Development: A Curse to the Displaced People: A Study in Odisha


Dr. (Mrs.) Johani Xaxa


Reader, P.G. Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Sambalpur University, Jyoti Vihar- 768019 (Odisha).




Since Independence India has been undertaking a number of development projects to improve infrastructure which displaced  thousands of poor in general and tribals in particular, and thrown them into the pool of struggle for their livelihood. The government undertook the construction of dams, irrigation projects, mining, power houses, creation of national parks etc. For which the jungle dwellers and tribals have been displaced from their ancestral land. In Orissa, Rourkela Steel plant, Hirakud Dam project, Rengali Dam Project, etc. have been displaced a number of households. They are yet to be resettled. Around 15% of the tribal populations have been affected by development projects. Displacements have caused damages to the life of people in all respect i.e., Economic, Social, Cultural and Educational. This paper has examined and recommended some measures to overcome the situations.


KEY WORDS: Displacement, Development, Tribals, Projects.



The process of change and development in India has not only been technological and economic, but also has been a political struggle, related with the changes in the power relations and decision-making process within the system. The people’s movement in the country particularly the movements for alternative development since the 1980s, have been deeply involved with this politics of development. They have contributed to the evolution of various alternative political processes as, which in turn have changed the prevalent and formal political structure and discourse.  While on one hand development activities are taken up by the government of India, on the other hand several poor communities are struggling for their livelihood. The struggles have led to the interactions with the political system and the political institutions like local and district administration, the police, the elected/representative bodies at local, block and district levels, the political parties and the legislators-both in the State Assemblies and in the parliament: At the same time the struggles have brought forth the non-party and party politics. Such politics of struggle has been developing dialectically, interacting with the affecting each other. Such processes are going on in many movements all over India. We may find several such movements going on in different parts of India-like people’s movement in he Narmada valley (Narmada Bachao Andolan) against the controversial Sardar Sarovar Project and accompanied displacement, people’s movement against “Large Irrigation Projects- sugar factories- cooperatives- Bombay Industries” in Maharastra, the Mansi Wakal Dam Project in Udaipur, “Jungle Andolan” ( forest campaign) of the tribals in Singhbhum district of Jharkhand against the government owned forest land, which displaced tribals, Movement against the “Koel-karo Dam Project” in the Topkara Block of Ranchi district of Jharkhand (National Hydro-Electric Power Corporation).

All these projects are meant for the development of the country and ultimately of the people. But these projects resulted in the displacement of the thousands of people and forced them to struggle for their livelihood and snatched their home and land all over the country.


In the name of economic development, people had to give up their ancestral home and land. Those who are more vulnerable are definitely not from the high class but are our very own, poor rural people and tribals. The so-called National and State sponsored development projects in the form of dam, reservoir, reserve forest, mines and factories, claim for many improvements and development, but the fact is  they have resulted in downfall and displacement of ‘Adivasis’, dalits and the rural poor.


Displacement has brought them face-to-face with human and ecological paradoxes. Alienation, forcible evacuation, the shifting from native areas, the schizophrenia of new locales, the brutal detachment from the resource base air, water, hearth, forest, etc. with which the Adivasis have symbolic relationship, everything has been sacrificed at the altar of big money and mega development, without provision for suitable alternatives. Displacement projects uproot millions of “Adivasis” by brining major inflow of “non-Adivasis” who are better equipped with the skills of expropriation to increase the pressure on land. The only remaining source of survival, their land is snatched from them. The tribal welfare programmes come in a big way adding to the influx and the emergence of new class of exploiters the politicians, contractors and officials. Further, alienation from land pushes Adivasis to the brink of disaster, and the poor “Adivasis” are forced into labour market at the lowest rung. However, small and big struggles have challenged “Tyrannical Development Projects”. These struggles are localized around the issues of control over crucial resources like land, water and forests.


