Asia's poor being sacrificed on altar of "development", say reports
Asia's poor being sacrificed on altar of "development", say reports
20th December 2007
Last week proved a heady one for revelations of the degree to which India's poorest have been sacrificed on the altar of "development" - not least by mining-related projects.
More than half a million Indian - in just four states - were "displaced" by mining projects over the past ten years, according to a new report from three Indian NGOs. The figure is superceded only by those thrown off their land by the imposition of big dams (over three quarters of a million people.)
According to data collected by ActionAid, the Indian Social Institute (ISI) and Andhra Pradesh-based LAYA, almost all those forcibly removed (92%) have received no proper compensation and are worse off than they were previously.
One displaced farmer, ousted to make way for infamous UK-based Vedanta Resources' Orissa alumina refinery, says he accepted cash compensation to leave his home, only because of threats from "company touts":
"We cannot eat money, and we know it won't last long. We have lost our land and livelihood. While they make promises of better life for us, we are left only with problems."
Then, on December 19th, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), took issue with numerous deficiences embraced in India's new National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy of 2007.
The Centre finds that land owners, vulnerable groups and the poorest have been excluded from the decision making process supposedly protecting them when they are ejected from their lands. "Affected persons are denied the rights to take any kind of informed decision regarding the usage of their lands with regard to development projects "
India's policy, says ACHR, "allows further displacement in the name of resettlement and rehabilitation of the project affected families" and fails to "guarantee land-for-land compensation to the displaced families."
Echoing the findings of ActionAid India, ISI and LAYA, ACHR also concludes that: "There is little guarantee for employment for the displaced persons in the projects."
Last week, too (in an unprecedented admission) the World Bank said it might have grossly under-estimated the amount of poverty in both India and China.
Based on the Bank's "adjusted" figures, India's economy has actually "shrunk by 40 per cent", with the numbers of those trying to survive on only "a dollar-a-day" now estimated as closer to 800 million than the previous 400 million
As if this weren't bad enough, the world food organisation (FAO) has just predicted that, because of food price rises during the recent "commodities boom", there's, “a serious risk of poor people getting [even] less food next year."
For millions, economic boom spells doom: report
20th December 2007
New Delhi, Dec 19 (IANS) So what if India is surging at a high economic growth rate? In some of the richest states in the country this very fact, in terms of natural resources, has meant doom for millions who are displaced from their homes, says a latest study.
Released Wednesday by international development agency ActionAid, India Social Institute and LAYA, a voluntary organisation in Andhra Pradesh working for tribal issues for the past 25 years, the report "Resource Rich Tribal Poor" says that in the name of development a large number of indigenous people are stripped of their basic identity and the right to live a fulfilling life.
The study was conducted in five districts of four resource-rich states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.
Joseph Marianus Kujur of the Indian Social Institute, who was the research coordinator for the study, said acceleration of economic reforms has led to exclusion of masses and has widened the gap between the rich and the poor.
"This study looks at the latest government data of the past 10 years in just these four states which unveils the fact that the number of people who have been displaced because of the various development projects is over 1.6million.
"In the process of conducting the study, 92 percent of the respondents said that they have not received adequate compensation. All of this leads us to ask the question: Is displacement necessary for development?" Kujur told IANS.
According to the report, 749,555 people were displaced for various dam projects, 304,698 for industry, 539,351 for mining, 926 people for electricity generation plants and 22,050 for defence establishments.
Although land acquisition and displacement are two sides of the same coin, the report says that there are no resettlement and rehabilitation policies in place in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
In Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, many of those displaced don't have record of rights over the land that they have been using.
Most of the displaced people haven't been rehabilitated despite records showing otherwise. However, those who have been, a majority being adivasis (tribal), are finding it difficult to cope with the new environment and usually tend to leave for forest cover.
"Pushed to live in the polluted slums, collective histories and indigenous knowledge about plants, medicine and ecological symbiosis which the adivasis have are thus rendered useless.
