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Indians who feel disowned by India

February 12, 2007
The year was 1982. T Sankar (in the picture) was a regular schoolchild in Gangawaran village near Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. His father T Pydayya was a fisherman. It was a piece of paper that shattered their happy little world.

The land on which they were living would be taken for the Vishaka Steel Plant, the state government notice said. Sankar's schooling was affected; so was his father's means of livelihood.

"We were thrown out of our homes," says Sankar, now 36. "We became paupers overnight."

"The government promised all the displaced people would be given new jobs," he continues. "Out of the 12,000 people in my village, they employed only 450."

They rebuilt their lives from scratch on the piece of land the government gave them, at nearby Peda Jalaripeta village in Visakhapatnam district. Like his father, Sankar started fishing.

And like every father, he dreamt of a better future for his three sons Eswar (13), Kishore (11) and Arvindu (9).

Then came another jolt.

In 2002, he read in the newspaper that the Andhra Pradesh government wanted to set up a Special Economic Zone in the area they were living in. People of 14 villages, including Peda Jalaripeta, will be affected.

"We will all become beggars because of this SEZ," says Sankar. "The government is planning a tourism project. We will once again be thrown out of our homes."

He earns Rs 6,000 per month, which he says is sufficient to support his family. Once the SEZ project comes up, he will displaced. Again. He will have to rebuild his life from scratch. Again.

"The government is just grabbing land and throwing poor villagers out of their homes. No one is bothered about us. The sea is our life and the coastal land is our right," says Sankar.

Reportage: Syed Firdaus Ashraf | Photographs: Uttam Ghosh

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