India UpdatePublished by MAC on 2006-05-26
26th May 2006
Unprecedented social upheavals
If ever "development" were turning into its antithesis it must surely be in the "mineral belt" of central and northeast India, where community protest by Indigenous, dalit and others communities has reached a pitch unprecedented in post-independence history.
They key socio-economic issue is "displacement", joined by a pervasive and abject failure to make compensation for the uprooting of thousands of people - sometimes going back years.
The agitation has spread throughout Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and the north-east. In Chhattisgarh and elsewhere, Maoists (members of the Community Party of India Marxist-Leninist) are waging a war, not only against an increasingly repressive state, but also themselves jeopardising the lives of indigenous people caught in the middle. The government of Megalaya has banned public meetings - a move clearly aimed at objectors to uranium mining.
In an almost "carbon-copy" repetition of the massacre of Indigenous villagers protesting against establishment of Tata Steel's Kalinganagar plant in January, "security" forces on May 20 fired on local people opposing the establishment of a similar plant in Orissa. Meanwhile, the blockade against Tata's own plant runs into its fifth consecutive month.
Yet Tata, the country's largest private company - and its most globalised - pushes ahead with other aggressive plans, combining an audacious and bewildering mix of "carrot" and "stick". Not a word of dissent at this rapid social dissolution is being sounded by the big foreign mining companies (BHPBilliton, Rio Tinto, Posco, Mittal, and Vedanta), poised to exploit the region's massive mineral resources.
As a second "toxic ship", laden with asbestos-contaminated wastes, heads for India (an earlier vessel was turned back) so the goverment is accused of promoting the world's most carcinogenic material at the highest political level.
Under the former Hindu nationalist BJP government, India was said to be "shining" - a concept resoundingly rejected by the electorate in 2004. But now, as one social critic memorably puts it, the country is "simmering".
Even so, amidst the turmoil and growing violence, there are a few signs of hope. An important interim legal victory has been secured in Delhi for hundreds of thousands of silicosis victims of the stone crushing industry. And a Joint Parlimentary Committee, looking into forest rights of Indigenous people, has come up with recommendations which - if adopted - could impeded, if not halt, some further depredation.
Outrage against displacement spreads
Statesman News Service - BHUBANESWAR, ORISSA
23rd May 2006
Displacement and industrial activity-related protests continued to rock the state today. Anger voiced in different parts, spreading across the entire state, be it at Jajpur, Dhenkanal, Jharsuguda or Koraput districts had a common strain ~ against mindless mining, industrialisation and the consequent displacement.
SNS reports from Dhenkanal: Thousands of people of Sarpa, Raghunathpur, Nuagaon and Khadakprasad staged demonstrations raising a charter of 13 demands for the peripheral development works and raised slogans against Bhusan steel & Strips Ltd. They also protested against the firing and bombing incident of 20 May. The protesters locked up the plant and detained vehicles on the way to the company for several hours. Their demands include drinking water facility, construction of road, land in lieu of the grazing ground and cremation ground acquired by the company. They threatened to stop construction works and activities if their demands were not met immediately.
The agitation was called off after the officials of the company and authorities had promised to discuss their demands on 3 June. Four employees, who had been retrenched by the company, were asked to apply afresh and mention reasons through proper channel for their reinduction. Massive police deployment was made to avert any untoward incident. The district administration yesterday held parleys with the villagers and shared their concern over the failure of the company in fulfilling certain commitments relating to the periphery development work. Significantly, though there were allegations that two persons have been missing since the violence on 20 May, nobody has approached the police in this regard. Superintendent of police Mr Bhakta Ballav Das today confirmed that an FIR had been lodged against the industrialist, Mr Mahima Misra in connection with the incident on 20 May.
According to the district authorities, 1,526 affected families of Shivpur, Narendrapur, Nuagaon, Raghunathpur and Sarapa villages in Dhenkanal and 137 families of Talbahal and Ganthigadia villages in Angul have been divided into different categories. About 874 have been recently provided with photo identity cards by the authorities for proper identification of the affected persons.
In Jajpur, tribals leading the agitation since 2 January police firing in which 13 were killed today received a shot in their arm as several organisations from different districts joined a meeting held by women folk, SNS adds. Meanwhile, the administration has got a jolt when the agitating tribals refused to receive the severed palms today despite the fact that they had agreed to do so earlier. The tribals raised doubts over the palms and alleged that they were decomposed. In one of the most inhuman acts, palms of five tribals, who were gunned down by the police on 2 January, had been severed at the hospital during postmortem. The incident had outraged the world. Tribals have been demanding return of the palms. The administration, which is constantly negotiating with the tribals, was hopeful of brokering peace. It was expected that the tribals would take the palms and also lift the four- month-old road blockade. The tribals on their part did not oblige the administration.
Villagers, who had paralysed movement of coal for over one week in January this year, threatened to revive their economic blockade agitation alleging that their demands had not been fulfilled as yet, SNS adds from Jharsuguda. The villagers affected by the Belpahar open cast mines of MCL are demanding jobs to the displaced persons. Though MCL has given jobs , the villagers have been saying that at least 500 have been left out. They disrupted movement of coal today. Five platoons of police force have been deployed in the area.
Thousands of tribal men and women staged an armed demonstration at Semiliguda in Koraput district protesting against the permission given to Hindalco for starting mining activity in the bauxite rich region of Maliparvat, according to SNS. Men and women from the affected villages submitted a memorandum to the block development officer demanding the scrapping of the resolution of the palli sabha which allowed the company to begin its mining activities. They termed it as meaningless as, according to them, there was no involvement of the local people in the palli sabha. They also demanded a stay on the resolution of the zilla parishad , which had approved to allow the company to lift the soil from the mountain. People asked the administration to withdraw any leasing order in favour of the company in connection with Maliparvat. People for the first time came out on the roads with sickles and swords in their hands indicating the seriousness of the movement. The demonstration was brought out by Maliparvat Surakhya Samiti, in the presence of the president of Lokashakti Abhiyan, Prafulla Samantray and ex-MLA of Pottangi, Mr Ramchandra Kadam. Maliparvat, being the life line for many villages , carries much importance to the tribal people of the region, Mr Anand Kirsani, the president of the Surakhya Samiti claimed.
Rally sends warning to govt on displacement
SNS & PTI, BERHAMPUR
25th May 2006
Social organisations, including Maoist sympathisers, today vowed to support tribal movements against displacement caused by industrial projects in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.
"In 1967 when the Naxalite movement began at Naxalbari in West Bengal as many as 11 persons were gunned down. A similar incident has occurred in Kalinga Nagar in Orissa where 13 innocent tribals were killed in police firing that compelled us to protest," Naxalite ideologue and convener of Revolutionary Writers' Association Mr Varvara Rao said. Mr Rao, who had come here to attend the 39th anniversary of Naxalite movement said: "The initial fight was against imperialism, but now we must fight the forces of multinational companies."
"Police must stop fake encounters, arrest and torture of tribals supporting the movement," he said warning that the government would have to face the "consequence" of these acts. Tribals are being driven out of their homeland, forests are being cleared and all steps to facilitate MNCs and World Bank dictated policies are taken.
Mr Rao accused the government of using brute force to curb democratic movement of people. Naxalism cannot be countered by force as it provides an alternative political system, he said. A large rally was taken out by the Revolutionary Democratic Front and 'Daman Pratirodh Manch' (DPM) here. Around 2,000 people, mostly tribals from Rayagada, Kandhamal, Malkangiri and Ganjam districts, attended the rally raising slogans against government's "oppressive measures" at places where industries were coming up. In view of the gathering of Naxalite sympathisers, as many as 10 platoons of police were deployed at different places of Berhampur.
The DPM convener, Mr Dandapani Mohanty, said "everywhere tribals are at the receiving end. Unless atrocities against tribals come to an end, the situation will continue to worsen in the four states."
SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE REPORT OF THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE (JPC) ON THE SCHEDULED TRIBES (RECOGNITION OF FOREST RIGHTS) BILL, 2005.
JPC REPORT PRESENTED
23rd May 2006
A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) was appointed to look into the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005 that was tabled in the Lok Sabha on 13th December, 2005 by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA). The report of the JPC has been presented to the Lok Sabha on 23rd May, 2006.
The JPC was appointed in January, 2006. The Chairman of the JPC was Shri. V. Kishore Chandra Deo, M.P., Lok Sabha. The JPC consisted of 30 members from various political parties (twenty from the Lok Sabha and ten from the Rajya Sabha).