"Facing competition from the educated lot in the metropolitan cities and towns, they fail to get any industrial job. All that they are left with is menial and unreliable labour under contractors," Kujur said.
The report records the sentiments of a 40-year-old man from Bandhaguda, Orissa, one on the villages under threat from bauxite mining plans of Vedanta Plc., who said that he accepted cash compensation to leave his home under the threat from company touts.
"We cannot eat money, and we know it won't last long. We have lost our land and livelihood. While they make promises of better life for us, we are left only with problems," the report quoted him as saying.
Some of those displaced were not even aware of the rehabilitation policies.
"What we found was that those who were rehabilitated couldn't have led a worse life. Plucked out of their homes, they don't have a job, can't cope with the sudden changes and to add to all of that, the resettlement sites lack basic amenities," said Bratindi Jena of ActionAid said.
The report recommends that there should be strict adherence of the laws existing at the Central and the state level, which prohibits the transfer of tribal land to non-tribal under the cover of land acquisition for development projects.
It also says that in order to protect the cultural identity of the indigenous people, they should never be displaced from their homeland. Also, representative of the local people should be included in the technical committee formed by the government to assess the status of projects to be undertaken.
Refugees are Human Too: India’s failed National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007
Asia Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) Review
19th December 2007
In its latest WEEKLY REVIEW, the Asian Centre for Humnan Rights (ACHR) expresses concern over the negative consequences of India’s booming economy and the dramatic rise in conflicts.
ACHR is particularly concerned about the dangerous consequences of the use of state sponsored informal militias to tackle these conflicts. The National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy of 2007, notified on 31 October 2007, fails to address the key issues relating to the booming of conflicts: forcible acquisition of lands. The 2007 Policy was supposed to be an improvement of the Draft National Rehabilitation Policy of 2006 which was drafted to address the admitted failures of the National Policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation for Project Affected Families of 2004. The 2007 Policy appears to be another key driver of these conflicts related to land acquisition. The Policy is yet another facet of State failure to provide the conditions for sustainable development, address burgeoning conflict and its predictable human rights abuses. There is an urgent need for a rethink. a. One law one purpose The 2007 Policy upholds the sovereign power of the State to apply the concept of “eminent domain” to forcibly acquire any private property in any part of the country in the name of “public purpose”. This power is provided under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. The 2007 Policy defines “land acquisition” or “acquisition of land” as “acquisition of land under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (1 of 1894), as amended from time to time, or any other law of the Union or a State for the time being in force”. The 2007 Policy deletes previous provisions of the 2006 Draft Policy which provided that emergency provisions under Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 should be “used rarely” and should be applied only after considering “full justification” of the proposed project (Clause 6.23 of the 2006 Draft Policy). Clause 7.18 of the 2007 Policy implies that land can be acquired in case of emergency under Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 or similar provision of any other Act of the Union or a State for the time being in force by keeping the affected families in “transit and temporary accommodation, pending rehabilitation and resettlement scheme or plan”. Clause 4.7 of the 2007 Policy further exempts the Ministry of Defence from conducting any Social Impact Assessment or Environmental Impact Assessment while acquiring any land in connection with national security. So, for example, if a nuclear plant were set up for national interest or defence purposes or in the case of border fencing, no one can oppose the project. b. Exclusion of the land owners, vulnerable groups and the poorest from the decision making process i. No benefits in case of small intensity displacement The Preamble of the 2007 Policy states that: “A national policy must apply to all projects where involuntary displacement takes place”. But under Clause 6.1, the appropriate Government shall declare area of villages or localities as an “affected area” only if there is likely to be “involuntary displacement of four hundred or more families en masse in plain areas, or two hundred or more families en masse in tribal or hilly areas, DDP blocks or areas mentioned in the Schedule V or Schedule VI to the Constitution due to acquisition of land for any project or due to any other reason”. In short, the 2007 Policy only applies to large scale displacements. In case of tribal villages in hilly areas, the number of project affected families may not touch the golden mark of 200 or more families, but a large area can be potentially affected by a