300 Acres Site 26.03.05
10 M/s Prasad Group Resources Sponge Iron, Power Plant, Steel Plant , Mining 400.00 300 Acres Ramgarh 26.03.04
11 M/s Prakash Ispat, New Delhi Sponge Iron, Captive Coal Mine, Crushing Unit 71.40 50 Acres Chaibasa 26.03.04
12 M/s Horizon Eximp Ltd., Bilaspur Sponge Iron, Capitive, Coal Mine, Crushing Unit 74.15 50 Acres Chaibasa 26.03.04
13 M/s Spectrum Mercantile Pvt. Ltd., Giridh Sponge Iron, Captive Coal Mine, Crushing Unit 74.15 50 Acres Chaibasa 26.03.05
14 M/s Chaibasa Steel Pvt. Ltd. Sponge Iron 74.15 50 Acres Chaibasa 26.03.05
15 M/s Tech Al Corporation Alumina Plant 6500.00
16. M/s Electro Steel Casting Ltd. Kolkata Sponge, Steel & Power 200.00 512.11 Acres Lohardaga 19.05.04
17 M/s Balajee Industrial Product Ltd. Jaipur Rajasthan Sponge Iron, Pig Iron, Steel Making 122.00 37 Acres Chaibasa 01.06.04
18 M/s Pawanjai Steel & Power Ltd. Sponge Iron, Steel Making 1,000.00 200 Acres Lohardaga 01.06.04
19 M/s R.G. Steels Pvt. Ltd. Kolkata Sponge Iron & induction Furnace, Captive Power Plant 122.00 100 Acres Hazaribagh 26.03.04
20 M/s Chhattisgarh Electricity Co. Ltd., Raipur Sponge Iron, Ferro Alloy & Captive Power Plant 1,000.00 976.5 Acres Chaibasa/Hazaribagh 01.06.04

Sr. No.

Name of the Company

Product to be Manufactured

Proposed Investment (Rs. In Crore )

Land Proposed to be Acquired

District/ Proposed Site

Date of Signing MoU

21 M/s Raj Refractories (P) Ltd, Ranchi Sponge Iron, Ferro Alloy and Captive Power Plant 68.50 38 Acres Ranchi/ Hazaribagh 11.06.04
22 Balaji Metal & Sponge Pvt. Ltd., Kokalta Sponge Iron & Captive Power Plant 160.00 Chaibasa
23 M/s Sunflag Iron & Steel Com Ltd. 40 Chiranjiv Tower, 43, Nehru Place, New Delhi-110019 Integrated Steel Plant (DRI based) 937.61 425 Acres Saraikela- Kharsawan 07.08.04
24 M/s Hy-Grade Pellets Ltd. Near Flyover Scindia Road, Visakhapatanam-530 004, AP Integrated Steel Plant 4,285.00 850 Htrs. Chaibasa 17.11.04
25 M/s Hindalco Industries Pvt. Ltd. Aluminium Products 7800.00 100 Hectares Latehar 30.03.05
26 M/s BMW Industries Ltd. 12/2 Park Mansion, 57/A Park Street, Kolkata Integrated Mini Steel Plant 591.00 200 Acres Saraikela- Kharsawan 12.04.05
27 M/s Rungta Mines Ltd., Rungta House Chaibasa Sponge Iron, WHR, Power Plant Washrey, Captive Power Plant 517.00 139.05 Acres Chaibasa 12.04.05
28 Anindita Traders & Investment Ltd. Ranchi Sponge Iron, Pig Iron, Steel Captive Power Plant TMT Bar 94.00 140 Acres Hazaribagh 12.04.05
29 M/s Narbheram Gas Point Ovt.Ltd. Flat No. 9A, 9thFloor Poonam Bldg,5/2 Russell Street, Kolkata-700 001 Sponge Iron, Induction Furnace, Stand Billet Cartet 1, Captive Power Plant 200.00  50 Acres Saraikela-Kharsawan 12.04.05
30 M/s Goel Sponge Pvt. Ltd., Z-262 Naravana WHS, New Delhi Sponge Iron, Induction, Furnace, Billet Caster, Captive Power Plant 67.00 100 Acres Saraikela- Kharsawan 12.04.05
31 M/s Contisteel Limited, New Delhi Integrated Steel Plant 1,560.00 1,400 Acres Saraikela- Kharsawan 18.07.05

Sr. No.

Name of the Company

Product to be Manufactured

Proposed Investment (Rs. In Crore )

Land Proposed to be Acquired

District/ Proposed Site

Date of Signing MoU

32 M/s Kohinoor Steel Pvt. Ltd. Blast Furnace, Power Plant, Billet Caster, Pig casting 410.00 160 Acres Saraikela- Kharsawan 18.07.05
33 M/s Jindal Steel & Power Ltd., Jindal Centre, 12 Bhikaji Cama Place,New Delhi-110066 Integrated Steel Plant, Captive Power Plant 11,500.00 3,000 Acres Saraikela- Kharsawan 05.07.05
34 M/s Bhushan Limited, F-Block, 1st Floor, International Trade Tower, Nehru Place, New Dellhi Integrated Steel Plant 6,510.00 2,000 Acres Jamshedpur 23.07.05
35 M/s Kalyani Steel Ltd. Mandhwa, Pune-411 036 Integrated Steel Plant 1,883.00 1,500 Acres Silli, Ranchi 23.07.05
36 M/s Tata Steel Ltd. Integrated Steel Plant 42,000.00 9,800 Acres Saraikela 08.09.05
37 M/s Tata Steel Ltd. (Extension) Integrated Steel Plant 11,000.00 6,000 Hectares Jamshedpur 08.09.05
38 M/s V.S. Dempo & Company Pvt. Ltd Integrated Steel Plant 1,016.00 150 Hectares Mohanpur 06.10.05
39 M/s Mittal Steel Co. N.V. Integrated Steel Plant 40,000.00 29,000 Hec. Aprox Ranchi 08.10.05
40 M/s Jindal South-West Steel Ltd. Integrated Steel Plant 35,000.00 6,000 Acres Hesalong, Chandil 09.11.05
41 M/s Ranchi Integrated Steel Limited Integrated Steel Plant 5,452.00 Silli, Near Muri
42 M/s Burnpur Cement Ltd., Asansol Cement 500.00 Patratu, Hazaribagh
43 M/s Jupiter Cement Industries, Hazaribagh Cement 90.00 Bandhuwa, Saraikela
44 M/s VST Tillers Tractors Limited, Bangalore Power Tiller 64.00 Gatalsud I industrial Area, Ranchi


Like Jharkhand, the state of Chhattisgarh was carved out of an existing state, Madhya Pradesh in November 2000.

While the people of Chhattisgarh are extremely poor, their land is extremely rich in minerals and forests. One again, the dependence of the people on agriculture and forests is very high. For the entire state 76.48% of the people depend on agriculture; in some of the districts the dependence on agriculture is as high as 90%. In Jashpur district, Adivasis form 32.40% of the population; 45.71% of land was under forests and 34.5% was net sown area in the year 2000-01. This shows heavy dependence of the people, particularly tribals, on forests. Per capita gross cropped area was merely 0.26 hectares and 20.6% of the net cropped area is irrigated. For majority of the people, agriculture is unviable mainly because these are no investments in technology and irrigation. Less than 12% of the net cropped area is irrigated and has double crops. There are severe restrictions on the use of forests for livelihood purposes. Tribals and the local people thus have little possibility of actual development without improvement in agriculture. More than 45% of the population in Chhattisgarh is below poverty line and the state is suffering from acute poverty and malnutrition. Infant mortality rate is as high as 94 per 1,000. This is the third major state which is being targeted by multinationals and domestic big capital. The reason is not difficult to see.

