Addressing Forced Displacement: Bureaucracy, Bhils and the Narmada Dam Project in Western India

Authors: Vikramaditya Thakur*,
Topics: Development, Asia, Social Theory
Keywords: South Asia, Dams, Resettlement, Bureaucracy, Politics
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Virginia C, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper looks at the inconsistency in accounting for the human cost of large infrastructural projects by the various levels of state bureaucracy at the ground level all the way to its headquarters. The Narmada River Dam project, partially funded by the World Bank at one point that was forced to withdraw later due to huge controversy involving the displacement of Bhil adivasi or indigenous groups, has remained in the news for over three decades now. The dam has been shown in academic studies and news media as a glaring example of the mighty and ruthless power of the state in forcibly building a huge dam to displace thousands of marginalized families living in the hilly Narmada Valley. What was the response of the state’s bureaucracy in dealing with the human cost of the dam in terms of those facing the submergence of their houses and farms? This paper argues that the supposedly hefty state is often pretty vulnerable and confused as it flounders to address the issue of providing relief and resettlement, often lost for direction and dependent on the cooperation of the same project-affected people that it is about to displace.

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