Engendering Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policies and

 Programmes In India

Report of the workshop held at the India International Centre on September 12 and 13, 2002 organised by the Institute of Development Studies and ActionAid, India with support from DFID


Introduction and background

Annually, the lives and livelihoods of nearly ten million people across the globe are affected by forced displacement due to infrastructure projects such as irrigation schemes, mines, industries, power plants and roads. Millions of others voluntarily leave their place of residence in search of new livelihoods, or to protect themselves from civil or military conflict. Enough indications are available to show that both forms of displacement are likely to increase in subsequent years. Studies show that the majority of displaced people belong to poor and marginalised communities and within them women and children experience special vulnerabilities. The two-day national workshop was located within this context.


Hosted at the India International Centre, New Delhi on 12-13th September 2002, the workshop brought together more than 60 participants of national and international repute, including displaced people, academics, social activists, policy-makers, representatives from national and international non-governmental organisations and various donor agencies. Given that resettlement policies and practices often suffer from gender bias and are generally gender blind the workshop sought to:  


highlight conceptual links between gender and displacement and inform how resettlement programmes often can fail due to their neglect of gender concerns;

identify and understand why gender blindness and insensitivity’s persist in policies and programmes; and

Elaborate how gender can concretely be incorporated into the plans and activities of different state and policy actors in the course of resettlement programmes. 


There were a total of 19 paper presentations at the workshop. The presentations were arranged in 7 thematic discussion areas. The concluding session included commentaries on future action and strategies.


The workshop was rooted in the conviction that projects entailing forced displacement must necessarily be avoided as far as possible and development models that legitimize forced displacement must be questioned. In the first instance, non-displacing alternatives must be explored. When displacement is absolutely unavoidable, resettlement schemes must actively incorporate gender and social justice concerns at every stage, from decision-making to implementation processes.  The papers and discussions were extremely rich and stimulating. A series of outputs and follow up action are being planned. This brief report draws attention to some of the key points pursued in the presentations and discussion. 


Summary of the Discussions

Workshop discussions highlighted that enough data and evidence are available to confirm that law, policies and practice as well as the discourses around forced displacement and resettlement suffer from an intrinsic gender bias. The exclusion of women from consultation and decision making processes prior to displacement and from compensation and rehabilitation packages is a matter of serious concern, and the workshop made a modest attempt to understand and address this issues through an in-depth analysis of laws, policies and practice. There was also a collective attempt to strategise on policy influencing and advocacy for gender and social justice.


The workshop participants agreed that as far as possible displacement should be avoided, since experiences from the past decades have shown that rebuilding the lives of displaced people is extremely difficult. Nevertheless, the participants agreed that there is an urgent imperative to resettle those who have already been displaced and to protect the rights of those who may be displaced in some situations where displacement is inevitable. Thus a pro-people and gender just national R&R regime is required. Some participants felt that rather than a R&R policy, a law was more appropriate as it makes it easier for displaced people to approach the judicial system for justice. In this context, reference was made to the draft National R&R policy of 1998 prepared by the then Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) which was the first state-led attempt in this direction. Also there was a general concern at the non-transparent manner in which the MoRD was amending the current draft policy.


The workshop discussed gender concerns at two levels. Aware of the differential impact of displacement on women and men, participants described the special needs of displaced women and suggested ways of addressing them through changes in legal and policy instruments. At the second level, reference was made to larger issues of rights of displaced women and gender justice. Given the absence of consensus between the state, corporate interests and civil society on the rights of displaced people, let alone displaced women, the discussions on the latter was largely generic, attempting to critically examine issues, such as eminent domain, public purpose, land rights, gender justice, and illegalisation.


Using empirical evidence, some of the papers showed how the absence of state policy for gender justice in displacement impacts women. Because of access to CPRs, rural women, especially from Adivasi communities, often have an independent livelihood source, which is neither grasped nor compensated for by the authorities. Furthermore, R&R regimes have provisions for livelihood replacement only for the man and not for the woman. This negation of the woman’s contribution to the household income by the state and project authorities has led to thousands of women being forced into relationships of dependence on male members. Gender biases are also reflected in amenities provided at resettlement sites. Most resettlement sites are found to be lacking in sanitation, privacy, and access, facilities that have a direct bearing on the welfare of women and children. Similarly, the workshop also raised the issue of the need to focus on the rights of children in displacement and resettlement, given the near invisibility of children’s needs and concerns in displacement debates


In India, women enjoy a number of informal rights, though they may not have formal land titles. These rights are yet to be recognised by the existing displacement and R&R regimes. The participants therefore called for integrating customary notions of rights and equity. Towards this end information, data, and gendered analysis have to be made available by the state along with a comprehensive understanding of women’s experiences of displacement and resettlement and their role in struggles against displacement. Concern over the absence of a methodology that could integrate gender analysis along with the crosscutting issues of caste, tribal rights, and poverty and power relations in society was also expressed and debated.


