Vassa: A blog for SCUBA

Maitreya Project may displace thousands by Oz
September 10, 2007, 9:10 pm
Filed under: News

From Buddhist Channel and the Christian Science Monitor, plans for the construction of the Maitreya statue in Kushinagar, India will displace 15,000 to 20,000 local farmers:

The struggle to construct the statue and surrounding parks and facilities on roughly 700 acres of fertile land is pitting plans by devoted Buddhists against poor villagers who make their living growing rice, sugar cane and wheat on small plots of land that have been in their families for generations.

The farmers are angry, afraid and adamantly opposed to the construction of the giant symbol of love and compassion.

The sentiment lies not only with the Maitreya Project and it seems to be common throughout rural parts of India as the government clashes with local farmers over developing lands for tourist and industrial projects. The planners of the project have said they do not have any involvement with the acquisition process:

Linda Gatter, who works with the Maitreya Project’s UK office, says it is the government of the state of Uttar Pradesh, not the project organisers, who are energetically pursuing the construction of the Buddha and the development of the area.

“The Maitreya Project has no part whatsoever to play in the acquisition process which is – and which by law can only be – entirely the responsibility of the government of Uttar Pradesh,” says Gatter. ”

However, the project did choose Kushinagar as the site for construction. Struggles like this are bound to happen in developing countries like India as the old world meets the new. One local cafe owner makes an interesting comment:

T.K. Roy, a cafe owner who stands to profit from the increased traffic from pilgrims and tourists, says that about half of the people in the area are ready to give up their land, while the other half are skeptical and may need to be forcibly removed. “The whole of Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, and India will benefit, undoubtedly,” says Mr. Roy. But he adds wistfully, “the tranquility of the place will be lost.”

Some farmers, says Roy, are holding out for higher compensation packages, but that the government cannot pay those farmers a higher rate for their land without paying more to those who have already moved.

There are many vested interests that make it a complicated issue to tackle:

    The construction of the statue for supporting Buddhists
    People in the future who will benefit from the school and hospital being built
    An influx of money into the Indian economy
    Business contracts for construction
    Local business owners who benefit from tourists
    Farmers who want to stay
    Farmers who want bigger compensation packages

I’m hoping the government, Maitreya project organizers, and local farmers can settle this peacefully.


Buddhist monks now going clubbing by Oz
August 19, 2007, 4:35 am
Filed under: News

By Oz

Never thought I’d see a headline like that.

Next Vesak Day, we need a Buddhist remix of “In da club”: Go buddha, it’s your birthday, we gon’ party like its your birthday…