MAC: Mines and Communities

India Update

Published by MAC on 2006-01-19

India Update

19th January 2006

The repercussions of the Kalinganagar massacre on January 2nd continue to reverberate, with counter-accusation following accusation. Among the international media, only the New York Times has given any real attention to this appalling event.

Meanwhile, the British company, Vedanta Resources plc, announces it will open its largescale Lanjigarh alumina refinery in Orissa, over the next six months. Yet, new figures suggest that India could almost meet its current demand for aluminium - simply by recycling scrap.

Mumbai protests against the Orissa killing

Report from Orissa mining

19th January 2006

The civil society groups, trade unions, women’s group, peace and justice movements, and students, protested in Mumbai outside the Churchgate station against the Kalinganagar killing of Orissa, which took place on January 2, 2006. People demanded immediate closure of the Tata steel plant of Orissa and present justice to the deceased and affected adivasi communities. On January 2, 2006 about 21 adivasis were killed when police opened fire against the tribals protesting the takeover and seizure of their land by district administration, for the proposed TATA Steel plant at Kalinganagar in Orissa. The media and official records are claiming that 12 people have been killed, but these figures are completely fractured, the police killed 12 people on the spot and nine people later succumbed to death in the hospital which the officials are hiding.

The police have mutilated the bodies of the adivasis and one person lost his life due to excessive bleeding, as the police chopped of his hands. The government claims it as an ‘unfortunate’ incident, but this is nothing but a deliberate attempt by the state to cow down the people who are fighting for their land and livelihood. The State and corporations are encroaching tribal lands leading to destruction of livelihood and dispossession of the people. The killing has brought out the true face of the Governments and Corporations who join hands to grab resources from the tribal. The brave people of Orissa have been valiantly fighting against these nefarious plans in Baliapal, Chilika, Indravati, Kashipur, Paradip, Lakhari, Gandhmardan, etc. and have the support of all justice loving people.

There were posters that screamed justice for the adivasis who had sacrificed their lives and stood against the exploitative multinationals. The protesters lighted candle in memory of the martyred and expressed their solidarity with the struggle. The protesters questioned the economic logic of profit by appropriating and displacing the indigenous people and communities from their land and resources for the development of a few. They also condemned the violence of the state and its policies of Globalisation and Privatisation. The organizations that were part of the protest were. National Alliance of Peoples Movements, Lok Raj Sangathan, Kashipur Support Group, India Centre for Human Rights and Law, , Initiative,Forum against violence on women, Shoshit Jan Andolan, Samajwadi Janparishad, Girangaon Rozgar Haq Samiti, Peoples Political Front, Ladaku Garment Mazdoor Sangh, Narmada Solidarity Group, Zhopadi Bachao Andolan, Hind Navjawan, Chemical Mazdoor Sabha, Committee for the Rights to Housing, Focus on Global South, AITUC, CITU, Workers Federation.

India currently produces more than 800,000 tonnes of aluminium a year, but also has a 600,000 tonne annual capacity for recycling, according to industry figures. Yet the recycling rate is only around a tenth of that in "developed" countries. Despite the obvious benefits of re-use, the big aluminium producers opt instead for digging up and refining raw bauxite - with consequent adverse environmental and social consequences.

‘Outsiders stoking fire’

by Statesman News Service / BHUBANESWAR

17th January 2006

The House Committee of the Assembly on SCs and STs today alleged that “outsiders”, particularly NGOs, were instigating and fanning the agitation in Kalinga Nagar although the local tribals were ready for negotiations with the authorities.

In what is certain to raise eyebrows here, the House Committee members who visited the trouble-riddled Kalinga Nagar today, held a press conference in violation of the established practice of Committee not sharing their findings with the media till the report is placed in the Assembly.

It is not only that the practice was given a go-by by the Committee headed by Mr Jayaram Pangi the members had also named the NGO activists and organisations which had camped in Kalinga Nagar.

Mr Pangi was, however, caught on the wrong foot when asked whether these NGO activists had arrived in Kalinga Nagar after the police firing or they were instigating the tribals even before 2 January.

He replied that he was only referring to the 15-day long rasta roko agitation after the police firing. Another member of the Committee, however, intervened to point out that there were reports of Gananath Patra holding meetings in the villages prior to the firing.

The chairman of the committee, Mr Pangi, candidly stated that he had told the agitating villagers that they should lift the road blockade and it was not fair to allow all others barring the ruling BJD men and government enter the area. “I tried to impress upon them not to get carried away or influenced by the outside forces,” he said.

There are people from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and other districts of Orissa who are now camping there, he stated. The Committee members have also alleged that some political forces were also behind the agitation.

