India's highest court roundly condemns government policy towards tribal and marginal citizensPublished by MAC on 2010-07-24
Source: Times of India (2010-07-21)
Although a case, recently heard by India's Supreme Court, relates to acquisition of tribal land by a coal company in Orissa, the court's opinion may have far-reaching implications for much mining-related "development" throughout the country.
Skewed growth to blame for rise of Naxals: SC
The Times of India
21 July 2010
NEW DELHI: This is the worst that the government could have ever got from the Supreme Court.
Terming the developmental policies as "blinkered", the apex court has said that the promised rights and benefits never reached marginalised citizens fuelling extreme discontent and giving birth to naxalism and militancy, which are threatening the sovereignty of the country.
Referring to largescale displacement of tribals from forest land in the name of mining and development, the SC said non-settlement of their rights and non-provision for timely compensation of their lost land has created the worst kind of hatred among them towards development, possibly giving birth to extremism.
"To millions of Indians, development is a dreadful and hateful word that is aimed at denying them even the source of their sustenance," a Bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and B S Chauhan said on Monday.
"It is cynically said that on the path of `maldevelopment' almost every step that we take seems to give rise to insurgency and political extremism which along with terrorism are supposed to be the three gravest threats to India's integrity and sovereignty," it said.
The anguish of the apex court brimmed over when it dealt with a case relating to acquisition of tribal land by Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd in Sundergarh district of Orissa, which is a Maoist hotbed, and found that those who lost their land were not paid compensation for 23 years.
This extreme example of governmental apathy shook the conscience of a Bench forcing it to ask a series of questions -- "Why is the state's perception and vision of development at such great odds with the people it purports to develop? And why are their rights so dispensable? Why do India's GDP and human development index (which is based broadly using measures of life expectancy, adult literacy and standard of living) present such vastly different pictures?"
It said: "With the GDP of $1.16 trillion (of 2008) Indian economy is 12th largest in US dollar terms and it is the second fastest growing economy in the world. But according to the Human Development Report 2009 (published by UNDP), the HDI for India is 0.612 which puts it at 134th place among 182 countries."
It said the counter argument was that very often the process of development that most starkly confirms the fears expressed by Dr Ambedkar, who had said though politically one man had one vote of equal value, in social life one continues to deny one man one value.
Justice Alam, writing the judgment for the Bench, said this was because despite the philanthropist approach of entrepreneurs and governmental efforts the human factor in the most mineral rich areas have not been able to solve their displacement from forests, despite they being called the oldest dwellers of the area.
On the yet-to be-settled rights of tribals whose land was acquired and no compensation was paid for 23 years, the Bench took assistance from Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam and counsel Janaranjan Das to frame a scheme.
Under the scheme, the Centre being the owner of Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd would determine and pay the compensation to the erstwhile landowners. The SC appointed a former judge of the Orissa HC, Justice A K Pasricha, as chairman of a commission to prepare a report on the land acquired within four months and submit a report to the apex court.