The New Economic policy of 1991 institutionalised the processes of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation in India. These processes have a direct bearing on development and on the acquisition of land for ‘development’ purposes. One of the thematic sections of the workshop examined their fallout on displacement and resettlement and the problems associated with private sector development. The discussions eventually got extended into the concerns of growing urbanisation and problems of slum dwellers and industrial workers who lacked the same support awarded to dam displacees. This raised questions concerning contested notions of illegality and illegitimacy and how they are misconstrued by the state.


On the positive side it was suggested that through movements against displacement and for R&R, various issues like the right to livelihood, the right to adequate housing, the right to education as well as customary rights of communities over CPRs have come to be recognised. Various presentations also focussed on the vital role of women in struggles against displacement. While it may be difficult to mobilise women initially, their grasp of the problem of displacement and their contribution to struggles is immense. Therefore, there is a need for movements and civil society to create space in struggles for women’s strategies and priorities to be articulated and addressed.  Several contemporary human right standards exist that can help  engender policies and programmes, resettlement institutions, their role and responsibilities. The right to information is recognised in principle and there are relevant legal provisions to this effect. India is a signatory to various international human rights instruments that protect women’s rights to housing, livelihood, etc. They can be used to safeguard the rights of displaced women and as mobilisation tools in struggles.


The workshop also examined the issue of displacement in the international context. The recent World Bank guidelines on projects involving displacement also called OP 4.12, which came into effect from December 2001, was examined using a gender lens. The presentation by the World Bank representative presented a four-pronged gender strategy namely (1) Integration of gender dimension into analytical work and lending instruments; (2) Incorporation of gender issues into operations; (3) Resources and accountabilities need to be in tune with the elements of the strategy; and (4) Effective monitoring and evaluation. The assertion that resources should be redeployed to support gender analysis and mainstreaming, staffing and establishing cleaner accountabilities was similarly contradicted as being mere rhetoric and are not actually practiced by the Bank on the ground. In so far as involuntary resettlement is concerned the discussions underlined the existing lacuna between the Bank’s policies and practices. 


The final session addressed strategies for planning and implementation and suggested ways in which the rights of displaced women and men could be addressed and strengthened.


Presentations and Discussion by Thematic Session

Inaugural Session: Resettlement and Rehabilitation Policies in India

The presentation by N C Saxena emphasised on the need for a National resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) policy in India and outlined some of the key features of the draft “National Policy, Packages and Guidelines for Resettlement & Rehabilitation 1998” of the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD). In the draft national policy the “family” includes every adult member, his (her) spouse, along with minor children. A single adult would be treated as half a family, thus eliminating some of the biases inherent in existing R&R policies. Its primary objectives were to ensure minimum displacement, help resettled people enjoy a better standard of life than before displacement and finally, enable displaced people to enjoy benefits on the same scale as the beneficiaries of the developmental project. The draft policy treated as owners of land for the purpose of R&R, those people residing for more than 5 years before the date of acquisition, who are otherwise termed as “encroachers” on common land. Similarly, forest dwellers residing in forest areas prior to September 30, 1980 shall be considered as the owners. Also, provisions for compensation were made for non-owners, such as tenants, sharecroppers, etc. Other significant features of the draft policy were, community consultation for R&R package, open public hearings, publishing of the R&R plan, fixing of R&R cost at 10 percent of project cost and linking compensation with gross productivity.


P S Rana, Additional Secretary in the MoRD and the nodal person in the government for R&R issues, argued that R&R policies should have both short-term and long-term components. He suggested one off compensations as well as facilitating frameworks for the support of displaced people twenty years down the line. It emerged from his presentation that the government was planning to promulgate a national law on R&R.  On the critical issue of “land for land” as the basis for R&R, he argued that shortage of land in the adjacent regions prevents projects and the state from having it as an option. He suggested that cash compensation should be encouraged so that displaced people are able to purchase land wherever possible.  Also, he emphasised on the need for fast track grievance redressal to avoid project delays due to land acquisition litigations.


Since the fate of millions of Indians hinged on the national R&R regime, subsequent discussions underlined the need for a public debate and discussion on the proposed Bill.  Saxena, who had organised several public consultations while preparing the 1998 draft policy, when he was the Secretary in MoRD, endorsed these calls.  The discussions also stressed on the need to strengthen the rights of the so-called “encroachers” whom Rana controversially labelled ‘encroachers.’ Mr Rana agreed to explore the possibilities of the finalised Bill being thrown open to the public, displaced people and their movements for discussion.


Perspectives on Gender, Displacement and Resettlement Policies

All three papers drew on experiences in the Narmada Valley and elsewhere to present how women’s interests are systematically ignored in resettlement processes because transactions are invariably undertaken with male members. Consequently, compensation packages ignore women and women’s needs around water, fuel, and fodder. Women also suffer because of severance of links with their parental homes and the neglect of socio-cultural links with common property. The negation of the woman’s contribution to the household income by the state and project authorities often results in woman being pushed into relationships of dependence. Such dependence on the man contributes to their further marginalisation.  Gender biases are also reflected in amenities provided at resettlement sites. Most resettlement sites have been found lacking on sanitation, privacy, and access to facilities that have a direct bearing on the welfare of women.


