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BOOK REVIEW: DISPLACED BY DEVELOPMENT: CONFRONTING MARGINALIZATION AND GENDER INJUSTICE


BOOK REVIEW:

DISPLACED BY DEVELOPMENT: CONFRONTING MARGINALIZATION AND GENDER INJUSTICE, LYLA MEHTA, ed., Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi.

Review by Dr. KASI Eswarappa, Department of Anthropology, University of Hyderabad, India

Displaced by Development: Confronting

Marginalisation and Gender Injustice

Lyla Mehta ed., Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi, January

2009, 356 pp., 9788178299006, Hardback, £37.50.

There has been a flurry of books, papers and research reports on the themes

of development, displacement, marginalization and gender justice in the

last few years and the edited collection under review is one of the latest

in that field. The preface begins reminding us that every year the lives

and livelihoods of more than ten million people across the globe are affected

by forced displacement due to infrastructure projects such as dams, mines,

industries, power plants and roads.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1, ‘Locating Gender in Processes

of Displacement’, examines a range of contexts within which displacement

takes place and locates the significance of gender within these. In Chapter 1,

Mehta draws on long-term research in the Narmada Valley to demonstrate

how displaced women are often caught in a ‘double bind’, because of male

biases in Indian society that both perpetuate gender inequality and also

legitimize the silencing of women’s interests within state situations, structures

and policies. The chapter also systematically conducts a gender analysis

of the widely applied Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction (IRR)

model of Michael Cernea (p. 13). Amit Mitra and Nitya Rao, in their

chapter ‘Displacing Gender from Displacement’, attempt to explain the gendered

implications of the different types of displacement experienced by the

Santals, a scheduled tribe in the Dhumka district of Jharkhand. They

analyse land alienation processes from a historical perspective, and

discuss displacement due to dam construction and, more recently, due to

the so-called processes of voluntary migration. They highlight why

large-scale and sudden displacement must be viewed in conjunction with

more gradual processes of dislocation caused by the partial submergence

and pressures on land and livelihoods (pp. 44–45).

In the chapter ‘Breaking Homes and Making Cities’, Amita Baviskar

investigates rural–urban migration practices in relation to displacement

within the urban context. The tension between ‘voluntary’ and ‘involuntary’

displacement is illustrated by fieldwork that explores the dynamics

of gender, class and place among migrants in Delhi. Baviskar observes

that ‘workers in Delhi have mixed feelings about displacement, even

embracing it at times as a possible avenue for securing rights to land

and housing’. He further argues that this ‘willingness’ to be displaced

stems from the structural dilemmas that confront urban migrants,

who are systematically denied access to secure employment and legal

housing’ (p. 60).

Enakshi Ganguly Thukral in her chapter, ‘Displacement and Protecting

the Rights of Children’, turns to the critical and much-neglected issue of displaced

children. Children, in particular, suffer due to the adverse impacts of

displacement and resettlement on health and education. Thukral asserts the

importance of including children in analyses of displacement; exploring the

particular impacts on them of forced and involuntary displacement, urging

a deeper understanding of their situation and a commitment towards

advancing their specific interests and rights (p. 84). The chapter by Walter

Fernandes discusses alienation from Common Property Resources (CPRs)

due to displacement. CPRs are not only material assets but also constitute

the livelihood of subaltern groups such as tribals, dalits and fisherfolk.

Similar findings are also found in the study of the Sugalis of Andhra

Pradesh undertaken by Eswarappa (2007). Displacement involves a

change from community ownership to individual ownership – which typically

tends to undermine the socio-economic position of women – and this

chapter examines the processes of women’s marginalization arising

through their alienation from the CPRs that are the basis of their sustenance

(p. 126).

Part 2 of the volume, ‘Policies, Programmes and The State’, turns to the

role of the state and other agencies. Usha Ramanathan critically examines

the notion of ‘eminent domain’ and the power that it bestows on the state

to exercise control over and acquire land within its territory in the name

of ‘public purpose’ (p. 136). Harsh Mander looks at the complicity and

active abetment by the state government of Gujarat in the carnage of

2002, which led to the internal displacement of about a half a million

people. This chapter discusses how, for the first time in independent

India, a government refused to provide relief and rehabilitation to

groups from the minority community. While this chapter is the only

one in the volume that does not focus on development-induced

displacement, its conclusions are still relevant to the broader purpose of

the book.

Hari Mohan Mathur focuses on gender issues in resettlement planning

by drawing on examples from different projects and states across India.

Mathur points to the lack of gender-related data and gender-sensitive

officials in planning and implementation, which ultimately deepens

gender biases. This chapter also focuses on attempts by donor agencies

to integrate gender concerns into their respective resettlement programmes.

It concludes by highlighting emerging best practice and offering

recommendations that could ensure gender equity in resettlement

planning (p. 167). Revisions to the World Bank’s resettlement policy are

the focus of Dana Clark’s chapter. There is a lacuna between the

Bank’s policies and practices due to pervasive tensions between the

Bank and its borrowers. Moreover, the word ‘gender’ does not appear

anywhere in its policy and in the revision process the Bank took no

proactive steps to address gender issues or to improve the status and

rights of women in the context of displacement (p. 199). Finally, in this

section, Deepa Shankaran analyses the gender dimensions of Orissa

state policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation, focusing on the key

issues relevant to the burgeoning mining industry in Orissa and its

impact on Adivasi women and other groups (p. 228).

Part 3, ‘Gender Struggles against Displacement’, focuses on displaced

women and men as ‘social agents’ who are actively bringing about

social and political change. The three chapters in this section are written

by grassroot activists, who are public figures and have dedicated their

lives to fighting for social justice. Ravi Rebba and K. Bhanumathi draw

attention to the struggle of tribal communities and civil society organizations

against mine displacement in Andhra Pradesh. This activism eventually

led to the Samatha Judgement, which mandated that tribal lands in

scheduled areas cannot be leased out to non-tribals for mineral exploitation.

Next, in a moving testimony of personal transformation and

growth through struggle, Ramkuwar describes how her village today

lies submerged under the reservoir of the Man dam. Chittaroopa Palit’s

closing chapter asks whether women experience displacement differently

from men. She then explores the role of women in struggles against displacement

and looks at biases against women in resettlement policies. Her

chapter ends by locating displacement and resettlement issues within

wider debates about development, globalization and privatization,

which create the overwhelmiing context for displacement and pauperization

(p. 282).

Overall, this book is both challenging and unique in terms of links it

draws between theory and practice. It should be a useful resource for

those interested in interdisciplinary research on gender, displacement and

development.

Reference

Kasi, E. (2007) An anthropological study of livelihoods: a case of two Sugali settlements

in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh, un-published PhD thesis, University of

Hyderabad, Hyderabad, India.

Eswarappa Kasi

Department of Anthropology, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad,

Andhra Pradesh, India; email: kasieswar@gmail.com, kasieswar@yahoo.com

doi:10.1093/cdj/bsq006

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