The Committee invited inputs from the public through the print as well as electronic media of national as well as regional newspapers and television. Questionnaires were also sent out to State governments. Over a hundred detailed written inputs representing the views of stakeholders and others were received.
Fourteen meetings of the committee were held, and individuals, wildlife experts, representatives of NGOs, people's movements and campaigns, farmer groups, women's groups, people from local communities including tribals, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs etc. were heard by the Committee.
Some of the key recommendations of the Committee are as follows:
- In correcting a historical injustice, it is essential that the Act should include not only forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes, but other traditional forest dwellers as well. However, different criteria have been recommended for other traditional forest dwellers (they should have been in occupation of the said land and rights for at least three generations, or have been in occupation of such land as a result of governmental initiatives which placed them in such areas. Furthermore, specific committees mandated by the Act -at sub-divisional levels etc.- should have at least fifty percent Scheduled Tribe members).
- It is important to note that no new distribution of land will take place, and also that all the land where forest rights will be recognized accounts for less than two percent of the forest area of our country. In this context, it has been recommended that the ceiling of 2.5 hectares is an unjust one. The ceiling also assumes that everyone is engaged in individual settled cultivation when particularly in tribal areas, there is a wide diversity of land use systems, and, The ceiling does not take the quality of land into account when state ceiling laws specifically use the concept of 'standard acre or hectare' which accounts for land quality/productivity. Therefore, no ceiling should be mentioned in the Bill.
- The cut-off date of 1980 should be changed to the date of the introduction of this Bill (13th Dec., 2005). Some of the reasons for this are: the cut-off date of 1980 (26 years ago), implies that the rights of all displaced people since 1980 would not be recognized, and this is unjust; Since 1980, over ten lakh hectares of forest land have been diverted for mining, industry and large scale developmental projects- if this could be done, there is no reason why the recognition of the rights of forest dwelling communities should be barred; a more recent cut-off date makes verification of claims easier, with less room for disputes.
- Greater powers have been recommended for the Gram Sabhas, for the verification OF claims.
- Regarding the issue of National Parks and Sanctuaries, it has been recommended that instead of endorsing the unscientific and undemocratic concept of "core areas", the concept of "critical wildlife habitats" should be introduced. It is recommended that decisions on the management of protected areas require a site-specific open process with the involvement of all stakeholders.
- It has been recommended that there should be a provision for the developmental needs of forest dwelling communities such as schools, hospitals etc.
- Rehabilitation has been recommended for all primarily forest-dependent forest dwellers who prove to be ineligible for rights under this Act.
Under the heading of General Recommendations, the Committee has recommended that the Act be placed in Schedule IX of the Constitution. This is because this Act is intended to be an urgent measure intended to address a historical injustice done to a large section of some of the weakest and most marginal communities of our society, and in particular, the Schedueld Tribes. It is in clear fulfillment of the Directive Principles stated in Articles 39 (a), 39 (b) and 46 of the Constitution, and it contributes to the fulfillment of the State's mandate under Article 48A. Any further delay on the grounds of litigation or court challenge will be a further injustice to Scheduled Tribes and forest dwellers and will result in evictions, contrary to the government's commitment.
Under the heading of General Recommendations, the Committee has also recommended that either all non-Scheduled areas covered by this Act should be placed under the same blanket of protection from acquisition as Schedule V Areas through a Constitutional amendment, or at least that in the eventuality of any proposal to acquire such land, a set of principles related to resettlement and rehabilitation which have been spelt out, should be adhered to.
In addition to the above points, there are a number of other changes that have been recommended, that would further clarify, streamline and achieve the purposes of the proposed Act.
THE HYDERABAD PLEDGE ADB QUIT ASIA AND THE PACIFIC!
6th May 2006
We are over 100 struggle groups, peoples movements and organisations who gathered together in Hyderabad for 4 days to protest the 39th Annual Governors Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The ADB, along with other International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and the World Trade Organisation, is one of numerous institutional instruments of imperialism.
Colonisation is today pursued through the neo-liberal model of development, which has accelerated the appropriation and commodification of natural resources in the resource-rich countries of the South. This model forces nation states into indebtedness and to accept aid with harmful policy reform conditionalities, and widens trade imbalances. It mutilates our democratic institutions, processes and spaces. It perpetrates untold violence on our societies in the name of national and public security. It is the main cause of continuing marginalization and pauperization of our peoples. It fuels the militarization of our polity, legitimizes suppression by the State of peoples struggles for self-determination, and exacerbates the violation of human rights. Worst affected by these are women, children, indigenous communities, dalits, minority communities and the poor.
We pledge to:
1. Unite struggle groups, peoples movements and communities to broaden and intensify the fight against imperialism.
2. Halt the intrusion of IFIs in our communities, societies, economies, institutions and governments; we condemn the ADB President's opposition to the issue of reservation in private industry.
3. Fight against privatization of the commons and the imperialist principle of Eminent Domain.
4. Prevent the undermining of national and public institutions which are at the core of our growth and development.
5. Uphold people's rights to determine their own diversified forms and pace of development and governance.
6. Protect the safety and security of women, indigenous, dalit, marginalised and vulnerable communities, and future generations.
7. Strengthen peoples rights to environmental and livelihood resources; those who depend on these resources for survival must have right of governance over them.
8. Strive towards democratising the State and markets so that they serve and become accountable to the aspirations and priorities of peoples.
9. Support peoples movements and organisations across the region in their efforts to reclaim peoples democracy, sovereignty, self-determination and self-rule to create a better world.
10. Oppose an economic order which feeds the military war machinery and bloated defense budgets, and strengthen de-militarisation processes including the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (APSFA) and other draconian laws from IndiaÂ's Northeast and elsewhere; we also call for the withdrawal of military forces from Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, the Indian Northeast and elsewhere in Asia.
11. Reject the criminal and wasteful finance-capital lifestyle and uphold value based sustainable economies and cultures.
12. Move away from debt financed development and promote alternative ways of using our environmental, social and economic wealth, so that all peoples can achieve freedom from debt at local and global levels; we demand that the ADB cancel the debts of its borrowing countries.
SIGNED: National Alliance of Peoples Movements, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (APMMD), Freedom from Debt Coalition, Philippines Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), Equations, Nadi Ghati Morcha, River Basin Friends, Environment Support Group, ADB Quit Kerala Campaign, INSAF, CORE, Urban Research Centre, Focus on the Global South, Citizens Concern for Dams & Development, Delhi Forum, Samata, National Forum of Forest People & Forest Workers, mines minerals & People, Shaheen Centre, Consumer Protection Forum, Water Initiatives, Consumer Protection Forum, Civil Society Initiative on IFIs (NE), DICE Foundation (Foundation for Dialogues on Indigenous Culture & Environment), Intercultural Resources, NGO Task Force on ADB, Nagarika Hitharakshana Samithi, Balakedarara Hitharakshana Vedike, Anikethana Trust, India Centre for Human Rights and Law (ICHRL), Palni Hills Conservation Council, National Fishworkers Forum, Polavaram Project Andolana Samithi, Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights, Movement Against Uranium Projects, Centre for Environment Concerns, Aman Vedika, ITDS, Peoples Alliance Central East India, Japan Centre for a Sustainable Environment and Society (JACSES), Center for Economic Justice, PAIRVI, Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Andolan, Bureau for Human Rights, Adivasi Mukthi Sangathan, Peoples Movement in Subansiri Valley, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samithi, Arunachal Citizens Rights, Indigenous/Tribal Peoples Development Center, Rural Volunteers Centre, Human Rights Tamil Nadu Initiative,Parisava Badokidara Vedika, Human Rights Law Network, SAKSHI Human Rights Watch, Chatri, Jharkand Labour Union, Dalit Women Forum, National Hawkers Federation, Net Work of Persons with Disabilities Organisation (NPDO), Lok Raj Sangathan, Consumer Protection Council, Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, South Asia Network of Dams, Rivers & People, Grassroot Options, FIMCOTN, Dwarf PeopleÂ's Organisation, Chatri, New Trade Union Initiative, SEVA, SABALA, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Women's Collective, Bangla Praxis, Nagarik Udyog, Corporate Accountability Desk of The Other Media, Chasma Lok Sath, National Centre for Advocacy Studies, Open Space, Peoples Voice, Gangpur Adivasi Forum, Dalit Mukti Morcha, Plachimada Solidarity Committee, Pani Committee, Kaselu Palu Group (PNG), Uttaran, AOSED, Save Chara River Campaign, Gono Udyog Forum, Green Movement of Sri Lanka & many others. http://www.asianpeoplesforum.net
Govt slammed for firing
Statesman News Service
21st May 2006
The industrial rush-related violence rocked the state yet again following yesterday's bomb attack and firing on agitating villagers by persons engaged by a private steel company at a village in the district leading to the arrest of eight persons, including a vice-president of Bhusan Steel and Strips Ltd, today.Tall claims of "no forceful eviction" , "the best rehabilitation and resettlement policy" and "rehabilitation preceding industrial work" in the aftermath of the ghastly Kalinga Nagar police firing on 2 January in which 13 tribal protesters were gunned down, stood mocked by the violence here yesterday.
