#India displaced women and children imprisoned for a month by #Vedanta and police #Vaw #WTFnews


Badapada:

Badapada: the jailed women and children tell their story

19th June.  This report, directly from a Foil Vedanta team on the ground in Niyamgiri, tells a shocking story of the month long imprisonment of a group of Dalit women and children displaced by Vedanta’s Lanjigarh refinery. The testimonies provide clear evidence of the collusion of Vedanta and police working as one, and show the callous nature of their outright disregard for human rights or basic morality. Foil Vedanta is now following this case up with local lawyers.

Please also see the video interview with Padma Tandi here.

On 10th June 2013, a team of three Foil Vedanta activists visited Badapada village in Lanjigarh. Badapada is a Dalit village, where the villagers had lost agricultural land to Vedanta when the company was establishing the Lanjigarh refinery. As a result of Vedanta not adhering to any of its resettlement promises, the villagers have registered an association called “Vedanta Land Loser’s Association”, to demand proper implementation of the rehabilitation processes and to seek accountability from Vedanta and the state for promises made to them before the refinery was set up on their land. Mr. Kumar, a retired school teacher, who is the President of the Vedanta Land Loser’s Association, told us,

 

Badapada women blockade the railway into Lanjigarh in May 2011

The agricultural lands of the Dalits in this village were taken away by Vedanta. We were promised Rs 3 lakh compensation, but the compensation provided to us has been a scam and very erratic, people have received varying amounts ranging from 25k to 1 lakh rupees. We have done so much Andolan. We have organised numerous demonstrations and rallies, we blocked the nearby railway line on one occasion. We have petitioned and submitted memorandums to everyone — the Chief Minister, the Governor, the Orissa Human Rights Commission, Jairam Ramesh, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Still there has been no solution. No-one is listening to the poor. Everyone one is the company’s ‘dalal’ (agent). We have had to face so much pain and hardship because of Vedanta, and we are constantly threatened and harassed. The company has completely destroyed our lives. Our villagers were promised jobs in the refinery, till date it has not given anyone in the village even a coolie’s job. This company is full of lies. We do not have our lands anymore, and we do not have any jobs. How are we supposed to survive? Who will listen to the poor? Everyone has been bought by the company”

 

An incident of blatant human and child rights violation emerged from the village, adding to a series of incidents so far. The villagers informed us that twelve women from the village had been arrested on false cases on 7th April 2013. They had been kept in jail for one month and three days. What was most shocking was that there were also two minor children, both of two years of age who had also been kept in custody with their mothers during this period of time. This is a very serious violation by the Odisha state police. We immediately had a impromptu meeting of the ten women who had been arrested. Initially, the women were scared to give any statements, given their harrowing experience in jail. However, on being persuaded by other villagers, they opened up and provided us with some very shocking testimonies.

 

I am a widow, whose hardships have increased many fold ever since the company came here. I was walking around the refinery area, when I slipped and fell down, and hurt myself. The other women ran towards me to make sure that I was ok. Suddenly, several policemen arrived and started beating me. They also dragged and pulled the other women” —- Padma Tandi

 

We had ran to see if Padma was ok. Once the police arrived, they started manhandling us. There were two women police, but they were just standing by. The male policeman started dragging and pushing us, and pulled our hair. All of us were forcibly put inside a Vedanta vehicle. That was the most atrocious thing. Why was the state police dragging us into a Vedanta vehicle? If they had to arrest us, they should taken us in a police van, not in a Vedanta gaari! We were taken straight to the Bhawanipatna court.” – Kanchono Suna

 

They took two children also into jail. My son, Bulbul Nihal, two yrs and Aditya Nihal, son of Saraswati Nayak, also two yrs – were in jail with us. What crimes have these little children, who have just learnt to speak, committed? The police and company have no right to keep kids in jail like this!” – Doini Nihal

 

“ We have no proper information about the court case that has been registered against us. We saw our lawyer being paid money in the police station. The police and lawyers have been bought by the company. There is no-one to listen to the cries of the poor. When the police had taken us in the Vedanta vehicle on 7th April, which was a Sunday, we were told that we would be released by the following Tuesday, the 9th. However, we stayed in jail for a whole month and three days. The police and company is trying to scare us, to intimidate us, so that they can break our will, our voice and our struggle.” – Jamuna Durga

 

Following are the names of the women and children arrested by the police, as recalled by the villagers:

  1. Suryamukhi Tandey
  2. Saraswati Nayak and 2 year old child, Aditya Nayak
  3. Jamuna Durga
  4. Kanchona Suna
  5. Savita Harijan
  6. Babuli Harijan
  7. Maya Suni
  8. Guloni Harijan
  9. Neela Batisona
  10. Gourimoni Tandi
  11. Doini Nihal, and 2year old child, Bulbul Nihal

 

The women were also not provided the free legal aid they are legally supposed to have access to as Dalits. They stressed how they do not have the financial resources to engage with the legal process, and hence it is used a pressure tactic by Vedanta to silence voices.

 

Foil Vedanta members are now trying to get access to court documents on this incident, and we will be updating very soon in this regard.

 

Posted:  June 19th, 2013

 

#India – More mines, fewer schools in former Maoist stronghold


 

Manoharpur (Jharkhand), June 17, 2013

 

Anumeha Yadav, The Hindu

  • Villagers in Saranda, West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, get their drinking water from the Koina river, which has high iron content. Photo: Manob Chowdhury
    The Hindu Villagers in Saranda, West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, get their drinking water from the Koina river, which has high iron content. Photo: Manob Chowdhury
  • A Google map of the affected villages in West Singhbhum district, Jharkhand, and the mines.
    A Google map of the affected villages in West Singhbhum district, Jharkhand, and the mines.