The presentation by Lyla Mehta referred to the “double bind” that entraps displaced women. On one hand, male biases in society help perpetuate gender inequality in terms of unequal resource allocation and distribution and also legitimise silencing of women’s interests. On the other hand, biases within state institutions, structures and policies dealing with displacement and R&R help perpetuate and exacerbate these inequalities.  The paper argued that a gender analysis of current practice in resettlement calls for a re-examination of several key concepts around which displacement processes and resettlement programmes are premised, including the notion of the oustee, family and the nature of loss. Women’s rights, assets and spheres of control often centre around informal institutional arrangements which are rarely captured in and understood by policy makers and risk being undermined in the course of resettlement. The paper also conducted a gender analysis of the widely applied Risks and Reconstruction model of World Bank sociologist Micheal Cernea. While the model acknowledges that women may risk more than men, the paper demonstrated that the model fails to recognise how mitigating the risks of some, could increase the vulnerability of other weaker and more marginalised groups such as women, especially in the reconstruction phase. Lyla recommended that to strengthen gender justice in R&R policies and programmes, the state and civil society should uphold the rights of displaced people and not merely be influenced by notions of welfare or charity.


Taking forward Lyla’s argument, Chitroopa Palit (Silvy) from the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) particularised the main issues around gender, displacement and R&R. She discussed some of the experiences of displacement specific to women and elaborated on women’s role in struggles against displacement. Changes are gradually taking place, not least due to the “imagination” of displaced women to anticipate, perhaps more than men, the adverse impacts of displacement. Today more than ever before women are actively engaged in struggles resisting displacement. Acknowledging that it is often more difficult to mobilise women, Silvy argued, that only by creating gendered spaces within people’s struggles will it be possible to strengthen such movements and facilitate the shift from issue-based struggles to those that address emancipatory gender politics.  In this context, Silvy urged that women’s liberation groups should establish contact with those women who are participating in struggles against displacement. She maintained that gender bias in resettlement is often manifested through non-recognition of women’s ownership of land. For example, in Sardar Sarovar project, women with land titles (patta) were not given land for land. Finally, she held that privatization and globalisation not just militate against people’s sovereignty but also promote a development model that increases displacement. Hence they have to be questioned. Here, one should not confine the discourse to reforms within the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, but instead struggle and evolve methods and strategies by which civil society can stand up against such a model of development exacerbated today by the processes of privatisation and globalisation.


HM Mathur’s paper elaborated on the gender issues in resettlement planning and observed that projects have absolutely no gender related data. He emphasised the importance of communication and consultation with not only men but also women. Mathur also mentioned that the lack of gender sensitive officials in planning and implementation contributed to gender biases.  A process of continuous monitoring and evaluation might keep the resettlement plan on truck and also promote gender sensitivity in the planning and implementation. The paper also explained the attempts by some donor agencies like the Asian Development Bank and World Bank to integrate gender concerns in their respective resettlement programmes. For example, in the ADB, there is a gender specialist on the planning team and a gender checklist has been prepared to be used as a companion to the Handbook on Resettlement. The NTPC has also taken some gender sensitive steps and instead of handing the entire compensation amount to the husband, it has started putting the amount in a joint account of both husband and wife. However, Mathur cautioned, that as long as gender discrimination in the society at large continues, specific policies would not be able to transform the overall condition and level of opportunities for women. 


However, as discussant Sarah Ahmed warned, gender should not merely be an “add on” issue on an existing checklist. The discussion focussed on the need to develop methodologies that could integrate gender analysis with issues of caste, tribal rights, poverty and power issues in both pre-displacement and post-displacement settings as well as capture intangible issues such as the socio-cultural costs of displacement which affect women the most.  


Dynamics of Displacement

This session explored the issues of deprivation and denial emanating from forced displacement by focussing on the loss of CRPs for women, children’s rights and the social impacts of large dams. Walter Fernandes explained the impact of loss of people’s access to common property resources (CPR) because of displacement. According to him CPRs should not be seen only as material assets. They constitute the livelihood of people, particularly poor people. He stated that most dalit and tribal people are dependent on the CPRs and attempts to take away CPRs often have severe adverse impacts. Displacement involves a change from community ownership to individual ownership. He opined that such transformations often results in changes in the socio-economic position of women. The gender bias in R&R programmes is clearly evident in NALCO resettlement. More than 80 percent of the displaced families were given a job in the project. But then only 7 women got jobs. He concluded by stating that caste, class and gender should not be looked in isolation but should form a part of an integrated analysis.


