Vedanta mining: amid Tribal ministry’s protest Odisha fixes Gram Sabha dates


Bhubaneswar, July 5, 2013

 The tribal busy at a paddy field at the foothills of Niyamgiri Hills in Kalhandi district of Odisha. In the background Vedanta Aluminium factory can be seen. A file photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury.

PTI

The Hindu The tribal busy at a paddy field at the foothills of Niyamgiri Hills in Kalhandi district of Odisha. In the background Vedanta Aluminium factory can be seen. A file photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury.

Ignoring objections by the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, the Odisha government on Friday announced dates for conducting Gram Sabhas in 12 villages of Kalahandi and Rayagada districts to decide fate of the proposed bauxite mining for Vedanta atop Niyamgiri Hills.

“We have decided to hold Gram Sabha in 12 hill slope villages as per the April 18 Supreme Court order. While Gram Sabha will be held between July 18 and August 19 in seven villages of Rayagada district, similar exercise will be done between July 23 and 30 in five villages of Kalahandi district,” Odisha’s ST and SC development minister L B Himirika told reporters in Bhubaneswar.

To a question, Mr. Himirika said the state government had earlier decided to hold Gram Sabha in 12 limited villages and it would implement it. “We are going by the Apex Court’s order,” Mr. Himirika said sidestepping a question on the MoTA’s objection.

On April 18, the Supreme Court order asked the state government to hold gram sabhas to decide the fate of Vedanta’s plan to mine at Niyamgiri.

“We need at least 50 per cent attendance to conduct a gram sabha. One-third of them should be women. If quorum is not achieved, the gram sabha will be cancelled and conducted later,” Rayagada district collector Sashi Bhusan Padhi said.

Meanwhile, Odisha’s Advocate General (AG) in a report supported the state government’s decision in 12 hill slope villages of Niyamgiri. The state government had sought Law department and AG’s views on objections raised by MoTA.

Earlier, Union Minister of Tribal Affairs V Kishore Chandra Deo had said that limiting Gram Sabha proceedings to only 12 villages was not in accordance with the Supreme Court order dated April 18 and directions issued by the ministry under Section 12 of Forest Right Act (FRA).

Mr. Deo had also written a letter to Governor S C Jamir seeking his intervention in the matter, saying the areas where gram sabhas are proposed to be held fall under Schedule V categoty.

“The list of villages where rights of forest dwellers are guaranteed under the FRA or where cultural and religious rights are likely to be affected cannot be arbitrarily decided by the state government. It is to be decided by the people (Palli Sabha) where claims would be filed through a transparent manner so that no genuine Gram Sabha which has a legitimate claim is left out of the process. This is in line with Para 59 of the apex court judgement,” Vibha Puri Das, secretary, MoTA, had written to the state chief secretary recently.

The Ministry clarified that it had received several claims under FRA for various rights, including religious and cultural rights claimed over Niyamgiri forests and sacred areas from villages over and above the 12 villages selected by the state government.

It shows that Niyamgiri forests are shared by not just 12 villages, but many other villages in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts too share religious and cultural rights over Niyamgiri, the ministry observed.

Referring to Para 53 and 54 of the Supreme Court (SC) judgement, the MoTA letter said, “Such observations cannot be interpreted to assess the number of villages that need to be considered for recognition and vesting of claims under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Right) Act-2006.”

The Supreme Court in its order had directed the state government to complete Gram Sabhas within three months to get the mandate of the local people regarding the mining project.

The judgement had also called for considering all claims on community, individual, cultural and religious rights of the local inhabitants.

 

#India – Locked land of Posco #odisha


POSCO

 

 

Priya Ranjan Sahu, Hindustan Times  Gobindpur, Odisha, June 23, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been an eight-year-long uneven battle between betel vines and a steel plant. And steel hasn’t won yet.

