Tag Archives: development

The Dilemma of Land Acquisition



For a developing country like India, managing the interests of a heterogeneous population at home, whilst simultaneously accommodating the interests of the global capital was a challenge posed at the dawn of the new century. The Indian experiment with the changing processes of production and the changing nature of the factors of the production is a unique one. The most crucial factor of production, land, is a resource that is both valuable and scarce. This resource becomes the harbinger of growth and development in the economic sense of the term, but also holds deep cultural and social value in rural hinterlands of India, that are largely untouched by discourses of development. The neoliberal model of development is dependent upon the clear definition of property rights and places a great deal of importance on private property. (Harvey 2005) For development i.e. taking up of infrastructure projects, building dams and laying down of national highways, the state often has to step into the realm of private property of the individual and take it over for the larger interest of the public. This is essentially the eminent domain principle. The property taken often belongs to farmers, tribal communities or hamlets of fishermen (if the land under question is near a water source) etc. These henceforth will be referred to as the ‘marginalised landed communities’. However, the land acquisition legislations can and do impact them differently. These communities are often unwilling to give up rights to their land and move to newer pastures to pave way for developmental projects. This unwillingness is often traced back to their backwardness and lack of faith in the developmental initiatives, however, it has got far more to do with the unfair compensation packages they are offered in return for their land and less with the neoliberal model initiating the project.

It is essential to understand the conflict over land as a consequence of the inefficient management of the interests of the marginalised landed communities by the State. It probes the possible position of a developing neoliberal state in negotiating with various stakeholders, reconstructing concepts like private property rights and continuing on the path of development not necessarily set at home but abroad.


One of the most recent successful examples of land acquisition has been in the state of Andhra Pradesh, with a mass of land being bought from farmers and other occupants alike for the ambitious capital city of Amravati. Some 33,000 acres of land have been sourced for various developmental projects without much protest, in the post-bifurcation state of Andhra Pradesh. The land has been acquired based on a land pooling system in which the farmers will get back entirely developed “residential and commercial plots ranging from 900 to 1700 square yards for every one acre (4840 square yards) of land surrendered. Farmers will further receive an annual compensation of Rs 30,000 to 50,000 per acre — with a 10% yearly increase —for a ten-year period.” (Express 2015). Under this system, the agencies of the government develop the city by laying down electricity connections and sewage lines, building roads etc. and once that is done a substantial portion of the land is returned to the original inhabitants. The new portion is smaller than the portion initially handed over by the farmer, but the justification of it lies in the provision of amenities and a subsequent rise in the value of the plot of land. The Chandrababu Naidu government managed to not only get on board investors and industrialists for starting developmental projects in Amravati but also brought on board farmers by accruing due importance to their interest and identifying them as participants in the mainstream development paradigm. Similarly, farmers in other parts of the country, such as Punjab, Maharashtra and Haryana have been willing to part with their land when offered lucrative compensatory packages from the government. (Sathe 2016)

Land acquition

The example of Amravati and others helps ascertain a fundamental idea that the resolution or minimization of conflicts around land lies in the assessment of stakeholders’ interests and a reasonable negotiation of those by the state. This can be done by exercising the eminent domain principle, but by also recognising private property rights of even the marginalised landed communities. This not only guarantees limited intervention by the neoliberal state in the market exchange but also ensures a participatory framework for the development of the neoliberal kind.


Rule of law and components therein must be understood as per the state’s development model for conceptual relevance in contemporary times. In this regard, private property as a means and component of rule of law is one of the principal tenets of neo-liberalist theory. The protection of it is therefore one of the primary duties of the neoliberal state. The rule of law with a clear understanding of property rights ensures development for stakeholders across the board. The property rights of the marginalised landed communities need to be recognised and compensation packages given to them should be in tune with the market value of land.