Deep inside the Saranda sal forest, Thalkobad lies at the core of what was a CPI (Maoist) “liberated zone” in Jharkhand’s West Singhbhum district along the Odisha border. Thalkobad, along with 24 other villages, was reclaimed by the Indian state after a massive military operation — Operation Anaconda-I in August 2011 to destroy the CPI (Maoist) Eastern Regional Bureau and several training camps inside Saranda. The village bears scars of conflict — a high machaan used by the then rebel government of the village is intact but the secondary school building the Maoists took cover in to return fire at the CRPF is gone. The rebels blew up the school before escaping.

Saranda is a “laboratory for how to consolidate on security successes,” Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Rural Development, in a recent interview. Mr. Ramesh launched the Rs. 250-crore Saranda Development Plan (SDP) in 56 villages here in 2011 and has since announced similar plans for rebel-controlled zones in Latehar and Bokaro districts recovered through recent paramilitary operations. Two years on, Saranda villagers are still awaiting schools and health centres, even as mining companies have lined up to invest in the newly secured forests.

In Thalkobad, the adivasi villagers recall the pitched battle that August: most families fled to Karampada 13 km away for a month, 18-year-old Munna Soya and his father were taken by the Central Reserve Police Force in a helicopter to Ranchi on suspicion, detained and beaten in several police camps and later released, 50-year-old Jarda Honhaga was beaten so severely that he died in the hospital. From the 25 villages, 37 persons were arrested, more than 100 were detained.

The CRPF returned six months later bearing sarees, blankets, and farm implements. In the last few months, the villagers have watched the construction of a security camp next to their village, and then a road connecting Karampada to Jaraikela. Some have found temporary work with the road contractor and in MGNREGA. Others fear new mines will be opened in the forest. “If mines open our land will be ruined. The river will have only red water. We are not literate. How many of us will find jobs?” said Binodini Purti who cooked meals at the secondary school that was blown up.

Red area to ‘Lal paani’

Almost all the villages in Saranda struggle for drinking water. The forest is the catchment of three large rivers — Koina, Subarnrekha, and Damodar, and several streams flow through it. But there are 12 large mining companies operating in 200 sq km of this 800 sq km forest which holds one-fourth of India’s iron-ore reserves. The Ho adivasi living in the forest first launched ‘Lal Paani Andolan’ against the pollution of the streams from effluents and surface-run off in 1978 at Noamundi and their resistance has continued. “All 56 villages are in need of potable water. There is a problem of high iron content in the water,” notes the Saranda Plan outline of October 2011.

Thalkobad, Tirilposi, Baliba lie downstream of Steel Authority of India (SAIL)’s crushing plant at Kiriburu where ore is washed and crushed into uniform pieces. At Kiriburu, SAIL’s Rs. 4.23 crore-slime beneficiation machine meant to extract ore from the water that is discharged back into the river does not work. “It has not worked even once since it was inaugurated in 2010. When the inspection teams come, the guesthouses are full and the orchestra comes from Jamshedpur,” says a SAIL official. SAIL’s mines in Saranda accounted for over 80 per cent of its 15 million tonne production last year.

Downstream, villagers dig shallow pits, a few inches deep by the river to collect drinking water. Farms in Thalkobad, Karampada, Navgaon, Bandhgaon, Mirchgada, Bahada, Kalaita, Jumbaiburu have been ruined by the ore-laden water. “I cannot say about the beneficiation plant but the Kiriburu plant is being modernised. The river is polluted because private mining companies wash 200-250 dumpers carrying iron, oil and grease everyday in the river. I check them when I spot them,” said Dilip Bhargava SAIL General Manager (Mines).

More mining leases

Since January, the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure headed by the Prime Minister has recommended clearance for opencast mining in Saranda forest in areas that form the Singhbhum Elephant Reserve to three private firms. JSW Steel owned by Sajjan Jindal got lease of 998.7 hectares in Ankua forest division, Jindal Steel and Power Limited (JSPL) led by Congressman and industrialist Naveen Jindal got 512 hectares in Ghatkuri forest. The approval of 138.8 hectares forestland in Ghatkuri to Rungta Mines Limited was nearly completed last month. There are 155 proposals on the anvil for leases in 500 sq km — nearly two-thirds of the forest.

On paper, the proposals must first be recommended from the state government. “We have little say in the recommendations,” says a senior forest official. “There are over 600 elephants in Saranda. More mining may disturb their migration intensifying their attacks on villages,” says state Principal Chief Conservator of Forests A.K. Malhotra in Ranchi. A proposal by the department of forest to notify 63199 hectares forest in Saranda as inviolate is pending since 2006.

Ironically, the recent approvals to private firms are riding on the back of clearance given to SAIL in February 2011 to mine iron ore in Chiria in Saranda by Mr. Ramesh. Mr. Ramesh, then Minister of State for Environment and Forests had overturned the Forest Advisory Committee’s decision to grant approval to SAIL citing the Public Sector Unit (PSU)’s “Rs. 18,000 crore IPO on the anvil”. Private mining firms have cited the proximity of Ankua and Ghatkuri to SAIL’s Chiria mines to argue they too be granted permits in the already “broken,” what is no longer pristine, forest. Mr. Ramesh in 2011 said that in Saranda, he was in favour of mining only by the PSU but there was no executive order to back this or grant it legal status.

