[Excerpt] Resettlement policies and laws in South Asian countries at present focus primarily on compensation payment for property acquired for a public purpose. This book assesses the adequacy of conventional compensation and resettlement assistance programs such as cash-for-land, land-for-land compensation, limited and temporary employment opportunities at project construction sites, better housing in urban development projects, and income and livelihood restoration and improvement assistance programs. It also examines affected persons’ perspectives, how they perceive their displacement, and what strategies they use to respond to displacement with or without assistance from project sponsors and authorities. This knowledge will help policy makers, project sponsors, and project executive agencies to improve resettlement planning and implementation programs and, at least to some extent, will assist in reforming resettlement policies and land laws. Such reforms, this book argues, should consider (i) the adequacy of current resettlement policy frameworks to deal with complex, widespread, and ambiguous experiences of affected persons of development interventions; (ii) the almost inevitable impoverishment of project-affected persons from the pre-displacement phase to post-resettlement phase; (iii) limited state commitment to broadening such policy frameworks into national laws; and (iv) widespread weak institutional capacity to implement the laws.
During the past 60 years, various interpretations of the land acquisition acts have been attempted by policy makers, academics, development practitioners, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and national courts in South Asia. Such interpretations have mostly been people-centered and have intended to provide a better compensation package to the displaced, particularly to poor and vulnerable persons. Key issues that have been discussed and articulated include (i) the adequacy of consultation with affected persons and communities on land acquisition and compensation; (ii) the comparative costs of cash-for-land and land-for-land compensation as acquisition modalities; (iii) the desirability and possibility of assisting physically displaced households to resettle at a project-sponsored resettlement site compared to providing sufficient cash compensation and incentives to help displaced households self-relocate; and (iv) how to avoid impoverishment of displaced persons and their households. These are also the key issues that this book considers, using in-depth fieldwork from several South Asian countries.
The book comprises recent displacement and resettlement case studies conducted by several anthropologists and sociologists in South Asia. Each contributor wrote around the key theme of the book: Is resettlement a development opportunity for those displaced by a development intervention? In this book, resettlement carries a broader meaning to include physical and economic displacement, restricted access to public land such as forests and parks, relocation, income rehabilitation, and self-relocation.