Being evicted from their land by the government, uprooted from their homes by the acts of very people they elected to high office, has been the fate of hundreds of thousands of Indians since Independence. Whenever there is “national interest” to be served, that reassuring construct under the garb of which politicians and big business mutually gratify each other, and the gloss of which the middle class calls “development”, the sledgehammer of the mighty Indian state falls on farmers, peasants, tribals and anyone else who isn’t powerful enough to hit back. Their land is acquired, their forests mined, their lives and livelihoods destroyed. There is resistance, but the state can just outlast any resistance.
Our cover story this month (“Jaitapur: The story of a resistance”) chronicles one such “national interest” project. Jaitapur, in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra, is the site of India’s largest proposed nuclear power complex, and will end up evicting several thousand people, and affect the fishing, a vital element of the local economy, because the reactors will pump hot water into the ocean. Shamsheer Yousaf, Monica Jha, Sriram Vittalamurthy, and Anand Murali document the chain of events that was set in motion when the people of Madban came to know about nuclear power plant set to come up on their land through the news.
Their narrative shows how projects are pushed through, how noble sounding terms like Environmental Impact Assessment and public hearings don’t mean much on the ground, and that the real stakeholders have almost no say in anything. This is the story of how even a well-organised genuine grassroots movement has little negotiating power with a government, and that ordinary people can only fight so much—the business of living always gets in the way. It also shows us how big projects—something the present government is all too keen to promote by diluting environmental laws—get going with so little due diligence, and how their financials are ill-conceived and often shrouded in secrecy.
While the print story deals mainly with the struggle of the project affected people, the online version has in-depth reports, videos and interviews on how the project was conceived, how marine and terrestrial ecology will be affected, and how clearances were given. It will go live early February, in a new immersive multimedia format, the style in which some of our future narratives will be told. Please take a look and let us know your thoughts on this new approach.
Saurav Kumar, Editor