Basohli: Under the Shadow of Development

By Bala, Rajni | Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences, June 2010 | Go to article overview

Basohli: Under the Shadow of Development


Bala, Rajni, Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences


Large-scale development projects often result in massive displacement of population. It is estimated by Cernea, (1999) that approximately 10 million people are displaced globally each year as a result of development activities. Numerous researches on the social effects of the development reveal that development, which should have led to improvement, has led to impairment and the widening of social inequality. It has produced social trauma for many, as development projects, including big dams, power projects, mining projects etc., have induced dislocation of local folks from their natural habitat thereby reducing the social bonds. Keeping in view the above paradox, present endeavour is an attempt to analyse the implications of involuntary displacement on the lives of native population i.e. the construction of Ranjit Sagar Dam in the Basohli area of J&K and population displaced thereby. Based on an ethnographic study of the people displaced by the Ranjit Sagar Dam in India, the present paper examines the impact of displacement on women and demonstrates that their experiences of displacement and resettlement are qualitatively different from those of men. Displacement not only results in physical dislocation, but also in women's disempowerment. Resettlement policies and programmes, in the Indian context, have largely remained gender biased and fail to take into account the differential experiences of women, making resettlement a difficult process for them.

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The accelerating pace of development in less developed countries has vastly multiplied the instances of compulsory population displacement and resettlement. Since 1947, India has been undertaking development projects to improve the quality of life of its people through planned development under the successive Five-Year Plans. Such projects include dams, power, mining, industrial and allied infrastructure, transport network, urban development, commercial forestry and other projects. Some of these projects have brought adverse effects in the form of displacement of people from their original place of habitation due to large-scale land acquisition. Development-induced displacement in the country has brought severe economic, social and environmental problems to the displaced people. Magnitude of people displaced and severity of the problems due to multipurpose dam projects is too high as compared to other projects in the country. They also lead to submergence of high quality of land, destruction of the watershed, disturb the delicate ecological balance and distort the surrounding environment, loss of wildlife and precious irreplaceable flora etc. and most notorious problems of flooding, water-logging and salinity. The experience of post-Independence period from projects across the country suggests that the long drawn out process of displacement has caused widespread traumatic psychological and socio-cultural consequences. These include the dismantling of traditional production systems, desecration of ancestral sacred zones, graves and places of worship, scattering of kinship groups, disruptions of family system and informal social network (Kothari, 1995). Michael M. Cernea (1997) has developed the risk and reconstruction model, which has already been tested to be applicable to the development induced displacement situation in the country. The model is built around a core concept: the risks of impoverishment. The eight-impoverishment risks are landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalisation, food insecurity, increased morbidity and mortality, loss of access to common property and social disarticulation.

Women are an important component of the displaced population. Various studies have stressed the need to focus on women's experiences of displacement (Colson 1971,1999; Parasuraman 1993; Koening 1995; Indra 1999; Mehta & Srinivasan 2000; Scudder 2005). For example, in her study of the Kariba Dam, Elizabeth Colson (1971, 1999) points out that following displacement, women were exposed to physical violence, bad marriages, loss of property rights and deterioration of status. …

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