Community Led R&R by Nitin S Verma

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By Nitin S. Verma

An Innovative Approach to Smoother Relocation of Tribals

Most of the present efforts and approaches adopted for reconstructing houses under “Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R) schemes end up enhancing the trauma of displacement, especially among tribals. The unfavourable factors and risks associated with the ‘Contractor – Driven R&R schemes’ lead to low self esteem and poor ownership among displaced families of the green field projects. Thereafter even best of CSR activities fail to redeem the respect of the displaced in the project.

The trauma of displacement due to green filed projects is maximum for tribals who live in total cohesion with their surroundings. ‘Contractor – Driven Resettlement and Rehabilitation (R&R)’ lacks sensitivity towards the displaced. It fails to adapt to local conditions with tendency to introduce rigid designs, systems and constructions. Often the displaced tribals do not identify with the offerings under such R&R Schemes and either tend to migrate or revolt against the project.

Solution lies in ‘Community Based R&R’ that allows empowering the community being relocated. It brings in a sense of ownership for the new house and settlement in the community being relocated and ensures transparency and accountability in the whole process. These efforts go a long way in building the trust of the community and hence allow smoother transition and relocation

Presently Government of India is debating a new land acquisition bill that is expected to fill gaps in the archaic 1984 act. The new bill is supposed to be pro displaced communities while streamlining the process of land acquisition and ensuring fair compensation to farmers and land owners. But this land acquisition amendment bill has drawn dissent from industry and tribal welfare groups alike.

The new draft bill has left industry worried with the provision of huge compensation packages for resettlement and rehabilitation of the displaced community.  Industry players feel that these provisions would increase projects costs by 40% -60% that would eventually render green field projects unviable.

However, the bill has drawn fire from tribal groups as well who say the legislation has failed to strike a balance between development and displacement. Though it identifies land as property as well means of livelihood but it does not quantify the measure of loss of livelihoods. The bill above all doesn’t take into account trauma of displacement and cohesive rehabilitation at a new site. This is in concurrence to the approaches adopted by most of the green field project even presently.

The trauma of displacement due to green filed projects is maximum for tribals. These communities are aware of the importance of their surroundings and nature as their life giver. Nature and Environment is thus treated with outmost respect by the tribals.  Needless denudation is not indulged in and buildings are so made as to harmonize with the existing. Each tribal individual is a harmonious part of the social fabric of the settlement and this finds direct expression in their house. Local materials are used and utilized to the full potential of their qualities. The architecture grows out of the needs of the people and is extremely dynamic and open-ended. The beauty of the structure evolves from its functional harmony rather than from ‘Pastiche’ aesthetics.

The present efforts and approaches for R&R such as ‘Contractor – Driven Resettlement and Rehabilitation’ increase unfavourable factors and risks associated with displacement. It changes the status of the ‘Displaced to Victim’ of the project. The approach primarily lacks sensitivity towards the displaced and fails to adapt to local conditions with tendency to introduce rigid designs and systems. Often the displaced tribals do not identify with the offerings under the approach and either tend to migrate or revolt against the project.

Central to the innovative approach of ‘Community Based R&R’ is a focus on the degree to which it can not only build an improved physical environment but also recognize the social production of space; empower displaced tribals to be active agents of change; and build socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable communities.

Patanka Constructions, is a division of SEEDS, a national society that works for Rehabilitation of displaced communities. SEEDS has more than 17 years of experience of working with marginalized community and facilitating rehabilitation. SEEDS/PCPL through its pool of skilled masons and in-house technical team have facilitated environment-friendly disaster-resistant work in Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Orissa Leh and Sikkim.

PATANKA believes that, in a context where people are traditionally involved in building their own houses, given adequate financial and technical support they have the capacity to build houses that are more likely to serve their needs and preferences than houses provided by outside agencies. Our team in such projects generally looks to facilitate the construction of R&R houses through a community led approach. That is to ensure active participation of home losers in all decision making stages of house reconstruction.

We are convinced that this process of ‘Community Led Approach’ is the most effective way of relocation that allows empowering the community being relocated. It brings in a sense of ownership for the new house and settlement in the community being relocated and ensures transparency and accountability in the whole process. These efforts go a long way in building the trust of the community and hence allow smoother transition and relocation.

( Nitin S. Verma is Senior Manager- Sustainable Construction at Patanka Constructions, New Delhi. He can be reached at nitin@patanka.in)

Disclaimer :  The views expressed by the author  in this article are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of INDIACSR.

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