Shocked by goons attacking people of Sarapa and Raghunathpur villages with bombs and firearms and injuring several people, the district administration swung into action today arresting five officials of the Bhusan Steel & Strips ltd and other three persons.
The charge was that security personnel of the company, which was constructing a boundary wall despite protests from villagers and a request from the administration not to start work till both sides discussed at a meeting scheduled for tomorrow, along with some people allegedly engaged by United Construction Ltd, were involved in the attack yesterday. The company is said to be linked to Orissa Stevedores Ltd, Villagers have been opposing the construction of the boundary wall on the premise that it will cut off their approach to the national highway. They wanted the company to lay a connecting road around the proposed wall first and then go ahead with the work. The tussle has been on for a long time and the administration had requested the company to withhold the work till the meeting was held. But for some strange reason, the company went ahead with its work yesterday provoking the villagers. A clash ensued and the people engaged by the company were well prepared with bombs and firearms. Ten villagers sustained injuries when bombs were hurled at them.
Of the injured persons, one has been referred to SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack. Those admitted to the hospital were identified as Ramesh Behera, Dhir Behera, Sunia Senapati, Sukhdev Behera, Nabakishore Patra, Digamber Parida and others.
Talking to reporters, the president of Sashitanu Nagar Unyan Mahsangha (a forum for seven villages affected by the proposed plant), Mr Raghunath Patra and other advisors alleged that Bhusan authorities had undermined the district administration as well as the Rehabilitation Advisory Committee. The company failed to keep its promise of periphery development work in terms of constructing a road, water sources, jobs and other benefits, he alleged.Even village cremation ground and grazing areas have been acquired by the company, they said.
District collector Mrs Usha Padhee, who promised to convene a meeting tomorrow on all these issues, said she would discuss the demands with the company officials and visit the affected villages. She asserted that the company had behaved in the most indisciplined manner and had preferred to go ahead with work without paying heed to the request by the administration to wait till tomorrow's meeting. Police revealed that the company had wanted to bulldoze its way with the help of a few other private players who are well known for their money and muscle power. "If you look at those who were involved in the bomb attack, you will get a clear picture as to who are behind it all," a senior police officer said.
The Orissa Gana Parishad condemned the dastardly attack on the villagers and held the government squarely responsible for the mayhem unleashed by industrial groups in the state which hire goons to get their works done. The government cannot escape responsibility by stating that the company or a contractor was involved in the fight because villagers had been protesting for a long time and it was the duty of the administration to safeguard the life and property of these villagers, the OGP said in a statement issued in Bhubaneswar today. It alleged that the company had close links with the chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik and instead of using police as was done in Kalinga Nagar, the understanding was to use private goons.
Trade union leaders resent Bhusan incident
Pioneer News Service, Bhubaneswar
23rd May 2006
Leaders of all Trade Union, INTUC, CITU, AITUC and Bharatiya Majzdoor Sangh have expressed resentment over the attack of the security personnel of Bhusan Steel on villagers at Raibania in Dhenkanal district on May 20, in which several local residents were injured.
INTUC State president Ramchandra Khuntia condemned the "anti-labourer attitude" of the company authorities and demanded a high-level inquiry into the incident. He said that the State Government should come out with a uniform rehabilitation policy keeping in mind the interests of thousands of displaced people in the wake of industrialisation.
When asked about the Central Government's refusal to provide a rehabilitation package for the people displaced due to establishment of the Rourkela Steel Plant, Khuntia said that INTUC would oppose any move that would deny the oustees their legitimate dues. Referring to the Chief Minister's letter to the Prime Minister regarding rehabilitation of the displaced people of Rourkela, Khuntia said that the Central Government should refrain from any discriminatory attitude while dealing with such a humanitarian issue.
BMS State president, Prasanta Padhi criticised the role of the State Labour Department in the Bhusan Steel incident and demanded a high-level inquiry into the violence. He alleged that the State Government was deliberately ignoring the interests of labourers.
AITUC State general secretary, Souribandhu Kar said that the companies, which are running their units in the State, have been repeatedly violating the labour laws. Instead of the minimum wage of Rs 50, the labourers of Bhusan Steel are getting only Rs 35 and instead of a statutory eight-hour duty, they are subjected to 12 hours of work, he alleged.
Similarly, CITU State chief Lambodar Nayak accused the State Government of becoming company-friendly instead of safeguarding the interests of labourers.
Workers block gate
Telegraph (Calcutta), Bhubaneswar
23rd May 2006
Dissent brewing between villagers of Sarpa-Raghunathpur and the Bhushan Steel and Strips authorities today surfaced again when some retrenched employees of the plant at Dhenkanal's Meramunduli bolted its main gate for several hours.Electricians Rohit Behera, Prashant Behera, Sudam Bhutia and Tanmulu Senapati, who received marching orders from Bhushan on May 15, blocked the road to the plant this morning along with some other workers.
The four former employees, who alleged that they were removed for no fault, also locked the main entrance from 8 am till noon. The plant officials brought the matter to the notice of the Dhenkanal district administration, which sent sub-collector Dolgobinda Sahu to talk to the agitators. The blockade was lifted after Sahu assured them that he would discuss the matter with the company officials.
Displaced villagers protest land grabbing by Bhushan Steel
Pioneer News Service, Dhenkanal
25th May 2006
[Villagers have] protested against the company's alleged land grabbing by terrorising villagers, even before completion of rehabilitation norms.
The affected villagers alleged that Bhushan Steel already had occupied their grazing lands, ponds, cremation ground and connecting roads and in exchange the company allegedly lodged FIRs against them on several false criminal charges when they used the roads in case of emergency.
Apart from demanding employment and suitable engagements to each displaced family in Bhushan Steel and Strips, the villagers demanded stringent action against the officials and contractor, who hatched the conspiracy and organised the fatal attack on the villagers on Sunday.
Besides, the other demands are equal compensation for their land without any discrepancy, opening of a second gate at the south side of the plant, facing towards village Sarapa and Raghunathpur, withdrawal of false cases, which was lodged by Bhushan Steel authorities and employment guarantee to the minor nominees of the displaced families.
The demonstrators ended their agitation after high level officials of Bhushan Steel assured to consider their demands sympathetically within a month. Bhushan officials said the villagers demand will be considered in a meeting in the presence of the district officials.
Meanwhile, the district administration of Dhenkanal called a coordination meeting with the land losers at Dhenkanal Collectorate on Tuesday.
District Collector Usha Padhee said that district administration will bear all the treatment cost to the villagers injured in attack by the contractor's workers and security guards.
Padhee also assured villagers that rehabilitation process will be completed with mutual discussions and according to Government norms. District administration will look into village roads construction and assured that it will be completed before monsoon. Bhushan Steel will spend the required amount towards peripheral development of the district.
Padhee urged the villagers to maintain peace and cooperate with the administration to create an environment for industrial growth in the district.
According to official sources, 1,526 affected families of Dhenkanal district and 137 affected families of Angul district have been categorised in A, B, C and D categories and only 874 displaced villagers have received photo identity card so far.
MCL land oustees resort to economic blockade
24th May 2006
Sambalpur: Coal production and transportation were paralysed as hundreds of land oustees on Tuesday resorted to economic blockade at several places in Jharsuguda district demanding job to the land oustees of the Mahanadi Coalfields Limited (MCL). Residents of 16 villages, including Chharla, Khairkuni, Ubuda, Tingismal and Usraloi, who lost their land for coal production by MCL, sat on dharna braving scorching heat, in five places in Lakhanpur and Ib valley mines area to stop coal transportation.