  • The state has forests which can provide part time planthouse, rich mineral resources which can be exploited and poor, predominantly tribal people who can be dispensed with. The ninth largest state of India accounts for 13% of total mineral production; 23% of the country’s iron deposits; 14% of dolomite deposits, and 6.6 percent of limestone deposits are located here.
  • In coal, Chhattisgarh ranks third after Jharkhand and Orissa, possessing around 18% of total deposits.
  • The state also has reserves of gold, bauxite, quartzite, corundum precious and semi-precious stones such as diamond.
  • The pride of the state’s mineral wealth is undoubtedly its 2,336 mineral tonne reserves of iron ore. The deposits in Bailadila, which were discovered in 1955-56, are considered to be among the best quality in the world and have a huge market in Japan. Ore from the Bailadila mines is sold at a nominal price to private players.
  • A special railway line was laid to supply ore to the Japanese companies. Recently a Gujarat based company was given permission to set up a pipe-line to transport iron ore to Vishakhapatnam.
  • Most of the MoUs are being signed in the area of the erstwhile undivided Bastar District. It is slightly larger than Kerala and 62% is covered by forests. Adivasis, who constitute 87% of the population, live in the rural areas and irrigation covers only 2% of the cropped area. Subsistence agriculture and collection of forest products like Mahua, tamarind, chironji seed and gum are important means of livelihood for the Adivasis.

The State Government of Chhattisgarh has announced a new industrial policy. The main objective is to derive maximum value from the resources. It is another matter that this value will be pocketed by imperialists, and their local agents. It is not surprising that Chhattisgarh has witnessed the highest number of proposals by investors. Only in six months between January and July 2006, the State Government signed MoUs involving investment of Rs. 51,842.22 crores. Out of this, Rs. 8,143 crores has been already invested. Land has been acquired for mega steel plants to be set up by Tata, Essar and IFFCO in Bastar and Sarguja districts. Other major parties are Texas ponbergen of V.S.A. These are also 10,0000 MWs power projects under construction. In this underdeveloped and backward state, the government is coming up with proposals like food parks, aluminium parks, gems and jewellery parks, etc.


To compete with other state governments, the Chhattisgarh government enacted the Chhattisgarh Investment Promotion Act in 2002 and set up a State Investment Promotion Board – a statuary single point of contacting and facilitating investors. To ensure the supplies of iron ore to the industries NMDC and CMDC have come together for a joint venture. Chhattisgarh State Industrial Development Corporation (CSIDC) signed a MoU with Balco in 2002 for investment of Rs. 6,000 crores for further expansion of Balco’s operation. CSIDC had promised to provide all the necessary assistance in providing land for the proposed projects in Korba district. This included additional land for the proposed projects in Korba district. This included additional land for ash disposal for the power plant – 6,000 acres of land was acquired for this project. CSIDC had also promised to ensure that clearances pertaining to environment would be given.

Amongst other incentives, the duty on consumption of electricity was to be waived for 15 years, entry tax for capital goods and raw materials was to be exempted, and stamp-duty fee was to be waived. This is the same Balco which was a profit-making PSU and was to be privatized. The then NDA government sold it off at abysmally low prices to Sterlite. And this was despite the fact that the workers of Balco had offered to run the factory themselves. In 2004, an investigation ordered by the Finance Minister of the state found that the company had illegally occupied 1,000 acres of land and had cut fifty thousand forces. When the matter was raised in the State Assembly in 2005, the government expressed its incapability to do anything. Now Balco is to help the government in developing an aluminium park.

Tata Steel signed a MoU with the government for setting up a five million tonne Greenfield integrated steel plant in Bastar district in 2005. The project includes the development of captive iron ore mines in the Bailadila Reserve Forest area. The proposed investment is worth twelve thousand crore rupees and the company has to acquire 3,500 acres of land. Another 2,000 acres will be required for setting up the township. The land which will be acquired is spread over the villages of Bastar. The Shabri River will provide water for the project. In other words, people lose their land, their hills, their rivers, their natural resources, and their livelihood. All the profit which will be garnered by Tata, in fact is worst; however there is a clause in the MoU which prohibits both the parties from disclosing the terms and conditions of the MoU. Although NMDC and CMDC, both public sector units, had also applied for prospecting lease in the same area, the state government has recommended Tata Steel’s application to the central government.

In the same year, Essar group had signed a MoU with the government for setting up a 3.2 million tonne Greenfield steel plant in Bastar. The proposed investment was more than Rs. 6,000 crores and the company was assured that it would get priority treatment from the state government for development of the captive iron ore mines to meet the iron ore requirements of the plant from the region itself. This is the district, which has a literacy rate of 43.9% and 1,473 primary schools for a population of more than thirteen lakhs. Without any effort to raise the living standards and purchasing power of the people, like all other mega projects, this will also spell doom for them. CSIDC and Jindal Steel and Power signed a MoU in November 2005 for developing a 750-acre industrial park at an estimated cost of Rs. 32 crores. The same company had been given environmental clearance for expansion.

The company disposes tonnes of waste every year which pollute underground water resources and enter the food chain through fertilizers and crops. The investigating team of MoEF conducted a survey on 17th July 2005 and completed it in just one day. The team met only company officials but chose not to meet any people from three villages which would be affected.

In Kanker district, plans had been made to open iron ore mines in Chargaon   and Raoghat. The state government also sanctioned the construction of a railway line from Dalli Rajhara to Jagdalpur via Raoghat to fully exploit the mineral wealth. The contract for mining was given to Nikko. Mining hills would pollute the stream that flows into the rivers Paralkot and Mendhaki, destroying the livelihood of thousands of families who use these rivers for irrigation as well as for catching fish. The villages around Chargaon have fertile land, producing foodgrains of two crops, which would be destroyed. About sixteen villages would be directly affected, while many more would face acute shortages of drinking water. For the third time in the last ten years, the government is trying to start the project, but the resistance of the local people has not let it happen.

In Nagarnar where National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) had set up a steel plant, more than 40 villages were displaced. The government used violence against the protestors to acquire land. Gram Sabha resolutions that were unfavourable to the government were replaced by pro-plant resolutions in the records. In Lohandiguda (Bastar district) the local Adivasis are waging a stiff battle against a proposed steel plant.


Nehru wanted a fast industrial transformation of India where Big Dams were supposed to be the modern temples of Development. So a gigantic plan was launched in the Narmada valley envisaging 30 big dams 300 medium and 3000 small dams in the River Narmada and its tributary. The River flows from Amar Kantank in Madhya Pradesh to the Bay of Bharuch in Gujarat through the Vindhya mountain ranges in the North and Satpura in South. The Narmada Valley is culturally diverse covering a vast stretch of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

These proposed dams will spell doom for millions of people and Cause Cultural ethnocide unprecedented in Indian History. It is a very diverse and sensitive ecological zone with millions of Hecters of one of India’s richest rainforests and innumerable animal species. It has a plethora of Adivasi Communities like the Gonds, Baigas in the Eastern part of the valley to Bhils, Bhillalas and Barelas in the West. These Adivasi Communities are dependent on the river and forests of the valley and lead a culturally rich life. The Dams will not only pauperize them but also ruthlessly wipe out their cultural moorings and habitats.

Major Dams in the Narmada like Bargi, Indira Sagar and Omkareswar are already built which has displaced lakhs of farmers and Adivasis forcing them to lead a brutalized like imposed by the modern market forces. A stiff non violent resistance is going on in Sardar Sarover and Maheswar Dams. The Maheswar Dam was one of the first Dams to be handed over to private players after the economic reforms. After the Enron Fiasco Maheswar is an example of politicians colluding with greedy corporates to loot the people and exchequer. The two and half decade struggle of Narmada Bachao Andolan is the Saga of indomitable spirit of lakhs of Adivasis, peasants and women to resist the mighty state to save their livelihoods and way of life.

The struggle of Narmada Valley been in the forefront deconstruct the hegemonic capitalist development discourse in India.