Asked why the Committee had not visited the area earlier when several national bodies including the National Commission on ST had already reached the place, Mr Pangi said: “It was only yesterday that we met and decided to go to Kalinga Nagar.”

A remark by one of the Committee members that “the situation was tense and nothing would have been achieved if they had gone earlier” prompted reporters to point out that tribal unrest had been on in the region since May 2005 prompting even the National Commission for ST to visit Kalinga Nagar in November, 2005.

Mr Pangi, however, claimed that the locals were willing to talk to the government provided three of their leaders including Rabi Jarika were released from the jail. “I have asked the district collector to examine the cases and see whether they can be released,” he added.

Replying to the questions, the Committee members said that they had been given a leaflet containing the seven demands of the agitating people which included land for land, murder cases to be registered against the DM and SP, resignation of chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik and finance minister Mr Prafulla Ghadei etc.

Tribals reject invitation

Aggrieved and hurt tribals from Kalinga Nager, who lost their twelve fellowmen in the police firing, today rejected the house committees invitation for the talks, according to an SNS report from Jajpur.

They have also refused to lift the road blockade.

Today a nine-member delegation team of House Committee headed by its chairman Mr Jayaram Pangi asked the tribals leaders to come for negotiations. Some of the tribals raised slogans against chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik.

Meanwhile, the road blockade on the Paradeep-Daitari Express Highway by the agitating tribals is continuing. Vehicular traffic has been completely paralyzed between Chandikhole and Duburi on the Express Highway causing huge revenue loss to the state economy. Collector Dr A Padhee said that the blockade on the Express Highway had adversely hit the economy of the area.

He advised the truckers operating between Paradeep Port and Iron Ore mines in both Jajpur and Keonjhar district to skirt the spot where the tribals have gathered to enforce the blockade.

Mr Padhee said that the flow of iron ore to the Paradip port had fallen by 50 per cent. Paradip Port Trust authorities said that about 2000 trucks were ferrying 20,000 tons of iron ore from Keonjhar to Paradeep Port Trust everyday. A senior port officials added that the daily flow has come down to about 10,000 tons. The Port is facing a revenue loss of about Rs 4 lakh everyday.

Fatal Clash at Mill Site Shows Perils of India's Rise

by Somini Sengupta / New York Times

13th January 2006

On the first Monday morning of the year, four bulldozers, accompanied by nearly 300 police officers, arrived on a rocky patch of farmland on the edge of a wooded village and began leveling the earth. It was meant to be the first step in the construction of India's third-largest steel mill.

Soon, from the bowels of the wooded village came an army of resistance. Armed with scythes and swords, stones and sticks - and according to the police, bows and arrows - the indigenous people who live on these lands in eastern India advanced toward the police line by the hundreds. Exactly what happened next is a matter of contention, except that by the day's end, the land was littered with the gore of more than a dozen dead and a fury that lingers. "We will not leave our land," Chakradhar Haibru, a wiry, stern-faced leader of the indigenous people, vowed in an interview. "They are trying to turn us into beggars."
Reminiscent of the peasant uprisings in China, the standoff here has reverberated across the country and snowballed into a closely watched political storm.

The confrontation is effectively a local territorial dispute, over whether and how one of India's most prominent industrial conglomerates, Tata, will build a plant on land that its current occupants, mostly indigenous villagers, refuse to vacate. But the dispute also raises a far wider challenge for India: how to balance industrial growth against the demands of its most marginalized citizens. Orissa, the mineral-rich state where the clash took place, is one of India's most stellar examples of the economic boom of recent years, just as it is among the most left-behind states, and its unprecedented growth spurt has mirrored the two faces of India's ambitions.

In 2005, Orissa attracted the largest foreign investment ever in India, with the promise of a $12 billion steel plant by Posco, of South Korea. The same year, Orissa also held the record for the highest rate of poverty in India, which included nearly half its population, or 17 million people. How Orissa deals with the current crisis bears broader lessons for other states. As in much of eastern and central India, the land here is chockful of iron ore, coal and copper and is also home to tribal people known here as adivasis.

But today the area's defiant villagers are blocking a major road that connects iron mines to the state's main port on the Bay of Bengal, and it is no longer safe for the police to venture into tribal villages. The Congress Party, which rules the central government but plays opposition here in Orissa state, has seized on the episode, flying in its party president, Sonia Gandhi, to console grieving tribal villagers - an important constituency for the party. Orissa authorities privately grumble that Maoist guerrillas, resurgent across the tribal belt, had a hand in the troubles.

Since the Jan. 2 confrontation, Naveen Patnaik, the Orissa chief minister, has promised to revise the state relief policy for villagers displaced by new industry. In an interview in his office in the state capital, Bhubaneshwar, he repeatedly called the incident "tragic," but declined to comment on how it developed, or how it could be calmed. He said he would visit the affected area once "normalcy is restored." "I certainly hope it will not affect industry that wish to come up here," he said.