Shekhar Singh’s presentation focussed on the social impacts of large dams. Presenting the key findings from the World Commission on Dams (WCD), he lamented that even in the WCD process gendered data was not collected. Based on the data from the WCD process he concluded that almost all institutions that have evolved around displacement have been designed with total disregard for gender justice.  For example, irrigation projects released water only at night. And this often made it difficult for women to access the benefits of irrigation schemes. So even if women get land from the project they eventually end up selling it off to male members of society. Apart from loss of economic independence, women also suffer from loss of physical insecurity in the changed environment. The loss of religious and heritage sites also impact negatively on women. Shekhar also emphasised on the need for class benefit analysis, rather than cost benefit analysis in project planning.


Enakshi Ganguly Thukral paper was presented by Bharti Ali, one of her colleagues. Her paper discussed the adverse impacts of displacement on children and stated that it has by far been one of the neglected areas of social research. Displacement affects the child in terms of his or her education and health. During the transition process, often there is no school for children and when the family is finally relocated, there is no guarantee of a school at the resettlement site. Also, the health of children is severely affected because of the absence of health care facilities post-displacement.  Children who depend on forest produce for their nutrition are deprived of it after displacement. This results in increased morbidity and mortality among children of displaced families, particularly in tribal communities.  One of the ways in which such adverse impacts can be minimised is by making children’s rights a part of the general discourse of displacement. There should also be mechanisms to prepare the child psychologically for resettlement. In Tehri, the children took out their own protest against their displacement. Their struggles need to be documented.  


Jean Dreze, the discussant pointed out that displacement so far has been a history of failures. The total lack of transparency, the blockages in the passage of information from the project authority to the displaced community, the anti people attitude of the authorities - all lead to a failed R&R process. He suggested that displacement should essentially be made voluntary. This implied that communities should have the right to decide whether to move or not. This would invariably give them bargaining power and also compel the project authorities to evolve better policies to induce people to leave their habitat.  


Several issues surfaced during the course of the open discussion during the session. Shekhar Singh suggested that the main problem with the notion of voluntary displacement was that even if one family in the community refuses to move, while all others accept the R&R package, then the project would have to be stalled. Dreze responded by clarifying that his vision was of a kind of collective bargaining by the community as a whole and not by individuals. There was of course the need that women were sufficiently empowered to veto what their menfolk wanted.  A suggestion was made to have more public hearings at the community level to raise consciousness against forced displacement.  Another key concern expressed was on how to cost non-material resources. Participants agreed that this required an alternative to the dominant economic model, which only takes into account the material resources. The session concluded with Jean Dreze stating that justiciability should not be seen as the basis for safeguarding people’s rights. There are several ways and means in a democracy through which the state can be made accountable.


Experiences of Displaced Women and Men

The section drew the workshop’s attention to the issues and concerns of three different groups of displaced people and their respective struggles. The presentations detailed the developments in Schedule V areas of Andhra Pradesh in the aftermath of the Samatha Judgement, and the struggles of people against the Tehri and Narmada dam projects.


Ravi Rebbapragada drew attention to the rights of the tribal people threatened with displacement. Contrary to Schedule V aspirations, most tribal communities face displacement either through land alienation or forced migration. It was the struggle of tribal communities and civil society organisations against mine displacement in AP that eventually led to the pronouncement of the Samatha Judgement. It mandated that tribal lands in scheduled areas cannot be leased out to non-tribals for mineral exploitation. This was a major victory for the tribal people in their struggle against forced displacement as it made it impossible for the state to lease out land to mining corporations. Ravi however warned that the state is trying its best to bring in a legislation that can offset the gains to tribal people because of the judgement. Focussing on the gender dimension, Ravi emphasised that with regard to land, women have no legal rights over lands or natural resources Whenever tribal villages have been displaced or affected, women have been forced out of their land based work and pushed into menial and marginalised labour. In mines particularly, women are engaged in loading and scavenging and suffer extreme health conditions. For example, in Jadugoda uranium mines in Jharkhand the worst affected people are tribal women and children.


Vimal Bhai narrated his personal experiences of the controversial Tehri dam project. More than 125 villages with a population of 80,000 will be displaced by the project. The people’s resistance against the dam started in 1978 and continues even today. He stated that, women and children have been at the forefront of the struggle and have often stopped work at the dam site. The state has been very ruthless with the demonstrators and has crushed protest with a heavy hand. Still it has not succeeded in breaking people’s resolve. In Tehri, gender is a major concern since most of the displaced are women and children. Men migrate to the plains in search of livelihood leaving the women and children behind.