The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (also Land Acquisition Act, 2013) is a move in this direction. One of the key provisions that the act lays down is that the consent of 80 percent landowners is required for private projects and the consent of 70% land owners is required in Public Private Partnership projects. This gives communities a chance to negotiate with the government and the industry their demands for a compensatory package. The act however exempts five categories of land use namely: (i) defence, (ii) rural infrastructure, (iii) affordable housing, (iv) industrial corridors, and (v) infrastructure projects including Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects where the government owns the land. The two provisions when read in consonance with each other reflect a protection of the state’s interest, consideration of the interests of the industry and a fair view of the concerns of the marginalised landed communities. (PRS legislative research 2015)


The model of development debate from liberal, to neoliberal, to socialist-liberal to other combinations of political colours and ideologies cannot deny the shift in the world order towards a more market-friendly view of development and societal organisation. Now, neoliberal states juggle to accommodate the interest of all sorts of classes in the developmental agenda and when they fail to do so, it leads to societal backlash and uproar. The neoliberal state, therefore, needs to ensure a better management of interests of its various stakeholders through minimalist government interventions and progressive legislations to ensure participatory development.

(Divya is pursuing Master’s Programme in Public Policy at the National Law School of India University. She can be reached at divyadua@nls.ac.in)



Express, Indian. 2015. “Land acquisition: A new capital city in farmland.” Indian Express. December 25.

Harvey, David. 2005. A brief History of neoliberalism. Oxford University Press.

PRS legislative research. December 2015.


Sathe, Dhanmanjiri. 2016. “Land Acquisition: A need for a shift in discourse .” Economic and Political Weekly 1-7.

Featured Image Source: http://www.indino.in/the-right-to-fair-compensation-and-transparency-in-land-acquisition-rehabilitation-and-resettlement-amendment-ordinance-2015/

The Obituary of the Development Era

Abinaswar Das




The Development Dictionary is a book that arouses the reader’s interest at every juncture because of its blunt statements backed by the immense knowledge and varied ethnic, socio-political and cultural origins and experiences of its seventeen contributing authors. This group claims to have observed and studied the development discourse and through their studies have arrived at the controversial conclusion that the end of development, as we know it has arrived. In a bold yet nonchalant manner, Wolfgang Sachs, the editor of the book and contributor of two chapters, concludes his introduction to the book, declaring that it is in fact time to write the obituary of the development process. The introduction of the book begins with the following sentences: “The last forty years can be called the age of development. This epoch is coming to an end. The time is ripe to write its obituary.”

Each of the chapters comprises an essay by the concerned contributor about a concept attached to the development discourse and/or process. The Chapters are alphabetically arranged; therefore justifying the name of the book as a dictionary. The first Chapter is on the idea of development, where Esteva talks about how although development was earlier discussed in intellectual circles for a long time, it only became part of mainstream ideology when it was sold to the world through Truman’s speech in 1949, which suddenly created two worlds from one. This speech was so powerful that it divided the world into the developed and the underdeveloped world. The contributors to The Development Dictionary trace the beginning of the “Age of Development” to this speech of Truman’s. Development theorists believed their prescription would lift the world’s population out of perceived poverty and misery by turning peasants and subsistence farmers into wage-earners and consumers. Development was marketed as the ideal to achieve through any means necessary.

In the second Chapter, Sachs addresses the issues related to the environment, which he argues have taken a back seat in the development process. He says that environmental concerns were not part of the initial idea or plan of development. The environment began to matter only when a significant increase in pollution and environmental degradation caused by excessive harnessing and exploitation of resources came to the forefront in both developed as well as developing countries. The damage done to the environment through depletion of nonrenewable resources led to the era of sustainable development, which he also critiques. The idea of equality is explored in the subsequent chapter by Lummis, wherein he begins by making clear distinctions between the idea of equality, equity and equitability. He argues that the proponents of the development process have successfully managed to make people believe that development creates more opportunities and therefore mitigates the problem of socio-economic inequalities. Lummis, however, backs with research, data that developing countries have instead much larger income and spending inequalities than they had before they joined the bandwagon with their development programmes. He, therefore, finds a great paradox in what development claims to have achieved and what the ground realities have been.

In “Helping”, Gronemeyer attempts to expose the patriarchal dominance of developed countries over developing nations through financial aid. She explains how developed countries enter the economy and even influence governments as a result of aid provided to developing countries and attempt to induce socio-political and cultural changes in that country. She argues that this is not only an extremely unethical way to economically invade a nation, but also violates the principle of sovereignty of an independent nation. Berthoud explains and explores the role of the market in the development process, which he admits is the most significant aspect of the development discourse. His essay is about the establishment of economies through the setting up of markets and the resultant discriminatory practices by international financial organisations and trade regulatory bodies that allow for a nascent economy to be exploited rendering it helpless and entirely dependent on the biggest players in the market, who are often powerful enough to overthrow governments.