According to Alf gunvald “This movement project Poses and immanent Challenge to Post Colonial development project in two senses. First, it arises from its internal contradictions in that it represents an emergent structure of radical needs and capacities related to potentialities for participatory democracy, social justice and environmental sustainability thrown up by dissolution of colonial rule, but the realization of which is predicted upon the rupturing of the structure of class power that has subsumed the post colonial development project to the hegemony of dominant proprietary classes. Second, it articulates its critique of the postcolonial development project, as well as its vision for alternative development, through an appropriation and invasion of its major idioms of legitimacy, thereby destabilizing the uniaccentual ideology of development as an inevitable process through which the greater common good of the nation would be realized, and reclaims and reinvents the direction and meaning of development in accordance with subaltern needs and capacities (See Alf Gunvald Nilsen- Dispossession and Resistance in India, the river and the rage- Routledge, U.K. 2010)


The Special Economic Zones have become serious zones of conflict in rural India. The ghastly blood-bath at Nandigram was a stark indicator of the discontent raging through the Indian countryside. There the West Bengal State Police fired on the protesting farmers, who did not want to part with their lands, which the West Bengal Government had proposed for a Special Economic Zone to be promoted by the Salim Group of Industries of Indonesia. Apart from Nandigram, farmers have been protesting all over the country against the forcible acquisition of their land for the proposed SEZs. Some of the prominent zones of conflict, vis-à-vis the state and the people, are Jagatsinghpur, Orissa against proposed Posco SEZ, Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, Jhahar in Haryana against the proposed large SEZ by Reliance Industries, Karla area in Pune district in Maharashtra. Of late, there is news of farmers’ protest from various SEZs from Gujarat and Tamilnadu as well.

Under the rubric of globalization, when the neoliberal offensive is devastating the ‘Culture and Commons’ of the indigenous people of India appropriating the land of the peasants in this process, thousands of acres of land have been taken away from people, forcibly dispossessing millions of Adivasis and farmers in the name of high GDP growth and attracting foreign direct investments. The whole issue of Special Economic Zones has to be seen in the context of cataclysmic changes taking place in the global scale which had devastating impact on third world societies. Much has been written on the global restructuring by Civil Society Groups and the Political Left. India shared the fate of most of the third world societies where the national liberation movements inspired hopes for millions of peasants that they can lead a life of dignity free from the colonial yoke.

The post-independent journey of India started with a vision of self-reliance and egalitarianism with the state whose elected executives would play the role of prime-movers. The Nehru era saw ‘Abolition of Landlordism and Investment in Irrigation’. Land reforms released the forces of production in the countryside and the coming in of the Green Revolution brought in relative prosperity in rural areas of Punjab, Haryana, Western U.P. and coastal Andhra, where high input intensive agriculture was adopted. This path of “Nehruvian” Model of growth had a flip side which the mainstream media concealed until social movements like Narmada Bachao, Koel Karo, Kalinganagar, Kashipur, Kalahandi, Tehri, etc., bought the other side of post-independent rural reality and the simmering discontent. This path of heavy industrialization and emphasis on modern infrastructure created massive displacement. According to various sources, by mid-1990s, there were more than 40 million farmers and Adivasis who were displaced by various mega projects like dams, mines, factories and industrial townships. This is a whopping and revealing figure of the number of people displaced, which was more than the population of England. As mentioned earlier, social movements like Narmada and Tehri were indicators of the refusal of rural masses to part with their land and homes in the name of development.

As a result of global restructuring, the Indian rulers adopted the neoliberal ideology ushered in through the new economic policies of 1991. All the welfare provisions, concept of self-reliance, pro-farmers and labour regimes were gradually dismantled, leaving vulnerable segments of the population like women, Dalits, farmers, Adivasis, etc., at the mercy of the market. Thus, market became the new god in the era of globalization. The Indian rulers, who had completely turned neoliberal in the new millennium, adopted the Special Economic Zone Policy when the entire country was undergoing acute agrarian crisis, the most horrifying symptom of which was the high number of incidences of farmers committing suicide. By mid-2005, more than 1.5 lakh farmers had committed suicide – this phenomenon continues unabated till today.

Agriculture is having its lowest growth rate since the past five years. The massive and forceful acquisition of land had accelerated the ongoing misery and marginalization of the rural population. As a result, farmers are up in arms. Special Economic Zones were the logical culmination of anti-people and anti-farmers’ path pursued by the Indian rulers, which has other hazards apart from the massive dispossession of the farmers and rural artisans.

Large-scale land acquisition for mega-industrial projects, infrastructure projects and SEZs is transforming the whole of the rural scenario in the country from bad to worse. To cover up the devastation, the State Governments are half-heartedly bringing rehabilitation and resettlement policies. The land acquisition by the Government ostensibly in the name of ‘public interest’, is in fact transferring thousands of acres of fertile land to multinational mega corporations like Posco, Salim and Indian big business houses likes Tata, Jindal, Ambani and Birla. Through this process of displacement, land and livelihoods are being alienated from the farmers and other sections of the population, as mentioned earlier. Tens of millions of farmers and rural artisans have already been displaced in the name of development.

Displacement has converted farmers, Adivasis and rural artisans into destitutes, most of whom have been forced to become casual workers in urban centres without any rights. Fear of displacement from their homes, from their lands and livelihoods, from their community and the thought of living the rest of their lives as destitutes has suddenly become a reality for vast masses of India. The very people, who according to the Government are supposed to be benefiting from so-called industrialization in the form of Rehabilitation & Resettlement (R&R) benefits, jobs, urban facilities, social infrastructure, hospitals, etc., are seen to be opposing these policies the most. The fact is that no State Government seems to have the intention and capacity for the rehabilitation of the displaced people.

The land grabbing through displacement is not only restricted to the rural areas. In the urban areas, the slum dwellers are being forcibly evicted to make way for city beautification and gentrification, establishment of huge malls, real estate development, widening of roads, etc., often without any compensation and alternate dwelling place for slum dwellers. The slum dwellers of most of the large cities are now resorting to protest movements against their growing dispossession and marginalization. The establishment of SEZs is playing havoc with the rural population of India.

Primarily, India is an agricultural country and more than 70% of Indian people are dependent on agriculture and its ancillary activities. To develop India, any sensible policy will have to develop the agriculture sector. But for the past 60 years, the Indian ruling elite have never seriously attempted, apart from the high-tech Green Revolution package, to upgrade agricultural land – both availability and quantitatively by distributing arable wasteland to the poor and creating irrigation facilities. Such measures would have increased agricultural production making farmers prosperous, which would have created demand for manufactured goods and stimulated industrialization with employment opportunities, but instead today the Indian agriculture is facing its worst crisis. The development of India is impossible without the development of agriculture, as in most villages of India agriculture and allied livelihoods such as fishing, animal husbandry and forestry are the only sustainable livelihoods for the majority of the people.

Today, the Government is unable to provide any other sustainable livelihood after taking away land and common property resources such as forests, streams, ponds, grazing lands, etc., which are the basis of agriculture and allied occupation. Implementation of pro-agri-business agricultural policies in the name of Green Revolution, imposition of GM seeds, contract farming and corporate control of agricultural sector are the basic elements of the neoliberal agriculture policies which are extremely harmful for most of the farmers and rural artisans. Farmers’ suicides are serious indications of this agrarian situation. This grave crisis will also have a serious impact on food security for Indian rural population which is, anyway, under tremendous strain. Therefore, the rural population is up in arms to save their agricultural land, livelihood, common property resources like forests, sources of water, etc.

We have to seriously campaign and support the struggle for protection and restoration of Indian agriculture. There is a necessity for instilling confidence amongst farmers and rural artisans for alternative development models are possible. Different groups across India are trying to implement alternate development models on a small scale; different political forces, mass movements and civil society groups working with people have their own version of alternative development models. The farmers have realized that even in the prevailing situation of agrarian crisis gripping the country, there is no other option but to stick to agriculture and allied occupations.

Industrial development of India has to be in the interest of the masses and it can only happen on the basis of development of agriculture and the rural economy on the whole. Therefore, the demand should be the development of agriculture and rural economy in the interest of the vast masses of India.