For, eight villages in coastal Odisha’s Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujanga gram panchayats in Jagatsingpur district, about 150 km east of state capital Bhubaneswar, have put up a stiff resistance against South Korean steel major Posco’s proposed Rs.52,000-crore project.

The reason: It will take away their traditional source of income — betel vines.

Posco signed a deal with the state government for acquiring 4,004 acres (one acre=43,560 square feet) for the project. But the site of the project — backed by the single-largest foreign investment in India — virtually has nothing except some prefabricated site offices in a hurriedly fenced-off piece of vacant land.

The telltale signs of the battle are strewn everywhere in the area earmarked for the project — felled trees, destroyed betel vines and hostile villagers, who have been fighting with the state to protect their vines.

Popular resistance and environmental clearance have made it difficult for the state to push through the 12-million-tonnes a year green-field project, which should have gone on stream by 2011.

Of the 4,004 acres, about 3,000 acres is forestland. And more than 5,000 betel vines dot the sandy landscape in this forestland, each generating an average assured income of R20,000 a month.

Two years ago, the administration had to suspend land acquisition after hundreds of women and children blocked the entry point to the vines near the Gobindpur-Nuagaon border in scorching summer.

In February this year, the administration took a step forward by resuming the process in Gobindpur. Though the state considers dismantling about 300 betel vines in three months to be some success, the drive seems to have lost steam by the end of May.

“They are coming like thieves in the wee hours and trying to dismantle vines before we wake up and protest. We have re-erected several vines dismantled by them,” said villager Tuna Baral.

But the administration is being careful. “Land acquisition continues peacefully. We are trying to convince people to part with their vines and accept compensation,” SK Mallick, collector of Jagatsinghpur, told HT.

The project has split the village community, with a group called the United Action Committee (UAC) — having some influence in Nuagaon — supporting Posco. But that has not helped matters. Today, Nuagaon is a picture of despair, with villagers having exhausted their compensation and are left with no means to sustain themselves.

Kabindra Rout, a betel farmer, said, “The administration dismantled my betel vine in 2011 and I got a compensation of R2.28 lakh. But now I am jobless.”

Many who earlier used to own betel vines and could employ others have now been reduced to daily wage-earners in the vines in Dhinkia, the stronghold of the anti-Posco movement, which the police have not been able to enter during the past eight years.

On June 7, after meeting chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Posco India chairman and managing director Young-Won Yoon said, “We are hopeful the land will be handed over to us soon.”

But ‘soon’ may prove to be far off — or even a delusion — as the 20,000-odd residents of the eight villages are showing no signs of retreating from their betel vines.

 

 

 

#India – Tribal Woman raped in bus, helper arrested #Odisha #Vaw


RAPE

Odisha Tribal woman raped in moving bus

PTI : Bhubaneswar/Cuttack, Wed Jun 19 2013, 1

TOP ST

A 25-year-old tribal girl was allegedly raped by the helper of an air-conditioned luxury bus in which she was travelling, police today said. The accused identified as Susanta Hembram has been arrested for allegedly raping the tribal girl, resident of Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, in the moving bus on Sunday night when other passengers were fast asleep, they said.

In her complaint, the victim alleged that Hembram raped her in the rear seat of the private bus en route Jagatpur near Cuttack, between 3 to 3.30 am when there were only few passengers and all of them were asleep, City DCP S Praveen Kumar said.

Hembram is believed to be an acquaintance of the victim,who works as a domestic help in Jagatpur, on the outskirts of Cuttack city. The incident came to light when the girl was rescued by some people at Gatiroutpatna, about 5 km from Cuttack on Cuttack-Jagatsinghpur road yesterday.

The Mahila police station of the city after registering a case sent both the accused and the victim for medical examination on the day. A police scientific team is also assisting the city police in investigating the case.

