On a field trip to a village in Rajasthan, I encountered a startling truth.
In no terms am I anti-development, in fact, I have always extolled the merits of development and how it is vital for our country. But this experience has made me question my judgment. It was shocking to see the lack of importance given to human life and dignity, its like they don’t even exist for these people. The people who have money on their minds but they gift wrap these ambitions in the universally accepted goal of ‘Development’.
What started off as an innocuous field trip turned into a mind shattering rendezvous with the truth. A truth which has been ever-present but always disregarded. There are two Indias- on one side there is more than 70% of the people living in rural areas and on the other side, the urban inhabitants. Both the groups are ignorant of the way the other lives. In reality, the urban dwelling population will do everything in its power to not even acknowledge the other’s presence. Perhaps, they are terrified of what they might find?
We talk about development as being vital for this country and how the GDP should grow in leaps and bounds. We talk about industries, SEZs and every other way to increase production. So, the Land Acquisition Act (which enables the government to reclaim land for development) becomes a source of power in this tale of money lust. A whole network of people (from the government, industries and bureaucracy) lobbies in order to illegally reclaim land for money minting industries. The fertile land is shown as barren land so that it can be acquired.
Development is not the predicament here but the way in which it is carried out is. It will leave you speechless if you really see it for yourself. Majority of the people in these villages sustain because of farming and animal rearing, their land is taken from them and they are left with nothing to live on. Some stone crushing units and mines which sprung up right in the middle of the villages (ignoring the law which establishes a threshold of some distance between the industries and the villages) have destroyed the villages, have damaged the houses (one house I saw, had cracks as big as if it had survived a very high magnitude earthquake) and according to the local stories the stones fly all over the village and can hit anyone anytime. It is like living on a live volcano.
My earlier thinking was industries lead to employment and a better way of life. However, the ground realities are entirely different. What about the houses that are completely destroyed; the land, the villagers have lived on for generations, and most importantly, is this employment a sufficient compensation for what they have lost financially?
This ain’t no movie! People have actually been killed for raising their voice. What’s worse is the mining culture that develops with these industries; the outsiders who come to work in the mines have become a threat to the security of young girls and women in the villages. Some gruesome incidents were recounted which made me absolutely shudder.
This, however, does not divide the people into good guys and bad guys. All humans are capable of either good or bad, but this collective ambition to selfishly replenish their bags of cash is disconcerting. Why should the villagers pay the price for having homes in a place that caught the fancy of these so-called developers? Don’t they have any value at all?
These self-proclaimed developers are plunderers who will stop at nothing to get what they want. They see, they decide and they conquer. The lands are acquired and the poor rural people are left with nothing. Wouldn’t this be pushing the people to take up arms and revolt? Wouldn’t this be literally pushing them over the edge? Then the usual response is to brand them as Terrorists. Have we learnt nothing from the Maoist Movement?