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The Macro-Costs of Forced Displacement of the Farmers in India: A Micro-Level Study

Abhijit Guha

Vidyasagar University, Midnapore, India. E-mail:

Abstract: The impoverishment risks caused by big industrial projects in India have led to widespread landlessness and food insecurity among poor farmers. Under the provisions of a regime of monetary compensation that dates back to the colonial era, the farmers obtain and utilise compensation money in a manner that generally does not help them rebuild their household economies. This article presents the results of a micro-level study of land dispossession in West Bengal carried out during the period of communist government that coincided with a more general liberalisation. The findings of the study reveal that land acquisition by big industrial projects has caused landlessness and household-level food insecurity among poor farmers and has also endangered recent land reform initiatives more generally. In particular, in the absence of the benefit-sharing principles,the proposed Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation Bill 2011 clearly seems inadequate to reconstructing the damaged livelihood of project-affected farmers described in thearticle. Theinsights from this study are relevant to hundreds of similar cases all over India.

Les risques d’appauvrissement que les grands projets industriels en Inde repre´sentent pour les fermiers pauvres comportent en particulier le danger d’inse´curite´ alimentaire et celui de se voir prive´s de terre. Le syste`me de compensation mone´taire datant de l’e´poque coloniale ne permet pas aux fermiers d’utiliser leurs indemnite´s de manie`re a` reconstruire leurs e´conomies me´nage`res. Cet article pre´sente les re´sultats d’une e´tude micro-e´conomique de la confiscation de terres au Bengale occidental, entreprise pendant la pe´riode de gouvernement communiste dans un contexte plus large de libe´ralisation e´conomique. Les re´sultats de l’e´tude re´ve`lent que l’acquisition de terres par de grands projets industriels a ge´ne´re´ une grande inse´curite´ alimentaire au niveau des me´nages de fermiers pauvres, mais a aussi compromis les processus re´cent de re´forme agraire au Bengale. En particulier, l’absence de principes de partage des be´ne´fices semble rendre inade´quat le projet de loi de 2011 relatif a` l’acquisition et le re´ame´nagement des terres, en tout cas par rapport au re´tablissement des moyens de subsistance des familles de fermiers pauvres de´crites dans cet article. Cette situation est aussi pertinente aux centaines d’autres cas similaires en Inde.

Keywords: development caused displacement; land acquisition; resettlement and rehabilitation;financing for development; benefit sharing

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Write the second section of your page here. European Journal of Development Research advance online publication, 31 January 2013; doi:10.1057/ejdr.2012.37