Constitutional Provisions for Schedule Area:

The fifth schedule provides protection to the “Adivasi” people who live in the Scheduled Areas. The constitutional provisions (Fifth schedule and Article 244) empower the Governor of a state to regulate and make regulations for the Scheduled Areas and for Adivasis to ensure that what rightfully belongs to the “Adivasi” (tribals) is not taken away by any means. Under these provisions tribal lands are not transferable. Regulations are framed under this schedule “to prevent the exploitation of tribals by non-tribals”. As per the 73rd Amendment Act 1992, “every Gram Sabha shall be competent to safeguard under clause (M) (11) the power to prevent alienation of land in the Scheduled Areas and to make appropriate action to restore any unlawful alienation of land of a Scheduled Tribe. Minerals are to be exploited by tribal themselves either individually or through cooperative societies with financial assistance of the state. Transfer of land in the Scheduled Areas by way of lease to non-tribals, corporation etc. stands prohibited. Renewal of lease, fresh grant of lease and, any other transfer stands prohibited. Transfer of mining lease to non-tribals, company, corporation, aggregate or partnership firm etc. is unconstitutional, void and inoperative. All Chief Ministers, Ministers holding the ministry concerned and Prime Minister and  central Ministers concerned have taken a policy decision for a consistent scheme throughout the  country in respect of tribal lands”, which provides that the government cannot transfer land to non-tribals and also that all lands held by industries in tribal areas are illegal. 


Breach of Law in Odisha:

In a move that threatens to dislocate the lives of millions of Odisha’s tribal people, the state government has decided to allow transfer of land in fifth schedule areas for mining and industrial operations. It has interpreted the Supreme Court judgment in Samata Versus Andhra Pradesh of 1997 to suit itself.


The apex court has ruled in the Samata versus State of Andhra Pradesh case 1997 that tribal tracts and forest land in Scheduled Areas are not to be leased out to non-tribals for mining and industrial activity, as this would contravene the fifth schedule of the constitution. According to the Supreme Court directive, such operation could only be permitted exceptionally- subject to the laws of the sate concerned. The Supreme Court stipulated that in instances where the law does not completely ban mining in scheduled areas, a state-level cabinet sub-committee should be constituted and a suitable decision taken thereafter. The Odisha sub-panel’s decision was premised on the claim that ample provisions have been made in the state existing laws to protect tribal interests. The rules cited in this regard were the Orissa’s Scheduled Areas, Transfer of Immovable Property (Schedule Tribes) Regulation (OSATIPR) 1956 and the Odisha Zilla Parisad (Amendment, Act 1997). However, the Odisha government is not even conversant with its own law and going against the grant of  a recent amendment to OSATIPR. The new clause, inserted in 2002, explicitly state that no member of the schedule tribes can transfer any land if the size of their holding get reduced to less than acres (0.8 hectares) of irrigated land or 5 acres (2 hectares) of non-irrigated tract in the process.


The Zilla Parisad act safe-guards the tribal people’s rights even more stringently. Notwithstanding anything contrary in this act or any other law, no prospect license or mining lease for minor minerals or concession for the exploitation of minor minerals by auction shall be granted under any law, except with the prior recommendation of the Parisad. The state’s past record indicates that tribal communities did not consult on the issue. Instead of Samata case as a point of reference, the Odisha government has paved the way far mining in scheduled areas by signing memorandum of understanding with private companies. At present, the Odisha government under the Chief Ministership of Mr. Nabin Pattanaik, has opened the floodgates to multinational companies to set up a number of factories in Odisha in the lieu of replacement of thousands of tribals and non-tribals in the state from their own landed property to nowhere.


Struggle of Displaced People:

Since independence of India, a number of projects have been undertaken to improve our infrastructure, but these have displaced thousands of poor and tribals and thrown them into the pool of struggle for livelihood. The government of India as well as state governments undertook the construction of Dams, irrigation projects, both medium and minor industrial establishments, mining, power houses, creation of National Parks, animals and bird sanctuaries etc. For which the rural poor, jungle dwellers and tribals have been displaced from their ancestral land. When we focus on Odisha, most of the factories, mines and Dam Projects are found to have been constructed in the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled districts of Sundargarh, Koraput , Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar etc.