As the government has issued a slew of mining permits, the Minister in interviews to the media asked for a 10-year moratorium on mining in Saranda. “A gap of 10 years will allow the situation to stabilise, will allow building trust among the locals, and allow time to train and educate local people to take advantage of the economic opportunities that mining throws up but there seems to be a desire on the part of the government to allow mining in Saranda,” said Mr. Ramesh to The Hindu. There has been no public reaction from the UPA to Mr. Ramesh’s suggestion.

No new schools, or health centres

While in Thalkobad where the secondary school building was blown up by Maoists, Surendra Purti, a high school graduate from the village volunteers to teach teenaged children in the primary school building. He is not paid any wages. The teachers stopped coming long back and the nearest high school is in Manoharpur, 45 km away. At Tirilposi, the next village 17 km away, there are 90 school-going children but no building. “CRP sahib broke the roof,” explains village munda Budhram Gudiya.

The SDP’s original outline proposed 10 residential schools. Now, that seems all, but abandoned. “There is a plan to build one ashram school at Manoharpur,” says the recently-posted District Collector Abu Bakr. Mr. Ramesh explained the conceptual change in the SDP as both the interiority of the villages and the fact that “education and health are different ministries.”

The plan lists building 10 Integrated Development Centers (IDCs) — each will have a hospital, besides an anganwadi, ration shop, banks — only one has been completed at Digha this April. To improve health services, a mobile health unit has deputed since last October to visit all villages. “The ambulance visits regularly,” say villagers in Thalkobad. But it has not yet been spotted in Tirilposi though a motorable village road exists. In January an eye-health camp was held by a private hospital. “More than a third of over 1000 villagers had pterygium — a painful inflammation which may lead to blindness — because of exposure to mine dust,” said Dr. Bharti Kashyap.

There is hectic activity in all villages to build new Indira Awas houses. This March as part of the Jharkhand State Livelihood Promotion Society’s efforts to provide long-term livelihood security, a team of trainers of Self-Help Groups from Andhra Pradesh visited Saranda. The team stayed 15 days in Thalkobad but no meetings have been held since it left. Villagers say they are unsure what to make of their visitors. “They said “hum se judiye”(join us). That is what the party (Maoists) used to say too, and look what followed,” said Binodini Purti. At Tirilposi, villagers explain it differently. “Most families earn Rs. 60 a day after selling siali leaves in the market in Barsovan in Odisha. What will we save?” asks Budhram Gudiya. Then there are families in debt to pay legal expenses. Guvida Honhaga (60) among those arrested by CRPF got bail last year after his son Bimal, a mine worker, spent Rs. 1,60,000 on legal expenses. “I borrowed Rs. 40,000 each from four people at 20 per cent interest. Now he is required to go Chaibasa court thrice a month and that costs Rs. 900 — a fourth of my salary,” said Bimal Honhaga.

Rubber stamp by gram sabhas

At Manoharpur block office, 40 km away, an official waved a sheet of blank paper with 40 signatures. “This is what the mining firms submit as gram sabha’s consent for mining. They call people to football matches and get them to sign anything,” he says.

Bilarman Kandulna, 25, a political science graduate from a Manoharpur college was elected panchayat representative in Digha in 2010. “Some manki-munda (community leaders) now roam in Scorpio SUVs, but a few boycotted the Electrosteel public hearing for Kudalibad mines last year. Last April, we held demonstrations in the villages. The company then shifted its public hearing in Bahihatu, 20 km away,” says Kandulna. “What is the use of forest pattas when they give mining leases in the same forest?” he asks. Of 812 claims for individual forest rights, 511 were accepted till April, the rest were rejected as they fell in mining lease areas. Though a significant number of community rights — over 1200 — have been granted under SDP.

At Jamkundiya at the house of Laguda Devgam, the manki of 22 villages, there is no Scorpio car, but there are three solar street light poles towering on three sides of his house — the only streetlights in the otherwise non-electrified villages in Saranda. They are inscribed as gifts from Rungta Mines Limited, Usha Martin Industries, and Tata Steel.

At Sonapi, one of the six villages that boycotted the public hearing, there is anger. “If anyone comes to your courtyard, something will be disturbed,” said Mary Barla. “We asked for a written commitment that the company will provide health, education, jobs but they did not do it. Instead they shifted the public hearing site. Now they are back again with blankets.”

 

#India- wake up to the mining-politician nexus wreaking havoc in our politics


 

On 25 May, the ghastly Naxal attack on a convoy of Congress leaders in Darbha, Chhattisgarh, jolted political leaders across the spectrum. Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh — who has been driving the development agenda in the tribal areas and is known to advocate a more empathetic response to the alienation in these parts — was reported to have called the Naxals “terrorists”. Did this mean a complete shift in stand? Did he — and the UPA government in general — now advocate a “security-only” approach to the problem? Excerpts from a conversation with Shoma Chaudhury
Shoma Chaudhury

2013-06-22 , Issue 25 Volume 10

Jairam Ramesh | 59, Rural Development Minister.
Photo: 

After the recent attack on the Congress convoy, you referred to the Naxals as terrorists. Does that reflect a radical shift in your stand? Do you also now believe the issue should only be tackled by a security-centric approach? Bring on the air force!
That’s a completely bogus debate generated by NDTV. What I said was that there are geographical areas that need more intensive policing and security operations, without which no political and developmental activity is possible. At the same time, there are areas today where security operations have de-esca-lated and development and politics have taken the front seat. For example, there’s Saranda in Jharkhand and Jangalmahal in West Bengal. Or, for that matter, some parts of western Odisha and central Bihar.

