South Asia updatePublished by MAC on 2007-04-27
South Asia update
27th April 2007
Irate villagers attack four officials
Special Correspondent, The Hindu
27th April 2007
BHUBANESWAR: Four government officials were attacked by hundreds of villagers who were opposing the administration's attempt to conduct a gram sabha hearing for acquiring land for a steel plant project of Uttam Galva Steel Limited in Keonjhar district of Orissa on Thursday.
The incident occurred around 3.30 p.m. when over 300 villagers stopped the Additional District Magistrate, the Revenue Inspector and two officials of the Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) from going to Nuadihi village, about 10 km from the district headquarters town of Keonjhar.
The vehicles of the four officials were stopped by the agitated people near Deuldihi village, according to the police.
As the crowd was in no mood to allow the team of officials to proceed towards Nuadihi village, the officials started to return towards Keonjhar town. However, some people started throwing stones at the vehicle from behind. While the officials sustained minor injuries, the windscreens of the vehicles were also damaged.
Keonjhar Superintendent of Police G.S. Upadhyay said that no arrest had been made immediately. Action would be taken against the miscreants after the Sadar police station formally registered a first information report (FIR).
Mumbai-based Uttam Galva Steel Limited proposed to set up a three million tonne capacity steel project in the area. The company had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Orissa Government for setting up of the steel project in November last year. The company required about 2,000 acres of land for the proposed steel mill. The company filed as many as 26 applications seeking allotment of iron and manganese ore at different locations in Keonjhar district.
Keonjhar had been witnessing large-scale mining activity during the past three decades. However, the people of the district started opposing mineral-based industries since last year.
Villagers step up protests against Essar steel plant
22th April 2007
Residents of two villages in Chhattisgarh hit by Maoist violence have stepped up their protests to prevent the government from acquiring their farm land for Essar Steel's upcoming plant.
"We will sacrifice our lives, but not surrender our land!" That's the message the impoverished villagers of Dhurli and Bhansi are sending out to everyone visiting the area, be they government officials, industrialists or media persons.
The villages are situated in one of the Maoist strongholds of Dantewada. It is where Essar Steel's 3.2 million tonnes per annum plant will come up in two phases.
The company has been awarded a prospecting license for a 2,285-hectare stretch in Bailadila hills.
Maoist guerrillas are said to be cashing in on the growing resentment among the tribals and encouraging them to intensify violent protests against the government plan to acquire 600 hectares (1,480 acres) of land - 200 hectares from Dhurli and 400 hectares from the adjoining hilly region of Bhansi.
A Muria tribal stronghold, the Dhurli and Bhansi villages are located some 400 km south of mineral rich Chhattisgarh's capital Raipur and 16 km from Dantewada town.
A senior official said 69 families would be affected by Essar's plant. The company made a deal in June 2005 with the government to invest Rs.70 billion for the plant.
The villages are located close to Bailadila hills, divided into 14 deposits, and have one of the world's largest and finest quality iron ore stocks where the public sector National Mineral Development Corp Ltd (NMDC) has been excavating iron ore for decades for domestic supply as well as exports.
The tribal protest against land acquisition took a violent turn on April 1, when Maoists stepped into the row and killed two farmers in Bhansi. The farmers had agreed to surrender their land for financial compensation.
"The Muria tribe has never conceded ancestral farm land for money to anyone. The tradition will end only if we are killed," Telami Vija, 51, told media at Dhurli village when the correspondent visited the Essar's planned steel project site.
Two elderly villagers, Ingaram and Budhram, said, "A violent war is in the offing as the government is forcibly trying to take over our land".
They alleged that the village head, Bhagat Kunjam, had become "an Essar agent".
Communist Party of India (CPI) leaders, including Gurudas Dasgupta, came here last month and voiced support to the villagers, Gundaram, 60, told the media.
In Bhansi, the situation is tense because the Maoists have asked tribals not to concede a single inch of land to the government for industry.
One village chief who supports the plant had a different point of view.
"The majority wants to give up their land. But who will go against the Maoists? They (Maoists) have said they will eliminate any person found lobbying for the plant," Bhansi sarpanch [chief] Anup Telam told the media.
"For the last one month I have been visiting Bhansi village only in the daytime. I spend the night in safer areas, mostly in Dantewada town, due to threats from Maoists," he said.
Another villager said a few of them from Bhansi were willing to negotiate with the government on the compensation amount but Maoists were coming in the way.
"It's too much; I can't decide the fate of my own land. I support the plant proposal but I am concerned about my family's future. I know very well what they (Maoists) can do," said the Bhansi villager.
'Cancel corrupt agreements on mineral resources'
The Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh
27th April 2007
Speakers at a dialogue yesterday urged the caretaker government to cancel all the 'corrupt agreements' concerning oil, gas and mineral resources with foreign companies.
They also demanded action against the persons responsible for such agreements that went against the country's interest.
They also called on the government to safeguard the country's interest while ensuring the optimal use of mineral resources.
The National Committee for Protection of Oil-Gas-Mineral Resources, Power and Port organised the dialogue at Dhaka Reporters' Unity auditorium.
"We demanded necessary steps to curb corruption in the mineral resources sector, but to no avail," said Prof Anu Muhammad, member secretary of the committee.
He also demanded that the Phulbari project of Asia Energy * be cancelled and the company be ousted from the country.
The speakers called on the government to ensure that the people of the country must have 100 percent ownership of mineral resources such as oil, gas and coal.
The mineral resources should be utilised to meet the present and future needs of the people, not for the profit of any companies, they said.
They also called for not taking up any projects harmful to environment.
Nuruddin Mahmud Kamal, former chairman of PDB, demanded action against the officials of energy, power and mineral resources ministry who are responsible for the recent fire incidents at Titas Gas field.
The fire at Titas Gas field has caused a loss of about 150 crore dollars, he said.
Justice Golam Rabbani, former chairman of Petrobangla Dr Hossain Monsur, economist MM Akash and engineer Sheikh Muhammed Shahidullah also spoke.
[*Editorial note: Asia Energy re-registered itself as Global Coal Management late last year]