Book Review at

Next to killing a man, the worst you can do is to displace him.”  

                                                                        – Thayer Scudder

The book starts with the above epigraph and it gives you a fair idea what is coming your way. Millions of people are displaced by various “Development” projects across the country. This book captures the stories of such people who are made homeless due to some or the other government or private project. The author in his journey of compiling these stories gives us a scary picture of what “Development” means to these people. The underlying fact one will come to know is that the most vulnerable and poor people of this country are systematically sacrificed for the “greater good” of the country. The argument being someone must pay for the development of the country. The stories in this book tells us that it is always the poor and the tribal people of this country who pays. And this does not stop at merely displacing people from their own land, from their own villages, the bitter truth is they are not even compensated and rehabilitated as per the policies laid down by the government.

A draft National Policy for Rehabilitation in 1998 admitted that 75 per cent of those displaced since 1951 ‘were still awaiting rehabilitation’. The remaining 25 per cent have been rehabilitated officially  — at least on paper.


These are hard facts and data, which one can get if they are interested and make some efforts. What Jaideep does is, along with presenting data, he tells us what happens to those who are displaced from their home, their lands, and their villages. Are they rehabilitated? If so, is it as per the guidelines laid by the government? Are they compensated enough for their land? Does the new land allotted (whenever it is allotted) to them is fertile and good enough? Do they get any benefit of the proposed development projects as promised to them? Like water, electricity, jobs. Each story tells you the reality of what development means for the people whose land and villages are occupied by the government (in most cases forcibly).

The Konya Hydroelectric Power Project lit up Mumbai. But the promise of free power dangled before the dam affected villages in the early 1950s while taking all their land and resources sounds hollow today. Some of them, who lived in accessible villages around the reservoir, got power as late as in the 1980s or 1990s when many of the could not afford it.

Just to give you an idea the distance between Koyna and Mumbai is 280 kilometers.

Not only this, Jaideep brings forth how land acquisition rules are tweaked in favour of some industrialist or the other. How with a stroke of a pen any project they want becomes a project for “public purpose”.  And the cost is born by the people living in these areas and nearby areas. In cases of polluting industries where they don’t directly acquire land there are another problem like toxic pollutants resulting is serious health hazards affecting the surrounding areas. You will get to know how at the policy level also there are many lacunas, and the general approach is apathetic because they know it is happening to the weakest people of the society. There are many protests happening, and the most vulnerable people of the country are fighting for their land, villages, forest, culture, and their existence.  It is another matter that most of us are not aware of it because the mainstream media is not covering it.

Acquisition of land by the state exclusively in favour of a private company, even though it is not for ‘public purpose’, has been made possible through an amendment to the Act (Land Acquisition) in 1984. This dents the basic foundation of the law, as perceived, enacted and enforced till the recent past.

This book is a portal for the urban and privileged people to look and understand what displacement means and how it affects the people who are uprooted from their native land. What struggles they go through once they are moved out from their homes, how they rebuild their lives in the new location (when they are allocated land). You will come out as more informed and sensitive towards the people are often the causality of the development the country is chasing. Most often than not if one does a performance reviews of these projects, especially the power projects and dams one will find that the cost is far more than the expected returns.

The book is easy to read and divided into short chapters covering the lives and the various challenges faced by the displaced people. The efforts put by the author speaks for itself in each story. Not only he has researched well for his stories but at the same narrated them with compassion and empathy. You can visualize the village, the person he is talking about, and that’s what a great story does, it transports you among the people whose story you are reading. Thanks to Jaideep Hardikar for documenting this and presenting it to the world. After reading this book I was reminded of a poem on Sardar Sarovar Dam by Gulzar, translated in English by Pavan K. Verma.

In this valley cradled between three mountains
A dam will be built
A dam will be built

Come, load on your head and haul away
The bits and pieces of this village
Pile your kinships and relationships onto a cart
And topple them away
Shove the dust of earlier generations into a basket
Carry the past on your shoulders
And stuff family tombs into your pockets
Custom, rituals and such things as like cultures
Hang around your neck before you leave
Around your waist tie naked children……
Peepal, tulsi, shrines, memorials, sweet water wells….
Come, upend them all
And just decamp

That river which for ages
Has come cascading down
Between three mountains
Will now sit coiled like a snake
In this valley!

 It is not just the physical displacement as many see it, along with-it people are displaced from so many things and to put a value to those things is impossible.  A must read for everyone to understand what millions of displaced people go through. To understand the plight, hardships and systematic injustice against our own people. This should be compulsory read in our colleges.

About The Author
Jaideep Hardikar is a Nagpur-based journalist, currently working with the Telegraph as the central India correspondent. He began his reporting career with Lokmat Times in April 1997 and has subsequently worked with the Hitavada and DNA, Mumbai. He has won several fellowships and awards, including the Sanskriti Award for young journalists in 2003 for his reportage on rural issues. In 2009, he travelled to the United States of America under the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship programme and worked with Sun Sentinel in South Florida. For more than a decade, Hardikar has reported extensively from Vidarbha on farmer suicides and the cotton crisis. This book was born of his travels under the K.K. Birla Foundation Media Fellowship in 2001.

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