The State Transport Commissioner Surendra Kumar informed that the permit of the passenger bus in which the crime was committed has been cancelled. “It is one of the primary duties of the bus staff to ensure that the passengers boarding the buses travel safely and reach their destinations unharmed,” Kumar said. Meanwhile, the Private Bus Owners’ Association condemning the incident has demanded that stringent punishment should be given to the bus helper and urged the bus owners to ensure that the credentials of the persons are verified properly before they are recruited to perform duties in the buses plying at night.

#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 – The Niyamgiri warrior against Vedanta – Sanjay Parikh #mustread


Aparna Kalra  |  New Delhi  June 15, 2013  BS

Though his case files are stacked across four rooms, Sanjay Parikh, the lawyer who thrust a spoke into India-focused miner Vedanta Resources‘ plans, has ensured each is marked neatly.

“This is the Kalahandi case… this is Basmati rice,” he says, as he hops excitedly from one room to another. These are famous cases – one in which the court, petitioned by Parikh, tracked delivery systems for 10 years to prevent starvation deaths; another through which India gave the US a stinging defeat on patents.

The lawyer behind these cases, however, is known only in select human rights and legal circles. It took this reporter three weeks of calls, doorstepping, and a reference from another lawyer to get an interview with Parikh. “Talk about my cases, but why a profile?” he asks at the eventual interview.

‘A balance is required’
The latest case that put the spotlight on Parikh is that of the Niyamgiri forest, where Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Aluminum Ltd, a unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources, tried to mine bauxite for its shut aluminum plant.

On April 18, Parikh’s arguments in favour of the forest dwellers or tribals seemed to have borne fruit. The court said before allowing mining, a village body, or a Gram Sabha, representing these people, should take their opinion. “Many of the scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers are totally unaware of their rights. They also experience a lot of difficulties in obtaining effective access to justice because of their distinct culture and limited contact with mainstream society,” ruled a three-judge Supreme Court bench, asking Vedanta to await a consensus among the forest dwellers.

Odisha, where the Niyamgiri hills are located, represents Vedanta’s supply chain. India has the world’s fifth largest bauxite reserves of 593 million tonnes, the majority of that in Odisha, according to a Reuters report.

The Niyamgiri debate typifies the puzzle India is faced with – how to mine minerals without hurting indigenous rights and harming to the environment. So sharp has been this debate that it has strengthened the armed Naxal movement.

Back in Parikh’s study, in a single row are stacked the files of cases that bring in money. These relate to rent disputes and yes, crime and murder cases. However, it is clear the lawyer’s heart lies elsewhere. “Somewhere, a balance is required,” says Parikh, 54, talking about the cases he is paid for, as well as his other work. “Those who are coming to you and can pay, you must ask them to pay.”

Among Parikh’s high-impact cases is one where he assisted noted lawyer Indira Jaising in arguments that led to the Supreme Court implementing a ban on use of ultrasound technology to determine the sex of foetuses. A chunk of his cases were those in which he represented environmental activists. “Sanjay has committed himself totally to defending the public interest. He represented the first case the research foundation (Research Foundation on Science, Technology and Ecology) fought to stop Monsanto’s illegal field trials of GMOs (genetically modified organisms),” says Vandana Shiva, an activist who has campaigned against patenting of seeds.

Dharma
Parikh says he was influenced into working on cases voluntarily and without payments during his training as a law intern. Born into an ordinary railway employee’s family from Rajasthan, he graduated in law from Agra University, before being selected to intern with former Supreme Court judge S Rangarajan in 1982. During the period of Emergency, Rangarajan had overturned the arrest of journalist Kuldip Nayyar. Parikh says he learnt moral courage from his mentor.

“I was quite clear there had to be a purpose to life,” says Parikh. “There is in the profession what you call dharma … (by which) the profession is a way of life.”

Parikh, whose two sons are also lawyers, admits it is not easy to comprehend the impact of a law his argument helped draft, or follow-through on its implementation. However, sometimes, one can take the next step, such as action against online advertisements on sex determination by pre-natal clinics based abroad, but targeting Indian parents.