We have a four-pronged strategy to deal with the Maoists, which includes security, politics, development, and a sort of redressal of past injustices and ensuring a rights-based approach. Unfortunately, there are places where all four cannot go on simultaneously. For instance, clearly, the five districts of Sukma, Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur and Kanker in southern  are fundamentally different from the other areas. Here, you have large areas that are so-called Maoist “liberated zones” where the writ of the Indian State doesn’t run. Sarpanches, Block Development Officers, superintendents of police and local political activists cannot go in there. So it’s meaningless to talk of political engagement and developmental activity in these areas until circumstances allow it.

I also said that the Maoists operate on a fundamental principle of spreading fear and terror. The NDTV journalist asked me, “So aren’t they terrorists?” I replied, in my book, anyone who spreads terror is a terrorist. What’s the big deal whether you call them terrorists or not? The fact is, it was a carnage; carefully executed and deliberately planned. If we still romanticise these guys, we are barking up the wrong tree.

There’s no doubt that the attack was heinous. But the semantics do matter. It shapes the response.
No. Frankly, the semantics don’t matter. This whole debate — security versus development, Digvijaya Singh versus P Chidambaram — is completely bogus. As I said, in any multi-pronged strategy, the relative importance of each component will depend upon the specific geography and circumstance. Two years ago, development was inconceivable in Saranda or Jangalmahal, both of which were “liberated zones” for many years. Today, you are seeing both developmental and political activity there.

But you can’t treat southern Chhattisgarh on par with these areas. What sets it apart is that the Maoist-affected area here covers nearly 10,000 sq km. Within that, Bastar is not in the same category as Sukma or Bijapur. And the whole Abujmarh area is sui generis. This area also spills over to Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and Khammam district and other parts of Andhra Pradesh. So it’s a tri-junction area.

In October 2011, the first time I went to Bijapur, only 80 out of 157 gram panchayats had MGNREGA activity and there were absolutely no roads. This year, I was in Bijapur two days before the massacre and work was going on in 111 gram panchayats and 12 roads are being constructed. So in two years, 31 gram panchayats that had earlier been inaccessible had come under the developmental radar. How did this happen? Fundamentally, because security operations had created an  that raised the confidence level of the people and reassured them that if they come out and participate in the activities, they will not be targeted.

This is not happening because I have been there five times or because the state government is doing something remarkable, but because the security operations have enabled the cycle to be completed.

But security operations have darker impacts too. Barely three weeks before the 25 May massacre, eight tribals — including three children — were killed by the forces at Edesmeta village in Bijapur, and 17 in Sarkeguda a year ago. Instead of greater militarisation, why is there no attempt for talks?
That’s not true. Talks take place on tracks 3, 4 and 5. You and I will not know whether talks are taking place. You can’t hold talks by saying like Swami Agnivesh that “Main talks kar raha hoon (I am engaged in talks)”. Look at Laldenga (of the Mizo National Front). He took on the Indian State for almost 25 years, but through a period of negotiations, the insurgents finally joined the political mainstream. So there could well be talks taking place with the Maoists just now.

Really? I seriously doubt it. I could say with fair amount of certainty it’s not. The last time there was even a semblance of it, Maoist leader Azad was killed off.
Frankly, I don’t know. In a sense, dialogue with them is impossible. If I show you a record of my conversations with Maoist ideologue Vara Vara Rao, you will see there is simply no meeting ground. It’s just entrenched ideological arguments. When P Chidambaram was home minister, he told the Maoists: don’t give up arms, don’t give up your ideology, don’t disband your cadres, just abjure violence and come for talks.

Yes, he said that in an interview with us. But what covert channels of talks did he set up?
As I said, we can’t know. In an interview to Swedish author Jan Myrdal, Comrade Ganapati put out two conditions: remove the ban on the CPI(Maoist) party and release all their leaders in jails, who can then become the interlocutors. The Indian government has three conditions, the Maoists have two. So, at what level should the talks take place? The only thing I do know is that the Indian State operates at multiple levels. To paraphrase former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, there are some known knowns, some unknown knowns and some unknown unknowns. We are operating in the realm of the unknowns here.

It’s quite possible some sort of talks are taking place, but the notion that if we address some of these issues, the Maoists will come on board — I think that’s a big question mark.

Instead, you may have an occasional Kameshwar Baitha (MP from Palamu, Jharkhand, and a former Naxalite) who says, okay, I have had enough; I will contest and go to Parliament. Alternatively, in Saranda, the villagers told me one of the sarpanches is a part of the Maoist cadre. What’s important in both cases is that the end result is they have become part of a political process. That’s good in my view.

The trouble is, in southern Chhattisgarh, absolutely no political process is taking place. I have been to Sukma and Bijapur three times; four times to Narayanpur. It’s only since last year that the Congress was beginning to even be visible on the ground, with hoardings, posters and rallies. We had a rally in Dantewada; the Parivartan Yatra was taking place; we went to Bijapur and Sukma. This unnerved the Maoists. This was the second attack on Nand Kumar Patel (the Congress president in Chhattisgarh) because for the first time he was challenging the status quo, engaging in intensive political outreach. The Maoists would have seen this as dangerous in the long run. How can we allow this to happen in our territory? So far, the Chhattisgarh government seems to have maintained a low-level equilibrium: you do what you want there; we do what we want here, and we don’t disturb each other. But in the past 14 months, Patel had challenged that equation. I’m not saying we would have won, but people were coming to the Congress rallies.

You have been driving the development process through your ministry. But that is not the only criteria. The big elephant in the room is mining. Does the Indian State have any new thinking on mining? There’s a sense that if the insurgency is curbed, rapacious mining will take over.
It’s always easy for a liberal crowd like you to find rationalisations for Maoist violence. You can always say the Forest Rights Act (FRA) hasn’t been implemented, or there is mining, so there is violence.