The forcible displacement of the people from their lands and livelihoods for establishment of mega-industries, infrastructural projects, and exclusive economic enclaves by multinational corporations and Indian big business in the name of SEZs, is the anti-poor, pro-national and international big business.

The Government of India has adopted policies which have left the urban and rural poor, including the medium farmers and urban lower middle classes, in a precarious situation when for even the basic necessities of life people have increasingly become dependent on the market forces, which again are controlled by the national and international big business houses viz., World Bank, IMF, WTO, etc. The industrialization policy of the Government is not aimed at supplementing the production capacity of those products which are in demand by the masses, nor is it creating any additional employment for the vast army of unemployed in the country, as mega-industries which are encouraged by the Government and are established by the global and Indian big business, are high-tech automated industries, having a very low employment prospect. On the other hand, such industries are responsible for large-scale displacement and massive loss of employment.

The present emphasis is on those industries which would exhaust the mineral resources of India in the next 3 to 4 decades, while these semi-finalized and low value added intermediate products will be exported for manufacturing high and costly products, which will be again imported to India at a huge cost. This anti-farmer-pro-big-business-industrial and mining policy is encouraging establishment of huge mineral-based industries, industrial infrastructures like roads, rail, power plant, water treatment plant, townships, SEZs, smart cities, EPZs, etc. Especially the SEZs have resulted in farmers losing their land and livelihoods. Massive unemployment is being caused, natural resources are being exhausted at a rapid rate and nature is getting devastated. The implementation of SEZ policy is leading to creation of exclusive zones where no laws of land are there to protect the rights of the labour and that of the farmers. In fact, these laws are anti-people. This path of industrialization that is displacing vast masses of the farmers and rural artisans, will spell disaster for the country as a whole. Therefore, the establishment of SEZ is playing havoc with the lives of the entire rural population including the Adivasis.

These paths of industrialization through Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Institutional Investment have given priority for establishing SEZs throughout India solely for the super profits of the international and national big business. For the establishment of SEZs, the various state Governments have ruthlessly used the “Colonial 1894 Land Acquisition Act”, forcibly evacuating people, destroying their cultural moorings, social peace and livelihood, all in the name of growth; while on the other hand SEZs which have been described as a foreign territory in the SEZ Act of 2005 have been given the status of separate enclaves where no law of the land or Constitutional provisions will apply.

The Development Commissioner appointed by the State Government will govern the SEZ with private security, own laws and own regimes of justice and maintenance of law and order. Neither the Civil Laws and Labour Laws, nor any other laws of the land, will be honoured in these enclaves. This status of separate foreign territories enables the corporate houses to exploit labour ruthlessly. Working conditions will deteriorate; working hours will be arbitrarily increased to 12-14 hours. No work safety measures will be taken. Since the work in these zones is given to contractors, the workers will be paid low wages. No payments for weekly offs, no lease with wages, no medical leave, no Provident Fund, no ESI, no recreational facilities, no gratuity, almost no social security will be provided to the workers. Accidents in the work places are bound to increase. No workmen’s compensation will be paid. Women workers will be even more exploited.

The SEZs are the most advanced and deadliest weapons of the neoliberal restructuring. Apart from dispossession of millions of farmers and artisans, it devastates their cultural milieu. The fact that in these enclaves no laws of land will apply, is akin to re-colonization of the third world.

The massive outburst of anger of the people of Nandigram; the ongoing struggle against Posco SEZ in Jagatsinghpur, Orissa; the struggle in Raigarh; etc., and the country–wide resistance against forcible acquisition of land by the Government for the SEZs to be developed by Indian and international big business; have forced the Government of India to announce to the rulers that under the SEZ Act 2005, the private corporate sector will purchase land directly from the farmers. Even after this decision of the Government of India, everywhere Police is intervening on behalf of the corporate sector. The case in point is the struggle against the Korean giant Posco SEZ in Orissa. After the local people confronted the Posco officials, the police intervened on behalf of Posco with the intention of terrorizing the people and forcing them to surrender their land. These interventions of police force on behalf of the corporate sector against struggling farmers happen all over India, the list is endless. This exposes the dual face of the Central and State Government, who go out of their way to acquire land for the corporate sector while mouthing pro-people platitude in public platforms and legislatures.


While several arguments have been given for the creation of SEZs, ranging from the pressing needs of the developed nations for cheaper labour and resources, to the need to increase employment, increase the GDP, etc., what is often missed out is the fact that none of this can happen unless there is a political willingness to execute these SEZs. This is not to say that MNCs, the implementation of the New Economic Policies, the opening up of India to the free flow of foreign capital, and the so-called regime of “liberalisation” are not the contributory factors to this ever-increasing number of SEZs mushrooming all over India. There is an ever-increasing crisis in the developed nations, faced with depleting natural resources, high costs of labour, increased spending on state welfare, over-production and various other reasons are compelling these nations to seek captive markets and captive cheap resources in the developing nations, such as India. Our political leaders have traditionally been more aligned to serving the interests of the powerful ever since the British colonial period and this is yet another extension of foreign rule done through the Indian parliament to benefit the developed nations and save their countries from the vagaries of wrong economic policies.
However, the critical point of the “willingness” to develop SEZs can be found in a large section of the large Indian landowners who have a vested interest in setting up of these SEZs. The fact that the bulk of India’s MPs and MLAs belong to the landed gentry, it is this section in whose hands rests the controls over the reigns of political power in India. With the huge tax and duty sops, effectively subsidies, being provided to industry under the SEZ rules, the scramble for setting up SEZs is bound to increase. This mad scramble has led to a spiralling increase in the premium over those lands earmarked for SEZ projects. The very fact that in the future, industry will not have to pay any taxes or custom duties means that it is willing to invest in a one-time higher cost in acquiring land, keeping in mind that in the long run this cost will be more than offset by the subsidies it will gain through no taxes and no custom duties. It is exactly this section of the Indian ruling elite which is greedily eying a huge windfall in marked-up costs and premiums over land sale and is desperate to set up SEZs and also sell their land. It is this landed ruling elite which is using the armed might of the Indian state to force the other unwilling and not so greedy members of the peasantry to forcibly part with their land for upcoming SEZ projects.
On the other side, the larger majority of the middle and marginal peasantry see this one-time payment as a threat to their single, most secure form of livelihood, which is farming. Neither are they enamoured by the cash compensation being offered. These farmers know that their skills are in farming and fishing – not in managing loose cash. Numerous interviews by the affected people in Raigarh have clearly put this point across that they have seen the disastrous consequences within those families who have wasted their entire compensation money in conspicuous consumption. For the landless and the sharecroppers, the issue becomes even more threatening since they will be completely excluded from the process of both compensation and employment, while loosing their sole means of livelihood. It is the open fact of the reality of their lives which has compelled these peasants to take up resistance against these SEZ projects. It is also their determination which is forcing party workers of the ruling political parties to take a stand, which is often antagonistic to the overall policies of the party itself.
With 1,40,000 hectares of mostly agricultural land forcibly acquired to set up only 50 of the 300 approved SEZs and with the average Indian landholding of about 1 hectare, a minimum displacement of 1,40,000 families – with lakhs of other agriculture dependent labourers and artisans losing their livelihoods is imminent. To boot, the landless will get no compensation. This forced mass displacement will collapse Indian agriculture already under attack by the developed nations through GM seeds and rising input costs, forcing India to become dependent for food imports from the US, Australia and Europe.

