Land acquisition: ‘Anything is possible’, but not forcibly


Solan: If class struggle of the kind championed by politically oriented trade unions and farmer unions has defined the nature and course of struggle against land acquisition in different parts of India, then here in Himachal it is the alleged hegemony of industries that is setting the agenda. Dying for an industrial revolution to join the mainstream of development, it is being said the state has, in a way, surrendered to industrial houses to explore, ‘exploit’ business prospects here.
The alleged forced eviction and land acquisition by JP Industries in the Mangal area of Arki tehsil for its cement plant is a direct outcome of the state’s indecisiveness in dealing with the problem. And with the villagers threatened to go to any extent not to allow the setting up of the proposed cement factory in case they were not given compensation and rehabilitated properly, the coming days would be testing times for the government.
Apparently, consciously or sub-consciously not understanding the needs and aspirations of the local people, or not learning from the strife caused by land acquisition in other states, these industrial house have somehow sowed the seeds of discontent in Himachali landowners as well. Though the previous government tried to play safe by going soft on SEZs after declaring them with much gusto, and the current government too does not seem to be interested in disturbing the Hornet’s nest, big projects coming up in the state are doing enough to stir controversy.
In this case villagers are alleging that JP Industries was forcibly evicting people from their houses with the help of the police. Claming that even bulldozers were used to pull down their houses and cattle sheds, people are claiming that they have not been given the compensation amount, which they claim is anyway too less.
Besides the issue regarding adequate compensation not being paid, the local people have always been opposing these projects on environmental grounds. Now is this opposition coming up solely for increasing the stakes to get more compensation, or are there genuine reasons behind it?
There is no doubt that most of the developmental work in hills come at the cost of some compromise on the environment front, but boom in the real estate business too had raised the aspirations of landowners, even in far-flung areas.
The solution lies in not to suppress the conflict by ignoring its presence, but to recognize the ground realities to take them into consideration while commissioning big projects. The major reason behind discontent among different stakeholders is lack of transparency both by the government and the company/agony executing the project. And to improve on this front, the government and the major stakeholders will have to cover quite a distance to search a level playing field.

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