That’s a cheap shot! We have never rationalised the violence.
I don’t disagree with the substance of what you are saying. It’s true the Maoists are raising very serious concerns. In fact, the tragedy is that tribal issues have been brought onto our radar because of the Maoists. Our attention has been caught because of them. The Indian State has a track record of failures in the tribal areas. Laws have been enacted but not implemented. In fact, they have been brazenly violated. It’s also a fact that the tribal is caught between the devil of the Maoists and the deep sea of the security forces. But their methods are very wrong.

There’s no argument on that. Of course, their methods are wrong. But apart from the tribals sandwiched between the Maoists and the State, the dilemma is, there is only a thin layer of entrenched ideologues who make up the Maoist leadership. Our concern is for the foot soldiers, the tribals who make up their ranks. You yourself have said 40 percent of them are women. They are also the poorest of Indian citizens. Many of them have no desire to unfurl a red flag on Red Fort in Delhi. Their impulse is to defend their land, their chicken, their grain, their families, their huts.
They are still foot soldiers. They are coldblooded killers.

What was not cold-blooded about the security forces gunning down tribals while they were celebrating a seed festival in Edesmeta and Sarkeguda? We always get trapped in this dialectic of Maoist and State violence.
There are 15-year-old kids who kidnap people.

Should we not ask ourselves why then?
This root cause theory will get us nowhere.

I agree. By extension, one could argue the root cause of the Gujarat riots. But…
Root cause theories are very dangerous. I would say one has to completely and strongly reject the violence, yet address the symptoms. This is not to deny a lot of violence has taken place in the name of development. I often say that, but I’m in a minority. It’s true, mining is taking place; mining leases are being given, even in Saranda. I have written repeatedly to the prime minister saying we have had a security success and are striving for at least a moderate developmental success. Please don’t jeopardise it by opening up Saranda to the mining lobby. But it has happened.

In his farewell speech in 1961, Eisenhower warned America against the military- industrial complex. I think we have to wake up to the mining-politician complex in our country, which is wreaking havoc in our politics, in the tribal areas. These guys have absolutely no compunction, no social conscience. They are not doing it because it’s essential for economic growth. It’s just a sort of developmental theology. I’m against it. It’s not that mining has to be stopped altogether. But we have to do it in a calibrated, nuanced, prudent manner. We must ensure socially and environmentally responsible mining. It should not increase the misery of an already deprived community, but that is happening. So our track record has no doubt given ample ammunition and fodder to the Maoists. But still we have mining buccaneers masquerading in Parliament as political leaders.

How do you read what happened in Andhra Pradesh? It’s often cited as a success model.
I applaud what Andhra Pradesh did, but in a national context, we just exported the problem. In the past, Andhra Pradesh used to be the main theatre. Hard security measures over 30 years, as well as a process of development and political engagement helped sort out the state. But basically the Maoists spilled into the adjoining states. The forests of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra used to be a sanctuary for the Maoists. Now the sanctuary has become the arena.

This is why the Centre has a very important role to play in the tri-junction areas and quadri-junction areas: the Odisha- Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand border; the Odisha-Andhra-Chhattisgarh border; the Andhra-Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra border; the Bihar-Odisha-Jharkhand border; the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh-Madhya Pradesh-Uttar Pradesh border.

But the lesson to learn from Punjab and Andhra Pradesh is that, within the state, unless the local police and local intelligence network is up to the task, there is no way pumping in 70,000-80,000 paramilitary forces will work. But the SP of Sukma in Chhattisgarh told me he has only 1,000 men when what he really needs is 3,000. This is the story in district after district.

There seems to be no fresh legal or constitutional thinking on this. Even in the British era, the tribal areas were seen as special zones. What is the thinking within the Indian State? The Fifth Schedule is almost toothless and Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act as you said has not been implemented.
Let’s not undermine what the Indian State has attempted to do. At least it did not adopt the American or Australian policy of extermination. The Gandhi and Nehru route was to bring them into the mainstream but at a pace that they determine. So, let’s not be self-flagellatory about what we have attempted to do. To bring 80 million people into the ‘mainstream’. It has no precedent anywhere in the world. Actually, I’d rather not use the word mainstream; it’s an abused word. We have tried to ensure their constitutional rights through a democratic process.

There are many reasons why we have had greater success in the case of the Scheduled Castes than we have had with the Scheduled Tribes — primarily it’s because they affect elections in far less constituencies. There are many obligations in the Scheduled Areas that have not been met. Land alienation has taken place on a large scale. Land transfer regulations have been violated. Non-tribals have usurped tribal land. There is no denying that, but we have to just keep moving forward and get it sorted now, instead of moping. PESA was passed in 1996. FRA was passed seven years ago, but even in a politically conscious state like Kerala, when I visited the Attapadi hills of Palakkad district — one of the most deprived tribal areas — only half of the tribals’ claims under FRA had been dealt with. But the answer to all this cannot be armed confrontation.

Ironically, an RSS man from a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Sarguja district in north Chhattisgarh told me part of the reason the forests in the area are intact is because of the Maoists. If not for them, the forests would long have been cut and cleared for development.
That’s an intellectually lazy argument. The forests are intact because of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA). The FCA has nothing to do with the Maoists. Having been the forest minister, I can tell you the FCA is seen to be draconian from the development point of view. But from the forest point of view, it has been the single most important reason why the forests have been intact. Had it not been legislated in 1980, many of our forests, Abujmarh, for instance, would not have existed.

You have been travelling constantly on the ground since you took over as rural development minister. How many  affected constituencies have you been to?
Out of 82 Naxal-affected districts, I have been to 47; some of them I have been to three to four times; some five-six times.

