India's National Advisory Council wants radical advances on implementing community rightsPublished by MAC on 2011-05-30
Source: Times News Network India
Protests against POSCO project continue
India's National Advisory Council (NAC) has made a set of recommendations over implementation of the Forest Rights Act (2006) and a new government Land Acquisition Act.
Its report cuts to the heart of the implementation of the right to Free Prior Informed Consent - as opposed to mere "consultation" - for many of the world's largest Indigenous population in a single country.
The NAC urges that a central agency take over land acquisition for all needs including those of private industry. But, potentially more important, is its recommendation that consent must be obtained from a majority (70%) within the affected gram sabhas [village government areas] before any transfer occurs.
Comments Times News Network (TNN) correspondent, Nitin Sethi:
"The land acquisition bill...proposed earlier only provided for consultation with people and their explicit permission was not required to be taken for any kind of project. In fact, critics had slammed the bill for further easing the provisions in favour of the industry by actually facilitating the transfer of land.
"Under the existing Land Acquisition Act, the government is now permitted to acquire land for private companies...but the state governments have found ways around it by asking state corporations to first acquire land and then hand it over to private companies as in the Posco case, or set up joint ventures as in the case of Vedanta."
Last week a group of villagers (mostly women), in the POSCO area, non-violently "arrested" police who had encroached on their territory.
And India's Environment Support Group issued a new report, adducing compelling information on why this massive project has to be abandoned.
For previous articles on MAC, see: Outrage at Indian go-ahead for POSCO "loot"
For previous article by Leo Saldanha (author of this report, along with Barghavi Rao) see: Outrage at Indian go-ahead for POSCO "loot"
NAC favours gram sabha nod for private project
By Nitin Sethi
Times News Network (TNN)
27 May 2011
NEW DELHI: The National Advisory Council's recommendation that all private projects must secure consent from 70% of members of all affected gram sabhas before land acquisition is permitted promises to become the biggest headache for the industry if accepted.
As of now, such provisions only exist for forest land under the Forest Rights Act and they too have been observed mostly in breach.
The most prominent case where the government the Union environment ministry side-stepped similar provisions of the FRA was Posco's integrated steel plant at Jagatsinghpur in Orissa.
The recommendation from the Sonia Gandhi-led council to have a similar provision for all kind of lands holds the potential to become the next landmine in case Congress is able to convince its resurgent partner Trinamool Congress to accept the rest of changes in the acquisition law.
The council has suggested a complete departure from the earlier proposed bills. The original proposal asked the government to buy out the remaining stake of land if the private developer has secured a certain percentage of land on its own. The council has now recommended that a central agency take over acquisition for all needs including private industry. But the council's other recommendation that consent from a majority within the affected gram sabhas should be made mandatory would create a greater safeguard.
At present the environment ministry, in accordance with provisions of FRA, has ordered that permissions should be sought from gram sabhas before their traditional forest lands are diverted to other uses. This too can be done only when their rights are settled. But the ministry has on occasions tried to find a way around realizing that this could give a veto to the villages for the first time over private projects.
The land acquisition bill the government had proposed earlier only provided for consultation with people and their explicit permission was not required to be taken for any kind of project. In fact, critics had slammed the bill for further easing the provisions in favour of the industry by actually facilitating the transfer of land.
Under the existing Land Acquisition Act, the government is now permitted to acquire land for private companies except for workers' dwellings but the state governments have found ways around it by asking state corporations to first acquire land and then hand it over to private companies as in the Posco case, or set up joint ventures as in the case of Vedanta.
8 policemen taken hostage by anti-Posco group
Press Trust Of India
28 May 2011
Paradip: Eight police personnel were on Saturday taken hostage in Orissa by a group of locals opposing the Rs 52,000 crore Posco steel plant.
"A police jeep was stopped by locals, mostly women, as it entered Patana village under Dhinkia Panchayat and all the eight occupants, including the driver, were held captive," Additional Superintendent of Police Shantanu Das said.
No harm was caused to the police personnel by anti-Posco activists, he said.
Abhaya Sahu, president Posco Pratirodh Sangram Committee (PPSS) spearheading the anti-Posco agitation claimed that it was agreed at a meeting between Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and PPSS leaders last year that police force would not venture into Dhinkia area.
The jeep carrying policemen should not have moved into the area, Sahu said, adding unless and until a convincing explanation is received why policemen entered the area, the cops would not be released.
The ASP said he spoke to PPSS leaders in an effort to sort out the matter.
"The situation is tense but under control in the area after the incident," he said.
The Home secretary should give an explanation as to why police force entered Dhinkia Panchayat area when PPSS activists were busy organising the meeting, Sahu said.