Ramkunwar of Madhya Pradesh narrated her own experiences and of many other girls and women from Khedi village in the Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh. Today her village lies submerged under the reservoir, but the struggle for satisfactory rehabilitation by the villagers continues. Their struggle started long before the dam work started. She and other young women fought valiantly against police repression. Once they went to Bhopal the State headquarters only to find on their return that their village school building had been bulldozed. They immediately returned to Bhopal to submit a petition to the Chief Minister who took 29 days to respond with fake promises. A few days later a police contingent of 500 men and only 3 women came to their village and forced them to leave their land. Many women were physically assaulted.  The women’s group in the village has now appealed to the National Bank for Agricultural Reconstruction and Development (NABARD) to help them use the compensation money to buy land for the villagers. They are ready to fight for their rights. They derive inspiration for their struggle from the examples set by the struggling women in other displacement situations.


Alex Ekka, the discussant, felicitated the activists for their courage and conviction. He remarked that the presentations in this session were different because they gave insights into the actual process of displacement as narrated in first person. The discussion once again highlighted the need to do away with the mainstream notions of the economic criterion i.e., cost benefit analysis as the determining factor. Vijay Paranjpye stressed that ‘public interest’ should be considered as a guiding force in the discourse on development. But ‘public interest’ should move away from being framed around the economic gain of a powerful elite. Instead, it needs to be analysed around whether the projects have led to an overall decline in the poverty line and an increase in wellbeing. Also it was suggested that these scattered struggles against displacement should be integrated into broader struggles for social and political change. Since the victims of social and economic injustice are invariably dalit people, tribal people and women, there is a need to broaden the scope of their struggles beyond specific projects and evolve a national struggle for justice and equity.


Emerging Concerns in Displacement and Resettlement

It is widely believed that the processes of globalisation and privatisation will hasten the pace of displacement. The presentations in this section attempted to capture the ongoing debate on the fallout of a shrinking state and an expanding private sector. Using experiences from Rihand, Korba and Delhi, the papers and the ensuing discussions revealed that the privatisation of the commons, genetic and biological resources are going to adversely impact the social and economic well being of people. Also, the issue of legality and illegality particularly in the urban context were highlighted.


Smitu Kothari’s started on an ominous note presenting a broad overview of designed changes like industrialisation, urbanisation and globalisation and their possible effects on local communities, particularly their environmental and cultural impacts. The extent of marginalisation, vulnerability, and insecurity is much higher than the immediate impact. He cited the example of Rihand dam project in Uttar Pradesh to show a whole range of processes unleashed which include not only the public sector, but also the private sector and whose cumulative impact on development has not been systematically documented.   Smitu also expressed concern at the invisibility of women in various negotiations taking place in society. Women are always denied information on specific projects and their components and therefore they are unable to make informed choices. Concern was also expressed at the new trend where direct acquisition of land is taking place by the private sector. He cited cases of direct negotiations by private sector with panchayats, gram sabha and families, which often leads to conflicts within families and communities. These scenarios are unfolding against the backdrop of non-existent international and state laws and policies around the private sector and displacement.


Vasudha Dhagamwar’s paper explored gender issues in an industrial context. Using data from a larger study on the impact of industrial development in Korba, Madhya Pradesh, she discussed issues of information among displaced women, their knowledge about displacement and rehabilitation, their roles in decision-making, employment opportunities offered and specific problems faced. The invisibility of gender in displacement and R&R emerged as a key conclusion and a serious concern. Women are subsumed within the family and are ignored for rehabilitation purposes. Since women were not landholders, they were not invited to meetings on land acquisition. Neither do the male members of the family tell them what transpired at such meetings. Vasudha’s data found that the number of women engaged as cultivators and agricultural labour had declined after displacement. On the other hand, there was a rise in off-land employment like contract labour and domestic help. Surprisingly, before and after displacement the working population of women remained constant. The increased distance between the woman’s natal home and her marriage home due to displacement takes away the emotional support available to married women.


Amita Baviskar examined the involuntary nature of displacement, particularly in the urban context. She uses the case study of Delhi where people have been displaced, not just once but several times, propelled by bourgeoisie environmentalism. The desire for clean air and green Delhi has resulted in the closure of thousands of polluting units and slum relocation, affecting the lives of millions of people. She estimated that nearly 3-4 million people have been displaced in Delhi alone and in totalitarian silence. There is little social concern and mobilisation by the civil society for such expansive displacement and issues like R&R policy, right to livelihood, right to housing, etc. are hardly recognised.   It is easier to mobilise public support and hence struggle against development projects that offer easy identification of the displacing agency. However in urban displacement it is extremely difficult to identify the displacer and hence there has been no struggle. Further, urban displacement is often cloaked in constructs of illegality. The slum dwellers are illegal people hence they do not have a right to question their own displacement. Tribal people in forests or those displaced from rural areas invite public sympathy but dispossessed urban migrants get stigmatized.  Displacement for women brings emotional stress.  Men migrate and women are left behind to look after the home and children. Control of women’s sexuality becomes a serious issue. If women migrate, they work as domestic workers, daily wage earners, etc. Their additional income is extremely important for the family since it is often used to finance their children’s education and health. They suffer great hardships in urban slums with regard to sanitation and privacy. The paper also analysed changing gender relations within the household.