Subsequent chapters by Illich, Sachs, Rahnema and Escobar focus on the creation of the idea of ‘Needs’ by the development discourse, as well as the One World theory, participation in the development process as well as planning as an integral part of any country’s development. All of these notions call for policies that are a result of existing models of the West. They assert that it is time for a new era of development where every nation is given the space and opportunity to keep its national interests before interests of the market and the Western economic powers.

Current use of “development” simplifies the term to the point where the end purpose of the process becomes nothing more than the achievement of the U.S. model of an industrial money economy. The traditional meaning of the word, evolved from biology and philosophy, from Darwin, Hegel and Marx, was all but wiped out when the term was co-opted by Truman.

Gustavo Esteva writes, “Two hundred years of social construction of the historical-political meaning of the term, development, were successfully usurped and transmogrified. A political and philosophical proposition of Marx, packaged American style as a struggle against communism and at the service of the hegemonic design of the United States, succeeded in permeating both the popular and intellectual mind for the rest of the century.”

Contributors blast the idea that the U.S. (and European) model represents the ideal goal of the historical process. Wolfgang Sachs writes, “If all countries successfully followed the industrial example, five or six planets would be needed to serve as mines and waste dumps. It is thus obvious that the advanced societies are no model; rather they are most likely to be seen in the end as an aberration in the course of history.”

The contributors argue that there is an inherent bias against cultural diversity in the development project; if there is only one mode of ideal existence (the U.S.-European industrial model) then other cultures are somehow backwards or behind or “underdeveloped.” As Sachs writes, “In this view, Tuaregs, Zapotecos or Rajasthanis are not seen as living diverse and non-comparable ways of human existence, but as somehow lacking in terms of what has been achieved by the advanced countries. Consequently, catching up was declared to be their historical task. From the start, development’s hidden agenda was nothing else than the Westernization of the world.”

Development has failed on less theoretical and more concrete grounds as well: in 1960, Northern countries were 20 times richer than Southern countries; they are now 46 times richer. More devastating perhaps is the destruction of traditional ways of life and the simultaneous failure to provide a viable alternative to historic lifestyles. Sachs writes, “People are caught in the deadlock of development: the peasant who is dependent on buying seeds, yet finds no cash to do so; the mother who benefits neither from the care of her fellow women in the community nor from the assistance of a hospital. … Shunned by the advanced sector and cut off from the old ways … they are forced to get by in the no-man’s-land between tradition and modernity.”

In ‘Poverty’, ‘Production’, ‘Progress’, ‘Resources’ and ‘Science’ written by Rahnema, Robert, Sbert, Shiva and Alvares respectively, the authors argue that although scientific knowledge sharing and education has been a positive outcome of the development process,   they have also resulted in severe exploitation of resources both human and natural non-renewable in nature. The lack of respect for resources by economically developed countries has led to a complete depletion in their countries which triggers them to exploit the riches of developing countries, who in the process of growth and development more than willingly let their resources sell for cheap prices in exchange for greater revenue and better GDP figures every year in their race with other developing nations to become fully developed. This exploitation has, as can be logically deduced, led to greater economic and social inequalities, reducing the absolute numbers of poverty and increasing poverty in the relative sense. Latouche elaborates upon these inequalities in his Chapter on the standards of living of people in developing countries in comparison to an average person’s standard of living in a developed country. Technology is also an area of interest to the development process and is adequately explored by Ullrich in the final chapter of the book.’

The academic style of the book may frustrate some readers who question the importance of tracing the history of certain words and concepts. As Sachs writes in his introduction, “Our essays on the central concepts in the development discourse intend to expose some of the unconscious structures that set boundaries on the thinking of our epoch. We believe that any imaginative effort to conceive a post-development era will have to overcome these constraints.”

Two chapters of particular interest are those on Socialism and the State, written by Harry Cleaver and Ashis Nandy respectively. Cleaver analyses the role of socialism in the development process. He specifically focuses on states which had previously taken up the Left ideology and had consolidated resources for themselves and had resisted the vices of the market, despite participating in it. Here he also looks at Latin American countries which are still socialist, unlike European socialism which has already disintegrated. Nandy, on the other hand, analyses the role that the State has played across all political ideologies in implementing developmental plans around the world. He critiques the oppressive nature of developed economies and urges both them and developing countries to take up a more rational approach in promoting the idea that they believe is already lost anyway.

