#India – Violence against the state is tragic but it contains the seeds of rejection


Repression is no solution

Gopal Subramanium

Violence against the state is tragic but it contains the seeds of rejection. Only an inclusive approach that respects human rights can eliminate extremism

Perhaps no other chain of events in the recent past has had a more direct and substantial impact on the life of human beings across the world than acts of terror. Terrorism has not only affected our lives directly, but has also allowed the state to intrude in our lives like never before.

 

Fundamental obligation

 

Since the security of the individual is a basic human right (and a fundamental condition of the social contract underpinning society), the protection of individuals is a fundamental obligation of the state. In recent years, however, the measures adopted by states to counter terrorism have themselves sometimes been found wanting in terms of compliance with human rights norms. The means and methods adopted by the state have posed serious challenges to human rights and the rule of law, and often this is on account of the zeal of the law-enforcement agencies to give a commensurate response to the terrorist.

 

The state cannot legitimately respond by resorting to mechanisms that overstep the limits of the law. Thus, a reason why it is important for the state to ensure that none of its measures transgresses the limits of the law is any transgression may have the effect of eroding both its legitimacy and the rule of law, thereby fomenting further unrest and erosion of faith in the Constitution.

 

In the name of combating extremism, repressive measures are also used to stifle the voice of human rights activists, advocates, minorities, indigenous groups, journalists and civil society. There is another dimension: by being able to build up a perception of threat, the state may be able to get away with channelling the funds normally allocated to social programmes towards strengthening the police force and the army. The talked-up threat perception of terrorism (and a few ‘encounters’) may well be used to justify the acquisition of more weapons. As Professor Simon Bronitt of Australian National University has summed up “…there is almost a new genus of law: post 9/11 law. Although 9/11 has become a significant force in justifying these laws, the truth is that there is an element of opportunism [by some law-enforcement and state agencies] behind these claims of necessity for new powers and offences.”

 

While militarisation and the strengthening of police forces are important in their own right, it is equally necessary to understand the genuineness of the ‘security reasons’ presented by the state as a ground for abridgment of human rights, many of which are fundamental. Frisking, for example, which used to be considered a grave intrusion upon one’s privacy at one point of time, is today normalised and we are all fine with being frisked everywhere.

 

Existential realities

 

Little or no attention is paid to the true causes of resort to violent methods. It is as if the deafening sound of explosions and landmines is used to attract the attention of the state to existential realities. There are grim realities of existence as tribals in this country, and the unfortunate aspect is that their unheard voices fail to make a din in the power corridors. From their perspective, extremism, violence and terrorism become a means to attract the attention of the state.

 

Governments have been non-responsive to peaceful protests and have, in fact, come down heavily on peaceful protesters as they did at India Gate when they relentlessly beat up women protesting in the aftermath of last December’s gang rape in Delhi. The state turns a blind eye to the violence committed by state actors, and private actors in connivance with state actors, which results in irreversible psychological damage.

 

It is evident that the state has misplaced priorities. Since there is little that the state seems to have done, one can safely say that it does not seem to be aware of the abysmal conditions in which the tribals of Chhattisgarh live.

 

The state does not seem to be aware that tribals in Madhya Pradesh eat the poisonous kesari dal which is reported to have a paralytic impact. The state also does not seem to be aware that tribal women and other villagers in Maharashtra have to walk miles before they can get drinking water. This feeling of being ‘parentless’ makes people vulnerable to anti-state ideologies. Having said this, I am not legitimising violence against innocents by invocation of oppression; I am only suggesting that oppression is one of the reasons of unrest which manifests in the resort to violence against the state and insignias of the state.

 

In the Mahanadi Coal Fields Case (2010), the Supreme Court took strong exception to the manner in which the Central government and the Mahanadi Coal Fields Limited had acquired the lands of tribals in the Sundargarh district of Odisha and not compensated them even 23 years later. In fact, 20 years after dispossessing them, the government noted that the land was actually not required!