That’s pretty intensive. When you speak to people first-hand there, what are the issues they raise?
Harassment by the local forest administration, which is the first face of the government they encounter. They also complain about the police, lack of electricity, teachers, doctors, health centres, etc. After a visit to Bijapur district, I wrote to the prime minister. As an Indian, I felt appalled and ashamed that the only two agencies providing basic healthcare facilities in the district were Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Red Cross.

There is no explanation for this. After 66 years of Independence, why are we unable to assure basic health services? Why are the roads and power supply the way they are? Why don’t post offices and banks function? When I ask bank officials, they say they can’t recruit locally and others don’t want to serve in tribal areas. If you recruit locally, someone will take you to court saying it’s unconstitutional. There are all sorts of issues. But the fact is, if the Indian State actually wants to do something, it can do it. It has enough powers. I see that effort in Bihar and West Bengal; I don’t see it in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand or Odisha. Some Congressmen were very upset when I praised West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. But supported by Suvendu Adhikary, Mamata did a political outreach programme in Jangalmahal. I took part in a rally there, it was unprecedented. The former CRPF DG told me, ‘Sir, the photo of Mamata kissing a tribal baby is equal to five CRPF battalions going there.’

But the point is, no matter how much one disagrees with what’s happening in some parts of the country, you cannot pick up the gun. Am I picking up the gun because I have been overruled on Saranda?

I agree. It’s just a slightly glib argument because in cities, people beat each other if they can’t find parking spaces or don’t have electricity for a few hours and then are judgmental about those who react to their houses being burnt, women being raped, kids being killed, grain being stolen.
Let’s concentrate on addressing the issues the Maoists raise but let’s not romanticise them. Let’s not justify the root cause theory. I’m all for concerted action on mining, displacement, forest rights, etc. I wrote to three chief ministers — Arjun Munda, Naveen Patnaik and Raman Singh — telling them how their own officers have told me there are literally thousands of tribals in jail without due process and on flimsy charges. Why can’t they be released? I have been bombarding them with letters. They don’t do it. But one has to persist. Remember, Bihar was once a hotbed of Maoist activity, but now only two areas of Jamui and Gaya are affected. So the democratic process can prevail.

shoma@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 25, Dated 22 June 2013)

 

#India – The Dangerous word : Maoists or Terrorists ?


: Dangerous word

Thursday, Jun 13, 2013 Agency: DNA,

Semantics matters in politics; language, used judiciously, is both a prime tool and a potent weapon in the shaping of public discourse. That is why there has been an ongoing debate both within the Congress and between parties in the wake of the Naxal attack on Congress leaders and party workers in Chattisgarh on whether to call Maoists terrorists or not.

Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh was the first to ascribe the term to them; tribal affairs minister KC Deo disagreed, as, when the issue came up this week, did the left parties. Now, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde has followed the Ramesh line of thought and publicly dubbed the Maoists terrorists. It is a mistake —  a dangerous reduction of a multi-faceted problem in a manner that can trammel public opinion and the scope of engagement with the Naxals.

Was the Maoist attack a heinous act? Undoubtedly. And it was far from the first time they have attacked innocent civilians; anyone who harbours romantic notions about them needs to take a closer look at their interaction with the disenfranchised sections of the population they purport to fight for. But the fact remains that the Naxal movement was born in and has taken root in a particular economic and socio-political context. It is the context that is crucial — to the extent that internationally there are over a hundred different definitions of terror with none being legally binding.

There are very real grievances against the Indian state in vast swathes of the country. The term terrorist carries with it — particularly today — an emotional heft that means its use can push the context into the background entirely and de-legitimise those grievances.

Equally, it legitimises any and all state action to bring down those it has termed terrorists. That is a slippery slope when the Indian state’s human rights record is already less than exemplary, as attested to repeatedly by Human Rights Watch.

By all means, the Indian state has the right — and the responsibility — to protect itself and its citizens from security threats. But to do it effectively, it must show itself capable of nuance. There is a vast gulf between focusing on security measures to combat acts of terror by the Maoists — paired with dialogue and development efforts to tackle root causes — and terming them terrorists and thus not worthy of engaging with at all, as Ramesh has done.

And it must also focus on its own methods, given the tendency of its police forces — and in parts of the country, its military and paramilitary forces as well — to indulge in extra-judicial behaviour  up to, and including torture and killings. Such acts do far more to exacerbate the problem than to suppress it.

Shinde and Ramesh would do well to reflect on the fact that by several definitions — including one advocated by the UN secretary general’s office — the Indian state can be said to be indulging in state terrorism against segments of its own population.

 

Jairam Ramesh: Don’t turn Aadhar card into an instrument of exclusion #Aadhaar #UID


English: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodha...

