The Resettlement Issue in Ecological Politics
Enakshi Ganguly Thukral (ed.), 1992, Big Dams, Displaced People:
Rivers of Sorrow Rivers of Change, Sage Publishers, pp. 199, price Rs 120 (hb.)
Ecological politics and the struggle for resources have begun to be increasingly recognised as new social movements attempting to question the status quo and its resource-use pattern. The late seventies and the early eighties witnessed ecologists concerned largely with forestry related issues, while the late eighties and the nineties has found them preoccupied with large dams. The recent interest in the Narmada and the Tehri dams and their social costs has led to a surge of movements against all large scale irrigation projects being planned and implemented in the country. It has also begun to concern a lot of academicians and social activists resulting in the production of critical works on large dams.
While the anti-dam struggles are supposedly ecological movements, interestingly, the resettlement issue forms their backbone. It is not clear whether this thrust is due to the ecological movement trying to come to terms with itself as a result of consistent left attacks on it, or whether it finds it easier to mobilise the oustees to form its social base, as against the 'unaffected* populace or the middle class on broadly environmental slogans. This has led a few observers to wonder if these are ecological movements or merely resettlement ones. The point that is missed is that ecological issues cannot be discussed with reference to only the birds and the bees. Human beings and their social and material interaction is what forms the basis of ecological and social history. Thus ecological impact too has to be judged and measured in relation to the use or abuse of the transformation of the resource base.
It is in this context that the book under review is making an important contribution. The book, which the editor professes is about resettlement, has in fact a wider range. Perhaps this is only natural as resettlement of the oustees cannot be examined outside the changes in the production process. The production process, which encompasses the technology of large dams, social relations, and ecological changes is also referred to and examined in some detail. However, as pointed out
Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 9-10, September-October 1992