Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Diary of the displaced

The Hindu, Sunday Magazine, June 1, 2008

The Other Half

When a natural disaster, like an earthquake or a tsunami, destroys your home and leaves you destitute, you have no one to blame. The trauma and grief are great but most people move on. And there is help available. What happens when your home is flattened by bulldozers because a city decides that you should not live there any more, that the land you and perhaps your parents have lived on is now required for a “public purpose”? Which “public” and what “purpose”? You cannot demand an explanation.

In such an eventuality, the trauma and grief are as great as when hit by a natural disaster, but the sense of hopelessness is greater. For, it comes after years of deception, false hopes and broken promises. There is little help available. The choice has been made for you. Move to a new site, government approved, or perish.

The problem is that even when you do move, often you perish. For, the new locations are distant, deprive you of community, of livelihood, or security. A new, well-researched book, Swept off the Map: Surviving Eviction and Resettlement in Delhi by Kalyani Menon-Sen and Gautam Bhan (published by Yoda Press) brings many of these facts out in a credible and forceful way. The book traces families compelled to move from the banks of the Yamuna from an area called Yamuna Pushta in 2004 to the Bawana Resettlement Colony on the outskirts of Delhi. This was done because the Ministry of Tourism wanted to make the area into a tourist attraction. And the slums there, where an estimated 35,000 families had lived for over three decades, were an eyesore. So they had to be moved. Despite court cases and interventions by activists, the bulldozers moved in and flattened the colony. Only 16,000 families could prove their credentials to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). They were allotted plots in several areas outside Delhi, including Bawana.

Through feminist lens

The above study follows 2,577 households and records the impact of the move on livelihood, quality of life and environment. The research project was novel because it trained community workers to conduct the study alongside trained researchers. And it developed the research through what the researchers call a “feminist lens”. Explaining this, they write: “Methodologically, feminist research differs from traditional research because it actively seeks to address and account for the power imbalances between women and men, and between researcher and subject. It is also a strategy for challenging the social inequality built into mainstream research methods. Most significantly, it recognises and builds on the standpoints and experiences of women in particular and other marginalised groups in general.” In other words, you don’t study women as subjects but study everything from the perspective of women. The results of applying such a lens to research are very different as is evident from this particular study.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link above)

1 comment:

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