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Archive for April, 2007


For the past couple of weeks I have been staying with the DMK visiting various villages and projects up and down the coast, going to various meetings not understanding a word (I’ve gathered they like to talk – read shout) and just generally trying to understand what the hell was going on.

And now everybody has decided to take the next week off for a holiday. So I think I will too!

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Corporatisation of land ownership

Coastal Zone Management is a means by which the government can control the development of coastal regions. Initially they were set up with environmental conservation in mind. However, post-tsunami, according to the DMK, Coastal Zone Management and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) are taking away traditional livelihoods for the benefit of multinational business, not local business. People are being moved out to places far away from the coast under the guise of ’safety reasons’ with a promise of a ‘corridor’ to the sea and boats, however, this is the first step of destroying traditional livelihoods since there is no offer of an alternative livelihood and essentially 5 to 6 generations of fisherfolk are being ‘forcibly’ displaced.

People are beginning to feel threatened and are beginning to resist and mobilise with the help of DMK. They have held public meetings, visited villages, and handed out pamphlets with the aim to invalidate CZM. But they desperately need support from other organisations and the media.

People are already leaving the coastal areas and they don’t own the land they are being moved to. These people need to be encouraged to move back. Land owners and therefore livelihood owners are being convinced by government to move people out.

The tsunami is ultimately being seen as an opportunity for the Indian government to claim coastal land.

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Sari’s are brilliant, especially if you’re a man in woman’s clothing. They cover up a multitude of sins! Those bare forearms and hands though…

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Field Visit to MV Foundation

After the Tsunami ActionAid initially asked M Venkatarangaiya Foundation (MVF) to assist with assessment of the Tsunami affected area, in particular with regards to children’s education.MVF primarily focus on child labour and child rights with the twin objectives to

  • Eradicate all forms of child labour
  • Universalise education

The objective of the project was to focus on the universalisation of education, covering all the children in the affected villages to ensure that at the end of the project period, processes are built to ensure that every child is in school.

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Dalit Manuranai Kootamaippu - DMK

The Dalit Land Rights Movement (DMK) is a local NGO working with the dalit people (untouchables - lowest caste) They cover 67 villages along 140km of coastline incorporating 67,000 people.

Land ownership they say gives rise to Status, Dignity and Power

In 1892 Dalit’s were given land by the British – 120,000 acres in this area alone. However, weakness of the Dalit community meant higher castes took the land back illegally. The land reclamation movement started in 2001. They work by putting pressure on local and district level government through demos.

Most petitions came through women as they mobilised to reclaim land. Land that has been given back has been given back to women. So far, only 2,000 acres have been reclaimed.

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Lost in Chennai

Spent the first few days of my stay wandering around, getting totally lost in Chennai. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it as part of anybody’s itinerary. I actually wanted to get in touch with ActionAid just to try to get out of the place. Fortunately, after going to a few meetings for a couple of days they decided my time would be better spent working out of one of the hubs down the coast so a couple of days later I have ended up in Pondicherry staying with the The Dalit Land Rights Movement.

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A bewildering array of humanity

Absolute chaos!

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Did You Know? Your stomach has to produce a new layer of mucus every two weeks, otherwise it will digest itself.