Press Trust of India Posted online: Fri May 31 2013, 16:05 hrs
New Delhi : Amid concerns that sticking to Aadhaar card criteria could deprive many people especially in remote areas of benefits of UPA’s ambitious cash transfer scheme, Union Minster Jairam Ramesh today cautioned against a situation when Aadhaar becomes “an instrument of exclusion”.
“Unfortunately many of the beneficiaries of government programmes are outside the network of Aadhaar numbers’ network. So you find that in a very large number of the districts… the Aadhaar coverage is much much below the critical threshold of 75 to 80 per cent,” Ramesh said addressing a conference here.
He said that there is a need to be “very, very careful” to ensure that “lack of an Aadhaar number does not become an alibi of exclusion of the beneficiary. We do not want to to be in a situation, when Aadhaar becomes an instrument of exclusion. That if you do not have the Aadhaar number, you will not get the benefits. We do not want this situation and this situation is very, very probable. One should never discount the probability of a local level functionary saying that since you do not have a Aadhaar number, you are not eligible,” he said.
There have been reports that Centre may bypass Aadhaar to accomplish the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) before the scheme is launched on July 1.
The Union Minster also rued that the public sector banks are not responding adequately to the Banking Correspondents (BCs) model, which is absolutely critical for delivering benefits directly into the hands of beneficiaries.
“Private banks have been far more innovative than public banks regarding the use of BCs. To get public sector banks in the framework of BCs has been a challenge. Banks are simply not on board as far as this crucial thing of BCs is concerned,” Ramesh said.
The minister also favoured relying more on post offices to reach out to people in the remote tribal areas than banks, widening and strengthening the network of BCs to include self help groups, Asha workers and other such agencies and moving away from BPL/APL issue while deciding on beneficiaries.

#India- Tribal Affairs Minister cautions against deploying Army to tackle Maoist problem


New Delhi, May 31, 2013

PTI

 Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo on Thursday dubbed anti-Maoist militia Salwa Judum as a “sinful strategy,” bringing to the fore apparent differences in the Congress over the approach to Maoists who last week wiped out party leadership in Chhattisgarh in a deadly attack.

Mr. Deo warned that the nation would witness “worse consequences” if the Naxalite issue was treated as a mere law and order problem, just days after Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh termed the Maoists as “terrorists” after the May 25 bloodbath.

The people “worst affected” by the Salwa Judum, founded by Mahendra Karma, Congress leader who was killed in the attack, were innocent tribals, who were “sandwiched” between security forces and Maoists and “this shadow is still chasing us,” the Minister said.

Talking to PTI, Mr. Deo, himself a tribal, cautioned against deploying Army to counter the Naxals.

“Air power and military are meant to fight the enemy and not your own citizens…. How do you differentiate a Maoist? …It will create a civil war-like situation,” he said insisting that the Naxal issue was basically a socio-economic problem.

Asked whether the Salwa Judum was a faulty or a failed strategy, he remarked it was a “sinful” strategy.

When P. Chidambaram was Home Minister, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh opposed any strategy treating the Naxal problem as a law and order issue.

 

Naxalism in Chhattisgarh is a fallout of Salwa Judum: Tribal Affairs Minister


naxalites

By ET Bureau | 30 May, 2013,

 

What you have seen in Bastar over the last two weeks - starting with Sarkeguda and then this massacre - is nothing but chain reaction to Salwa Judum, says KC Deo
What you have seen in Bastar over the last two weeks – starting with Sarkeguda and then this massacre – is nothing but chain reaction to Salwa Judum, says KC Deo
What you have seen in Bastar over the last two weeks – starting with Sarkeguda and then this massacre – is nothing but chain reaction to Salwa Judum, says Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo

Do you need to rethink the strategy against Naxalism after Bastar? 

All this is the fallout of Salwa Judum. I had opposed the movement since Shivraj Patilwas home minister. What you have seen in Bastar over the last two weeks – starting with Sarkeguda and then this massacre – is nothing but chain reaction to Salwa Judum.

Do you think the government should change its strategy? 

How? All along they have been taking police action. I have been saying that we need to take action wherever there is a law and order situation but the stress should be on developmental activities

The government has many schemes, like Integrated Action Plan… 

These have shown results in some areas but there is the need to involve people in decision-making. Present schemes put all power in the hands of DMs, district forest officer and the superintendent of police.

How should the government approach the Naxal problem? 

Development should precede combing operations. I come from a Naxal-affected area. One part of my constituency, Parvatipuram, had this problem. The only way we could tackle it was by first building roads, then supplying drinking water and then all other facilities followed. While constructing roads, you must provide security so that you can tackle the Naxals.

You seem to differ with your colleague Jairam Ramesh who termed Maoists as terrorists…

I wouldn’t go to that extent. They are extremists, yes. Their actions are of an extremely undemocratic nature.

Congress is talking about a nexus between the corporates and Naxals… 

That’s true. Some private firm employees were caught with money which had to be paid to Naxals. But after those news items we found nothing. Why was there no probe? Corporate houses pay protection money.

Interviewed by Nidhi Sharma

 

#Chattisgarh – Maoists do not “obstruct” government health programmes- Jairam Ramesh


Health services in Maoist areas a challenge and an opportunity: Ramesh

SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindu

His letter to Azad acknowledges Maoists do not “obstruct” government health programmes

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, in a letter to Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, has acknowledged that Maoists do not “obstruct” government health programmes.

Mr. Ramesh has defined delivery of health services to Maoist-controlled areas as an “opportunity” to reach millions of tribal people in the remotest areas of the country. However, government health workers and administrators cite Maoist intervention as a reason for non-delivery of health services.

In underdeveloped areas of Chhattisgarh, especially in Maoist-controlled districts, government healthcare is virtually non-existent. In most cases, primary health centres (PHC) are miles away from villages and people could hardly make it to the PHCs due to non-availability of transport, hostile terrain and extreme climatic conditions.

In addition, health workers rarely visit the PHCs due to what is perceived as “Maoist threat.” Even in a place like Chintagufa in Sukma district, next to a Central Reserve Police Force camp on the main arterial road, the health centre is only occasionally visited by health workers, the villagers toldThe Hindu .

Moreover, according to data released by the Chhattisgarh Health Department, a huge percentage of health workers’ posts are vacant across the State. For example, in Dantewada, 60 per cent posts are vacant. The situation is more or less the same in all tribal districts.

