MAC: Mines and Communities

Response on Tata Steel & Salwa Judum

Published by MAC on 2010-03-02
Source: Frontline (2010-02-26)

Last week, a critical article about the Indian conglomerate, the Tatas, referred to an earlier article posted on MAC, in which Tata Steel had been accused of "financially backing India's military offensive against Maoist guerillas in Chhattisgarh state - aggression that has resulted in numerous human rights' abuses." (See http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9917)

The following response (unsigned) to the original allegations against the company was published in the Indian weekly, Frontline, last week .

It is carried here without comment.

RESPONSE - Tata Steel & Salwa Judum

This is with reference to the story "Behind the concern" (February 26).

The article refers to a (draft) report brought out (March 2009) by the Committee on State Agrarian Relations and the Unfinished Task of Land Reform (Vol. 1), Ministry of Rural Development, GOI (www.rd.ap.gov.in/IKPLand/MRD_Committee_Report_V_01_Mar_09.pdf), made public on the Ministry's website in October. The draft report in its conclusion accused Tata Steel of supporting Salwa Judum without quoting any facts or evidence and thereby maligning our public image. The committee's final report was released and uploaded on the Ministry of Rural Development website more than a month ago (http://dolr.nic.in/Committee%20Report.doc). The final report has no mention of Tata Steel. However, the Frontline article made a reference to the draft report without checking the final report.

The two points mentioned in the article from the draft report - "The biggest grab of Tribal Lands after Columbus" & "The first financiers of Salwa Judum were Tata" - were withdrawn by the Ministry in its final report.

We would like to inform you that we signed a formal MoU with the Chhattisgarh government to set up a 5.5 MT steel plant in 2005. On the request of the State government, Tata Steel decided to set up its plant in Bastar.

We agreed to go to the Jagdalpur/Bastar area owing to the need we felt to develop one of India's most backward areas although it was not the best location - the area does not even have a proper railway connection, which is critical for a steel project of the size we planned.

We would also like to inform you that the first movement against the naxalites was the "Jan Jagran Abhiyan", started in 1991 by Mahendra Karma. This later collapsed, and the leaders had to seek police protection to survive. In 2005, it was renamed Salwa Judum, meaning "Purification Hunt" (in the Gondi language), and it is reported that civilians were armed to supposedly fight the naxalites in the region. And in mid-2008, the movement's leader, Mahendra Karma, announced that Salwa Judum will soon cease to exist.

We emphatically declare that we have never supported or financed Salwa Judum or any such organisation. We are not connected with it in any way, now or in the past. Tata Steel has always been known as a company fully committed to the well-being of the communities it operates in, especially those of tribal people, with whom it has a 100-year-old history of engagement and sharing of the wealth generated by the enterprise in Jamshedpur. Our community development initiatives have ensured a qualitative improvement in the standard of living of the people of the operational and project areas, be it in education, health services, development of sports activities, increase in income, entrepreneurship development, empowerment of women, preservation of tribal culture, and much more.

This is a well-known fact, and there is evidence of this in the over 800 villages that we work in, which the members of the committee ignored during the survey. We would like to once again state that the said article has erroneously reported facts without checking them.

Frontline, 27 February - March 12 2010

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