"We must know as to with whose permission the policemen entered into the area," he said.
The PPSS activists were gathering for a rally in nearby Gobindpur village when the incident took place, police said.
Meanwhile, land acquisition for the mega steel project progressed smoothly in neighbouring Bayanala and Noliasahi areas with around 22 betel plantations being acquired by the officials, official sources said.
"Tearing through the Water Landscape: Evaluating the environmental and social consequences of POSCO project in Odisha, India"
Announcing release of Study on impacts of POSCO's India project
Environment Support Group
27 May 2011
On 2nd May 2011, Indian Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh finally approved the diversion of over 3,000 acres of forest land, of the 4,000 acres demanded, for a steel-power-port complex of the POSCO India project.
Earlier, on 31 January 2011, Ramesh had approved the environmental and coastal regulation zone clearances that the project had secured in 2007, even though all these clearances were obtained by fraud, and thus illegal, as proved by two independent investigative committees that he appointed last year.
Forest Rights denied is violation of Fundamental Rights
The diversion of forests for non-industrial use by POSCO was based on "categorical assurances" that Jairam Ramesh sought from the Odisha Government, that the Forest Rights Act did not apply to communities affected directly and indirectly by POSCO. The Odisha Government gave him this assurance on the basis of fraudulent claims that there were no non-traditional forest dwellers and tribes in the POSCO project affected villages of Jagatsinghpur, thus making this massive land transfer merely an administrative arrangement.
Rather cheaply, the Odisha Government accused Shishir Mahpatra, the Sarpanch of Dhinkia Panchayat, of fraud in providing resolutions of Palli Sabhas that demonstrated that not only were there OTFDs and tribals in the project affected area, but that they had been dependent on the region's natural resources, particularly forests, for centuries.
Ramesh did not hesitate for a moment and question this claim by the Odisha Government. On the basis of this uncertainty in fact, he proceeded to support the POSCO clearance claiming it was of "strategic importance" to India.
Authorising the loot of India's natural resources:
As the single largest industrial foreign direct investment ever in India (with a capital cost of Rs. 51,000 crores at 2005 prices), POSCO's ambitions in India aren't merely of location a steel-power-port complex in the ecologically senstive Jagatsinghpur district. In fact, company officials have submitted before the investigative committees that they will not invest in the steel-port complex if permission to mine for iron ore in over 6,100 acres of dense jungle in the Kandadhar Hills in Sundergarh district is not granted. Most of this iron ore mined is for export without any local value addition, and thus will serve the economic interest of South Korea and POSCO stockholders - mainly American banks and Warren Buffet - one of the world's richest's individuals.
POSCO has also demanded a dedicated railway line to the port - that means additional land demands. Further the project requires at least 2,000 acres for a township for its employees, and diversion of drinking water from the Jobra barrage for industrial use. All this has been agreed to by the Odisha Government when the project MOU was signed in 2005, but the people have been kept in the dark of the real consequences of such loot of India's non-renewable natural resources.
The Making of a 'Right-less People' by Jairam Ramesh
Over 13,000 acres is merely the demand of land for realising POSCO's dream venture in India. Thousands of families will be dislocated, and suffer irreparable damage to their lives and livelihoods. It is time we appreciated that this steel-power-port-township-mining project is the single largest industrial venture conceived in recent memory, and that such scale of investment will be done only because we are gifting highly expensive and excellent iron ore for POSCO to make stupendous profits.
There is absolutely no benefit for India in this deal, and what POSCO will leave behind, if they succeed at all, is a lot of fly ash, destroyed ecologically sensitive coastal and forest environments and thousands of people in misery.
To help appreciate the full consequences of the POSCO investment in India, Environment Support Group, a not-for-profit public interest research, training, campaign and advocacy initiative, has produced a study entitled "Tearing through the Water Landscape: Evaluating the environmental and social consequences of POSCO project in Odisha, India", which is co-authored by Leo Saldanha and Bhargavi Rao. This study was undertaken at the request of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samithi (POSCO Project Resistance Movement), leading the opposition against the POSCO project.
The study reveals on the basis of extensive review of historical, ecological, social and economic evidence that Jairam Ramesh's support for POSCO is nothing but a highly condemnable act that legitimises fraud and corruption in environmental decision making.
As a result, the study reveals that Ramesh has today become the architect of one of India's greatest planned disasters that begins its ominous initiative by turning the affected communities into a 'rightless people', as their fundamental rights have been snatched on the basis of "faith and trust" in Odisha Government's lies.
A copy of this study is accessible at www.esgindia.org
Environment Support Group, 1572, 36th Cross, Banashankari II Stage, Bangalore 560070. INDIA