Senior advocate
K K Venugopal, who argued for Vedanta, says of Parikh: “He has been doing a lot of pro bono work. I know that I have been seeing him appear in a number of environment cases… He was not the main opposing counsel. He was one of the main ones. I was opposed by the Union of India, so the solicitor general was appearing… Prashant Bhushan was there. Parikh was there, and played a fairly significant part.”

Parikh’s argument was one of the countervailing arguments in the case – Vedanta and the state of Odisha argued in favour of the mining project. The Indian government, represented by the solicitor general, opposed the project, as did Parikh.


Significant cases
Mandatory declaration of assets and criminal record by a candidate filing nomination as Member of Parliament or Member of Legislative Assembly (In 2003, challenging Union of India)

Petition in 1995, challenging dumping of toxic waste, including ship-breaking activities. SC did not ban the entry of toxic ships into Indian waters, but said prior informed consent was necessary. It set the ball rolling for monitoring toxic waste, including that in Bhopal (challenging Union of India and Gujarat maritime board, a ship-breaking company)

Petition in 1998 challenging field trials of genetically modified Bt cotton. Field trials were stayed a few years, but India planted more than 10 million hectares of genetically modified cotton in 2011 (challenging Union of India and Mahyco, which had an association with Monsanto, the world’s largest seeds company)

 

Criticised, Odisha weighs expanding scope of locals in deciding Vedanta fate #goodnews


 BS Reporter  |  Bhubaneswar  June 14, 201

Faced with flak from the ministry of tribal affairs (MoTA) and activists from Niyamgiri for its decision to limit gram sabhas to just 12 villages,Odisha is mulling legal opinion over the possibility of expanding the scope of such meetings.

“We are exploring legal angles to suggestions by MoTA on expanding scope of gram sabhas. If required, views of the law department will be taken,” said Santosh Sarangi, secretary, SC&ST development.

Defending the state’s stand to conduct gram sabhas in 12 villages on Niyamgiri hill slopes, he said, “A close scrutiny of the Supreme Court order dated April 18 would suggest it was referring to the 12 hill slope villages where the meetings were held earlier for settlement of claims under the Forest Right Act (FRA). It would not be feasible to hold gram sabhas in all villages of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts. Besides, the process would also be very time-consuming.”

Earlier, the SC&ST department had consulted the law department to interpret the order on holding of gram sabhas, citing lack of clarity.

In line with the views filed by the law department, the state decided to hold gram sabhas to decide the fate of bauxite extraction from Niyamgiri hills in 12 villages. These included seven villages in Rayagada district and five in Kalahandi district.

In his letter to MoTA, Odisha Chief Secretary B K Patnaik said: “At the time of filing of claims, neither the ministry of environment and forests nor MoTA had raised an issue before the court regarding coverage of villages over and above the 12 hill slope villages.” He added a reading of the court’s observation would make clear the reference was to the 12 hill slope villages for which affidavit was filed by Odisha. However, refusing to agree to the state’s contention, MoTA held limiting gram sabha proceedings was not in line with the order and the directions by the ministry under section 12 of FRA.

“The list of villages where rights of forest dwellers are guaranteed under FRA or where cultural and religious rights are likely to be affected, cannot be arbitrarily decided by the state government. It is to be decided by the people (palli sabha) where claims would be filed through a transparent manner so that no genuine gram sabha that has a legitimate claim is left out of the process. This is in line with para 59 of the apex court judgement,” Vibha Puri Das, secretary, MoTA, wrote to Odisha chief secretary Patnaik recently.

 

#India – Appeal to observe Anti Posco Black day on 22nd JUNE 2013


 

We remember people who sacrificed their self interests for the benefit our freedom in the 66th year of Indian Independence. Sadly, during the one and a half decades of the post-globalisation era in India, our leaders are sacrificing the very purpose of the sacrifices of those who fought for freedom. India’s land, rivers, hills, seas and forests are being sold to global corporates, displacing millions of farmers, dalits, adivasis and fisher folk today, devastating this country’s environment.