MCL sources admitted that transportation and production of coal in the Lakhanpur and Ib mines had been paralysed. In Lakhanpur alone production of nearly 42,000 mt of coal was affected. Jharsuguda police said the agitators have blocked railway sidings at Ubuda, Lajkura and Jorabaga. MCL authority said if the blockade continued for another four/five days the power houses of the country, including Odisha Power Generation Corporation (OPGC) at Banharpalli, would suffer major setback in generating thermal power. Land oustee leader Narayan Mohapatra alleged that they were forced to resort to agitational path as the MCL had been adopting a dilly-dallying stance in providing jobs to the oustees. He said they would continue the economic blockade till the demands are fulfilled. Job in MCL, irrespective of land-oustee category, was their first demand besides, proper rehabilitation of the land oustees and development of new colonies and periphery areas. MCL sources said they had provided employment to 25 land oustees after a meeting in January but only two have joined so far. Those employed in the MCL are also not willing to leave the land acquired by MCL. Five platoons of police forces have been deployed and intensive patrolling, headed by senior police officers of the district, was initiated to prevent any law and order problem, Jharsuguda SP S Bala said.
Utkal students join anti-Posco stir
Statesman News Service, JAGATSINGHPUR
25th May 2006
A group of students from Utkal University joined the activists of the Rastriya Yuva Sangathan and Nav Nirman Samiti ~ spearheading the anti-Posco movement ~ and interacted with the villagers here recently. It was an open forum of sorts at Dhinkia, Govindapur, Nolisahi and Nuagaon villages where people were asked to share their views on the proposed mega steel plant and also speak about their apprehensions. Livelihood issues as well as those related to environment and the promises made in the Resettlement and Rehabilitation policy figured prominently in the discussions. Students like Bikash Nayak narrated the plight of the displaced people in the nearby areas. Many, who lost land to the Oil Refinery in Paradip or the NINL in Jajpur, are now beggars or migrant labourers, he pointed out.
Villagers expressed concern over the loss of livelihood in terms of sustained income that they are getting from paddy cultivation, betel vines, fishing and cashew plantation. They felt that the cash compensation of Rs 6,000 per decimal area under betel vine was meager. Similarly, the offer of jobs was also rejected by the people as they were in favour of pursuing agriculture. "From land owners and farmers one cannot expect us to become landless labourers or peons in companies," the student leaders said. Villagers like Babuli Rout were vociferous in their protests against the proposed displacement.
Steel projects hit a wall at every turn
SURESH NAIR, Economic Times
16th May 2006
MUMBAI: Large steel projects, announced with much fanfare last year, are in danger of being delayed due to procedural hurdles, stiff local opposition and insufficient and arbitrary allocation of iron ore mines. The projects include that of the LN Mittal Group, Essar, JSW Steel and even Posco.
The largest of the projects are yet to place orders for even plant and machinery. Neither Posco, Mittal Steel, JSW Steel and Tata Steel have placed orders for plant and machinery for the large projects that they have announced.
Each of the four companies have announced projects of over 10m tonne per annum. While Posco has planned to set up a 12m tonne project in Orissa, the Tatas, JSW and Mittal Steel have announced similar projects in Jharkhand.
The Tatas are, in fact, the only company to have announced that they would place orders for a 6-m-tonne plant in Orissa by June or July. The Tatas have also acquired land in Orissa. Tata Steel MD B Muthuraman, however, had recently announced that the company has identified the area where they intend to set up the plant. He further said that the Jharkhand project is progressing on schedule.
JSW Steel is also yet to make much progress on the Jharkhand project. An industry source said that it is on account of lack of commitment from the Jharkhand government to provide mines to feed such a large project. Mittal Steel is also faced with the same problem. An official from the company told ET availability of iron ore mines is critical for the project. The company was earlier offered a part of the Chiria mine. However, strong opposition from SAIL to parting with the mine has forced the government to look for other mines. Mittal Steel official said the firm has verbally been asked to carry out prospecting at another site. "This place is so thickly forested, its difficult to even carry out prospecting here," the official said. Interestingly, bureaucrats from states such as Jharkhand and Orissa have similar answers to the problem. "The firms should start work on the project. Only then can we recommend mines for their projects," said an official from Orissa government.
"As per rules, once the firm places orders for 20% of plant and equipment then they can be recommended for mining leases," the official added. "How can we present our lenders with a bankable project if mines are not allotted," said an official from a steel firm. It's a chicken and egg situation, said the official. Officials from some of the steel firms which are setting up a mid size plant in Orissa said the delays are mainly due to indecision by the state.
"We have identified the land and we have proposed to buy it out, but the government is yet to state its position on this," said a senior official from a Mumbai-based steel company. Steel projects are also suffering because of lack of firm rehabilitation and resettlement policies. Rehabilitation packages are inadequate, said a company official and added the companies can only go by government policies. "All we can do train people so that they can earn for better livelihood," he said the official.
The government has to acquire the land, he added. The government has put in place firm policies and guidelines for R&R and environmental issue, the industry official said
Maoists calls for economic blockade in Jharkhand
27th May 2006
Ranchi: Security has been beefed up in view of the Communist Party of India (Maoist)'s call for a three-day economic blockade in Jharkhand from today, to ensure interrupted transportation of minerals produced in the state.
Comparing experience of Naxalite attacks during such economic blockades in the past, senior government officials said that authorities stressed that there should be a healthier co-ordination between para-military and railways forces in the mineral rich districts.
They said that security has been tightened up after the discovery of CPI (Maoist) blockade. Even extra forces have also been arranged at important mines.
Following the violence started off by the Naxalities, despite of government’s efforts, transporters in Lohardaga, famous for Bauxites, apprehended the presence of landmines.
According to exporters from the main coal belts like Dhanbad, Hazaribag, Chatra, Palamu, Latehar and Giridih, blockade might interrupt the work.
Transportation and mining activities in Bhabnapur, famous for Dolomite and lime stone and Sarguja district in neighbouring Chattisgarh might be affected in large due to economic blockade by the Naxalites.
Security has been beefed up in view of blockade but booking and carriage would be affected, railway sources said.
The rebels are expected to block the movement of minerals by rail and road in their areas of influence in Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Uttar Pradesh.
Pamphlets in the Naxal-infested Gumla district in Jharkhand showed that most of these states had signed MoUs to set up industrial units. The land of the poor will be acquired and minerals exploited to feed these plants. Our agitation is a protest against the imminent displacement of the poor and loot of minerals.
In Jharkhand, the issue of mineral exploitation and displacement of locals, as part of the implementation of the 44 MoUs signed with private companies in the past five years, is a sensitive issue.
The CPI, CPI (ML), CPI (M), JMM and several members of the Catholic and Protestant Church have opposed implementation of the MoUs.
In Gadchiroli, Naxalites burnt two trucks on May 23 and 24 on the Dhanora-Hattitola road and the Murumgaon-Sawargaon road each.
Chhattisgarh dangles rehab package for sake of Tata plant
Sujeet Kumar, Indo-Asian News Service
Raipur, May 26 (IANS) In a bid to quell public protests in the Bastar region against a Tata Steel plant, the Chhattisgarh government has said it will dole out an enticing rehabilitation package for those displaced by it.
The government is trying to convince protestors who say the plant will occupy a rare stretch of fertile land despite Bastar having thousands of acres of barren and unused land.
India's largest steel maker in the private sector, Tata Steel signed a deal with the government in June last year for setting up a five-million-tonne per annum integrated steel plant with a Rs.100 billion investment.
The company has sought 4,500 acres of land in the Lohandiguda area, 32 km from the Bastar district headquarters, but is yet to acquire the plot due to tribal opposition in 10 villages.
Ironically, the local legislator, Lachhuram Kashyap, of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is spearheading the anti-Tata campaign.
Chief Minister Raman Singh held a meeting here with the elected local representatives of the 10 tribal-dominated villages of Lohandiguda and assured them that his 'government is committed to providing a dream land compensation and rehabilitation package'.
'After a marathon effort by the state government, Tata agreed to set up a plant in impoverished but mineral rich Bastar. The BJP government will not mete out any injustice to the local population,' Singh told the leaders of 10 villages.
Singh said the Tata plant would speed up industrialisation in Bastar that had been left out of the development process for decades.
Tata Steel has also launched a door-to-door campaign to persuade villagers.