It is also ironical that industry as advocates of “liberalisation and free market economy” does not want to acquire land for its SEZs directly through the “open market”, but instead forces the state to use antiquated colonial laws such as the Land Acquisition Act coupled with brute force to compel farmers to part from their highly productive land; all in the name of “public purpose”. This has turned the Indian ruling elite into mere middlemen/ brokers/property dealers.
If we record the violence and oppression that has gone into land acquisition for industry, we can clearly see that this is just the beginning. There have been brutal state excesses while attempting to forcibly acquire land at Nandigram, Posco (Jagatsinghpur), Dadri and Raigarh. In Raigad (Maharashtra), police firing was supplemented by violent and intimidating activities by local criminals appointed by Reliance for this purpose. Reliance, which has official control of 60,000 out of the 1,40,000 acres of land sanctioned till date in the name of SEZs, is going to emerge as the largest landlord in the country, and leaves the implications open for consideration.
Of the minimum 1,000-hectare land required for developing an SEZ, only a small part will be used for “core activities” whereas the bulk is being acquired for “non-productive purposes” reserved for services and residential complexes, etc., to solely benefit the construction and builder lobby. It is hardly surprising that the biggest builders in the country are queueing up before the government with SEZ proposals.
Considering the mammoth sops that industry will be getting in terms of 100 percent Foreign Direct Investment, 100 percent exemption from stamp-duty and registration charges, customs, service tax, income tax for five years, substantial subsidies on electricity and water, it is obvious that SEZs are a little more than another tax-dodge. Sundry tax exemptions already cost us Rs. 1,58,000 crores. If the primary attraction of an SEZ is tax benefits, the investments there are definitely going to be a diversion from the domestic tariff areas. The fiscal loss will be of about Rs. 1,11,500 crores, without taking into account the tax loss from the profits of the developers of SEZs. Recently Posco Steel Plant in Orissa has been given the approval to classify itself as an SEZ despite the promoters only wanting land to set up their plant and a captive iron ore mine. When the SEZ scheme got unfurled, Posco decided there was no harm if it also got some additional tax benefits, and so applied for a SEZ, which will provide it an effective subsidy of more than Rs. 98,000 crores in the next 15 years!!
These kinds of “development goals” will render lakhs of farmers landless, destroying the livelihoods of many lakhs more; will allow the free and open exploitation of labour and cause huge chunks of resources, private and otherwise, to pass on into private hands. The continuation of this trajectory of development has already compelled people to rename SEZs to “Special Exploitation Zones”.

The current phase of unprecedented resource grab has been concentrated primarily in the forested regions of central India stretching from Chhattisgarh all the way to Jharkhand and West Bengal, which house enormous amounts of mineral resources like iron ore and bauxite. Big corporate houses with interests in mining and minerals; and power industries – like Tata, Essar, Vedanta, Posco, etc. – have lined up to appropriate these resources for quick economic gains, paying least attention to the enormous environmental and human costs inherent in their ventures. The state governments have welcomed these corporate houses with open arms by signing unknown numbers of MoUs. But the forested regions of central India house not only mineral resources which corporate capital is desperately after – the region is also home to a large section of roughly 100 million strong indigenous population, referred to as Adivasis, of the country. To get at the resources, the tribal population needs to be moved. The area needs to be vacated in Chhattisgarh. According to some reports 300,000 Adivasis have already been forcibly displaced, some of whom have moved into the bordering state of Andhra Pradesh, while others have fled into the forests. That is the source of current conflict the Indian state, acting clearly in the interests of corporate capital, have decided to forcibly drive out the local indigenous population from the region.

The Adivasi population, quite naturally, have resisted this move of the state, using all possible means at their disposal. Drawing on the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which is especially devoted to delineating Adivasi rights and laying out special provisions for their protection and endogenous development, Adivasi activists have attempted to challenge government’s move. They have even taken recourse to the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act, 1996; and the Forest Rights Act, 2006; legislations earned through years of arduous struggle – that have attempted to give more substance to the original impulse of the Fifth Schedule.

Instead of addressing the genuine grievances of indigenous populations facing forcible displacement and dispossession, the state has, in flagrant violation of the letter and intent of the Indian Constitution, cracked down on their legitimate protests. Peaceful resistance movements across this region have been met with police brutality and the military might of the state.


The Indian government intends to deploy 100,000 troops – ostensibly against Maoist insurgents – in 7 states in central and eastern India, including Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh, a vast area inhabited by tribal groups. Forces withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir (e.g., Rashtriya Rifles) and the Northeast are joining battalions of CRPF commandos, the ITBP, the CoBRA and the BSF, equipped with bomb trucks, bomb blankets, bomb baskets, and sophisticated new weaponry. Six IAF Mi-17 helicopters will provide air support to these ground forces, in which the IAF’s own special force, the Garuds, will participate. The actual strength of the intended targets of this massive action – the Maoist cadre – is believed to be no more than 20,000. Besides the dangers of any state offensive against any section of the people, the scale of the offensive suggests that the state is unable to distinguish the millions of tribals in this area from the Maoists, and has chosen the quick solution of war on the entire region. Several groups, which are not Maoist – like the Vanvasi Chetna Ashram in Dantewada – have been clubbed with them and are being targeted. The basic question is, why is the state planning war against its most deprived, oppressed and impoverished populations?

Central India is rich in mineral wealth that is already being auctioned: Till September 2009, Rs. 6,69,388 crores of investment had been pledged towards industry in the troubled areas – 14 percent of the total pledged investments in the country. All that stands between politicians/big moneybags and this wealth is the tribal people and their refusal to consent to their designs. Even constituent bodies of Indian state machinery acknowledge the gross failure of state in the tribal areas of the country in no uncertain terms. The Planning Commission Report on Social Discontent and Extremism, has clearly identified equity and justice issues relating to land, forced displacement and evictions, extreme poverty and social oppression, livelihood, malgovernance and police brutality as widespread in the region.

The Approach Paper for the 11th Plan states: Our practices regarding rehabilitation of those displaced from their land because of development projects are seriously deficient and are responsible for a growing perception of exclusion and marginalization. The costs of displacement borne by our tribal population have been unduly high, and compensation has been tardy and inadequate, leading to serious unrest in many tribal regions. This discontent is likely to grow exponentially if the benefits from enforced land acquisition are seen accruing to private interests, or even to the state, at the cost of those displaced.

The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution grants tribals complete rights over their traditional land and forests and prohibits private companies from mining on their land. In spite of all this, in the name of fighting the Maoists, the state – in blatant violation of Constitutional rights and against the recommendations of its own committees – is all set to evacuate the entire area of the tribals and ghettoise them by forcing them into ‘relief camps’, to allow free rein to big business. Instead of addressing the basic rights and needs of the tribals, the impatience of the state/big business in the face of the stiff resistance from them, is leading it to a full-scale war on people who are already fighting an everyday battle for livelihood and survival.

In the past as well, the state has tried to crush all popular resistance, armed or not. It has repeatedly ignored and/or suppressed non-violent resistance, be it in Bhopal gas-victims or the ‘Narmada Bachao’ Andolan. Various human rights activists who have spoken out against its policies have also been targeted through draconian instruments like the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act, 2005. It has also brutally assaulted protesters in Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh and Khammam and conducted military offensives in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh that have been seriously questioned. Now, along with an increasingly uncritical, elitist and complicit media, it is set on drumming up war hysteria to legitimise its own extra-Constitutional programmes. The fact that it has either rejected or dismissed offers of talks and mediations – while hypocritically calling for them – indicates the extent to which it is invested in this war. The Central Government’s military offensive further dilutes the federal character of Indian democracy as it covertly shifts the maintenance of law and order off the state onto the centre list.

This war on the people also entails a further shrinking of already limited spaces for democratic dissent and articulation of pro-people development paradigms. It opens the way for the state to act with force against any form of dissent or struggle. Any individual or organization protesting against the policies of the state can be labelled as a threat to ‘internal security’. To understand the politics and economics of the current state offensive, we urge people to look beyond the current hype being built by the government and pliable sections of the media. This indicates the emergence of a dangerous consensus towards a police state that will render the people and resources pliable to the demands of global capitalism and authoritarianism.


In the early 1970s, after the oil shock and end of the post-war boom, advanced capitalist countries entered into recession and then they imposed neoliberalism all over the world to bail out the crisis-ridden global capitalism.