 

The Supreme Court observed: “the whole issue of development appears to be so simple, logical and commonsensical. And yet, to millions of Indians, development is a dreadful and hateful word that is aimed at denying them even the source of their sustenance. It is cynically said that on the path of ‘maldevelopment’ almost every step that we take seems to give rise to insurgency and political extremism [which along with terrorism are supposed to be the three gravest threats to India's integrity and sovereignty] … The resistance with which the state’s well meaning efforts at development and economic growth are met makes one think about the reasons for such opposition to the state’s endeavours for development. Why is the state’s perception and vision of development at such great odds with the people it purports to develop? And why are their rights so dispensable?”

 

Listen to people

 

The Supreme Court’s identification of the issue is not off the mark, and I believe it is quite perceptive of the reality. Studies establish that absolute deprivation by the state has a psychological impact on its people. Therefore, any attempt to combat violence by the state must have within its fold the measures to eliminate the conditions conducive to the spread of extremism, which must include (a) strengthening the rule of law; (b) fostering respect for human rights and provision for reparation for violations; (c) reversing ethnic, national and religious discrimination, political exclusion, and socio-economic marginalisation; (d) listening to the people and (e) becoming more responsive to society.

 

The recent events of violence are tragic without a doubt but they contain the seeds of rejection of political structures. Political structures need to build confidence by dialogue, working on the ground for the uplift of the poor, and must work with an attitude of inclusiveness.

 

While mourning the loss of human life, we must devise innovative systems of engagement, based not on power or hierarchical administration but equality. One wishes ardently that new mechanisms of review — with deep and meaningful engagement with the local communities suggested in the Verma Committee on crimes against women — be quickly operationalised and deployed.

 

(The author is a senior advocate, a former Solicitor General of India, and a former Chairman, Bar Council of India)

 

Supreme Court tells Centre to decide on POSCO’s mining license


Fri, 10 May 2013

By Newzfirst 5/10/13

New Delhi – The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the Orissa high court order which had quashed state government‘s petition to allot iron ore license to South Korean steel major POSCO in Khandadhar hills in Sundergarh district for a multi-crore steel plant.

A bench headed by Justice R M Lodha asked the Centre to consider all the objections raised by various parties pertaining to the mega steel plant and take a decision.

The court was hearing cross appeals filed by the state government and a mine and mineral company challenging the Orissa high court’s order on the issue of iron ore mines.

The state government of Orissa and Geomin Minerals & Marketing Limited had challenged the orders of the Orissa high court which had quashed the notification issuing iron ore mining in over 2,500 hectares in the Khandadhar hills in Sundergarh district to POSCO.

The high court, on July 14, 2010 on the petition of Geomin Minerals, had set aside the state government’s decision.

Geomin Minerals had contended before the high court that it had applied for the prospective licence for Khandadhar iron ore mines much before POSCO.

The High Court had set aside the notification issued by state government in 1962 reserving all mineral bearing land for exploitation within Orissa and take a fresh decision on it.

The high court had further said that all mineral bearing land reserved by the state government prior to 1987, without the approval of the central government would not be deemed to have never been reserved.

The Orissa government, which had moved the apex court, on October 29, 2010 on this issue, had contended that the high court could not have quashed the state government’s grant of licence to POSCO as it was under section 11 (5) of Mines And Minerals (Development And Regulation) Act, 1957.

The Orissa government had further contended that Section 11 (5) gives power to the state government to “grant a reconnaissance permit, prospecting license or mining lease, as the case may be, to an applicant whose application was received later in preference to an application whose application was received earlier”.

The state government in January 2009 had recommended POSCO to the central government for granting prospective licence for Khandadhar iron ore reserves.

This was challenged by Geomin and later 16 other firms who have also applied for mining leases also intervened.

Geomin, in its petition, had submitted before the apex court that the high court “does not take into account the pleading made by it” and “has traversed beyond the pleadings and prayer made by it”.