'Because of intense protests by locals, the Chhattisgarh government is finding it difficult to allot land to Tata Steel. The land will be allotted to the company only when tribals totally agree for land handover,' a senior industry department official told IANS.
Prohibitory orders clamped at Meghalaya uranium site
Assam Tribune, SHILLONG
18th May 2006
Prohibitory orders have been clamped in Meghalaya's Wahkaji village, a site with uranium deposits, banning public meetings and the assembly of four or more persons.
The orders under Section 144 CrPC issued by the district magistrate would remain in force till further orders, official sources said here today.
No reason was given for the move, which came a few days after Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) Chief Executive Member H S Shylla announced his plan to go to Wahkaji to lay the foundation stone for a road project.
On May 9 last, Shylla was prevented by the West Khasi Hills District Magistrate from going to Wahkaji area to talk to villagers on the uranium mining project. Various groups have opposed the mining of uranium since the deposit was found in the 1980s.
Alleging partisan attitude by the district authorities, Shylla later approached the Governor to remove the officials as activists of the anti-uranium lobby had been allowed to go to Wahkaji. The foundation stone for the Wahkaji-Mawthabah road, which would lead to the uranium deposit site, was to have been laid by Atomic Energy Commission chairman Anil Kakodkar but he cancelled his trip to Meghalaya following opposition from the anti-mining lobby. A few days ago, Shylla had announced plans to go to Wahkaji area again to lay the foundation stone.
Pump in more funds into steel sector: PM
20th May 2006
There is a pressing need to invest more in the steel sector, both in the public and private sectors, and to attract investments (including FDI) to achieve the target of 100 million tonnes by 2020 as envisaged in the new steel policy, Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, has said.
He was speaking at a meeting in the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant on Saturday after inaugurating the Rs. 8,692-crore expansion project. The project, scheduled to be completed in three years, will enhance the capacity of the plant from 3.6 million tonnes to 6.3 million tonnes. He unveiled a pylon on the occasion.
The Prime Minister said the country, with its vast reserves of iron ore, should be one of the leading producers of steel in the world, but the steel production and consumption were below par. "It is ironic that when an Indian, Lakshmi Mittal, is regarded as the steel king in the world, we are lagging behind. When I met him, I told him that he should come back and help build up the industry in India.''
RINL, example to other PSUs
He said the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL) had set an example to other PSUs by turning around and wiping out all the losses and paying off the debts. "It is a landmark achievement and an example to the PSUs,'' he said. The Prime Minister also paid homage to the people who lost their lives in the agitation for setting up a steel plant here. (More than 30 persons died in different incidents in the late sixties during the agitation.)
"This steel plant has been built up on the blood, sweat and tears of the Telugu people. I pay homage to all those who laid down their lives for the plant,'' he said.
He said the expansion of the steel plant capacity would usher in great prosperity and pave the way for the industrial development of the region and the State. "The Kakinada-Visakhapatnam belt is poised for a great leap forward industrially. The Visakhapatnam port as well the gas reserves in the Krishna-Godavari basin will play a crucial role in the transformation of the region.'' Reiterating Government's commitment to the all-round development of all the regions in the State, the Prime Minister also promised to render all necessary help for the revival of the ailing public sector units in Visakhapatnam - the Hindusthan Shipyard Ltd and the Bharat Heavy Plate and Vessels Ltd.
Dr Manmohan Singh gave away the Prime Minister's trophy for the best steel plant in the country to Mr Y. Sivasagara Rao,Chairman and Managing Director of the RINL, for the year 2002-2003. For 2001-2002, the trophy was awarded to Tata Steel and for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 to Bhilai Steel plant. The representatives of the plants received the trophy from the Prime Minister. The trophy carries a cash award of Rs 1 crore. Mini Ratna status to RINL
Earlier, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, the Union Minister of Steel, announced the conferring of Mini Ratna status on RINl and said it would help the plant in expediting the expansion work.
He exhorted the employees of the RINL to complete expansion ahead of the three-year schedule. He also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5,000 for each employee on the occasion. A steel research and development centre would be set up in Hyderabad, the Minister added. Chief Minister's plea
Earlier, the AP Chief Minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, appealed to the Prime Minister not to merge RINL with SAIL.
"I understand there is such a proposal. It should be shelved immediately. It is my fervent appeal to the Prime Minister. It is a retrograde, dangerous proposal. Instead, RINL should be granted captive mines to make it more profitable,'' he pleaded.
The Prime Minister in his speech did not directly respond to the plea of the Chief Minister but referred to the need for rationalising the use of iron ore and coal reserves for steel production.
KALINGA NAGAR UPDATE
Tribals refuse to receive chopped off palms
24th May 2006
Jajpur: The relatives of police firing victims of Kalinga Nagar tribals on Tuesday refused to accept the chopped off palms from the district administration and returned empty handed. As many as 13 tribals were killed in police firing on January 2 last. They were protesting the construction of a compound wall of the Tata Steel project at Kalinga Nagar.
Of the 12 tribals, killed on the spot, the district authorities had chopped off palms of five tribals for identification during the post-mortem. The shocking incident had caused much hue and cry and the state government was later directed by the Human Rights Commission to return the chopped off palms to the next kin of the victims. The Jajpur district authorities had earlier contacted the tribals, who were on an indefinite road blockade since January 2 incident protesting the police firing, to take back the chopped off palms.
The tribals initially agreed to receive the palms but later did not turn up as per the schedule. However, after much persuasion, they finally agreed to come to the district headquarters hospital to receive the palms. District officials said the six tribals, who arrived at the hospital to receive the palms, refused to accept expressing their doubt over the genuineness of the chopped off palms. All efforts of the district administration to convince the tribals that the chopped off palms were preserved after proper identification of the victims yielded no result. The chopped palms were later packed and kept in the district headquarters hospital.
Govt, adivasi standoff continues in Orissa
Purshottam Singh Thakur, NDTV (Bhubaneshwar)
25th May 2006
The Orissa government's effort to initiate a dialogue with the Kalinga Nagar adivasi protestors was derailed on Tuesday.
The protestors refused to accept the chopped palms of five adivasis of Kalinga Nagar, who were killed in the police firing on January 2.
The shocking decision to severe the palms was taken during post mortem apparently for the purpose of identification.
But after the public outcry an embarrassed state government asked the state Human Rights Commission to inquire into the matter.
On Tuesday, nearly five months after the incident, the government in a move to appease the local people asked relatives to come forward and collect the remains of the dead.
"We came here because we wanted to complete the death rites by cremating the palms. But now I am not sure which of the decomposed palms are my son's," said Upen Jamuda, victim's father.
The adivasis say that the administration should have returned the palms much earlier.
"Why didn't they return the palms after they handed over the bodies? By then every one knew the names and addresses of the people killed in police firing. Today these are badly decomposed and no one can identify them anymore," said Notty Angre, Leader, People's Anti-Displacement Front.
The Kalinga Nagar agitation against industrialisation involving large-scale displacement has gained strength ever since local women decided to take over the leadership.
After Tuesday's fiasco, the government's hopes of a negotiated settlement with the agitators appears unrealistic.
Palms find no takers
Telegraph (Calcutta), Bhubaneswar
23rd May 2006
The tribals of Kalinga Nagar today dealt a blow to the government by refusing to accept the chopped palms of five anti-displacement protesters killed in the January 2 firing.The refusal came on the grounds that the palms looked pale and did not go with the bodies of those killed.
Had the tribals accepted the palms, it could have given the government a great deal of bargaining power to make the Adivasis remove the Daitari-Paradip expressway blockade. Doctors at the Jajpur district hospital had reportedly cut the palms of Ram Gagrai, Ati Jamuda, Landu Jarika, Bhagaban Sae and Mukuta Bankira to obtain fingerprints as the faces of the five tribals were disfigured.
The Jajpur district administration recently asked the tribals to collect the palms from the same hospital on May 18. But the villagers did not turn up and postponed the collection to today. After receiving the chopped palms, they were supposed to conduct a mass cremation at Birbhumi, the same place where the 13 slain tribals were laid to rest.
Three relatives of Jamuda, Jarika and Banira reached the hospital this afternoon to collect the palms. But they soon changed their mind. Nati Angrai, a tribal leader, said the palms had become swollen and pale. "How could we accept the palms which were beyond recognition? They (doctors) even peeled off the skin from the palms." Upen Jamuda, the father of Ati Jamuda, alleged that the palms could have belonged to some other person. "The roadblock would continue," Angrai said.