One of the major steel plants of India in Rourkela, in the Sundargarh district of Odisha caused the displacement of the people of 32 villages. After 50 years, 585 families out of the displaced 1231 families are yet to get jobs in the plant. The compensation was not sufficient for them.  Resettlement colonies were made, but these are far away from the plant city. The houses are not in habitable condition. No, good roads, neither good schools nor colleges for the children of displaced people are provided. Out of the acquired land, fifty percent of the land remained unutilized It is a Scheduled Area, which the authority cannot sell to non-tribals, but the Rourkela Steel Plant authority, sold these lands to private and business organizations. Sundargarh displaced Association has demanded for jobs for those families as well as for returning the surplus land to the affected people. For the construction of the Mandira Dam, also, people have been displaced.


Other than these major projects, there are also several cases, for instance, number of small mines in Biramitrapur, Lanjiberna, Sargipali, Tensa and Barsuan that have displaced the tribals as well as destroyed the natural forests, bread provider for jungle dwellers “Adivasis”. The tribals of Nandpur in Koraput district lost their lands for the construction of Kolaba reservoir and Machkund Hydro-Electricity Project while the remaining lands are lost to non-tribals. In 1957, the Machkund Hydro-Electricity Project was established in Koraput district of Odisha. The government of Odisha assured to resettle the displaced people. But till-date not even the minimum could be made possible by the government, those who settled down, have no “land patta’, even their villages are without electrification. Those who had sacrificed to illuminate Odisha are living in darkness. With this dam project, people of eight Panchayats of Nandpur Block and as Paraja-badapara, Kular Singh, Atanda, Goluru, Pantulung, Bilaput and Pattuar were displaced. Still now, they do not have the minimum facilities of drinking water, communication, education and electrification. Similarly, the Lanjigarh and Karlapat mines of Kalahandi district were handed over to Sterlight in 1997.


The people of Odisha have bitter and painful experience of displacement and the problem of rehabilitation. Displaced people of Hirakud Dam Project, Rengali Dam Project and Kankada Dam Project are yet to be rehabilitated. Odisha government has failed to rehabilitate the people.


The government of Odisha could not learn anything from its past experience. During BJD-BJP alliance government in Odisha, a number of agreements were signed with multinational companies to establish new factories. The government also decided to construct new dams and barrage over rivers, which will produce thousand of ousters.  When, thousands of families were thrown out of their native villages and struggling to establish themselves to survive, without sufficient compensation from the government, it is again undertaking projects that would make more people homeless and landless.


The Lanjigarh Alumina Project have been affected three hundred villages near by Niyamagiri hill, as well as fifteen thousands of people from Kalahandi, Rayagada and Gajapati district. Bhusan Steel Factory in Sambalpur district has displaced 163 families from Thelkuli village and two families from Dhubenchhap. The compensation given to them is not sufficient. On 26th October 2004, when the Chief Minister of Odisha visited the rehabilitation colony with heavy security guard, people were not allowed to meet him to convey their grievances. The factory authorities have promised to give employment to one member of each family, but no one is appointed in permanent post as yet. People of Rengali, Badmal and Bjaliakata Gram Panchayat, displaced by Hariharjor Dam project are yet to be settled down by the government of Odisha.


Due to such indifference of the government, people of Bharatpur, Tribanapur and Bansajal of Rairakhol are agitating against the Surabali Dam Project. In the last Assembly election of 2004, the leaders and ministers including Chief Minister assured the people to stop the dam project, won the vote bank, but, as soon as the leaders formed the government, they started to talk of dam project. Similarly in Sendol Hydro-Electricity Project, the chief Minister of Odisha and the Energy Minister assured the people that they will stop the construction of said project. But, at present, the government has decided to construct the barrage, reducing its height from 10 mts to 7 mts. The displacement threat looms large over 118 villages of which 91 villages are from Sonepur district. The temple town of Sonepur and historic place Binka town will completely submerge under the barrage. It will displace some 2, 00,000 people. In the name of development it will lead to their destruction. Subarnarekha multi-purpose project will displace over 1, 20,000 people in the state of Bihar and Odisha for Chandi Dam on river Subarnarekha. The displacement will be over 36 villages wholly and 84 villages partly, 21,000 acres of land in Singhbhum (Bihar), 10,500 acres in Odisha and 10,000 acres of forest falls under the submergence area of Ichha Dam. It will submerge 1816 hectare of fertile armland, 807 hectare of government land and about 9 hectare forest land in Behelda tehsil of Mayurbhanj district (Odisha), it will displace some 9000 families from 68 villages. The Ib Dam Project on river Ib of Sundargarh district is also not accepted by the people of this area. Under this dam project, a major tribal belt will be submerged under water.