The project planned by the multinational giant POSCO represents the largest  Foreign Direct Investment of this country (FDI) during the post-globalised India. The project will destroy the lives of thousands of farmers, dalits, women, children, fisher people and indigenous people.

The people’s movement against POSCO started soon after the signing of the MOU between POSCO and Odisha Government. Since then over hundred bombs have been thrown at the resisting villagers by the pro-POSCO goons and around 100 villagers have been shot by the Odisha police. Our leaders like MR. Abhay Sahoo and four others are in the jail. More than 1500 villagers and activists are facing over 250 fabricated false charges. Many villagers can not come out of their villages even for their hospitalization, due to the threat of arrests. The struggle against POSCO led by POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti is still resisting this invasion by a global capitalist giant in partnership with the Central and State Governments.

 

We believe that if the anti-POSCO movement is suppressed due to the interests of the corporations, it will affect many similar struggles in Odisha as well as rest of India. Since this SEZ project is the largest FDI investment in this country, it has to be treated as a symbol of struggle against globalization and India’s freedom.

 

Therefore, we appeal to all freedom lovers in India and all over the world to mark your resistance by responding on the day of the completion of the 8th year of signing of the MOU between POSCO and the Government, on June 22, 2013. We appeal to all activists, organizations, people’s movements and concerned individuals against globalization to express their strong protest against this corporate invasion of our lands. We appeal to groups and people’s movements working on fisher people, dalits, women, children and indigenous people to organize solidarity actions on June 22nd, since it is the lives of these very forces which are at stake. On this historical event, PPSS calls for the following actions all over India and abroad to initiate the following actions:

 

1.     Protests in your region demanding the ouster of POSCO and removal of all fabricated false cases against activists and villagers.

 

2.     Public meetings in your region condemning the threat of displacement and environmental destruction by POSCO.

 

3.     Expressions through, songs, posters, paintings, theatre, print media and internet actions against POSCO.

 

4.     Mobilise concerned sections to be part of the event in Odisha.

 

5.     Write letters to the Prime Minister of India and the Chief Minister of Odisha.

 

6.     Document the events in Odisha and elsewhere through written media as well as video for future campaigns, or

 

7.     Any other symbolic or imaginative actions you may chose.

 

We welcome all those who wish to participate in the mass rally and demonstrations at Patnahat village of Jagatsighpur district  in Odisha  on 22nd June 2013 and express their support to this historic struggle.

In Solidarity,
Prashant Paikary
Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti
Mobile no-09437571547
E-Mail - prashantpaikary@gmail.com

 

 

#India – 273 bonded labourers rescued in Tiruvallur


SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, The Hindu , June 12

The Odisha natives, who had been working under inhuman conditions in brick kilns, were sent back home on Tuesday night — Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam
The HinduThe Odisha natives, who had been working under inhuman conditions in brick kilns, were sent back home on Tuesday night — Photo: B. Jothi Ramalingam

At the end of an investigation that went on through the night until the crack of dawn on Tuesday, district officials established they were victims of bonded labour

Uttam was given only one day off in a week to venture out of the brick kiln. Even on that day somebody would accompany him.

Uttam was one of the 273 labourers from Odisha who were tricked into working as bonded labourers at two brick kilns in Chennai’s neighbouring Tiruvallur district. The labourers, who were allegedly working under inhuman conditions for a weekly payment of Rs. 300 to Rs. 400 per family, were rescued by revenue officials in an overnight raid on Monday.

At the end of an investigation that went on through the night until the crack of dawn on Tuesday, district officials established they were victims of bonded labour.

One hundred and eighty nine workers were handed ‘release certificates’ that identified them as bonded labourers, thereby enabling them for government rehabilitation packages. They were also given Rs. 1,000 each as initial rehabilitation payments and tickets for their journey to Bolanghir in Odisha.

