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Development versus Internal Security: Gainers and sufferers in India


Updated Wednesday July 06, 2016

India, Odisha, People's Movement, Security, Army, Farmer  

Particularly the struggles in Odisha against POSCO, Vedanta, Utkal Alumina, TATAs, Jindal, Adani etc are spontaneous resistance of farmers and forest dwellers. But they are being crushed by using brute force and in certain places they are deliberately called Ultras as that makes the task easier to repress them.

Prafulla Samantara  

The nation is growing through a terrible time. It is terrible not only because of rise of incidences of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, ill health, school drop outs, farmers’ suicides, disparities between individuals and groups at a very alarming rate. It is terrible also because the nation is not aware of what is wrong with the nationals and the nationals are not allowed to know what truth is and what is untruth. An industry seems to be working day in and day out to create confusions in the minds of the citizens or people of this country in such a way that most pertinent issues are ignored or neglected and non-issues come to the centre stage.

The media in our times has been instrumental in converting issues into non-issues and non-issues to issues.


When they approach representative institutions of democracy such as the legislative assemblies, the parliament, the grass-root institutions through difficult means they don’t find any one sensitive to their issues. The bureaucracy despite reforms remains alienated from the masses though it has come very close to the corporate world which often targets the livelihood sources of the common men such as Land, water and forest. When the judiciary is approached as a last resort there also he finds it an alien territory friendlier towards the powerful elements.

Anyone who wants to seriously analyze the issues of popular unrest in India in any form should be sensitive enough to whether it is an ill motivated, externally inspired and engineered one or it is yet another case of expressing anger and frustration as the so called development does not reach out to them. This is extremely important as this understanding or simply perception of ours decides whether it is an internal security issue where guns will resolve the issue or it is a case of development deprivation which will certainly require no application of force or armed power of the state.

Development or Deprivation!

We have come across a few things pertaining to development since independence which has created a complex cycle in which we see problems keep rising and not getting resolved. First, our development planners never thought the common men to be in the centre of their thinking. Who are these common men? Certainly, the vast majority of people engaged in farming, cultivation, artisans, fishermen, forest dwellers and other traditional livelihood dependent population. They were excluded from the beginning itself and the tribal sub-plans of the government targeting specific primitive tribes was not a success.

Green revolution never helped the small and marginal farmers. Rather it made the vast majority of farmers hostile against farming. It derailed the land reforms agenda as green revolution required concentration of land and not land distribution. More and more people started leaving agriculture. Odisha, undivided Bihar and Madhya Pradesh which were producing 25 percent of nation’s food grains in 1951 are nowhere in the list today. Rather, they have topped the list in regard to poverty, malnutrition and several diseases. On the other hand, these are the States that top in mineral production map of the country now. No FDI is coming here to address the issues of hunger and deprivation. FDI is coming to exploit the rich mineral resources of these areas.

Incidentally, these are the areas that witness growth in left wing extremism. Even the planning commission’s special group headed by Former Secretary of government of India, Dr. Debu Bandopadhaya did also talk about this complex cycle. But we ignored the complex part and thought of providing very simplistic solutions of intervening through security forces. We never thought we are now dealing with our own citizens.

The Integrated Action Plan that the government declared for such disturbed districts could not convince how and what was integrated. Just think about someone in your family-a son or a daughter. He or she may be quite violent or aggressive in nature. Do you say - Take a chocolate like IAP and keep quite or else I shall kill you – or, try to understand why someone is so upset or so aggressive?

Even in states where so called Development has succeeded, the story does not raise much hope. In just 25 years, 2.5 lakh farmers have committed suicide. Most of these suicides have taken place in the so called developed states such as AP, Maharshtra and Punjab. In the story of FDI coming in lakhs of crores of rupees has along with the fact that about 3000 farmers in Odisha have committed suicide in the last 11 years. Now they are being forced to dispose off their land and no one asks them, what you will do after the land is gone. If you want to know what they are doing, you just look around in your town as construction worker, brick workers as cities like Surat and Raipur can’t accommodate all of them.

This is the reality on ground at a time when the countable billionaires in India are continuously on the rise ever since economic reform was launched in India in the 1990s. If we take the Montek Singh Allhuwalia measurement of poverty, some living in an Indian village is called poor if his/ her whole family can’t spend Rs. 26 a day. Please compare the poor man’s income of Rs. 26 a day against 1 lakh crore rupees of a citizen of the country and tell me if your conscience approves this of as normal in a democracy.  Dr. Arjun Sen Gupta committee of the planning commission in 2007 revealed that 77% of rural India has the capacity of spending less than Rs. 20 per day.

Even with all their difficulties the poor have been managing to live a life with tremendous hardships in spite of the state. But that was not allowed. Because certain companies have to prosper and earn sky reaching profit we decided to open up mineral rich areas which are heavily forested and where tribals live in large number. When we invite large investments for mining, one dollar comes to explore and goes back with natural property of more than 100 dollars converting non renewal natural resources to financial capital. As a result millions of tribals have been displaced from their habitat and deprived of their right to life and livelihood. Without giving any thought about their future we started removing them mercilessly from their ancestral habitat and when they protested we crushed them. We called them Maoists though most of them don’t know what Maoism is.

There are Maoists but they are not everywhere. Particularly the struggles in Odisha against POSCO, Vedanta, Utkal Alumina, TATAs, Jindal, Adani etc are spontaneous resistance of farmers and forest dwellers. But they are being crushed by using brute force and in certain places they are deliberately called Ultras as that makes the task easier to repress them. The most revealing example one finds in Nira Radia tapes where Nira is telling Vir Singhvi that TATAs are fighting with Maoists in Kalinganagar - a 21st century lie most so irresponsibly circulated.

We Need Serious Introspection

Friends, there are many stories which will make you cry if you think you have fellow citizens and they are living in such conditions where as life for you is not so difficult. Where is the Indian among us when we are gradually becoming indifferent towards each other? How can we resolve issues affecting the people or citizens without making any sincere effort to get into the roots of each issue? On top of that we are deciding to resolve issues at gun point. Today para military forces, tomorrow the military. Somewhere reason has deserted us. How can we think of using military in dealing with our own citizens?

People who have put on military uniform have single mission to defend the territory of the country at any cost their own countrymen live peacefully inside. These countrymen are no one other than their own brothers and sisters who are farmers, forest dwellers, fisher folk, artisans and workers who are fighting to defend their livelihoods against corporate takeover. While the men in military uniform are defending the nation, their brothers and sisters are defending the nationals providing food and basic services and their sources of sustainable livelihood facing equal hardship and hostile political leadership. We should not allow a divide between the two as this will threaten the overall security of the country.

We should reexamine our concept of development and make necessary transformation otherwise the confusions will grow and ultimately we will end up in fighting with each other. We can’t say Jai Jawan, if the Kishan is dying. We can’t also engage the Jawan to kill the Kishan because we don’t understand the reasons of his unrest. We don’t try to understand the Kisan may be because we know we are the cause of his unrest.

Friends, we should be in a position to say very proudly both ‘Jai Kisan, Jai Jawan’ and not just Jai Jawan or just Jai Kishan.

[Author is President of Lok Shakti Abhiyan and Convener of National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM). This is the key note of Author's presentation in the round-table conference organized at Lucknow under the aegis of Headquarters' Central command (Army) on 13 Feb 2013.]


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