Effect of Development Project:

The displaced rural poor and tribal people sacrifice more than they are benefited from to an estimate, 15% of the tribal population have been displaced and affected by development projects. The uprooting of the tribal people from their homes and habitat for building dams and other industrial development projects has been one of the shocking scenarios in post-independent India. It is a fact that the government has not paid sufficient attention to this problem.


Providing monetary compensation has not been of much use. Not only was it inadequate, but the tribal people given lump sum amounts of money could not use it properly. They are left with nothing in a short period of time. Even to make claims for alternative land, they have no records of their ownership or titles in many cases.


The rehabilitation projects are flawed as the tribal people were put in areas which had no match with the habitat they were used to. They were given often rocky or barren land in lieu of their fertile land, which takes them back to some more years to develop. The displaced families have been thrown out at resettlement colonies without basic amenities of life. The places are arid and hilly regions. Roads and Communications, Schools and Colleges, markets, hospitals, wells, and tanks and drinking water etc. have not been provided to resettlement colonies. These people’s displacement not only disturbed their economy but also the social, culture and educational life. Socially these people preferred to live together in their community. For the matrimonial relations, they need their own community. But this displacement shattered their culture. Educationally, too, their children suffered a lot, because they have to go by walk for four to five kilometers to reach the school. In some places, they have to go through jungles, have fear of wild animals. Medical facilities are not provided to them. They have to depend on herbal medicines. Sometime due to lack of medical facilities, they die without medical aid. Through the Government of India have launched a number of projects to bring these people in the mainstream of development, the development projects, drive them away from the mainstream.


Industrialization brings pollution to air and water which cause different types of dangerous diseases to people as well as domestic animals, living around the factories. The waste of the factory dumped into the river water and is used, by the people and the animals suffer a lot from new types of disease The chemicals disposed by the factories also affect the natural fertility of the land and ultimately reduction of the gross yield of the land. Once these affected people were masters of their own land. Even if they have low income, at least they had something to call their very own. But after their rehabilitation they are left with nothing but only a handful of money, in turn of their landed property, which is spent soon. Obviously they are not capable of monitoring high posts in the factories, set up in their areas, hence they are either given labour posts or left without job. For the high posts, well educated people are appointed and the wives and children of the labourers serve as servants to those “Sahabs” (Officers) and their family. Once the master of their own land they have become servants to these people who are enjoying at the cost of these poor. To protect these small and poor tribal communities, the government takes up some measures.



1.      The central government as well as the state government, should stop alienation of land belonging to the tribal people, plug loopholes in existing laws and take steps to restore land transferred from Adivasis and register land records for tribal lands. In scheduled areas under fifth scheduled, the government should adhere to the Samata judgment of Supreme Court regarding use of land for industrial and commercial purpose. 

2.      The government should take over surplus lands above ceiling and distribute them to landless adivasis along with other landless families.

3.      Before displacement of people by the government for the purpose of development, settlement colonies should be well developed with all types of facilities right from educational to transportational and medicinal facilities at their reach.

4.      At least proper water supply and electrification should be provided to each and every house.

5.      The rural and poor people have no knowledge of monitoring the expenditures. Hence they carelessly spent their money and that has been given to them as compensation of their lost land. Therefore, the government instead of giving hem lump sum money as compensation should give them facilities of fixed deposits or else help them to start any kind of business.

6.      Those who do not want compensation of money, their cases must also be considered and they should be provided with farming land, having equal fertility status and equal gross yield as their own lost land.

7.      Dam constructed for irrigation facilities need not be of great heights, because greater the height of the dam, greater will be the encroachment of land by there water. For the purpose of the Hydro-Electricity generation, the heights of dams ought to be high but it is not so incase of irrigational dams.



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Received on 27.11.2012

Modified on 28.02.2013

Accepted on 10.03.2013           

© A&V Publication all right reserved

Research J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 4(1): January-March, 2013, 39-43