Why are Human Rights Violated with Impunity? Forced Displacement in India’s Narmada Valley

Published on 1 January 2008

Displacement arising through the building of infrastructure projects such as mines, large dams and roads gives rise to radical and rapid changes in the environment, livelihood strategies, social and gender relations, economic activities and world views. A vast body of research has documented the impacts of development-induced displacement on displaced people, often known as ‘oustees’ (e.g. Cernea 1997; McDowell 1996; Mehta forthcoming; Scudder and Colson 1982; Yong 2006). In some cases, relocation and resettlement have led to new social and economic benefits for the oustees (see Koenig 1995: 39). Largely, though, displacement arising through ‘development’ allows for very limited choice and agency since state-sponsored resettlement processes are either totally ad hoc or border on social engineering (see also Yong, Morvaridi, this volume). They are usually traumatic, protracted and difficult processes that uproot people from their familiar environment and lead to general impoverishment and a decline in the standard of living of the affected people (see Cernea 1997, 2000; McDowell 1996). Furthermore, people confronted by displacement live in resource-rich yet remote areas and have a history of social, economic and political marginalization and vulnerability. Consequently, they lack political clout (see Scudder 1996). Take India, for example, where almost half the people displaced for national ‘development’ since independence are adivasis(so-called tribal peoples), who live in remote and isolated areas (Fernandes and Thukral 1989).


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Lyla Mehta

Professorial Fellow

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published by
Palgrave Macmillan
Mehta, L.
K. Grabska and L. Mehta


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