Protests over inequality expected at ADB meeting
As the Asian Development Bank meeting in Delhi gets underway, some protests against inequality are likely
Protests by former landowners unhappy with settlements with the government regarding land taken for developments are expected in Delhi during the Asian Development Bank (ADB) meeting later this week.
This is only the third time India has hosted the regions biggest multilateral meeting. Some protesters think the big event is a good opportunity to have their grievances heard by the government.
We all know its happening, a worker outside the meeting venues, who did not want to disclose his name, told Emerging Markets. I am going to be protesting there later this week.
Others are fearful of protesting although they want to do it. A lot of villagers are afraid, another worker said of the immediate reaction by police and army, and by further repercussions once the ADB conference is over.
Two dozen soldiers mill outside the main gate of the event venue; a senior officer told Emerging Markets that two full-level Colonels will be attending from Thursday, overseeing between 100 and 150 soldiers.
We expect to see protests, the officer said. We are just not sure how many or by whom.
Emerging Markets spoke with some of those unhappy with the government's treatment of landowners and some agreed to be quoted only by one name, fearing repercussions.
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Bebran, wizened and exhausted, is in his mid-fifties used to own a nearby plot of land.
He said he was turfed out five years ago by government agents seeking to build office facilities: where he once lived is now part of the special economic zone (SEZ) that sprawls around Noida, a vast exurb southwest from Delhi.
He was promised compensation and land by local officials but, Bebran claimed, none came.
Im still waiting for my money, he said. The government always says they are in discussions about compensation but no one I know has ever had a discussion with an official. This is why violence has happened here so often, and why it will happen again: because the government wont listen to us.
Shreekans extended family once owned a small farm on the edge of Noida. When the city grew, his land was absorbed by the SEZ.
Once a worker on his own land, he now drifts, aimlessly and unemployed around the newly-built market. Few people stop or shop here; the place, badly built and scruffy, was thrown up a few years ago by local officials.
His story is the same. My land was taken by the government," he told Emerging Markets. "They promised me a plot of land I got nothing. They promised me compensation I got nothing.
The senior officer guarding the ADB meeting venue said that land requisitions were a serious issue, but that they were being addressed. Payments are in process he said, adding: You cant pay everyone at once.
Under Indian law, smallholders are guaranteed 64% of the resale value of land; yet landowners protest that government agents deliberately underplay the value of property, before quietly selling it on to land developers at a huge mark-up.
This process is not new to the world. Small landowners and farmers in fast- industrializing economies are often the first to lose out, from 18th-century Britain and America a century later, to the latter-day examples of India and China.
Anger is rising here and feeding into the feeling that India, like many parts of Asia, is becoming a two-speed economy: increasingly unequal, divided between the wealthy few and the poorer masses.
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