Saturday, December 15, 2007

Response to Story: ‘Get Out Dalits…!’

The special story, 'Get Out Dalits, We Are Here to Develop!' published here earlier this week (see the story below) has evoked a number of responses from readers.

Here are excerpts from a few. Hope this will generate a wide discussion on the plight of the displaced owing to development projects now coming up in various parts of the country:

M K Das wrote:

I wish you had also discussed the likely strategy to develop the
island and the islanders. It is one thing to fight for
the people and their present occupation but another to
chalk out a new strategy to bring them to the
mainstream of development. How long should we allow
them to live primitively and leave them to their fate?
My complaint against people like Neelakantan is that
they offer no solutions. Remember, he along with Sarma
who is a minister now, opposed the new airport and
even described it as the gateway to mass prostitution.
Now they have no shame to praise it and be part of it.

(M K Das, veteran journalist, was formerly Kerala editor of Indian Express.)

Santhakumar Velappan Nair wrote:

There is going to be a number of such incidents and conflicts of this kind in future. Is it possible to have some institutional and governance solutions for such issues without getting into anti- or pro-development rhetoric, and giving opportunities to illegal land grabbers having political support on the one hand and short-sighted activists:

May I outline a few propositions:

1. There is no need of any government intervention in buying land for developing commercial or residential complexes, or even industrial units that house service sector companies. Land acquisition route should not be used here. All land transactions in this case should be voluntary between buyers and sellers.

2. Everybody (large or small holders) is expected to take certain precautions like CRZ regulations while developing ecologically fragile land such as those adjacent to backwaters. These rules need to be enforced, but these rules can also be changed to make them more realistic.

3. Beyond these restrictions, is it possible to stop construction in a plot owned by someone but sold voluntarily to another person?

4. We have the ways of acknowledging some informal rights like the pathway (by giving some pathway while developing the land). Is it possible in someway to acknowledge such rights.

More intense thinking on such solutions is needed rather than changing this into a never ending pro- and anti-development debate.

(Dr. V Santhakumar, who teaches at the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, is an eminent economist and author.)

Rajeev PI wrote:

Nice effort Chekkutty, at a time when whatever engagement space
the `insignificant' microcosms in the way of `development' once
had, is closing. Valanthukkad is no big exception though -- many
more are such are on the way in Kochi itself (I looked at some
project proposals in the pipeline the other day.) Unfortunate that
there is, and there will be, hardly much media mainstreaming of
this _ the ad revenues are, and will, continue to be a great
leveller of concerns and occasional conscience pricks, till the
`boom' levels out (and that is quite a long way off in Kochi).
Take a look at the print and TV ad ratios of builders in Kochi, or
take a drive down the city and see the number of hoardings of
builders and developers every 300 metres or so.

(Rajeev PI is the special correspondent of the Indian Express, based in Kochi.)

Biju T G wrote:

After reading your article, 'Get out Dalits, We are Here to Develop', a few questions arise in my mind. Firstly, who are the real beneficiaries of the social movements led by the Communists of Kerala? Secondly, who would emerge to give a proper direction to our leaders, who lost visionary powers?
I reached on the conclusion that there is no chance of any change in the social situation in Kerala. It is certain that the Communist movements destroyed the feudal set up of our society. However, they failed to build a socialist set up here. After the destruction of feudalism, Kerala has been witnessing the rise of capitalism. The communists are compelled to agree with the capitalist ambitions of certain sections of the society. In the newly created situation, poor 'pulayas' --the real sons of the soil-- are still facing exploitation and humiliation. Their effort to rescue from this cruel situation by embracing other religions like Christianity also put them into deep trouble. They are being ill-treated even in Churches. We should examine the fact in this context. A new movement is needed to rescue the dalits from this pathetic situation. The real followers of Communist movement should think in this direction. They should not forget that their forefathers were ill-treated during the cruel era of feudalism.
People must come forward to save the poor people of Valanthakkadu.

(Biju T G is a journalist with News Link, New Delhi.)

Susan Teskey wrote:

Hi NP, how wonderful to hear from you! I am working almost round the clock editing for our insane deadline of Monday for the rough cut of the doc, so it won't be till next week I will get to it. I hope you are keeping up the lobbying efforts with the Minister…[about those people in the island.] Will write more as soon as I get a chance.

Cheers, Susan.

(Susan Teskey is director, documentary division at CBC-TV, Toronto, Canada.)

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