Jajpur district welfare officer Shivaji Bhuyan, who was assigned the handover job, said: "They were not ready to listen to us." A disappointed Arabinda Padhee, the Jajpur collector, said: "This proves that their agitation is being guided by some outside elements. No amount of persuasion could convince them. The district administration would now try to isolate the "outsiders", he added.
K Nagar tribal women vow to intensify stir
Pioneer News Service, Jajpur
25th May 2006
About 2,000 tribals women gathered at the Tribal Women's Convention on Tuesday organised by the Vistapan Virodhi Janamanch (VVJ), the women's wing in Kalinga Nagar vowed to intensify their stir.
Tribal women from all over Orissa and from neighbouring Chhatisgarh, Bihar, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi attended the meeting.
Sini Soi, Convener of the women's wing of the VVJ said, "the women meeting was a proof of wide spread support they have been receiving from across the country. We will intensify our agitation after this meeting."
Major industrial project planned for Kalinga Nagar
Pioneer News Service, Bhubaneswar
26th May 2006
Kalinga Nagar Industrial Area is projected to be developed for a population of over 10 lakh by 2025 and it will be extended to 177 square kilometer. This is the vision envisaged by the State Government.
In this connection, Lea Associates of South Asia in association with the School of Planning and Architect, New Delhi and the Centre for Environment and Planning (CEPT) presented a vision document to the Chief Minister for the development of KNIA.
It may be noted that the State Government had asked the Industrial Development Corporation (IDCO) to choose a planner of international repute who could provide master plan for the KNIA belt. The IDCO has chosen Lea Associates for this project.
As per the vision document, about 134 villages would come under the industrial area. Now 112 villages have been included under the industrial area. As per the plan, another 10,000 hectares will be acquired in a phased manner by the Government and would be handed over to the Kalinga Nagar Development authorities.
As per the plan, the Kalinga Nagar would be set up in 177 square km, out of which 54 square km would be reserved for township and the industrial area would be set up in 97 square kilometer. Besides, 20 sq km will be reserved for the public utility service.
A horseshoe region plan will be established. The horseshoe shaped region will cover Ballar Square of Angul to Bamarapal to Nirgundi Square-Chandikhol and Jajpur. Maximum development will be taken up in this region.
As per the plan, a structural plan will be developed to set up a Central East Zone. The Zone will cover Goplapur, Angul and Paradip. The associates will submit a master plan for Kalinga Nagar area in July.
Meanwhile, the Government has decided to shift the District Industrial Centre from Jagatpur to Kalinga Nagar. A full-time planner will be appointed in this office.
Prof HB Singh of Lee Associates, Barendra Paul of School of Architect and Planning and Utpal Sharma of CEPT gave the presentation before the Chief Minister.
Industry Minister Biswa Bhusana Harichandan, Finance Minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadai, Chief Secretary Subas Pani, Industry Secretary Gokul Pati, CMD, IDCO LN Gupta and others were present on this occasion.
Stolen for Steel: Tata Takes Tribal Lands in India
Corporate Watch (US) May 2006
By Nityanand Jayaraman
Jug-ger-naut n [Hindi Jagannath, lit., lord of the world, title of Vishnu] 1: a massive inexorable force or object that crushes whatever is in its path. - Webster's Dictionary
Every year the festival of the Lord Jagannath swells the beach town of Puri,about 300 miles west of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). The climax is a procession where hundreds of men pull giant statues of Hindu gods mounted on three 45-foot chariots through the streets. Once started, the momentum of their 16 enormous wheels makes the chariots difficult to stop. Orissa's chief minister, UK-born Naveen Patnaik is an ardent devotee of Lord Jagannath, and a passionate advocate of free-market industrialization.
On New Year's Eve, he visited a temple in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, and prayed that nothing should bar the way of a different juggernaut: the state's industrialization.
Barely two days later, an agitated band of tribal villagers did just that. Hundreds of Ho men, women, and children from the Kalinganagar Industrial Estate about 100 miles from Puri arrived at the site of Tata Steel's proposed 6 million ton a year steel plant. They demanded that work stop until those already evicted by this and other projects in the area were adequately rehabilitated. Police retribution was swift and bloody: 37 injured and 13 dead, including 8 men, 3 women one 13-year old boy all tribal and one policeman.
Condemned as one of post-independence India's worst incidents of state excess against indigenous peoples, the events of January 2 also trashed the image of Tata Steel and threatened its plans to help boost India's projected annual steel consumption of 100 million tons by 2020. Tata Steel spokesperson Sanjay Choudhry downplayed violence as "A stray incident [that] should not derail a good thing".
That "good thing", according to Choudhry, is not only the Orissa plant, but India's industrialization. With a 6.8 percent growth rate over 10 years, the Indian economy has posted impressive GDP expansion. GDP growth during 2003-2005 has hovered between 7 and 8 percent, thanks to industrial investments and increased manufacturing activity.
However, India's claim to being the 4th largest economy is dulled by its low rank around 127 of 177 countries in the Human Development Index. The 53rd round of the National Sample Survey recently reported that the percentage of India's rural poor increased from 35 percent in 1991 to 38.5 in 1997. While there is consensus regarding India's poor performance in social and economic development indices, many, particularly those who work among the poor, are opposed to the government's aggressive push to industrialize, even while agriculture the largest rural employer is neglected.
Tata Steel, one of the country's largest firms has been in the forefront of India's industrialization and an engine of growth. It is part of Tata Group, a prestigious, family-owned Indian multinational with 2005 revenues of $17.8 billion, the equivalent of about 2.8 per cent of India's GDP. The company's website claims that the Tata Group employs about 215,000 people, operates in 40 countries, and markets to 140 nations. About 66 percent of its equity is held by two family-run philanthropic trusts. One of them, the Dorabji Tata Trust is the largest grantmaker to NGOs in the country, surpassing even the mega-funder Ford Foundation. Ratan Tata, the chair of Tata Sons the holding company sits on the Ford Foundation's board.
But those struggling for tribal rights in Kalinganagar and elsewhere remain unimpressed by the company's size or philanthropic image. "Tatas are responsible for the slaughter of the Adivasis [indigenous people] in Kalinganagar. They knew the situation was tense and still insisted on going ahead with the construction using police force", says Rajinder Sarangi, an activist with the indigenous people's movement for land-rights in the Kalinganagar area.
Sarangi is quick to point out that the movement became an anti-Tata fight only after October 2004, when it became clear to local villagers that the government and industries were reneging on promises to rehabilitate displaced families. "The fight was against any take-over of land, not against any one company", he says. "But Tata's sought to overcome people's will with police force".
Within 24 hours of the killings, tribal youth armed with bows and arrows had blocked off the Daitari-Paradip Expressway used by trucks to transport iron ore and coal, and processed metals from local mines and Kalingangar industries to the port town of Paradip. Villagers took an oath over the cremation pyres of their martyrs to "not yield an inch of land to industries", and to continue the blockade until their demands were met: an end to displacement, punishment of the guilty, compensation for the dead and injured, and rehabilitation of those already displaced.
The government had imposed an April 20 deadline for ending the blockade. "But it will be difficult, very difficult to break the movement", says Sudhir Patnaik an activist and editor of Oriya fortnightly Samadrishti,. Well-organized tribal people are maintaining a round-the-clock vigil on their rock and log barricades, says Patnaik, and hundreds more can pour in at the first sign of trouble.
Wise to the World
Not so long ago, the gently rolling lands where the steel plant is planned had thick stands of forest interspersed with marginal farmland. When big industry first came in the early 1990s, it was welcomed. But soon the cultural, environmental, and economic costs became apparent. Stone quarries have eaten into hillocks, replaced forests, and devastated what little agriculture there was. Families that had lived for generations in a village were asked for deeds establishing their legal claims. "Those without title deeds were forgotten. More than 500 families have just vanished without a trace. They are probably in cities pulling rickshaws or living in the margins", says Patnaik.
The Ho joined the large ranks of India's indigenous and other marginalized peoples pushed aside in the name of economic growth. Though tribal people comprise only 8 percent of the population, they constitute at least 40 percent of those ousted from their homes to make way for industries, mines, and dams. Another 20 percent are dalits or "untouchables" occupying the lowest rung of the Hindu caste hierarchy.