Vijay Paranjpye, the discussant further detailed the notions of “illegality” and illegitimacy”. It is the anonymity in urban areas that sustains notions of illegitimacy. Also, denial of information, options and anonymity for women is greater here than in rural areas. Walter Fernandes said that since women have been traditionally the users of CPRs the concept of labour needs to be looked at more critically. Lyla drew attention to the need to develop mechanisms to make the private sector accountable and asserted that there is a need to develop methodologies that will explore gender relations before and after displacement in a systematic way. Vasudha Dhagamwar in post-workshop discussions cautioned participants not to overly romanticise pre-displacement situations, which may not have been able to sustain the lives of women and men in the long run.


Resettlement and Rehabilitation: The Institutional Context

Changes in policies and laws do not make much sense unless effective institutions are in place to deliver the goods. Therefore the discussions in this section aimed at elaborating upon the possible framework(s) for people’s institutions that could manage and superintend development, displacement and R&R. Issues of human rights, good governance, participation, people-centered and decentralised development dominated the discussions. 

Anita Cheria highlighted contemporary human right standards in the context of displacement and rehabilitation and used them to develop an institutional framework. She stated that often, sound policies and programmes fail to deliver intended results because of tardy implementation. Quoting the Narmada R&R rulings she said that if properly implemented they would have given good results but it was not done. Projects get rationalised in terms of cost benefit analysis. Their entire focus is on the monetised economy. But the most vulnerable among the displaced people, namely women, dalit and tribal people, often do not constitute a part of the monetised economy. Further, projects are not equipped to exactly measure what people had before the project and are biased against the poor people. 


S. R. Hiremath discussed the “Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2000” prepared by The National Committee for the Protection of Natural Resources. It is the first attempt to combine land acquisition and R&R into one policy framework. Based on the principle of trusteeship it addresses gender as an overarching concern. The term “project affected person” has been replaced by “partially displaced persons and other affected persons deprived of their sources of livelihood as a result of acquisition”. The bill also mandates consultation with community, grassroots groups and the Gram Sabha. It understands gender to include status, power, rights and inheritance as well as socio-historical processes namely patriarchy, discrimination, equality and division of labour.


Usha Ramanathan’s presentation rested on the premise that displacement and not rehabilitation is the main issue. She concluded that because of the focus on resettlement, the state is able to displace people with impunity. Discussing gender she agreed that women do not find place in any change related planning. Also there exist notions of legality. Institutions and persons with decision-making power have illegitimised the rights of people. The legality of actions of the state in displacing people allows the characterization of protest as illegal. Hence, there is an illegalisation of protest and an aggrandizement of state power over people. Such notions of illegality have created an “us” and a “them” in public policy.  The displaced people are seen as obstacles to development and are subject to the coercive rigours of the law.  Even bodies such as the Supreme Court, more recently, have failed to protect the rights of displaced people and legitimise and legalise state actions around demolishing homes or displacing entire communities.


Shiv Vishwanathan, the discussant, remarked that displacement could be alternatively referred to as “constitutional genocide” since it has severe consequences on people. According to him gender is crucial at two levels. Firstly, the rights of women who are displaced should be protected. Secondly, the focus on gender might help challenge the logic of displacement by coming up with alternative notions of time, memory, and state interventions. There is also a need to question how much we can trust the state, given that in some cases, the state acts as an NGO of powerful global actors.


Harsh Mander did not agree with Usha’s assertion that rehabilitation is not an option. He stated that millions have already been displaced and therefore it is important to explore mechanisms for their rehabilitation. Further he suggested that the guiding principle for rehabilitation should be “displaced people must be better off than the project beneficiaries”. Harsh also questioned that the definition of displaced people should be premised on their property rights. Rehabilitation and compensation should take into consideration loss of livelihood and shelter, security and work. However, the process of illegalisation has been built into our way of life and governance of cities, so it becomes impossible for a poor person in the city to live legally.  The discussion also focussed on the failure of the Indian government to take on board the recommendations of the World Commission of Dams.


The International Context

The issues of displacement, development and R&R cannot be holistically understood without reference to the policies and programmes of multilateral and bilateral agencies, particularly the World Bank, ADB, DFID and UNDP. The World Bank has been the single largest international donor for development initiatives in India and the workshop made an attempt to critically examine the Bank’s new R&R policy from a gender lens. Contrary to the bank representative’s assertions, the participants believed that the Bank’s policy on R&R continues to remain gender blind.


Reider Kvam, from the World Bank presented an overview of the WB’s support in the Singrauli region since the 1970s. He agreed that in the past WB policies have failed to adequately address resettlement and gender concerns, but efforts are being made by the Bank to learn from the past by introducing social planning and assessments. The paper described the unequal development in the Singrauli region because of disparities between affluent workers of large corporations and poor and displaced people living in the surrounding areas. Due inadequate social planning, high social tension ensured, women were very negatively impacted and the risk of displacement increased.  Reidar argued that this could have been avoided had comprehensive social assessments of projects been undertaken before implementation. According to him, social assessment involves analysis by key stakeholders, understanding of social diversity (caste, class, ethnicity), gender, institutions and organizations, participation i.e. active involvement, transparency and capacity building of key stakeholders and finally operationalisation that includes explicit social development outcomes institutional arrangements. Gender equality, cultural diversity and social integration should be the focus of planning.