Orissa began grooming itself as the country's steel hub in the early 1990's, shortly after the Indian economy opened up. Within a few years, steel makers began pouring in to what the government demarcated as the 13,000-acre Kalinganagar Industrial Area, drawn by the rich deposits of iron and chromium in the nearby hills, an abundance of water, a nearby seaport and a web of railways and roads. The new investments have already given Orissa a radical makeover. New buildings have been erected in the capital, potholed highways in the interior have been repaired and widened, and the smokestacks of steel and aluminium factories have sprung up across this hardscrabble land.

The blueprint for future development envisions an airstrip and a new township here in Kalinganagar, along with two new ports on the coast. Tata's would-be plant at Kalinganagar is slated to produce six million tons of steel a year. Further east, the proposed Posco mill would generate double that amount.

A report by Morgan Stanley predicts that the state could draw $30 billion to $40 billion in new investments over the next five years. But that industrial boom has not yet brought new schools and hospitals to the subsistence farmers who live here. One village that sits on the Tata land still has no electricity. Not least, at the heart of the industrial surge has been a high-pitched contest over rural lands.

On paper, at least, the government has acquired the land that makes up the Kalinganagar Industrial Area. On paper, too, the government has awarded varying amounts of compensation to some of the roughly 1,800 families who have been displaced, though the state's industrial development agency now says an estimated 1,500 families are yet to be fully compensated. All plants in the industrial area are obliged to employ one member of each family displaced, but not all those jobs have yet materialized, the agency adds. In Tata's case, the company says it paid the government a handsome $16 million for the 2,000-acre property where it wants to build its mill over a year ago. That land now officially belongs to the company. The government says compensation was granted to eligible villagers more than a decade ago. They were allowed to continue to live and work on the land, while negotiations went on with a number of companies that expressed interest in setting up in the area, but then backed out.

The villagers acknowledge that some of them got paid. Mr. Haibru, the village leader in Gobarghati, reaped $26,000 in compensation for his 28 acres, for instance. But those without legal claims to the land - and there seem to be a great many among the villagers here - got little or nothing. Some seem unaware that the land now belongs to Tata. Others are not entirely sure exactly what benefits they are entitled to. Most here seem convinced of three things, however. First, that whatever relief they have received is not enough in exchange for abandoning their land forever. Second, that considering Kalinganagar's ambitions, their sorry patches of land will soon be worth a great deal more than what they have been offered. And third, that the factories that have mushroomed across their lands have delivered few opportunities to their communities.

But if the people here were once open to negotiation, the Jan. 2 incident has left them seething. "If we die, we die," spat Amba Tiria, in the village of Champakoila, on the edge of the battlefield. "We will not leave our land. We're dying anyway." To anyone following the currents here, what ultimately unfolded here should not have been unexpected. Industrial projects have faced increasingly militant protests over the last year. Tata's plans to build a fence around its property, for instance, encountered furious villagers last May, and in the confrontation, a local government administrator's front teeth were knocked out.

In the latest standoff, the residents of Champakoila saw the first bulldozers on the horizon. Word quickly spread from village to village. Men, women and children streamed out of their homes and marched toward the bulldozers. "Shut it down, shut it down," they yelled, and they advanced toward the police line. Several villagers, interviewed separately, said they had wanted to lay down before the bulldozers, to persuade Tata to withdraw its machines. They said they did not imagine the police would fire, killing 12 people, including a 12-year-old boy and a woman who had gone to the fields that morning to relieve herself.

More than 30 villagers were injured; some had been shot in the back. One police officer was hacked to death; 32 others were injured. A few days later came a macabre coda: it turned out that the hands of six corpses had been chopped off. The police blamed doctors performing the autopsy. The superintendent of police has been suspended, pending a government inquiry, though the police insist they had been prepared to act with restraint. Each 30-man platoon was allowed only three rifles. Protesters were warned to step back. Tear gas, followed by stun grenades, followed by rubber bullets were fired to disperse the crowd. The villagers said they had no idea these things were precursors to gunshots.

The police say they fired in "self-defense" and only after coming under attack. The villagers dispute this. Some say they were shot as they turned around and tried to flee.

For now, Tata's Kalinganagar project has been delayed. But neither Orissa government officials nor Tata seem deterred. Tata's chief of communication, Sanjay Choudhry, blamed "extremist activity" for the violence and said the company had no plans to pull out of the project. He maintained that Tata had aided other communities in which it works and would seek to do the same here.