The essays set out to challenge not only policymakers but activists of both the North and South who have fallen into using this type of language – Multinational Monitor, for example, which often refers to “developing countries.” The Development Dictionary demands that activists question their own biases and ways in which their analysis may be tainted or limited. It paves the way for a discussion in which non-Western ways of life are not seen as aberrations, but as viable alternatives.

(Abinaswar Das is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at das.abinaswar@nls.ac.in)

Unlimited Growth on a Finite Planet

Vivek Raj Anand



Aurelio Peccei, an Italian scholar and industrialist, looked at the contemporary national crisis of the 20th century as symptoms of a larger insidious global crisis. He founded the Club of Rome, a virtual think tank —consisting of scientists, educators, humanists, and businessmen who were concerned with global issues— in 1968. Peccei believed that the new problems faced by humanity could not be categorised solely as economic, ecological, social or security problems. Rather, each problem is multi-faceted, where all the aspects are interconnected and interacting amongst themselves. It is the design of these interconnections and patterns of interactions that determine the nature of such dynamic global problems. Furthermore, cause-effect relationships inherent in such problems are counter-intuitive in nature, as the human mind has not gathered requisite intuition for understanding complex systems. Human intuition is trained to work in the context of simple systems; however, complex systems like Earth do not behave in the same way. Dynamic correlations between various subsystems determine the behaviour of complex systems.

System Dynamics is the science that studies interconnections between complex systems and Peccei wanted a system dynamics based scientific simulation model to forecast the future of humanity and planet earth. Dennis Meadows, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, took up the project of constructing a simulation model, with funds coming from Volkswagen Foundation.

The team worked on the hypothesis that unlimited growth —propelled by population, industrialisation, pollution, food production and non-renewable resource utilization— is not sustainable because of the limited physical endowment of planet earth. The outcome of this project has been described in this book “Limits to Growth”.

Exponential Growth

Modern economics presume that despite the peaks and troughs of business cycles, economies would always continue to grow in the long term. This book rebuts the aforesaid presumption of perpetual growth and ascribes the reason to the finiteness of Earth’s physical resources, which would eventually exhaust due to exponential growth in material demand. While authors acknowledge the diminishing marginal utility of material consumption —only after having met the threshold limit necessary for ensuring the basic well-being, the argument presented by the unrestrained growth is not on ethical or ideological grounds.  

The book explains the concept of exponential function in a rather lucid and non-mathematical manner, and provides an intuitive understanding of reasons behind the exponential growth in population and industrial output through the use of “feedback loops”. The study group observed the dominance of positive feedback loops in all the studied variables – population, industrial output, pollution, food production and non-renewable resource utilisation.

Further, the book juxtaposes exponential growth in aforesaid variables with a decline of finite physical resources of the planet, so as to ascertain the overshoot[1] and cross point. Those physical resources determine the carrying capacity of the planet, and are hence the ‘Limits to growth’.


The mandate of the research was not to make a doomsday prediction. Rather, it was a mathematical modelling exercise whereby endogenous variables like population growth, industrial output, pollution, food production and non-renewable resources were iterated so as to project different future scenarios of the world. The iterations of these variables represent different growth trajectories adopted by world economies, and hence it was left to mankind to choose a particular trajectory. The team developed twelve such scenarios, which included the collapse scenarios and the equilibrium ones.

The book concluded that human ecological footprint, if unchecked, would grow beyond the carrying capacity of globe i.e. what planet can provide on a sustainable basis. In the long run, it is impossible that humanity can use more physical resources and generate more emissions every year than what nature is capable of supplying and absorbing in a sustainable manner. As demand can never overshoot supply, the human ecological footprint will eventually decline either through “managed decline” or through “collapse” to sustainable levels. An example of managed decline would be limiting the annual catch of fish to a sustainable limit through legislation. An example of the latter would be the elimination of fishing communities because there are no more fish left in water bodies. The authors also argued that while market, technology and government are capable of making positive interventions, such interventions would only defer the crisis and not solve the problem, as long as there is no check on exponential growth. Hence, the cross and overshoot will still happen, but only at a later date.

