Hundreds of thousands deprived due to development
Dainik Janambhumi, Guwahati, January 17, 2007
During independence large numbers of people all over Assam, including Guwahati, were displaced and suffered economically in the name of development schemes and projects. But the Government never took steps to rehabilitate the affected ones. People who had suffered in the name of development never received enough compensation from the government. A research and publication organisation called North Eastern Social Research Centre (NESRC) made such an accusation last Tuesday.
A research conducted by this organisation reveals that due to the establishment of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Amingaon, Guwahati, 704 acres of land was acquired, as a result of which 35,000 people were affected and had to suffer severely. Most of these The inhabitants of these areas were indigenous groups without proper documents and most of them had resided and started cultivation here with the permission of a businessman from Guwahati called Goenka. So the entire compensation paid during the establishment of IIT went to Goenka. The affected cultivators, on the other hand, scattered around the city and occupied deserted land.
Moreover, with the establishment of the Noonmati Refinery in the Narengi area of Guwahati, around 4000 acres of land was acquired as a result of which 1446 people were displaced. From the research conducted by this organisation, it has come to light that that most of these people settled around ‘Ajuri’ forest in Nagaon and they have even named heir village as ‘Narengi’. Due to the lack of proper papers most of these people too failed to get any compensation. From the research conducted for the period of 1947 to 2000, it is found out that in the whole of Assam, including Dispur and Guwahati, around 3,23,000 people have been displaced to make way for the establishment of the administrative offices.
During the same period, around 1193 acres of land was acquired for town development that left 191 persons displaced and 1050 affected. But there is no exact data on the numbers of displaced and affected due to other developmental works in the cities. It is noteworthy that many big schemes have been launched of late in the name of widening of national highways. But the government is not eager to compensate people affected with such schemes.
During the establishment of the Ashok Paper Mill in Guwahati, 245 families were displaced. Those who had permanent documents for their land were able to get a compensation of Rs. 2,500 per bigha and those who had temporary documents were able to get Rs. 1,000. But those 50 families who did not have any papers for their land did not manage any compensation.
The Assam government does not have any proper policy for rehabilitation of the displaced and it refrains from compensating displaced and affected people with minor excuses related to papers, said the director of NESRC, Dr. Walter Fernandes. The organisation also disclosed that the Centre has released Rs.103 million for rehabilitation of those persons who have been displaced during he establishment of IIT but the government of Assam has only utilised Rs. 43 million as compensation.
Many big and small industries were set up in and around Guwahati at different times. These have destroyed the environment and affected people. But due to the lack of awareness, there is neither any strict step taken to stop environmental pollution nor any steps to provide compensation to the affected people. If no effective steps are taken now to compensate the displaced, such developments may take a dangerous shape not only in Guwahati but also in entire Assam in the future, stated Fernandes.
The district administration, on the other hand, claims to have no relief camps in the district and they have all been removed. This is the reason why the administragtion is not providing any ration anymore. The Deputy Commissioner of Karbi Anglong, J Gogoi said that the affected ones were compensated and were given tins sheets. Other aid was provided to those whose houses were burnt and they had also asked the rural development centre to provide work to the people who returned to their villages under the food for work scheme. On the other hand, there have been no effective steps taken by the Karbi-Anglong Autonomous Council for the benefit of the affected people except a memorandum sent to the Centre asking for rehabilitation package to the affected ones.