project. ii. No right to say “no” to a project The call for “the active participation of affected persons” (Clause 1.2) in the process of resettlement and rehabilitation is not reflected in the processes of development of the project. The affected persons are denied the rights to take any kind of informed decision regarding the usage of their lands with regard to development projects. Only in the case of acquisition of lands in the Scheduled Areas (under Schedule V and Schedule VI to the Constitution of India) does the 2007 Policy provide that the concerned Gram Sabha/ Panchayats/ Village Councils shall be “consulted” (Clause 7.21.2). However it is important to note that “consultation” in no sense denotes “consent”. The affected persons do not have the right say “no” at the time of determination of the project site. iii. No inclusion of the affected groups in Social or Environmental Studies: Concerns over the independence of the studies There are no provisions in the 2007 Policy for the inclusion of the affected persons or their representatives in the preparation of the Social Impact Assessment (SIA) report and/or the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the project. The 2007 Policy fails to define who conducts the SIA or EIA. It only states that “the appropriate Government shall ensure that a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) study is carried out in the proposed affected areas in such manner as may be prescribed” (Clause 4.1). This lack of clarity opens the possibility for concerns over the independence and or capacity of those designated to carry out SIA and EIA studies. The 2007 Policy provides for the constitution of an “independent multi-disciplinary expert group” to examine the SIA report. Members are nominated by the appropriate Government. There is also no provision for consultation with the affected families during the final preparation of the SIA and EIA reports so that their views are reflected in the report to be examined by the independent expert group. Obviously, government nomination raises concerns about the independence of the expert group. And the fact that the people affected by the changes are not represented is yet another concern. iv. No inclusion in the survey/census of affected persons After the declaration of an area as “affected area”, the Administrator for Rehabilitation and Resettlement undertakes a baseline survey and census for identification of the persons and families likely to be affected by the proposed project. Although the Administrator is required to publish a draft of the details of the findings to invite comment and objections from the affected persons, there is no provision for the compulsory inclusion of any affected persons or their representatives in the survey. c. Lack of independence for Administrator or Commissioner Wherever there is large-scale displacement, the 2007 Policy provides that the appropriate Government may appoint an Administrator for Rehabilitation and Resettlement (hereafter called “Administrator”), who is an officer not below the rank of District Collector, to oversee the resettlement and rehabilitation plan.
But the Administrator can delegate his/her powers and duties to any officer not below the rank of Tehsildar or equivalent (Clause 5.6). A Tehsildar is the lowest ranking officer in the State administration. That the Administrator can delegate his/her power to a Tehsildar shows that there is no seriousness to properly rehabilitate the affected families. On the one hand, the Administrator is vested with the power of “overall control and superintendence of the formulation, execution and monitoring of the rehabilitation and resettlement plan” (Clause 5.4). But on the other hand, the Administrator can only exercise his powers and functions “subject to the superintendence, directions and control of the appropriate Government and Commissioner for Rehabilitation and Resettlement” (Clause 5.3) and “subject to any general or special order of the appropriate Government” (Clause 5.5). The Commissioner for Rehabilitation and Resettlement is appointed by the State Government and therefore, cannot be considered independent. d. Causing further displacement in the name of resettlement The first and the foremost objective of the 2007 Policy is to “minimise displacement and to promote, as far as possible, non-displacing or least-displacing alternatives”. But the 2007 Policy allows further displacement in the name of resettlement and rehabilitation of the project affected families. Under Clause 6.9, “The appropriate Government shall, by notification, declare any area (or areas) as a resettlement area (or areas) for rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected families”. This may cause further displacement of non-project affected persons. Although it has been mentioned that “the Administrator for Rehabilitation and Resettlement should ensure that such acquisition of land does not lead to another set of physically displaced families”, displacement of non-project affected families is bound to occur under the provisions of Clause 6.9 of the 2007 Policy. e. Inadequate safeguards to displaced persons The 2007 Policy provides that the Scheduled Tribe families who are or were having possession of forest lands in the affected area prior to the 13th December 2005 (Sub Clause (vii) of Clause 6.4 of the 2007 Policy) be included in the survey of the Administrator for the Resettlement and Rehabilitation.