The Neoliberal Order

Neoliberalism asserted that intervention into the market by government only triggered inflation while it slowed growth and fostered unemployment. On the contrary, market forces free of government regulation would create jobs and spark strong economic growth. Based on these principles or ideology, neoliberalism helped to justify a sweeping revival of the economic and political power of the capitalist class in the United States and the rest of the world in the following two decades. Under the neoliberal regime, economic growth and profits recovered in the first world but to a level well below the golden age. More seriously, weaker average growth and the decline of the states’ economic role were accompanied by rapidly increasing inequality and declining levels of public welfare. Under the aegis of neoliberalism, the fate of the third world was much worse. Overwhelmed by debt, most of the countries of Latin America and Africa were forced to surrender control of their economies to western banks and international financial agencies controlled by western governments. As a condition for loan bailouts, such countries had to raise interest rates, lower tariffs, and open their economies and massively reduce social health and education spending in an effort to clean up their financial balance sheets. Such neoliberal prescriptions were designed to restore economic equilibrium and stimulate growth and exports. In only a few cases did they do so. Rather than growth, most underdeveloped countries suffered massive economic regression. Wages fell while unemployment, poverty and social inequality grew. Major new capital investment was evident in Asia. But in the rest of the developing world, the US and European capitalists generated profits instead by taking over land, or publicly or locally owned manufacturing capacity, and through the privatization of financial resources such as pension funds, accumulation occurred through dispossession rather than investment. Everywhere the wealthy enhance their position by simply appropriating a greater share of existing wealth at the expense of the rest of the society.
(For details, see The Neoliberal Order in Henry Heller – “The Cold War and the New Imperialism – A Global History, 1945-2005”, Monthly Review Press, New York.)

The general capitalist accumulation which governs the dynamics of capitalism and generates increasing wealth and affluence at one pole of society and growing poverty and degradation at the opposite pole does so not only within nations but as a global or world system, among nations as well, leading necessarily to the polarization of the world into centre and periphery nations between rich and poor nations, and between rich and poor within a nation. This double process of polarization is imminent in capitalism – its permanent and basic feature, a product of structural logic of capitalism. Contemporary globalization is no exception, in relation to third world it is imperialism all over again.

Writing about the role of the state in the neoliberal era, eminent social scientist David Harvey says, “Neo liberalism is in the first instance a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human wellbeing can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets and the trade. The role of the state is to create and preserve an institutional framework appropriate to such practices. The state has to guarantee, for example, the quality and integrity of money. State interventions in market must be kept to a bare minimum because, according to the theory, the state cannot possibly possess enough information to second-guess market signals (prices) and because powerful interest groups will inevitably distort and bias state interventions for their own benefits”. (See “Introduction: A Brief History of Neoliberalism”, by David Harvey, Oxford University Press, London.)

There has everywhere been an emphatic turn towards neoliberalism in political-economic practices and thinking since the 1980s. Deregulation, privatisation and withdrawal of the state from many areas of social provision have been all too common.

This, however, does not mean that the state has weakened; in fact, the state has emerged much stronger and intensified to facilitate capital accumulation. The globalization theory postulates decline of the nation state and national capitalist classes, the transfer of sovereignty from state to the organs of some kind of unified transnational capital; however, nothing like this has happened and seems unlikely to ever happen. Instead, the transnationalization of capital’s original political forms, the national state, and this state is more universal today than ever before. Again, as globalization has it, an inverse relation exists between the inter-nationalization of the economy and the power of the state. Instead, globalization presupposed the state and while the state may have lost some of its traditional functions, it has gained many more new ones, especially as the main conduit through which national and multinational capital is inserted into the global market. Far from being rendered irrelevant, the state is today the main agent of globalization with its penetration of the capitalist logic deeper into societies of advanced capitalism and spatially throughout the world. The neoliberal state plays a central role as capital is channelised into the global market, as the creator of the right environment for capitals accumulation, and as the capital’s main line of defense against internal disorder. As the main agent of globalization, states are becoming more and more attuned to accommodating and fostering capital accumulation on a world scale. They do so by creating and sustaining global markets. It is they who are making the necessary changes in the rules governing capital movements, investment currency exchange, trade and forcible acquisition of land for capital accumulation. (For details, see “Globalization in Marxism, Socialism, Indian Politics – A View from the Left”, by Randhir Singh, Aakar Books, New Delhi.)

What we are seeing today is history repeating itself as a tragedy. Horrors of Dickensian Capitalism are being re-enacted through ruthless global enclosures where millions of peasants and Adivasis are thrown out of their habitats, livelihood and commons in a bloodthirsty primitive accumulation of Global Capitalism. All over the third world, including India, millions of peasants are thrown out of their land for mines, factories, townships, ports, luxury villas, golf courses, entertainment parks, highways, etc. Iraq was devastated and decimated for oil. Through the connivance of the neoliberal state, national and international big business swallow up natural resources and commons. These are the bloody symptoms of the present era of accumulation through violent dispossession. The present epoch is brilliantly explained by Samir Amin in a review article in Social Scientist “The centre/periphery contrast is inherent to the global expansion of the actually existing capitalism at every stage of its development since its inception”. Imperialism as an outcome of capitalism assumed naturally diverse and successive forms in close relation with specific characteristics of successive phases of capitalist accumulation. Mercantilism (1500-1800), classical industrial capitalism (1899-1945), post-Second World War (1945-1990), and the ongoing project of globalization beyond the particularity of each of these phases, the actually existing capitalism has always been synonymous to the world conquest by its dominant sites. We will, therefore, not be surprised that colonialist dimension would entail an important element in the formation of political culture of the countries concerned. Nevertheless, articulation of this colonialist dimension in other aspects of political culture is specific to each of the regions and countries in question. For Europe colonialism was external, in America it was internal. A difference worth noting (See Samir Amin, Review Article page 79, Social Scientist No. 420-421, New Delhi).


The great teacher of the working class, socialist thinker and exemplary revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg taught us that Capitalist cores create dependant exploited colonial peripheries. According to her, “one concern is that commodity market and the place where surplus value is produced is the factory, the mine, the agricultural estate”. Regarded in this light, accumulation is a purely economic process, with its most important phase a transaction between the Capitalist and the wage labourer… Here, in form at any rate, peace, property and equality prevail, and the keen dialectics of scientific analysis were required to reveal how the right of ownership changes in the course of accumulation into appropriation of other people’s property, how commodity exchange turns into exploitation and equality becomes class rule. The other aspect of the accumulation of capital concerns the relations between capitalism and the non-capitalist mode of production which start making their appearance on the international stage. Its predominant methods are colonial policy, an international loan system – a policy of spheres of interest and war force, fraud, oppression and looting are openly displayed without any attempt at concealment, and it requires an effort to discover within this tangle of political violence and contests of power the stern law of the economic process. These two aspects of accumulation are organically linked. The historical career of capitalism can only be appreciated by taking them together (See Rosa Luxemburg, “The Accumulation of Capital”, Monthly Review Press, New York).


We have seen how money is changed into capital; how through capital surplus-value is made, and from surplus-value more capital. But the accumulation of capital presupposes surplus-value; surplus-value presupposes capitalistic production; capitalistic production presupposes the pre-existence of considerable masses of capital and of labour power in the hands of producers of commodities. The whole movement, therefore, seems to turn in a vicious circle, out of which we can only get by supposing a primitive accumulation (previous accumulation of Adam Smith) preceding capitalistic accumulation; an accumulation not the result of the capitalistic mode of production, but its starting point.

This primitive accumulation plays in Political Economy about the same part as original sin in theology. Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human race. Its origin is supposed to be explained when it is told as an anecdote of the past. In times long gone by there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living. The legend of theological original sin tells us certainly how man came to be condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow; but the history of economic original sin reveals to us that there are people to whom this is by no means essential. Never mind! Thus, it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly although they have long ceased to work. Such insipid childishness is every day preached to us in the defence of property. M. Thiers, e.g., had the assurance to repeat it with all the solemnity of a statesman to the French people, once so spirituel. But as soon as the question of property crops up, it becomes a sacred duty to proclaim the intellectual food of the infant as the one thing fit for all ages and for all stages of development. In actual history, it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly force, plays the great part. In the tender annals of Political Economy, the idyllic reigns from time immemorial. Right and “labour” were from all time the sole means of enrichment, the present year of course always accepted. As a matter of fact, the methods of primitive accumulation are anything but idyllic.