The Ho have a history of resistance and remember with pride that in 1821, their warriors had successfully beaten back the British. Their October 2004 declaration not to yield more land to industries continued that legacy. Several times in subsequent months, local villagers collectively thwarted eviction attempts. In May 2005, Kalinganagar villagers braved a baton attack by the police and blocked the construction of a boundary wall by Maharashtra Seamless, another steel company that has been allotted land in Kalinganagar Industrial Estate. Before fleeing into surrounding forests, they knocked the teeth out of the local administrator who ordered the baton charge.
Tata Steel entered the fray in 2004 after the government handed it more than 2000 acres of "disputed" land for a steel plant. "The government said they will take care of everything. We were to pay [the Government] 335,000 rupees ($7,600) per acre, and they would do the rehabilitation", says Choudhry. "The problem that the people have is largely with the government. They are okay with us. Negotiations have been ongoing on the matter of the rehabilitation package. We got a sense that most people are willing and will take the package".
But local tribal groups distrusted not only the government, but Tata as well. As recently as November 30, 2005, Visthapan Virodhi Jan Manch (People's Forum Against Displacement) issued an ultimatum that the Tata Steel and Maharashtra Seamless projects would not be allowed to proceed until the issue of rehabilitation was settled.
"If they're a tribal friendly company, why should they come here despite knowing that the locals didn't want to yield any more land", asks Sarangi. According to him, Tata Steel had three meetings with the chief minister on December 26, 27, and 29. After the January 2 deaths, legislators sought details of these meetings to no avail. "Even these questions that were raised in the State Assembly have not been answered",said Sangri.
Tata turns the blame squarely on the government. "The government had told us that work should commence and directed us to build the boundary wall. They were not expecting major trouble. Some cops were there", Choudhry said.
In fact, some 300 armed riot police had been deployed, with another platoon ready to protect the top government brass present to oversee the boundary wall construction.
The tribals also came prepared for both negotiations and conflict; the men carried traditional bows and arrows, and staves. When the meeting broke down and the restive crowd moved in to prevent the construction, police opened fire with rubber bullets and lobbed teargas shells. In the melee, one policeman was hacked to death.
"After this, the men in uniform and gears ran amok, the officials present doing nothing to restrain them. They were baying for blood, seeking revenge, using the death of a colleague as an alibi. The people, frightened out of their wits, ran, as the police shot unrestrainedly from behind", according to a fact-finding report by the People's Union of Civil Liberties (Orissa). Five corpses returned after post-mortem were mutilated; enraged family members of the deceased said one woman's breast was ripped off, and a young boy's genitals mutilated, and all of them had their palms chopped off.
Tata's senior management quickly distance itself. Tata Sons Director Jamshed J. Irani wrote to Financial Express that "No officer of Tata Steel was present, nor was there any other involvement from the company, which resulted in police firing".
But Tata was unwilling to abandon the project. "We are not in a hurry", said Choudhry. "The trauma is fresh. It was a tragic accident. We need to look forward and we'll continue talking to them", he adds. "We have a long history of working with tribal people".
Business As Usual?
That history may be more impediment than advantage. A series of incidents has tarnished Tata's image with tribal groups.
In the 1920s and 1930s, when it was still called Tata Iron and Steel Company, TISCO's largely tribal workers fought pitched battles with the European or Parsi management. Work conditions and the right to organize were important rallying issues, and over the years, the company developed a reputation for union-busting, often by violent means.
In 2000, TISCO allegedly bulldozed a spring that was the only source of water for women from Agaria Tola and neighboring hamlets on the periphery of Tata's coal mines in Eastern India.
Currently, in the Sukhinda Valley, not far from Kalinganagar, Tata Steel and several smaller companies operate chromite mines. According to Choudhry, Tata's presence in Sukhinda testifies to the company's contribution to the local economy and its tribal-friendly credentials.
Sukhinda, though, was singled out as a highly polluted area by the comptroller auditor general, and locals at Kalinganagar shudder at the thought of a Sukhinda-like existence.
"For forty years, we have seen people queuing up to work the mines with 100 grams of rice and one potato. This is not development, but destitution", says Sarangi, who was part of a cycle rally along with Sukhinda tribals in the immediate aftermath of the Kalinganagar killings.
The Domsala River and 30 streams that run through the valley are contaminated with dangerous levels of hexavalent chromium leaching from overburden dumps. Made famous by Hollywood's story of Erin Brokovich, hexavalent chromium causes irritation of the respiratory tract, nasal septum ulcers, and irritant dermatitis rhinitis, bronchospasm, and pneumonia.
One study funded by the Norwegian Government under the Orissa Environment Program found that almost 25 percent of people living less than 1 km from the sites suffered pollution-induced diseases.
Tata's attempts to expand its extractive business in Orissa have repeatedly met with opposition from indigenous peoples. About a decade ago, protests forced Tatas to withdraw from UAIL -- a joint venture with Norsk Hydro, and Alcoa to mine bauxite in the neighboring Rayagada district. In 2000, three tribal youth were shot dead during a peaceful rally near the proposed mine site. [See "Norsk Hydro: Global Compact Violator" http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=b0 ]
Between 1995 and 2000, the company struggled to set up a steel plant in Gopalpur-on-Sea, a coastal town in Orissa. Tata's clout is such that the then prime minister laid the foundation stone. "The project was to displace 20,000 people from 25 villages. Two villages were forcefully displaced. However, the project finally failed because the government was unable to come through with basic infrastructure such as water, rail link, etc says Prafulla Samantara, an environmental and tribal rights activist with Lok Shakti Abhiyan, an Orissa-based voluntary organisation. The Gopalpur project was abandoned only after bloodshed. In August 1997, after police opened fire at a protest rally in Sindhigaon, two women were crushed to death in the ensuing pandemonium.
In the late 1990s, a Tata Group proposal to convert large portions of Lake Chilika Â- a brackish water wetland of international prominence Â- into an aquaculture farm hit rough weather. This project too was quickly shelved after protests by the 120,000 fisherfolk who depended on the lake for a livelihood.
TataÂ's Choudhry insists that his company is a good corporate citizen. Â"We seriously believe that industrialisation Â- responsible industrialisation -- is the best way to bring better quality of life for these people.Â"
In the case of Gopalpur, Tata states that nearly 10,000 people who were evicted to make way for the proposed steel plant are now accommodated in a state-of-the-art rehabilitation colony, complete with electricity, medical facilities and a technical training institute to retrain community members and facilitate their shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy. Before more people could be evicted, the proposal was shelved due to public opposition.
Samantara puts the number of people evicted and rehabilitated at around 5000. "In their original place, the people farmed, sharecropped and lived off khevda (a fragrant wild flower used as a base by the perfume industry). They were not rich, but were making do. Now, they have been kicked off their land, and rehabilitated perhaps, but with no industry and no agriculture, they have electric lines but no money to pay the bills",he says.
While critics deprecate Tata's claims to responsibility as PR posturing, Tata admits that its social commitment is tempered by the realities of globalisation. The executive director of Tata Sons, R. Gopalakrishnan, posed the dilemma in an interview with a British magazine: "How to be an international company and, at the same time, maintain its soul".
Best ask how to stop a juggernaut.
Tata Steel Q4 net drops 14 per cent
Domain-B: India Business
23rd May 2006
Tata Steel's results for the fourth quarter have come below expectations. Though the company managed to grow volumes, margins were impacted by higher input costs.
For the fourth quarter ended 31 Match 2006, stand-alone net profits of Tata Steel declined 13.81 per cent to Rs783.11 crore from Rs908.58 crore. Stand alone revenues for the quarter increased 7.68 per cent to Rs4,193.33 crore from Rs3,894.39 crore for the previous year quarter.
Operating profits for the quarter declined 9.85 per cent to Rs1,300.8 crore from Rs1,442.93 crore. Operating margins as a percentage of net sales declined nearly 600 basis points to 31.5 per cent from 37.34 per cent.
Bottom-line for the quarter was affected by higher input costs, which increased 21.83 per cent as compared to the pervious year quarter. Cost of power rose 27 per cent while freight and transportation charges increased only 8.1 per cent.
Staff costs increased 17.78 per cent while other expenses went up by 11.6 per cent. Depreciation costs increased 26.96 per cent.
Other income for the quarter more than doubled to Rs64.36 crore from Rs29.74 crore for the previous year quarter. Consolidated net profits for the quarter dropped 11.65 per cent to Rs813.22 crore from Rs920.5 crore for the previous year quarter. Consolidated revenues for the quarter increased 20.32 per cent to Rs5,615.59 crore from Rs4,667.2 crore.
