Us vs Them

The last couple of years has witnessed an alarming increase in the amount of violence rising from the take over of rural land and resources for industry. From Singur and Nandigram, to the proposed POSCO iron ore mine and steel plant in Orissa and a dozen hydroelectric power projects… the list is long. Have we made an effort to understand the root of the conflicts? As Sunita Narain writes in her editorial in the current issue of Down to Earth, it’s not about “poltically motivated people stirred up by outsiders and competitors to obstruct development.”

“These were poor villagers who knew they did not have the skills to survive in the modern world. They had seen their neighbours displaced, promised jobs and money that never came. They knew they were poor. But they also knew that modern development would make them poorer… They did not want to drive the trucks of the miners. They wanted to till their lands… This is the environment movement of the very poor. Here, there are no quick-fix techno solutions in which the real problems can be fobbed off for later… there is only one answer: changing the way we do business, with them and with their environment…”

Do we, city dwellers who have grown up “seeing how man has conquered and reshaped nature to fit his petty needs”, understand the real needs of the villagers who live in close association with Nature?

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