Natural resources in the country are under threat as vast tracts of land, forest and water reserves are being handed over to Indian affiliates of international finance capital under cover of the eminent domain doctrine, or the state's pre-eminent ownership of land, Binayak Sen, human rights activist and vice-president of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, said on Monday.

Dr. Sen cited Chhattisgarh as an example of the dispossession phenomena to illustrate how the hold exercised by the poor over their resources was increasingly coming under challenge with industrial and economic development.

He was delivering an address on ‘Hunger, Dispossession, and the Quest for Justice' at the convocation of the Class of 2010 of the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ) here, administered by the Media Development Foundation (MDF).

“In many ways, the history of ‘development' projects in many parts of the Indian Republic are illustrative of the way in which the doctrine of ‘eminent domain' had been applied for the so-called public interest to cause major havoc and displacement in the lives of many of the poorest citizens living at subsistence levels.”

In Chhattisgarh, it had become imperative for the Indian state to assert its sovereignty under the law of eminent domain and stand guarantor for the secure sequestration of these resources in the hands of the Indian affiliates of global finance capital.

While the Directive Principles clearly mandated that all exercise of state power should be for the reduction of inequity and promotion of equity, recent trends in the use of state power clearly violated this mandate and actually resulted in increasing inequities in the areas of livelihood, education and health.

“Development in tribal areas is not only about building roads or buildings but about the operationalisation of equity, social justice and people's sovereignty. While everyone talks about peace, genuine peace cannot mean acquiescence in an exploitative and unjust social order, but rather it should be the result of a movement for equity and justice,” Dr. Sen said.

However, he said, this assertion of the state's right sparked off outrage and popular protest that was proving difficult to curb. In Bastar, popular resistance to state attempts to impose the eminent domain principle had a history that had a far greater spread in terms of duration, geographical extent as well as political and institutional identity than the current operational entity, the Communist Party of India (Maoist).

In Chhattisgarh, the term “Maoist” had become a catch-all attribution for anyone whose activities the state found inimical to its interests.

Stating that Bastar had turned into a war-zone since the launch of Operation Green Hunt, Dr. Sen cited the international Convention on the Prevention of Genocide to contend that evidence of what was happening in central India was tantamount to genocide on a massive scale because of the creation of “physically and mentally hazardous conditions which could put the survival of particular communities at risk.”

N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu and MDF trustee, said though there were many problems with contemporary media, the ACJ programme had foregrounded the core principles of journalism by having no truck with public relations or other fields unlike as some schools did.

“A full-fledged media ethics programme would be an integral part of the course,” he said.

Sashi Kumar, MDF chairman, said that at a time when the credibility of the media was not as implicit as it once was, the challenge of a J-school was to have an education programme that was steadfast in upholding cardinal principles and also set the bar for the profession.