Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Raghunath Nageswaran (Guest Author)
2nd BA Economics,
Loyola College.

Connectivity and life have become so interwoven that we are bound to associate ourselves closely with people, in reality and in virtual terms too. We get annoyed if the line gets disconnected when we talk over the phone, when we chat on face-book and when we do other ‘important’ activities of that ilk. Here it goes. A leading journal reported that there are in this country, 51 million subscribers to Facebook, 31.3 million to YouTube and 16 million to Twitter. Very recently, IMRB and Internet and Mobile Association of India pegs India’s internet user base to 150 million by the end of this year. Many teenagers consider it embarrassing not to have a Facebook or Twitter account. The virtual elements seem to define connectivity and socializing in better terms. But the matter of the fact is that we are utterly disconnected from the reality, affected by privacy syndrome and over-confidentiality crisis. The ‘disconnection’ assumes serious proportions when it is deeply ingrained in the lives of those who are subject to penury. The celebratory stories of progress and prosperity in the country are bogus, I’d say. Because, that is something which is not compatible with the lives of the marginalised. But, we frantically talk of the ‘majority ’principle, which is highly vulnerable to malleability .The
welfare projects spanning decades that have been undertaken have culminated in serious displacements and disconnections. In the period 1950- 90, nearly 26 million Indians got displaced due to the dams and canal projects, thermal power projects, mining and sanctuary projects, and such displacements are development- driven. In the name of development projects these people are evicted from their places, after their lands are acquired. The displacement we are talking about includes just the land – related ones. They are deprived of compensation, and even if they are compensated, they get nothing more than peanuts. There are resource – related, calamity – driven and conflict - driven displacements too. Forced eviction is a serious human rights violation as per the UN protocols. But, as I mentioned earlier these projects wear the garb of patriotism, the policy makers claiming that these measures are of immense national interest. I’ll throw some numbers at you in this regard.

1) On a state-by-state basis, we found thatWest Bengal has 7 millions of the total number of 60 million (Fernandes, et al. 2006) and Assam has 1.9 million (Fernandes and Bharali 2006). The ongoing study carried out in Gujarat by the Centre for Culture and Development points to some 7 million people in that State (Lobo and Kumar 2007).

2) The tribals represented 8.08 per cent of India’s total population in 1991, but are estimated to represent much more. Some 40 per cent of the DPs/PAPs (Fernandes 2007). At least 20 percent are Dalits (Mahapatra 1994) and a big proportion of the rest are other assetless rural poor like marginal farmers, poor fishermen, and quarry workers.

Between 1990 and 2000 alone, nearly 10 million across the world people were caught in the trap of displacement. The irony is that multitude of projects initiated at the cost of the innocent and the desperate still remain unfinished. And majority of the displaced have not been rehabilitated, their lives speaks volumes about the state of misery in India. These people are completely disconnected from their lands, resources and even their homes. Today, many leave their places since agriculture has failed and seek refuge in urban areas, the result of which is reflected in the 2011 Census – Growth in Urban population outnumbers rural population growth for the first time in several decades. The MGNRGES was launched with a vision of curtailing this trend, but has shown progress only in patches. The farmer suicides in massive numbers have resulted in one of the greatest displacements in Indian history. The displacement issue in Jammu and Kashmir, in the neglected parts of North-east and even the ones sprung from Partition still remained unsettled. We are not able to offer minimum life security to millions in our country, how can we be exceedingly proud of our growth?

These issues are often sandwiched between figures, which fail to capture the seriousness of the issue completely. The Narmada Bachao Andolan, spearheaded by Medha Patkar caught the attention of the people. Such meaningful movements can demand legitimate actions from the part of the incumbency for the restoration of lives of such people who are pushed to the fringes. The cruelty of factionalism took its supreme form in Assam in July this year, causing a colossal displacement and disconnection. We consider the north-easterners aliens to the county at best, and consider them Chinese at worst. That is why our heart fails to bleed when people of that region, separated from the ‘mainland India’ suffer. The 4 lakh refugees, driven by the fear of mass killings left their homes, scurried to the refugee camps. Now they are disconnected from their land and resources. There was not a single OB van ferrying in that region to provide real-time coverage. The growing disconnect between the mass reality and the mass-media, as P.Sainath say, is evident from such painful happenings. The cruel face of ‘disconnection’ amongst the destitute matters more than our connectivity over social networking sites. Well, that too has become a matter of great attention as the images posted in those sites triggered an unprecedented exodus of the north-eastern people from the southern states. The effects of either forms of connectivity cannot be offset very easily. The solution lies in striking an ideal balance between the two, through the concerted efforts of the state and the masses.

Jai Hind!