In themselves money and commodities are no more capital than are the means of production and of subsistence. They want transforming into capital. But this transformation itself can only take place under certain circumstances that centre in this, viz., that two very different kinds of commodity-possessors must come face to face and into contact; on the one hand, the owners of money, means of production, means of subsistence, who are eager to increase the sum of values they possess, by buying other people’s labour power; on the other hand, free labourers, the sellers of their own labour power, and therefore the sellers of labour. Free labourers, in the double sense that neither they themselves form part and parcel of the means of production, as in the case of slaves, bondsmen, &c., nor do the means of production belong to them, as in the case of peasant-proprietors; they are, therefore, free from, unencumbered by, any means of production of their own. With this polarization of the market for commodities, the fundamental conditions of capitalist production are given. The capitalist system presupposes the complete separation of the labourers from all property in the means by which they can realize their labour. As soon as capitalist production is once on its own legs, it not only maintains this separation, but reproduces it on a continually extending scale. The process, therefore, that clears the way for the capitalist system, can be none other than the process which takes away from the labourer the possession of his means of production; a process that transforms, on the one hand, the social means of subsistence and of production into capital, on the other, the immediate producers into wage labourers. The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. It appears as primitive, because it forms the prehistoric stage of capital and of the mode of production corresponding with it.

The economic structure of capitalist society has grown out of the economic structure of feudal society. The dissolution of the latter sets free the elements of the former.

The immediate producer, the labourer, could only dispose of his own person after he had ceased to be attached to the soil and ceased to be the slave, serf, or bondsman of another. To become a free seller of labour power, who carries his commodity wherever he finds a market, he must further have escaped from the regime of the guilds, their rules for apprentices and journeymen, and the impediments of their labour regulations. Hence, the historical movement which changes the producers into wage-workers appears, on the one hand, as their emancipation from serfdom and from the fetters of the guilds, and this side alone exists for our bourgeois historians. But, on the other hand, these new freedmen became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production, and of all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements. And the history of this, their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire.

The industrial capitalists, these new potentates, had on their part not only to displace the guild masters of handicrafts, but also the feudal lords, the possessors of the sources of wealth. In this respect, their conquest of social power appears as the fruit of a victorious struggle both against feudal lordship and its revolting prerogatives, and against the guilds and the fetters they laid on the free development of production and the free exploitation of man-by-man. The chevalier’s d’industrie, however, only succeeded in supplanting the chevaliers of the sword by making use of events of which they themselves were wholly innocent. They have risen by means as vile as those by which the Roman freedman once on a time made himself the master of his patronus.

The starting point of the development that gave rise to the wage labourer as well as to the capitalist was the servitude of the labourer. The advance consisted in a change of form of this servitude, in the transformation of feudal exploitation into capitalist exploitation. To understand its march, we need not go back very far. Although we come across the first beginnings of capitalist production as early as the 14th or 15th century, sporadically, in certain towns of the Mediterranean, the capitalistic era dates from the 16th century. Wherever it appears, the abolition of serfdom has been long effected, and the highest development of the middle ages, the existence of sovereign towns, has been long on the wane.

In the history of primitive accumulation, all revolutions are epoch-making that act as levers for the capital class in course of formation; but, above all, those moments when great masses of men are suddenly and forcibly torn from their means of subsistence, and hurled as free and “unattached” proletarians on the labour-market. The expropriation of the agricultural producer, of the peasant, from the soil, is the basis of the whole process. The history of this expropriation, in different countries, assumes different aspects, and runs through its various phases in different orders of succession, and at different periods. In England alone, which we take as our example, has it the classic form.

(Karl Marx Capital Volume-1, Chapter-26, www.marxists.org)


What is going on in India today can be understood by employing the concept of primitive accumulation (as understood in the second interpretation) in almost all of the above senses: separating primary producers from land; privatisation of the “public”, conversion of common property resources into marketable commodities, destroying non-market ways of living, etc. To our mind, each of the instances of “displacement” or state-led “land grab” are willy-nilly feeding into the overall process of primitive accumulation in India by divorcing primary producers from the land or restricting direct access to other common property resources like forests, lakes, river, etc. A question crops up immediately. Being a labour-surplus economy, does India need to generate additional labourers, which is an obvious result of primitive accumulation, before absorbing what is already available? Certainly not, if we think from the perspective of labour. But the answer changes if we see the whole process from the perspective of capital. Fresh entrants into the already burgeoning ranks of the proletariat will increase the relative surplus population – floating, latent and stagnant – depressing real wages and thereby increasing the rates of profits on each unit of invested capital. Moreover, one of the major features of the neoliberal regime of accumulation has been the incessant ‘informalisation’ of the labour process, and further growth of the relative surplus population makes late-capitalist countries like India finely attuned to this. As Jan Breman notes:

“Mobilization of casual labour, hired and fired according to the needs of the moment, and transported for the duration of the job to destinations far distant from the home village, is characteristic of the capitalist regime presently dominating in South Asia.”

Separation of producers from their means of production and subsistence, especially land and other natural resources, also creates markets for these resources; and thus comes into being the various agencies that thrive through hucksterage in these markets. These intermediaries play the crucial role of facilitating and normalising the process of primitive accumulation. Examples abound: Trinamool Congress goons, grassroots-level CPI(M) leadership, local middle classes like school teachers, lawyers, and other similar forces in the Singur case; state-traders, local elites-supported Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh.

The major target of land acquisition in India today is in areas where either peasant movements have achieved some partial success in dealing with capitalist exploitation and expropriation or areas largely inhabited by the indigenous population whose expropriation could not be increasingly intensified because of the welfarist tenor of the pre-liberalisation regime. West Bengal is the prime example of the former, where Left Front rule congealed due to its constituents’ involvement in the popular movements. Now, the movements’ institutionalisation and incorporation of the leadership into the state apparatus is facilitating the present-day resurgence of primitive accumulation. Examples of the second kind of area could be parts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh or Madhya Pradesh, which the corporate sector is eyeing for mining activities and for setting up steel plants.

As an instructive example, if nothing else, let us see how displacement in Singur will affect the various class forces on the ground. While the state apparatuses are trying to secure resources for corporate capital, sections of the local elite, including the well-off farmers led by the mainstream non-left political parties – like the Congress and Trinamool (TMC) – have joined the movement against land acquisition essentially to obtain various kinds of concessions, a higher price for giving up the land to the State and perhaps also for increasing the land price for their future real estate speculation around the upcoming industrial belt. For example, “a TMC leader and ex-pradhan of one of the gram panchayats was initially with the movement, but finally gave away his land. Many of the landed gentry, some of them absentee, who own bigger portions of land, depend on ‘kishans’ (i.e., hired labours, bargadars, etc.) for cultivation of their lands. They principally depend on business or service and have come forward to part with their land in lieu of cash.” In case the government talks to the protesters and gives larger concessions, it is these sections that will benefit the most.

The people who are really the backbone of the movement in Singur are the landless working class and poor peasantry. According to a recent report, “many agricultural workers and marginal peasants will lose their land and livelihoods. Though the State Government has decided to compensate the landowners, no policy has been taken for the landless agricultural workers, unrecorded bargadars and other rural households who are indirectly dependent for their livelihood on land and agricultural activities.” The region is also inhabited by the poor who “frequent the nearby town, being employed in factories, shops and small businesses. Some of the youth have migrated to cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, working there principally as goldsmiths or construction workers. There were several cases of reverse migration when people came back to their village after the closing down of the industries where they were working or finding it more profitable to work on the land than to work in petty industries or businesses, drawing a paltry sum in lieu of hard labour.” For this population as also for the landless workers and marginal peasants, the Singur struggles are existential ones.