Huddled beside Dhanbad Express at Chennai Central station on Tuesday evening and clinging to their meagre belongings, they recalled the difficult working conditions in the kilns, where even children were made to work.

Manoj from Kantabanji in Odisha, who worked as a driver at the kiln, got just three to four hours of sleep every day. “I was promised a salary of Rs. 7,000 a month, but got Rs. 15,000 for three months and nothing for the last two.”

While the labourers spoke in Odia, Annie Baptist, a volunteer with International Justice Mission (IJM), the NGO that assisted the district officials with the rescue, translated.

Sountharba, (45), said the family had taken a loan of Rs. 50,000 for her son’s wedding which they were unable to repay. When a ‘seth’ (middleman) offered to pay them an advance of Rs. 48,000 for four members in the family, they went to work in the kilns as they wanted to pay back the debt taken from other persons.

“My husband, son, daughter-in-law and I came here in January and were made to work six days a week from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. with few breaks in between,” she said.

Twelve-year-old Dinesh, who spoke little Hindi, said he attended school between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and was then made to work between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. Baduku, another labourer, complained that if one of the members in the family was unwell, the wages would be accordingly cut.

After seven months of working close to 17 hours a day for six days a week at a place nearly 1,200 kilometers away from their home districts of Bolanghir, Naupada, Barghar and Nabranghpur districts in Odisha, the labourers on Tuesday night boarded the Dhanbad Express for a day-long journey home.

No criminal charges

Tiruvallur district collector K. Veera Raghava Rao said the labourers were rescued from the two kilns that were operating under the name ‘Eswari Brick Works’ in Thirukandalam village of Otthukottai taluk. Though the descriptions of the working conditions, provided by IJM, which assisted the district officials, sounded grave, the revenue department could only file penalties against the proprietors of the brick kiln under the Bonded Labour Abolition Act (BLA) of 1976, Mr. Rao said.

When it was pointed out that a press release from IJM noted that some labourers were beaten by the employers for demanding fair payment, the Collector said details would be collected of specific instances and if required, cases would be filed under IPC.

Tiruvallur district has close to 300 brick kilns that provide resources for the booming construction industry in Chennai. It is populated with a lot of labour-intensive small industries, including rice mills.

(With inputs from Asha Sridhar)

 

#India- Report demands full compensation for victims of Kandhamal riots


Special Correspondent, The Hindu

 The report was released by Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing
A report titled 'Unjust Compensation' prepared by Housing and Land Rights Network highlighting property losses of private individuals during the Kandhamal riots, in Bhubaneswar on Friday.—Photos: Lingaraj Panda
A report titled ‘Unjust Compensation’ prepared by Housing and Land Rights Network highlighting property losses of private individuals during the Kandhamal riots, in Bhubaneswar on Friday.—Photos: Lingaraj Panda

Centre for Sustainable Use of Social and Natural Resources (CSNR), Bhubaneswar, and Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN), Delhi, on Friday released a report on the compensation paid to the families that had suffered damage and loss of property during the anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal in 2007 and 2008.

The report noted that though the State government provided immediate relief, compensation for ‘damaged houses’ and death, it did not enumerate and provide compensation for the loss of property (other than housing) such as household articles, vital documents (like educational certificates, land records), agricultural equipment, utensils, clothes, agricultural and forest produce, livestock, poultry, and livelihood-related losses.

The government was not having a policy to assess and compensate such losses.

The report was released here by Miloon Kothari, former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing.

The panel also consisted of Dhirendra Panda, Secretary, CSNR, Shivani Chaudhry, Associate Director, HLRN, and Prafulla Samantara and Nicholas Barla, human rights activists.

The findings of the impact assessment study revealed that the real costs and losses suffered by individuals and families who experienced destruction of their homes and property were immense. While extensive damage to property, both movable and immovable, had been reported, the State has only compensated families for loss of homes.

On the basis of the findings of this study, the report recommended to the State government to take immediate measures to adequately rehabilitate and resettle the victim-survivors of the Kandhamal violence.

