Involuntary Displacement and Rehabilitation: A Comparative Study of Hirakud and Kaptai Dams of India and Bangladesh

Published date01 June 2021
AuthorArun Kumar Nayak
Date01 June 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Displacement and
A Comparative Study
of Hirakud and Kaptai
Dams of India and
Arun Kumar Nayak1
The present article has made a comparative study of Hirakud and Kaptai dams of
India and Bangladesh, respectively, to study the approach of governance of both
countries in addressing the issue of displacement, resettlement and rehabilitation.
It found that the civil–military regime of Bangladesh and the democratic regime
of India are equally repressive in addressing the aforesaid issues. However, in the
case of the Kaptai Dam, the whole episode of displacement led to arms conflicts,
statelessness and insurgency in the state, while no such things were experienced
in the case of the Hirakud Dam.
Displacement, rehabilitation, India, Hirakud Dam, Bangladesh, Kaptai Dam
The advancement of infrastructure facilities is considered vital for the accelera-
tion of the economic development of a country. Thus, governments across the
world have given high priority to investment in sectors such as railways, roads,
power, telecommunications, ports, industries and dam projects and so on. Thus,
dams are the outcome of this process and symbols of development and their
multipurpose utility—generation of electricity, irrigation, flood control and
Indian Journal of Public
67(2) 237–255, 2021
© 2021 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/00195561211026629
1 Department of Political Science, Government Degree College, Tripura, India.
Corresponding author:
Arun Kumar Nayak, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Government Degree
College, Santir Bazar, Tripura 799144, India.
238 Indian Journal of Public Administration 67(2)
navigation—contributed greatly to the growth of a nation (Bandhopadhyay et al.,
2002, p. 4108; Joyce, 1997, pp. 1050–1055). Though many have benefitted from
the services from these infrastructural projects, but their construction has led to a
number of significant social and human impacts, particularly in terms of displace-
ment. The involuntary displacement caused by such projects is huge, and it leads
to a broad range of ‘impoverishment risks’ that includes landlessness, joblessness,
homelessness, marginalisation, food insecurity, increased morbidity, loss of
common resources and social disarticulation resulting into a loss of socio-
cultural resilience (Cernea & McDowell, 2000, pp. 3659–3678; Internal Displaced
Monitoring Centre, 2019).
According to a study conducted by the World Bank, the displacement on
account of development projects was only about 12.5 million during the period
1986–1993. Among all these projects, dams account for major portions of the
world’s displacement. It is estimated that during the 1990s, the construction of 300
high dams (above 15 meters) had displaced 4 million people (Internal Displaced
Monitoring Centre, 2019). The construction of the Hirakud Dam in the year 1957
in India displaced about 100,000 people in the state of Odisha formerly Orissa
(Nayak, 2010, pp. 69–73, 2016, p. 140). The construction of the Aswan High dam
between 1960 and 1971 led to the involuntary displacement of 120,000 people.
The Tarbela dam on the Indus River launched in 1974 displaced about 96,000
people in Pakistan. The construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze
River launched in 1994 displaced 1.26 million people in China (Terminski, 2013,
pp. 47–68). Similarly, the construction of the Kaptai Dam in Bangladesh (former
East Pakistan) in the year 1962 displaced about 100,000 people from their home-
land (Nayak, 2015, pp. 3–23).
Among these displaced persons, ‘indigenous people’ or the ‘tribals’ (ethnic
minorities) are the most affected ones. It becomes too complex for them to
sustain while shifting their ‘forest economy’ to the non-forest economy (Jena,
1998, p. 822; Mahapatra, 1991, pp. 272–273; Shylendra, 2002, pp. 3289–3290).
Environmental changes and social disruptions caused by such projects too put
an adverse impact on human health for displaced communities (World Health
Organization, 1999, pp. 4–11). ‘Gender’ is the vital element, while understanding
the impacts of involuntary displacement. It not only results in terms of losses and
destruction of goods and property but also alters the people’s lives and their social
fabric (Gururaja, 2000, 13). The women also sometimes face physical and sexual
violence in a newly relocated place (Asian Development Bank, 2003, pp. 1–6).
In the process of involuntary displacement, conflicts also arise in many cases
between the displaced people and host communities. It put heavy pressure on the
resources of host communities and competitions take place over the sources of
livelihood and employment. The inclusion of non-homogeneous groups based on
caste, religion, ethnicity and community creates cultural clashes, social tensions,
political problems and demographic imbalances. Sometimes these problems
become so severe and lead to caste conflicts and communal riots. It hurts both
host and displaced communities (Cernea & McDowell, 2000, pp. 3666–3667;
Hemadri, 1999, pp. xx–xxi).
To address the issue of displacement, countries across the world gener-
ally follow two strategies (land-based strategy and non-land-based strategy) of

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