MAC: Mines and Communities

Patnaik: "We will strike a balance between environment and industrialisation"

Published by MAC on 2006-02-02

Patnaik: "We will strike a balance between environment and industrialisation"

Interview, Prafulla Das, The Hindu

2nd February 2006

Orissa Chief MinisterNaveen Patnaik faces the toughest challenge of his political career in handling the agitation in the wake of the death of 12 tribals in police firing at Kalinga Nagar on January 2. In an interview in Bhubaneswar, he spoke about the measures his Government was taking to get over the crisis and carry forward the process of industrialisation in the State. Excerpts:

Naveen Patnaik: "Rehabilitation of the displaced families will be given top priority."

Prafulla Das: Your Government is facing severe criticism in the wake of the Kalinga Nagar firing. What are you doing to control the damage?

NP: The Kalinga Nagar firing was a tragic incident. The Government has taken immediate steps to tackle the situation, like treatment of the injured, payment of compensation, etc. We have kept our doors open for discussion with the affected persons. We are contemplating revising our resettlement and rehabilitation policy to make it more sympathetic and humane. We have set up a Group of Ministers to have a thorough look at the existing rehabilitation policy and suggest improvements. We have invited the members of the Opposition to come out with suggestions for improvement of our R&R policy. We intend to consult tribal leaders, leading NGOs, and professionals for their valuable suggestions.

PD: The agitation by the Kalinga Nagar tribals has been on since January 2. What measures are you taking to contain the tribal unrest that is now spreading to other areas?

NP: Tribal unrest is not spreading to other areas. We have initiated the peace process in Kalinga Nagar. The district administration is in constant touch with the displaced persons and persuading them to join the peace process. I have extended my invitation to them to talk to me for restoration of peace.

PD: The process of industrialisation has virtually come to a halt after the firing incident. What measures are being taken to put the process back on the rails?

NP: It is not a fact that industrialisation has come to a halt all over the State because of this incident. It is only at Kalinga Nagar that the agitators are blocking the road leading to Paradip. We are persuading the agitators to come for negotiations and I hope normalcy will be restored soon.

PD: NP: Opposition to POSCO's mega steel project is growing. Are you contemplating a review of the rehabilitation package?

As I have already indicated, the entire rehabilitation policy is being worked out by the Group of Ministers. This policy will also take into account the problems of persons displaced by the POSCO project.

PD: Forty-three MoUs have been signed in the steel sector alone. How many will really be implemented?

NP: As many as 17 projects are in different stages of construction. Many more have initiated steps for land acquisition.

PD: Do you think the State can bear the impact of such large-scale industrialisation and mining activity at one go?

NP: While emphasising on industrialisation, we are also concerned about our environment. No industrial activity will be allowed at the cost of the environment. A proper environmental impact analysis will be conducted before setting up any industry and adequate safeguards will be taken for protection of the environment. We will be able to strike a balance between environment and industrialisation.

PD: Is the government machinery now ready to ensure proper rehabilitation of project-affected people?

NP: Proper rehabilitation of the displaced families will be given top priority. There are Rehabilitation Advisory Committees for each project/group of projects in order to oversee implementation of the policy.

PD: Thousands of people displaced in the past are now demanding rehabilitation. How is your Government planning to cope?

NP: Displacement is not a new problem. Many families have been displaced by Central Government PSUs and Railways over several decades. I have already taken up the issue with the Prime Minister and the appropriate Central Government authorities to rehabilitate the displaced families. The matter is being pursued.

PD: What measures do you think would redress the tribals grievances?

NP: From deregulating the trade of minor forest produce, to lifting of cases against thousands of tribals involved in forest and minor offences, my Government has been pursuing a pro-tribal policy for the past six years. We have taken steps to restore land illegally occupied by non-tribals to tribals. The tribals have been involved in protection of forests. Infrastructure in tribal areas is being improved. These efforts are on.

PD: Why has the situation remained unchanged at the ground level despite your Government's tribal welfare programmes?

NP: The situation at the ground level has shown definite signs of improvement. The performance of tribal schools has been better than non-tribal schools. Irrigation projects and roads in tribal areas have vastly increased.

PD: Many companies that are not setting up any industry are still exporting iron ore from the State. Are you planning to impose any restrictions in this regard?

NP: Presently we are giving mining leases to those companies which are willing to set up industries inside the State. My Government has introduced the concept of value addition to minerals within the State. This will bring in additional resources to the State for developmental works and also create many jobs for our people. The State Government is, however, not competent to restrict export of ore under the MMDR Act [Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957].

PD: Will you blame the Centre for its current mineral policy that allows export of iron ore and other minerals?

NP: The mineral policy of the entire country is now being reviewed. I am of the firm view that maximum value addition to the minerals should take place within the country.

PD: The general perception is that development of agriculture has ceased to be a priority for your Government. How would you react?

NP: Development of agriculture continues to be top-most priority on our agenda. We are preparing a Master Plan to irrigate at least 35 per cent of arable land in each block. We have put in place innovative schemes such as Pani Panchayat and Biju Krushak Vikas Yojana to help our farmers to irrigate their land through participatory irrigation management. Taking advantage of the diverse agro-climatic zones in Orissa, we will assist our farmers in a big way through the Horticulture Mission to cultivate more vegetables, fruits, flowers, and other cash crops.

PD: With tribal unrest on the rise in the wake of the Kalinga Nagar incident, don't you think the naxalites will gain strength by capitalising on it? How will you tackle the menace?

NP: As I said, tribal unrest is not rising. If some extremists try and take undue advantage of the situation, I am sure, the people will see through their game.

PD: The Budget session of the Assembly begins on February 3. How would you handle the Opposition this time round?

NP: I hope the Opposition will come out with constructive suggestions for long-term development of the State. No one should sacrifice the interest of the State for short-term political ends.

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