Dana Clark presented an overview of the revisions to the World Bank Resettlement policy. She lamented that in the context of involuntary resettlement there exists a lacuna between the Bank’s policies and practices. This is mainly because of the pervasive tension between the Bank and its borrowers over implementation of not just the resettlement policy but also most of the environmental and social safeguard policies.  The Bank when challenged on failed resettlement always shifts the blame on the borrowing country’s government. Resettlement failures are also attributed to design failures that arise when the Bank has insufficient concern for the requirements of the involuntary resettlement policy and other social and environmental policies.  The problems in Narmada and Singrauli are mainly because of the faulty design of the projects, which was approved by the World Bank. Dana also focused on some of the key issues at stake in the policy debate, namely restoration versus the improvement of standard of living and new language that limited the Bank’s responsibility for indirect impacts of development projects. For example, on people downstream who are likely to lose their jobs, access to resources and become environmental refugees. Discussing the gender implications of the policy revision, Dana said that the World Bank does not have much to say about gender. The word “gender” does not appear anywhere in the policy. In the policy revision process, the World Bank took no proactive steps to address issues of gender or to try to improve the status or rights of women in the context of displacement. In fact the net affect of the policy revisions is to reduce rather than increase attention to women in the context of displacement.


The chairperson Nandini Sundar remarked that stakeholder analysis ignores power relations such as, what kind of norms are we going to appeal to when we are confronted with a conflict and can we hold banks and governments accountable for failures? Also there is often a tension between borrowing countries and the Bank that asks for much more than the national law allows. Therefore understanding of our national laws and customary rights becomes crucial. Harsh Mander while narrating his personal experience in Singrauli mentioned that 20 years ago there was no hint from World Bank and government of India about resettlement. There was a lack of concern for poor people and their interests. Today, nothing has changed really. Also, even though the Bank agrees that it has made mistakes it is doing nothing to undo the wrongs committed in the past. To which Reidar Kvam replied that the Bank is not a monolithic institutions and that the problem was not the lack of good intent.  Amita Baviskar pointed out the relevance of the bank in the context of globalisation, liberalization, and privatization and questioned the Bank’s linkages with transnational corporations.


Reflections and Commentaries

The last session had presentations from representatives of Department for International Development (DfID), United Nations Special Rapporteur on Housing Rights, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). They spoke on future strategies for planning and implementation. 


Arjan de Haan from DfID, who had worked extensively on voluntary migration, pointed that while discussing migration it is important to take gender into consideration and the focus on agency helps clarify the distinction between voluntary and involuntary migration. Drawing on experiences in Orissa he argued that there is the need to build consensus across the whole range of concerns and priorities, especially with respect to the sheer complexity of the issues on the ground around land rights and so-called encroachments. In Orissa, 80 % of the displacement has taken place due to minor irrigation schemes, affecting different groups differently.


Miloon Kothari the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing Rights elaborated on international human rights instruments that can be used by people’s struggles and movements to protect women’s rights to housing, livelihood. He suggested that these instruments should be always kept in mind while evolving any strategy for monitoring violations particularly during displacement.  He made reference to two sets of human rights instruments, the UN Charter of HR and UN Treaty Bodies, which are concerned with issues like children, health, food, etc. Miloon also described the operational protocols with three primary functions. Firstly, reporting function – i.e. annual reporting on various issues (housing, livelihood etc). Secondly, investigating function – to look into various matters concerning violation of HR and thirdly, collaborative function – i.e. developing relations or forming alliances/partnerships with civil society and other institutions


Sudha Shrotaria from NHRC raised the issue of protection of social, economic and cultural rights of the most vulnerable sections. NHRC has been deeply concerned with the problem of displacement, number of complaints, inadequacies, and indifferences in rehabilitation policies. She said that development should be balanced with justice and equality. Land Acquisition Act of 1894 was in fact a great violation of human rights. The NHRC believes that R & R should be a part of the Land Acquisition Act and that displacement should not precede resettlement. There is the need to avoid the excessive acquisition of land and policy decisions taken by the government (preparation of bills) should be transparent and prior consultations should be made.


Finally Chitroopa Palit (Silvy) of NBA urged the participants and donors to question their own positionality in debates around resettlement and displacement. Often powerful corporations and players define development according to their interests, which are replicated in agencies such as the World Bank and DFID. Future action needs to focus on the right to livelihood, survival, cultural development and sustainable development. These rights should have precedence over the rights of private capital. Civil society and groups of disposed should be the principal actors. Unfortunately we are witnessing today the erosion of state structures, an increasing anti-people judicial system and the exacerbation of police action. There should be sustained public scrutiny, debate, hearings and surveys.  It should be incumbent upon project finances, state to establish public interest and comprehensive R & R and resource replacement.  Accountability to the gram sabha is also important.  There should be a moratorium on further displacement until people centred R&R structures are in place and we need to be vigilant of the activities of new players such as financial institutions, multilaterals and the private sector.