Interestingly, the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has also failed to fill the vacant positions announced by them. The demand-supply gap of health workers has been met by quacks and barefoot Maoist doctors, who provide basic health care to villagers.

Mr. Ramesh has said in his letter, a copy of which is with The Hindu , delivery of health services in Maoist areas is “both a challenge and an opportunity.” “It is an opportunity since the health programmes are not obstructed by the Maoists, and if delivered effectively, [it] has the potential to soften the local tribals’ attitude towards the government,” wrote Mr. Ramesh.

Mr. Ramesh has suggested to Mr. Azad to introduce some “flexibility” in the NRHM to deal with “health challenges” in Maoist areas. He has strongly recommended government support for four non-profit health organisations, which have done substantial work in central India. These are Ramakrishna Mission (RKM) in Narayanpur and Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS) in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh and the organisations led by Dr. Abhay Bang and Dr. Prakash Amte in southern Maharashtra.

He feels the NRHM should not only be used “to support existing institutions,” but also to create “new [health] networks,” and, therefore, “such organisations” should be supported under the NRHM.

 


  • In underdeveloped areas of Chhattisgarh, government healthcare is non-existent
  • Health workers rarely visit PHCs in remote areas due to perceived ‘Maoist threat’

 

Gandhian activist arrested in MP, adivasis up in arms


Bhopal, May 17, 2013

 

Staff Reporter

 
A file picture of Gandhian activist Madhuri Krishnaswami who was arrested for fighting against the injustice meted out to adviasis in Madhya Pradesh.
The Hindu A file picture of Gandhian activist Madhuri Krishnaswami who was arrested for fighting against the injustice meted out to adviasis in Madhya Pradesh.
 
 

Madhuri Krishnaswamy, a leader of the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) – which works for health and labour rights in the south-western Madhya Pradesh – was sent to judicial custody for a fortnight, on Thursday. Ms. Krishnaswamy, popularly called Madhuri Ben, and four others were summoned by Judicial Magistrate First Class D. P. Singh Sewach in Barwani on Thursday for a 2008 case of rioting and assaulting a public servant.

The police, in fact, had filed a closure report for lack of evidence, but the court took cognizance of the testimony of plaintiff Vijay Chouhan and summoned the respondents. Only Madhuri Ben appeared and was sent to Khargone Women’s Prison after she refused to seek bail. Two of the four others are already on bail. The others are expected to be arrested soon.

In 2008, Madhuri had alerted health and police officials after a tribal woman was forced to deliver her child on the road, after been evicted from a primary health centre by the compounder Mr. Chouhan. He also filed the case against the JADS, was suspended only to be reinstated later.

JADS activists picketed at six police stations in Barwani district on Friday. Union rural development minister was also in the district for the Congress’ Parivartan Yatra. “We told him that arresting the person who exposed the government is injustice. He said he spoke to the chief secretary. We also told him that we are only getting Rs. 22 to 26 as MNREGA wages (instead of the stipulated Rs. 100). He did not say anything,” Harsing Jamre of the JADS told The Hindu.

District superintendent of police R. C. Burra told this reporter, “We had to arrest her as the court ordered it… He (Mr. Jairam Ramesh) asked about her and we gave him all the details of the case.”

Ms. Krishnaswamy is scheduled to appear before the Chief Judicial Magistrate on May 30.

She was served a show-cause notice of externment from the district administration, last year, which accused her of preventing officials from doing their duties. This came after she protested against the death of a tribal woman after 27 hours of labour without medical help. Mr. Ramesh had then too written to chief secretary R. Parasuram to intervene.

Call to Join the virtual march for land rights!


Therules_image_5554_full

 

Dear friends,

On October 11th 2012, the Indian people‘s movement Jan Satyagraha (Sanskrit meaning “peaceful soul force”), secured far-reaching promises from the Indian government for desperately needed land reform to help the poor and marginalised, but only after 50 000 people had marched towards Delhi. They now stand on the cusp of making those promises come to life.

The government is on a deadline to deliver by April 11th; six months to the day from the original agreement. There are a few critical meetings coming up. The first has been called by Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh for April 6th. The Revenue Ministers from all the States will gather to discuss how – or even if – to implement the 10-point land reform plan.[1] After that, the National Land Reform Committee will meet on April 11th. If they do not deliver a strong action plan at this meeting, the Jan Satygraha will march again.

In anticipation of these meetings, the Jan Satyagraha movement is calling on all of its supporters in India and around the world to bring a new, global aspect to their struggle. International social movements such as /The Rules have committed to help build a virtual Jan Satyagraha to bring international pressure at this crucial moment. The Indian Government has agreed in principle to enact the reforms, let’s make sure they keep their promise.

Add your name here to join the virtual Jan Satyagraha ahead of the meeting in April, calling on the Indian Government to adopt these crucial reforms under the following Link:

www.therules.org/en/actions/land-virtual-march

The agreement includes measures that will mean millions of people can start supporting themselves on their own small plots of land. It will give fresh life to long neglected legislation that should be protecting the rights of poor and marginalised communities, like the Land Reform Acts from the 1950s and the more recent Forest Rights Act of 2006. Most importantly, it will require state and national governments to work together in new ways to ensure landless poor and marginalised people can secure their rights.

For the first time ever, people who don’t have email can also join this global campaign by placing a free missed call to+91 (113) 0715-351 to register their support. All the emails and missed calls will be brought together in symbolic marches in key cities around the world in the run up to the meetings, including Rio, New York, Nairobi, Mexico City, Cape Town, Sydney and Lagos.

These proposals could mean the difference between life and death for millions of people. Make sure the Indian government delivers on its promises.

In hope,

Ekta Parishad