"Industrialization is the best way to improve quality of life, especially of the tribal people," Mr. Choudhry said. "We're not thinking of backing out. We'll work with the government and tribal people and see if there's a way out, a proper way of doing this."

Possiblelegal action on Kalinganagar

by NewKerala / Bhubaneswar

19th January 2006

Just as Vedanta Resources plc announces it will likely completely construction of its illegal Orissa bauxite refinery in the next six months, calls are mounting to stop all work at Kalinganar, on the steel plant at the root of the massacre of tribal people, three weeks ago.

The Orissa High Court has served notice on the state government on the issue of displacement of people that led to the death of 12 tribals in police firing.

The court Tuesday decided to examine the conditions under which thousands of tribals were being displaced from the Kalinga Nagar industrial complex in Jajpur, 100 km from here, where the police firing took place.

In its notice, the court asked the government to clarify why status quo should not be maintained at the site, a government lawyer at the high court said.

The 12 tribals were killed Jan 2 when over 500 tribals clashed with police at the Kalinga Nagar complex while protesting constructions by the Tata Steel Company.

The tribals had alleged they were not adequately compensated for their land that the company wanted to acquire for its plant. One policeman was killed when the tribals attacked the force, prompting the cops to open fire at the protesters.

Leading social worker Shyam Sunder Das had filed a public interest petition in the high court after the incident seeking direction for maintenance of status quo at the construction site.

"To save further loss of life, we have sought the court's direction to stop construction work at the site because it will create a chaotic situation unless the grievances of the affected people are addressed and given due attention," Das said.

He alleged that on May 9, 2005, thousands of people were baton-charged when they opposed the prayer rituals to kick off a steel project of Maharashtra Seamless in the same complex.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) probed the incident and recommended rehabilitation of the tribals before taking over land for the proposed steel plant.

But without paying any heed to that, the state government allowed the construction by Tata Steel Company in the complex, he said.

The court asked the government to submit an Action Taken Report on the recommendations made by the NHRC after probing the May 9, 2005, violence in Kalinga Nagar, he said.

The court also asked the state to clarify its stand on the formation of a high-level committee with an eminent social worker as a member to formulate a rehabilitation and resettlement policy for the persons or families to be displaced by the establishment of the Tata Steel plant.

Kalinga Nagar at Duburi is a 12,000-acre complex where various industries propose to set up projects with a total capacity of 15 million tonnes.

While two companies - Nilachal Ispat Nigam Ltd and Mideast Integrated Steel Ltd - have already set up plants in the area, Tata Steel proposed to set up a six million tonne steel plant there in two modules of three million tonnes each.

The Jan 2 clash is likely to hit the state government's industrialisation drive under which at least 43 memorandums of understanding (MoU) have been signed with various companies for setting up steel plants.

India's Recycled Aluminium Demand Expected to Surge

by Biman Mukherji / INDIA

18th January 2006

MUMBAI - Growing demand for consumer goods and automobiles in India is likely to give a huge boost to the consumption of recycled aluminium, industry officials said.

Subramaniam Arumugam, marketing director of US aluminium casting firm Almex Corp., told Reuters that demand for recycled aluminium was bound to shoot up in India because it was much cheaper than the primary metal and also environmentally friendly.

"It will be used for everything from cans, scooters to construction. It can even be used in specialised alloys for making automobile to aerospace parts," he said.

Yet India was lagging far behind developed countries, where usage of scrap aluminium is nearly 10 times that of primary aluminium because of energy savings, he said.

"Here, in India, it is still a very unorganised industry. Most of the recycled aluminium is made by small firms. In another three to four years, the secondary aluminium industry will take off in a big way," Arumugam said.

Industry officials estimated the availability of recycled aluminium in the Indian market at about 600,000 tonnes annually.

India's annual output of primary aluminium, or new metal made from the mineral bauxite, is estimated at more than 800,000 tonnes.

"If you see India's per-capita consumption of aluminium, it is 0.6 kilograms per person. Whereas in developed markets the consumption level is around 20 kilograms," said S.K. Banerjee, former managing director of India's second-largest aluminium producer, NALCO "India obviously has a tremendous (potential) market for recycled aluminium," he added.

Banerjee said recycled aluminium was sure to shadow growth in primary aluminium usage, which is projected to more than double in the next five years.

Industry officials said recycled aluminium had a huge competitive advantage as the cost of manufacturing was only 5 percent of primary aluminium.

"The application of such recycled aluminium can be in everything from automobile parts to other sophisticated devices," an industry official said. "But I expect tertiary firms rather than the big primary producers to take more to this product."

He said while big aluminium firms such as NALCO already had integrated complexes for processing bauxite into aluminium, medium-sized firms usually did not and therefore would probably opt for recycled metal instead.

Story by Biman Mukherji


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