Conclusions and Recommendations

The workshop signified a departure from previous thinking on displacement and resettlement in several ways. One, there was a concerted effort to zoom in on gender concerns and issues which, though at times unsuccessful, still helped overcome the past invisibility of gender issues as well as raise an awareness of how gender justice can be achieved in displacement and resettlement processes. In this context, the debate of gender, displacement and resettlement must be located in wider debates of women’s status, power, rights, inheritance and socio-historical process namely patriarchal domination, discrimination, equality and the division of labour. The long-neglected issue of children’s rights and concerns was also highlighted. 


Two, while past research and thinking had largely focussed on the impacts and impoverishment risks of displacement, most workshop papers also raised questions regarding the rights of displaced women, children and men. Thus, in order to achieve social and gender justice, displacement and R&R debates will have to go well beyond addressing the special needs of displaced women and men. Instead, there is a need to help evolve institutions to protect and strengthen their rights. In this context the right to livelihood, survival, cultural integrity and sustainable development and even the right to veto such projects emerge as key and civil society and groups of displaced people will have to play a more active role for their realisation. In a context where state institutions have the power to declare poor people and their lives, livelihoods and struggles as illegal, a rights-based approach emerges as all the more important. 


Three, there was a consensus that there was the urgent need to understand the impacts of policies promoting globalisation and privatisation on displacement and R&R and we need to augment our knowledge of the specific nature of these processes and impacts from a gender perspective. There was also a need to focus on ways in which the private and non-state actors could be held to account in the case of violations of policies, human rights standards and internationally and nationally recognised best practice.  


Finally, the workshop discussions also pointed out that the boundaries between what constituted ‘voluntary’ and ‘involuntary’ displacement were increasingly blurred in a globalised world where forced displacement and migration are likely to increase.  The so-called voluntary displacement of urban migrants needs to be questioned in the face of globalisation and growing inequality. Similarly, the ‘involuntary’ nature of forced displacement can be reversed if resettlement processes are designed with in-built mechanisms that would provide communities the right to decide whether to move or not. This kind of ‘voluntary’ displacement based on prior and informed consent would need to be premised on transparent processes of deliberation and decision-making and would need a conducive policy and legal environment that would make hitherto losers emerge as beneficiaries of the development process. 


Based on the workshop discussions it is recommended that:

The Ministry for Rural Development should hold wide consultations on the draft bill for R&R. The draft bill should integrate strong gender concerns. The family or oustee should not be viewed in a gender-neutral way. Women need to be seen as full beneficiaries of compensation packages and should be made independent or co-owners of land and other compensation packages. Accounts should be opened in joint names. Compensation mechanisms should include property loss, livelihood loss, along with provisions for employment and housing. All the informal rights of women and men enshrined in customary law should be built on and under no circumstances corroded. 


The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Commission for Women (NCW) should be proactive in ensuring that the government both at the Centre and in the States consults widely with civil society and affected people. They should also issue directives that strong mechanisms exist in the National R&R regime to protect the rights of displaced women.  


Human rights standards should not be violated by the project authorities or by the state during all stages of project planning and implementation. Furthermore there is here need to have strong grievance redressal mechanisms based on principles of justice and equity.  There need to be in-built mechanisms to make project implementing agencies accountable in the case of coercion or violations of policies or laws.  Violence against women in the course of displacement and resettlement must be avoided and punished.  


Civil society groups also need to recognise the specific vulnerabilities of displaced women and ensure that movements and campaigns give adequate space to women to articulate their strategies, concerns and priorities.

Displacement should be avoided and if it is absolutely necessary then all efforts should be made to minimise displacement. There is a need for rigorous options assessment before the project proceeds. Prior informed consent of the displaced people should be followed and compensation should be equivalent to the replacement value of the project. Cost benefit analyses must be complemented by alternative and qualitative approaches of assessing loss and displaced people should have the right to veto the project. They need to be involved in the planning of the R and R process and special efforts must be made to ensure that women are involved in every stage of the consultation and planning process. 


There is a need for strong gender analysis and gender-sensitive data of the impacts of displacement and resettlement. Regular monitoring at all stages of the process, involving displaced people’s groups, is also essential. Mechanisms and safeguards should be in place to ensure that the displaced people are the first beneficiaries of the project. Also safeguards should be in place to facilitate women full access and enjoyment of all project including compensation and R&R. Under no circumstance should displacement take place without adequate and sufficient R and R.

Mohammed Asif, Lyla Mehta and Harsh Mander, November 2002