However, it does not guarantee land-for-land compensation to the displaced families. Clause 7.4.1 states that each affected family owning agricultural land in the affected area and whose entire land has been acquired or lost, agricultural land or cultivable wasteland “may be allotted” only “if Government land is available in the resettlement area”. In other cases, the 2007 Policy only makes weak guarantees such as “may be allotted”, “may be provided”, “may be offered”, etc. Clause 7.4.2 provides that: “In case a family cannot be given land in the command area of the project or the family opts not to take land there, such a family may be given monetary compensation on replacement cost basis for their lands lost, for purchase of suitable land elsewhere”. Under Clause 7.14, the affected families could be coerced to accept money in lieu of land. It provides that “In case of a project involving land acquisition on behalf of a requiring body, the affected families who have not been provided agricultural land or employment shall be entitled to a rehabilitation grant equivalent to seven hundred fifty days minimum agricultural wages or such other higher amount as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government”. There is little guarantee for employment for the displaced persons in the projects. Clause 7.13.1 states that in case of a project involving land acquisition on behalf of a requiring body, at least one person per nuclear family should get preference in getting employment in the project but this is subject to “the availability of vacancies and suitability of the affected person for the employment”. Moreover, rehabilitation and resettlement for affected families displaced by linear acquisitions in projects relating to railway lines, highways, transmission lines, laying of pipelines etc is absolutely inadequate. According to Clause 7.19, the victims of linear acquisitions would be provided only ex-gratia payment of such amount as the appropriate Government may decide but not less than Rs 20,000. However, the benefits of rehabilitation and resettlement under the 2007 Policy will be provided to any land-owner if he/she becomes “landless or is reduced to the status of a ‘small’ or ‘marginal’ farmer” as a result of land acquisition. f. Not adequate safeguards for STs/SCs For the first time, the 2007 Policy has proposed to collect disaggregated data about the number of Scheduled Tribe (ST) and the Scheduled Caste (SC) families affected by the project in the survey to be conducted by the Administrator of Resettlement and Rehabilitation. It also provides that in case of displacement of 200 or more Scheduled Tribes families, a Tribal Development Plan shall be prepared. But the 2007 Policy fails to provide adequate safeguards. According to the definition of “affected family” as provided in Sub Clause (b) of Clause 3.1, the affected family, among others, must have been “residing or engaged in any trade, business, occupation or vocation continuously for a period of not less than three years preceding the date of declaration of the affected area”. Tribals who practice traditional mode of agriculture, such as shifting cultivation, which requires temporary shifting from one place to another place every year for cultivation of crops, and other nomadic forms of life, may not be residing continuously for a period of three years at a particular place and hence may not come under the strict definition of “affected family” to get the benefits under this Policy. There has been a positive improvement in the 2007 Policy as it provides prior consultations with the concerned Village Councils in the 6th Scheduled Areas as well as with concerned Gram Sabhas (Village Council) in the 5th Scheduled Areas in all cases of land acquisitions including land acquisition in cases of urgency under Land Acquisition Act of 1894. Earlier, the 2006 Draft Policy had such provision only for the land acquisitions in the 5th Scheduled Areas. Yet, as stated above, “consultation” is not consent. Nor the 2007 Policy provides guarantees for land-for-land compensation which is mandatory under the Constitution for the Scheduled Tribes living in the 5th and 6th Scheduled Areas.