As an example of the second kind of land acquisition, we can turn our attention to Chhattisgarh. A report on recent developments in Chhattisgarh notes that, in India,

“[t]ribal lands are the most sought after resources now. Whether it is in Orissa or Chhattisgarh or Andhra Pradesh, if there is a patch of tribal land there is an attempt to acquire it. It is no geographical coincidence that tribal lands are forested, rich with mineral resources (80 percent of India’s minerals and 70 percent of forests are within tribal areas) and also the site of a sizeable slice of industrial growth. The tribal districts of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Maharashtra are the destination of US $85 billion of promised investments, mostly in steel and iron plants, and mining projects. Ironically, these lucrative resources are of no benefit to the local people: an estimate of 10 Naxal-affected states shows that they contribute 51.6 percent of India’s GDP and have 58 percent of the population. As with Chhattisgarh, all these states have a strong Naxal presence and are witness to movements against land acquisition. The state governments say these protests are Naxal-inspired. Local people say, however, that all they are trying to do is protect their land, forests and livelihood.”

Here the State’s mode of facilitating primitive accumulation is by raising mercenaries, the Salwa Judum. This extra-legal use of force is supported by the traditional exploiters of the indigenous population – traders, usurers, civil servants and tribal neo-elites, who have functioned as intermediaries in the regime of commerce-based surplus extraction. On the one hand, absence of any recognised land rights of tribal communities, has allowed the State to use principles of terra nullius and eminent domain to expropriate them. On the other, these communities have continued to exist in defiance of all these legalities. However, with the recent intensification of efforts to secure resources for corporate profiteering, along with the continued presence of primitive extractive modes of exploitation, these communities have been left with no real choices but to arm themselves for securing their unrecognised rights.

Hence, “Most tribal people living in forests are officially ‘encroachers’. They live under the constant threat of being alienated from their land and livelihood. While the government completely failed to reach out to them, the Naxals succeeded in connecting to sections of the people. They spread to the state’s 11 districts (200 districts in the country). Unable to contain them, government supported the creation of a civilian militia – Salwa Judum”.

Besides these widely discussed cases of recent land acquisition and displacement, there have been numerous conflicts around the rights over water resources over the years. In almost all such cases, the state has come forth as being hell bent upon the construction of big dams and other hydroelectric projects despite all evidence of the net negative marginal costs of these projects. During the past two decades, Narmada Bachao Andolan has been a prominent force constantly exposing the anti-people, anti-environment character of these projects. Even in the Himalayan region of Uttarakhand (site of the legendary Chipko Andolan), riverbeds and surrounding lands have been ‘enclosed’ for private capital to be used for power generation and lucrative tourism projects. In fact, recent politics in this region cannot be fully understood without understanding the conflicts around these enclosures. Closer to urban India has been the neoliberal systematisation of commercial and financial centres, the `clearing’ of slums, in cities like Delhi and Mumbai, which have naturally been the hotbed of the politics of and against “new enclosures”.

Understanding all these diverse processes in the framework of primitive accumulation has several strategic implications. Perhaps, most urgently, this can provide a unified framework to locate the numerous struggles going on in the country right from the `new’ social movements, like landless workers movements, Narmada Bachao Andolan and other local mobilisations of  ’development-victims’, to anti-privatisation movements of public sector workers, all the way to the revolutionary movements led by the Maoists. This unified framework can then possibly facilitate dialogue among these movements, something that is more than essential at this juncture if the movement of labour against capital is to be strengthened.

(Neoliberalism and Primitive Accumulation in India – Dipankar Basu and Pratyush Chandra – Radical Notes)


I would conclude by giving a summary of the opinion of the jury members given in a public hearing on displacements and Operation Green Hunt held at Constitution Club, New Delhi, from 9-11 April 2010, under the auspices of Independent People’s Tribunal.

The jury heard the testimonies of a large number of witnesses over three days from the States of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa, as well as some expert witnesses on land acquisition, mining and human rights violations of Operation Green Hunt. The immediate observations of the Jury are as follows:

Tribal communities represent a substantial and important proportion of Indian population and heritage. Not even ten countries in the world have more people than we have tribals in India. Not only are they crucial components of the country’s human biodiversity, which is greater than in the rest of the world put together, but they are also an important source of social, political and economic wisdom that would be currently relevant and can give India an edge. In addition, they understand the language of Nature better than anyone else, and have been the most successful custodians of our environment, including forests. There is also a great deal to learn from them in areas as diverse as art, culture, resource management, waste management, medicine and metallurgy. They have been also far more humane and committed to universally accepted values than our urban society.

It is clear that the country has been witnessing gross violation of the rights of the poor, particularly tribal rights, which have reached unprecedented levels since the new economic policies of the 1990s. The 5th Schedule Rights of the Tribals, in particular the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act and the Forest Rights Act have been grossly violated. These violations have now gone to the extent where fully tribal villages have been declared to be non-tribal. The entire executive and judicial administration appear to have been totally apathetic to their plight.

The development model which has been adopted and which is sharply embodied in the new economic policies of liberalization, privatization and globalization, have led in recent years to a huge drive by the state to transfer resources, particularly land and forests which are critical for the livelihood and the survival of the tribal people, to corporations for exploitation of mineral resources, SEZs and other industries, most of which have been enormously destructive to the environment. These industries have critically polluted water bodies, land, trees, plants, and have had a devastating impact on the health and livelihoods of the people. The consultation with the Gram Sabhas required by the PESA Act has been rendered a farce, as has the process of Environment Impact Assessment of these industries. This has resulted in leaving the tribals in a state of acute malnutrition and hunger which has pushed them to the very brink of survival. It could well be the severest indictment of the State in the history of democracy anywhere, on account of the sheer number of people (tribals) affected and the diabolic nature of the atrocities committed on them by the State, especially the police, leave aside the enormous and irreversible damage to the environment. It is also a glaring example of corruption – financial, intellectual and moral – sponsored and/or abetted by the State, that characterizes today’s India, cutting across all party lines.

Peaceful resistance movements of tribal communities against their forced displacement and the corporate grab of their resources is being sought to be violently crushed by the use of police and security forces and State and corporate funded and armed militias. The state violence has been accentuated by Operation Green Hunt in which a huge number of paramilitary forces are being used mostly on the tribals. The militarization of the State has reached a level where schools are occupied by security forces.

Even peaceful activists opposing these violent actions of the State against the tribals are being targeted by the State and victimized. This has led to a total alienation of the people from the State as well as their loss of faith in the government and the security forces. The Government – both at the Centre and in the States – must realize that it’s above-mentioned actions, combined with total apathy, could very well be sowing the seeds of a violent revolution demanding justice and rule of law that would engulf the entire country. We should not forget the French, Russian and American history, leave aside our own.


  1. Stop Operation Green Hunt and start a dialogue with the local people.
  2. Immediately stop all compulsory acquisition of agricultural or forest land and the forced displacement of the tribal people.
  3. Declare the details of all MoUs, industrial and infrastructural projects proposed in these areas and freeze all MoUs and leases for non-agricultural use of such land, which the Home Minister has proposed.
  4. Rehabilitate and reinstate the tribals forcibly displaced back to their land and forests.
  5. Stop all environmentally destructive industries as well as those on land acquired without the consent of the Gram Sabhas in these areas.
  6. Withdraw the paramilitary and police forces from schools and health centres, which must be effectuated with adequate teachers and infrastructure.
  7. Stop victimizing dissenters and those who question the actions of the State.
  8. Replace the model of development which is exploitative, environmentally destructive, iniquitous and not suitable for the country by a completely different model which is participatory, gives importance to agriculture and the rural sector, and respects equity and the environment.
  9. It must be ensured that all development, especially use of land and natural resources, is with the consent and participation of the tribal communities as guaranteed by the Constitution. Credible Citizen’s Commissions must be constituted to monitor and ensure this.
  10. Constitute an Empowered Citizen’s Commission to investigate and recommend action against persons responsible for human rights violations of the tribal communities. This Commission must also be empowered to ensure that tribals actually receive the benefit of whatever government schemes exist for them.




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