Standard run. The model was tested under various assumptions, beginning with the “standard run”. Standard run assumes business as usual conditions as it existed in 1972, i.e. in the next one hundred years, there will be no significant changes in the nature of growth in the five variables. Not too surprisingly, the model projected disaster long before the end of the twenty-first century because of complete exhaustion of resources (Refer Figure 1).


Figure 1 Standard Run – Business as usual – Resource exhaustion

Succeeding runs These were made with more favourable assumptions, but all indicated collapse within a hundred years.

Stable model or Equilibrium. The study group wanted their proposed model to be self-sustaining —sustainable without sudden and uncontrollable collapse— and at the same time capable of satisfying the basic material requirements of the world. Authors called such a state as ‘Equilibrium’, a state where population and capital are stable,  and the forces tending to increase or decrease them are in a carefully controlled balance. This is possible when birth rate equals the death rate and capital investment rate equals the depreciation rate. Now, this equilibrium —i.e stable population and capital— can be at high or low levels of population and capital. Authors say that the level of capital and population, and the ratio of the two, should be set in accordance with the values of society. They may be deliberately revised and slowly adjusted as the advance of technology creates new options. (Refer Figure 2).


Figure 2 Sustainable development or Equilibrium Scenarios

Authors claim that this equilibrium does not refer to the stagnation of an economy; rather, it is dynamic in nature. Within stable population and capital, corporations could expand or fail, local population could increase or decrease. Services provided by a constant stock of capital would continue to increase due to technological advances. Besides that, human activities that do not require a large flow of irreplaceable resources or cause severe environmental degradation might continue to grow indefinitely. In fact those pursuits which are most desirable and satisfying like education, art, music, religion, basic scientific research, athletics and social interaction could flourish. This could be made possible through an increase in leisure. Such increase in leisure can be made possible only through improvement in production methods using technology. This increased leisure time could be devoted to any activity that is relatively non-consuming and non-polluting.

Readability and Limitations

The book has been suitably written so that general public can understand a rather complex subject matter of system dynamics based simulation model. Mathematical concepts like exponential growth, compounding effect, etc. have been explained in an intuitive manner. However, readers who do not have exposure to mathematical modelling will face difficulty in understanding the scenarios developed by the team.

The book can be critiqued on multiple accounts, more specifically on its assumptions and simplifications made in the model.  Authors themselves acknowledge that there are many imperfections in the model, and the same can always be improved upon. However, all those critical comments belong to a single genre, which is the limitation of any modelling exercise conducted in social sciences. No model can truly predict the future that is related to human actions or inactions. Furthermore, history has always advanced through lurching discontinuities, most of them were utterly unpredictable and hence they are not programmable.


The book has significant policy implications, especially for problems that are global in nature. It also exhibits the power of data analytics and computer simulation in making objective future projections. No model can fully represent the complexity of a society that consists of human beings who are invariably guided by bounded rationality and whose response is extremely dynamic. Moreover, no mathematical model can factor in all the tangible and intangible variables that determine human actions or inactions. However, the world model developed by Dennis Meadows’ team was successful in providing a heads-up to an ensuing crisis if business as usual continues. Such a heads up is all the more important for phenomenon related to complex systems with high time-constants as it warrants forthwith action. The book projects a crisis that is a necessary —but certainly not sufficient— condition for inspiring policy actions.

[1] Overshoot refers to going too far i.e. going beyond the limits. For instance, if too many trees are cut every year, the forests will ultimately vanish despite natural regrowth phenomenon.


(Vivek Raj Anand is a graduate student of Master of Public Policy in the National Law School of India University. He can be reached at vivekrajanand@nls.ac.in)

Field work: Story of SCOPE

SCOPE – Society for Community Organization and Peoples’ Education, started in 1986, which works mainly on health and sanitation. For more details on the organisation, visit: http://www.scopetrichy.com/

Have a look at the journey of students of MPP who visited the rural spaces of Tiruchi District, Tamil Nadu as part of the fieldwork. In order to understand the sanitation practices prevalent in the area, people, institutions and infrastructure were studied in Thuraiyur and Musiri blocks under the guidance of SCOPE.


The following candidates of MPP participated in a month-long field work with SCOPE, Trichy:

Anyesha Mitra
Drupa Dinnie Charles
Kiran A. B.
Roshan Mishra
Vijeth Acharya