g. Faulty redress The Policy provides for the establishment of the Resettlement and Rehabilitation Committee at the project level to monitor and review the progress of implementation of resettlement and rehabilitation schemes. The Committee is not an independent body as the State governments appoints the members and prescribes the “procedure regulating the business [….], its meetings and other matters connected thereto” (Clause 8.1.3). The State Government also prescribes the composition, powers, functions and other matters relating to the functioning of the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Committee at the District level which is headed by the District Collector/ District Commissioner of the district (Clause 8.2.1). Hence, there is no guarantee for the inclusion of the affected persons or their representatives at the District level Committee. Similarly, the Ombudsman which has been created to serve as the higher appellate authority to dispose of grievances does not have enough powers, mandate and resources. The Ombudsman is appointed by the appropriate Government which also prescribes “the form and manner in which and the time within which complaints may be made to the Ombudsman and disposed of” (Clause 8.3.3). The Ombudsman has limited mandate. Under Clause 8.3.5 “In case of a project involving land acquisition on behalf of a requiring body, the disputes related to the compensation award for the land or other property acquired will be disposed of as per the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 or any other Act of the Union or a State for the time being in force under which the acquisition of land is undertaken, and will be outside the purview of the functions of the Ombudsman”. The 2007 Policy is as best as inadequate in a framework where there are no adequate checks and balances. The processes are open to abuse and the appointment processes of all bodies raise serious questions about independence. The process wholly excludes the affected groups a say in their own future. The application of such a Policy in a hostile polarized environment like in the case of West Bengal where Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee justified militia violence - that included rape and killings of local people opposing a development project - as ‘paid back in the same coin” (see ACHR Weekly Review 197 ), underlines the need for an immediate rethink on the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy of 2007. Unless the government of India addresses the issues raised by the misuse of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, the Act will continue to be a cause of conflict. India needs development but not at the cost of burgeoning conflict. Development policy that inflames conflict at the local level is counter-productive. It is bad for business. The 2007 National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy suggests that the Government of India is yet to understand the relationship between the application of its policies at State level and the consequent rise in conflict across India. The duty of the State is to provide an environment where development can flourish but allows all players with equal opportunities to derive rewards. The duty of the State is not to stack the odds in favour of the powerful, force land acquisition and to disempower the weak and most vulnerable. The abuse of a law designed for allotting land use for ‘public purpose’ for private gain is a case enough for review. But the fact that the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy of 2007 also provides a catalyst for blatant human rights violations suggests that the whole question of land acquisition for socalled ‘public purpose’ must be re-examined with urgency. |
© Copyright 2007 Asian Centre for Human Rights
From riches to rags
18th December 2007
China and India are poorer than we thought; rich countries produce even more than we realised. Those are the obvious conclusions from an unprecedented exercise, carried out by a World Bank-led coalition.
The "International Comparison Program" attempts to compare the size of the world's disparate economies on the basis of purchasing power. On this basis, China's output is just 9 per cent of global gross domestic product, down by more than a third from the previous estimate of 14 per cent. India's share of global GDP is down from 6 per cent to 4 per cent. The total output share of developing economies is down by a sixth. These are huge revisions to the figures.
The obvious questions are: how could the old figures be so wrong? And can we rust the new figures? The simple answer is that calculating purchasing power is hard even in principle.
The Economist's famous "Big Mac" index captures the theory but not the slog: if a Big Mac costs $4 in the US and 12 yuan in China, then the purchasing power of the yuan is 3 per dollar - but only if you are buying hamburgers. Statisticians cannot stop at the Big Mac but must work out both the contents and the price of a representative basket of goods. With populations of more than a billion, being truly representative is almost impossible.
China has never participated in an exercise on remotely this scale before. India has not done so since 1985. Small wonder that the facts have changed substantially. So while the new figures can never be more than statistical estimates, they are far more credible than the finger-in-the-wind guesses that preceded them.
The new information may influence the reform of voting power in the International Monetary Fund; China's and India's voting shares are grotesquely small; they had been pushing for their economic muscle - measured using purchasing power parity - to be taken into account. Other members, especially the Europeans, should accommodate them: even the new PPP measures would imply far more votes than China and India have now.
There are deeper implications in these figures. China is getting even less economic value from its vast energy consumption than we had thought. And either China and India have been growing more slowly than we realised, or life there in the 1970s was even more wretched than we imagined.
The reality of life in poor countries has not been changed by the Bank's bean-counters. But our understanding of it must now change dramatically.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
China, India economies '40% smaller'
By Scheherazade Daneshkhu, Financial Times
18th December 2007
The economies of China and India are 40 per cent smaller than previously thought, according to new estimates published by the World Bank this week.
