Prof Felix Padel emphasises on people-centric development during Prof Sanajaoba memorial lecture

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IMPHAL December 30: The 5th Naorem Sanajaoba Memorial lecture was delivered bby Anthropolist and social activist prof Felix Padel who is also the great great grand-son of Charles Darwin and currently a visiting professor at the Centre for North East Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

He spoke on the topic entitled, “Human Rights and Self-Determination as Prerequisites for Real Development”.

The memorial lecture, which marks the 70th birth anniversary of the late professor, was held at the Vice Chancellor Court Room, Manipur University today.

Manipur University registrar Prof W Vishwanath, chief of bureau, The Hindu, Kolkata Suvojit Bagchi, and Ojha Sanajaoba Memorial Trust president Prof N Rajmuhon attended as presidium members of the lecture which was organized by the Ojha Sanajaoba Memorial Trust.

Prof Felix Padel’s lecture started on understanding real development beyond what is given as development by State.

He talked about Development-Induced-Displacement and Investment-Forced Development also citing local examples like the impact of the Mapithel Dam which has monopolized the natural resources of the tribal population.

He emphasized on people centric development which can sustain the fragile ecosystems for the generations to come and explained further that the right to development is also inclusive of food security, water security, security at work, security of livelihood, right to sensitively managed education and health care and every aspect of security to life and dignity.

He voiced against rampant impunity and remarked that security forces seems to be safeguarding the security and interest of the investors and corporations much more than the rights and interest of the local population.

He stated that security and respect for human life has to be the basis for any real development.

He says, ‘dams are often promoted as symbols of development’ and questions whether big dams ever benefit the 30 million local people displaced due to this “development”.

He went on to talk about the inundation of fertile lands, disastrous ecosystems and even leading to earthquake and further said big dams involve a modern form of human sacrifice.

He also cited the case of security forces burning several hundred floating houses to evict the fisher folk from Loktak lake and Tipaimukh dam which will submerge 300sq km. he took the example of Dumbur dam in Tripura, Upper Dibang in Arunachal and Doyang dam in Nagaland to reflect the scale of tribal displacement as a result of such “development”.

He shared about the increasing aggressive corporatisation of land and resources in the North East especially in the tribal belts including the case of Jubilant Energy’s infamous efforts in Manipur.

Felix also spoke about the International Financial Institutions such as World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation and their role in financing energy and water related projects which are leading to corporatisation of local land and resources.

He shared the need to pressure the Government for respecting and adopting the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 especially in matters of land and resources.

Felix also talked about different models of development drawing largely from his experience and exposure in Odisha.

He asked if there has been a public debate on cost and benefits of the new “development” projects like the sports university, railway line and how it will benefit the poor population. He cautioned that human rights are often a major casualty of Industrialization-focused development citing the cases in Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, MP and West Bengal and the trend of militarization of “developed” areas.

According to him, war is the biggest business and a centre of corruption with no accountability, where security forces commits human rights abuses with impunity. Such situations of state terror, when justice cannot be had through the courts will inevitably fuel insurgency.

It has become increasingly urgent to discover alternative paradigms of development favourable to the multi-ethnic. India tribal people are known to be some of the most democratic people on earth and perhaps other shouls learn democratic ways from them, he said.

Suvojit Bagchi flagged off the concern regarding the unpaid journalist in the smaller firms which has compromised the ethics of this pillar of the society and stressed on the imperative need to address this gap.

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