For the full year 2005-06, consolidated net profits of the company are at Rs3,734.62 crore - an increase of 3.65 per cent from the previous year figure of Rs3,603.26 crore. Consolidated revenues increased 26.64 per cent to Rs20,491.04 crore from Rs16,181.05 crore.
Tata Steel is planning to raise up to $1 billion from the international markets to finance its expansion plans. The company is expanding capacity at Jamshedpur besides setting up green field units in the states of Chattisgarh and Orissa.
Overseas plans of the company include a new plant in Bangladesh and expansion of facilities at its subsidiary NatSteel of Singapore. The company is reportedly the highest bidder for a large steel company in South Africa.
SC notice to Centre on Norwegian ship
Press Trust of India
16th May 2006
New Delhi: The Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre on an application seeking to stop a Norwegian ship carrying asbestos and other toxic materials from entering into the Indian waters for its scrapping at Alang port in Gujarat.
A Bench comprising Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Markandey Katju asked the apex court-appointed high-level Committee of Technical Experts on Ship Breaking to examine the concern raised in the application and submit report in July.
The Bench acted on an application moved by Environmental activist Gopal Krishna alleging that the world's largest ocean liner S S Norway has left Port Klang, Malaysia with huge toxic wastes and likely to arrive in India within 15 days.
The Court said the Centre while determining the toxic contents in the ship, popularly known as "Blue Lady", could take the assistance of Central Pollution Control Board, Gujarat Maritime Board and Gujarat Pollution Control Board.
Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian, who accepted the notice for the Centre, informed the court that he has already communicated the concern raised by advocate Sanjay Parikh about the ship to the concerned authority.
Asbestos Factory in Rae Bareli
As a matter of fact asbestos is the generic term for a number of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. Commercially, the most important of these are the white, blue, and brown varieties, otherwise known as chrysotile (serpentine asbestos), crocidolite, and amosite. Blue and brown varieties of asbestos are banned in India.
Sonia Gandhi's constituency Rae Bareli got a new asbestos unit in January 2006. The asbestos cement plant is located at Kandarvan village. This factory which produces 10,000 tonnes of asbestos roofing sheets belongs to the Hyderabad based Visaka Industries, one of the key players in asbestos industry.
The very fact that this toxic plant has been allowed in Rae Bareli is quite significant for it signals support to the hazardous asbestos industry at the highest political level. This support to the continued use of asbestos, a killer fiber used in over 3,000 products is alarming because it continues to devastate workers and consumers, although the extent of the tragedy remains largely uncovered in India.
It was in view of the deleterious effect of asbestos on the health of the workers, the central government ordered the state governments in 1986 not to grant any new mining lease for asbestos in the country. In June 1993, the central government stopped the renewal of existing mining leases of asbestos. This ban does not apply to use, manufacture, export and import of asbestos. Besides the consumers, workers employed in the cement-asbestos factories also suffer from the exposure to asbestos. Its incubation period is long, it takes as long as 25 to 30 years for the fibers to make their presence felt in the human body but by then it is incurable.
*International Scenario: *Stories of the toll asbestos takes on people are yet to hit the headlines in India as been the case in US, Europe, Australia and Japan. In US for instance, the death toll is estimated to be 10, 000 per year due to past exposure. Research is showing asbestos epidemics across the globe.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) said in January 2006 that asbestos is still the No.1 carcinogen in the world in its report titled "Asbestos: the iron grip of latency." It adds, the dumping of asbestos on developing countries will "prove to be a health time bomb in these countries in 20 to 30 years' time." Jukka Takala, Director of the ILO InFocus Programme SafeWork, issued the report.
*Indian Scene: *Unmindful of this on 29 April, 2005 Dr Dasari Narayana Rao, the Union Minister of State for Coal and Mines in a written reply in the Lok Sabha said that the study of Indian Bureau of Mines, "has recommended that the ban imposed on grant and renewal of mining leases and expansion of mining may be lifted" in utter disregard to the views of exposure victims, informed recommendations of public sector medical experts, and mounting evidence of an asbestos disease epidemic emerging in developed countries. **
It is not difficult to notice why the entire political establishment wears blinkers when it comes to acknowledging the fact that currently some 40 countries have banned all forms of asbestos including chrysotile (white asbestos) due to health hazards. With asbestos firms being owned by politicians or the state itself, the government seems to be following a classic ostrich policy. G Vivekanand, Chairman of Visaka Industries is son of Congress leader G Venkataswamy who is deputy leader of Congress in Lok Sabha and a former Union Textile Minister.
What else can explain the discredited claims of 'safe use' of asbestos by the industry and the virtually blasphemous statement to Parliament on 27 February 2006 by Namo Narain Meena, the Minister of State for Environment saying, "No complaints have so far been received regarding its carcinogenic content and its hazard to health and environment"?
There are sane voices in government too, but these have been exceptions. It is noteworthy that the then Union Health Minister informed Parliament on 18 August 2003 that: "Studies by the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Ahmedabad, have shown that long-term exposure to any type of asbestos can lead to the development of asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma."
*Scientific and Medical Evidence Calls for asbestos ban: *In an August 2005 paper published in American Journal of Industrial Medicine, titled "Occupational Asbestos Exposure and Predictable Asbestos-related Diseases in India," Dr S K Dave, Senior Deputy Director, NIOH concludes, "Based on knowledge of past and current exposures to asbestos in industry, we can predict a future occurrence of clinical asbestos-related diseases-pleural
changes, pulmonary fibrosis, bronchogenic carcinoma, and diffuse malignant mesothelioma."
He wrote that these cases of asbestos related disease are expected to occur in asbestos exposed workers from mining, milling, and manufacturing as well as in those with secondary exposures to asbestos-containing materials, including construction and maintenance workers, users of asbestos-containing consumer products, and the occupants of asbestos-containing buildings.
Corroborating this Dr Qamar Rahman, a senior scientist with Industrial Toxicology Research Centre (ITRC), Lucknow says, "Since 1984, environmental monitoring and health surveys have led to in-depth studies in asbestos based industries in India have highlighted an occupationally vulnerable worker population."
Given the fact that Italy and the entire Europe have banned asbestos, one can be sure that Sonia Gandhi owns an asbestos free house in Italy. It would be heartening if she promises asbestos free houses in India in general and Rae Bareli in particular as well. The May 8, 2006 election in her parliamentary constituency is an appropriate time for her to announce her Government's plan to ban this poisonous mineral fiber. This will reassure her voters
about her concerns about their well-being. The rationale to permit mining, manufacturing and use of asbestos instead of banning it is quite hollow.
Gopal Krishna, (Toxics Watch, Delhi) 6-13 May, 2006, Sahara Time
Statement by PRASAR, New Delhi
In our struggle for justice, we had two important achievements one by Delhi State Govt. for silicosis victims of Lal Kuan and another is the issue of notice by Supreme Court to Central & State Govt.
PRASAR is in struggle with Delhi State Govt. for the rehabilitation and compensation of silicosis affected community of stone quarry and crushers in Lal Kuan region for the last 7 years. In previous two decades many silicosis victims have died due to improper treatment and unavailability of medicines.
After a long fight with Delhi Govt., we have been successful in. getting rights for silicosis victims. After a meeting of PRASAR with Chief Minister of Delhi on 24-10-2005, Delhi Govt. issued an order in favour of affected community. In this order along with medical facility, Social Welfare Department were asked to cover the livelihood and pension issues of silicosis victims also.
PRASAR filed a case in the Supreme Court for the compensation and rehabilitation of silicosis victims of Lal Kuan Delhi and mining activities in other states. On 27th March,2006 Supreme Court issued an order to Ministry of Labour, Health, Company & law and State Govts. for formation of a Central Committee to formulate guidelines for the prevention of dust exposure in stone quarries and crushers allover the country. Copy of order is attached.
On the basis of Delhi Govt. order, you can pressurise your State Govt. for the rehabilitation and compensation of mining affected community.
There are several cases of occupational health problems in mining areas. We are collecting affected cases from all over country from mining areas & stone crushers, because through this we can raise our voice collectively to Supreme Court to benefit the affected community. And may yet succeed in forming a. bench through Supreme Court. Your cases will pictures the magnitude of occupational health problems in mining areas. So please send your cases though mail or e-mail.
SA Azad (PRASAR)
G/12/462A SANGAM VIHAR
NEW DELHI-110062 M-09811914329