The report further urged the government to ensure full reparation to those persons whose livelihoods were affected due to violence and strife.

The government should provide adequate financial assistance to those children whose education was affected because of destruction of books and educational material, unavailability of study material, loss of academic certificates, and inability to attend school during and after the violence, the report suggested.

It further said that the government should provide financial assistance to victim-survivors whose documents of land and property were destroyed and facilitate the process to obtain alternative documents.

The government should develop a new policy for victim-survivors of violence due to conflict, such as in the case of Kandhamal, and implement it immediately, the report said, while urging the government to prepare a long-term strategy to protect and promote secularism and non-casteism in Odisha.

Bauxite mining: Tribal ministry objects to Odisha’s move against SC order


Priya Ranjan Sahu, Hindustan Times  Bhubaneswar, June 09, 2013

The Union ministry of tribal affairs (MoTA) has objected to the Odisha government’s decision to hold gram sabhas in only 12 villages of Niyamgiri hill slopes to decide the fate of bauxite mining for Vedanta Group’s alumina plant.

In a letter to Odisha chief secretary BK Patnaik on Friday, the union ministry secretary Vibha Puri Das has written that limiting gram sabha meetings is not in accordance with the Supreme Court order.

She has asked the state government to arrive at the exact number of villages where gram sabha was to be conducted as per the direction laid down by the union ministry.

 

Das said: “The list of villages where rights of the forest dwellers are guaranteed under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) or where cultural and religious rights are likely to be affected cannot be arbitrarily decided by the state government. It is to be decided by the people, i.e. palli sabha, where claims would be filed through a transparent manner so that no genuine gram sabha which have a legitimate claim is left out of the process.”

She said the Supreme Court judgment on April 18 was the only judgment that assumed finality and not subject to or to be read in reference to earlier orders, affidavits filed, argument or submission made. “The apex court has not alluded to or limited the application of FRA in the project areas to any specific number of villages under any paragraph of its order,” she said, adding that any interpretation of the order to the contrary would be incorrect.

On June 1, Patnaik had written to Das justifying the selection of the villages for gram sabha saying the Odisha government had filed an affidavit before the apex court in this regard. “At the time of filing of claims relating to 12 villages which are on the slopes of Niyamgiri hill and during subsequent deliberation, neither the Union ministry of environment and forest nor the ministry of tribal affairs had raised any issue before the apex court regarding coverage of villages over and above the 12 hill slope villages,” he had said.

The Supreme Court in its order had said the decision of gram sabhas of Kalahandi and Rayagada district was crucial on the issue of whether mining should be allowed in the hill – home to nearly 10,000 endangered Dangria Kondh tribals, portrayed in western media as Na’vi from Hollywood blockbuster Avatar.

On May 27, the Odisha government had issued notices to the collectors of the two districts to call gram sabha meetings in five villages of Kalahandi and seven villages of Rayagada and complete the process within three months as stipulated by the Supreme Court.

Social activist Prafulla Samantara, an intervener in the case, had opposed the state government’s move saying selection of just 12 out of more than 100 villages thereby keeping away a large number of Dongria, Kutia and Jharnia Kondh tribals was against the judgment of the apex court.

The proposed mining in Niyamgiri hill is vital for the Vedanta Group, which has signed an MoU with the Odisha government in 2004. The MoU includes supply of 78 million tonnes of bauxite by the state owned Odisha Mining Corporation to the alumina refinery from Niyamgiri hill to its alumina plant adjacent to it in Lanjigarh in Kalahandi, about 550 km southwest of Bhubaneswar.

But the OMC has not been able to mine the hill due to stiff protest from the tribals who revered the hill as their god ‘Niyamraja’ and problems in getting clearance from the Union ministry for environment and forest. Denied clearance by the ministry in 2011, the OMC had moved the Supreme Court, while Vedanta had shut down its refinery on December 6 last year due to lack of bauxite.