The ranking of 146 economies by buying power in US dollars was based on the prices of 1,000 goods and services in what the World Bank described as "the most extensive and thorough effort ever to measure purchasing power parity across countries".
PPP, rather than market exchange rates, is regarded as a better measure of the relative cost of living, since it is based on goods and services households can buy with their domestic currency.
The new PPP estimates show a 40 per cent drop in the wealth of the Chinese people to $5.3bn, accounting for nearly 10 per cent of world output. China remains the world's second-largest economy but, in terms of per capita gross domestic product, it is only 9.8 per cent of the size of the US, according to the research.
Robert Zoellick, the World Bank's president said he was "not drawing any policy conclusions" about the new estimates, which suggest that there are hundreds of millions more Chinese living on the World's Bank's poverty line of less than $1 a day.
"We must be careful about drawing conclusions about poverty from these statistics", he said but added that the figures "could help Chinese leaders refine their development work."
Nevertheless, if China is less wealthy than previously thought, it could mean that those US policymakers who regard it as a political and economic threat, can relax.
For example, the US Government Accountability Office, using the old estimates, reported this year that China's economy in PPP terms would be larger than the US by 2012. The recalibration of China's economy suggests it will be many more years yet before China can rival the US in military or economic terms.
The World Bank said the shrinking of China's economy was due to exaggerated estimates based on less reliable data in the past. It was the first time that China had participated in the World Bank's International Comparison Program and the first time since 1985 that India had participated.
India's economy also shrank by 40 per cent, according to the the tables, which ranked it the world's fourth largest economy, accounting for 4 per cent of output.
The world economy is also smaller than previously thought. Nearly half the world's output was produced by the US, China, Japan, Germany and India. Measured by GDP per capita, the five richest economies are Luxembourg, Qatar, Norway, Brunei Darussalam, and Kuwait. Collectively, they account for less than 1 per cent of the world's output.
The five richest economies, measured by what households consume, are Luxembourg, the United States, Iceland, United Kingdom, and Norway, according to the World Bank data.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Global hunger set to worsen says FAO
By Javier Blas, Financial Times
17th December 2007
Record prices for major agricultural commodities and a reduction in the volume of food aid means there is a serious risk that global hunger will worsen next year, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Monday.
The warning came as wheat prices on Monday jumped to an all-time high, soyabean prices hit a fresh 34-year high and corn rose to an 11-year high on strong demand and tight supplies reflected in extremely low global inventories.
Jacques Diouf, FAO director general, saw “a serious risk of poor people getting less food next year because of the impact of high food prices and a reduction of volume of food aid”.
Food aid has been reduced because agricultural commodities prices are going up while the big aid agencies’ budgets – including that of the UN’s World Food Programme, which feeds almost 90m of the world’s poorest people – remain stagnant.
“Urgent and new steps are needed to prevent the negative impacts of rising food prices from further escalating and to quickly boost crop production in the most affected countries,” Mr Diouf said at a press conference in Rome.
The FAO on Monday asked for financial support for a voucher system to help farmers in poor countries buy seeds and fertilisers, both of which are rising in price, in an effort to boost local production. Although the voucher system is a small-scale project with an initial FAO budget of $17m, Mr Diouf said it had the potential to increase crop production in poor countries by up to 20 per cent.
Rising prices for crude oil and natural gas prices, a major feedstock for fertiliser, and robust demand have pushed manure prices to levels not seen in the past two decades. Seed prices have risen on higher demand from emerging countries.
“Assisting poor vulnerable households in rural areas in the short term and enabling them to produce more food would be an efficient tool to protect them against hunger and undernourishment,” Mr Diouf added.
The FAO’s call came as countries around the world continued to take unilateral measures to protect local food markets. China said it would scrap a tax rebate on agricultural commodities exports to clamp down on foreign sales.
Japan warned that food export restrictions, such as export tariffs, raised concerns about food security.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007