(PTI)

 

Govt drops land acquisition plan for #Vedanta steel project #goodnews


BS Reporter / Kolkata/ Bhubaneswar Dec 27, 2012, 00:07 IST

The Odisha government has approved a proposal for withdrawal of land acquisition process for Sterlite Iron and Steel Company, a Vedanta group firm, which proposed to set up of a 5 million tonne steel plant in Keonjhar district.

The government has directed the revenue department to take appropriate action in this regard. “The government, after careful consideration, has been pleased to accept the land surrender proposal. You are therefore, requested to take action as per rules/act in vogue,” the state steel and mines department wrote to the deputy revenue secretary.

The decision of not to go ahead with the land acquisition process for the project was taken in October this year, following state water department’s objection to the sale of land.

The water resource department said, since more than 90 per cent of the 1,872 acre area required for the project came under the category of irrigated farm land, it should not be given to an industrial unit.

The villages, where notification for land acquisition was issued, included Danardanpur, Gopinathpur, Narasingpur, Singraisuan, Tikarpada, Mahadeijoda and Kadagarh in Keonjhar district. Out of the total area to be acquired, 1,805 acres were privately held.

The state government has offered an alternative site to the company in Sundergarh district. However, the company has been non-commital over establishment of the project.

Sterlite Iron and Steel Company had signed a MoU with the state government for the project in 2004. The proposed five million tonne per annum steel plant was to be set up at a cost of Rs 12,500 crore. However, the project hardly showed any sign of progress since.

Later, Vedanta wanted the project to be implemented by its group firm Sesa Goaand wrote to the state government to replace Sterlite Iron and Steel Company with Sesa Goa as the promoter in the MoU. It had also changed the scope of the project expressing its intention to set up a 1.5 million tonne steel plant initially instead of 5 million tonne mentioned in the MoU.

The company was also in the process of scouting for a steel company as an equity partner for the project who could take charge of the steel making operation of the plant.

Now, the withdrawal of the land acquisition process for the steel project comes as another blow to the industrial group which is reeling under the closure of alumina refinery of Vedanta Aluminium at Lanjigarh in the state for want of bauxite.

The state government is yet to come out with a solution on supplying bauxite to the plant. Though the state government had committed to provide bauxite from Niyamgiri mines, it could do not do so because of non-availability of clearances from union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF).

 

Leases not renewed but deemed so, mining goes on


Debabrata Mohanty Posted online, Deccan Herald: Fri Nov 09 2012,
Bhubaneswar : As in Goa, where the deemed extension of mining leases was at the heart of a mining scam, in Orissa too such deemed extension gave leaseholders an open season while also putting them at the mercy of government officials.The deemed renewal of a lease allows the holder to continue extracting ore even after the expiry of the lease, while it waits for renewal. In September this year, the M B Shah Commissionpointed out how over 60 mines in Goa were on a “deemed extension” and led to illegal mining.In Orissa, where the steel and mines department has sent showcause notices to holders of 103 leases because of excess mining of iron ore and manganese to the tune of Rs 68,000 crore between 2000 and 2010, 215 mines are at present working on a “deemed renewal” basis. All the 103 leases involved in the showcause notice are deemed renewed, a senior official of the steel and mines department said.Deemed renewal is granted under rule 24A(6) of the Mineral Concession Rules, 1960. Under the rule, the miner’s application for renewal of his lease should be pending with the government before expiry. It is also necessary for miners to have all statutory clearances under the Forest Conservation Act, the Environment Protection Act, the Wildlife Protection Act, the Water Act and the Air Pollution Act when seeking and being granted a deemed extension.

A central empowered committee of the Supreme Court, which probed violations of several provisions of FC Act during its investigation into the Orissa mining scam in 2010, found that 215 mines had not got their leases renewed for 10 to 20 years and continued on a deemed renewal basis.

“Deemed renewal was an exigency provision in the MC Rules. The government should have either accepted or rejected the mining lease renewal applications within a reasonable period of six months to one year,” said the top executive of a mining company, unwilling to be named. “But instead they were kept pending, which helped government officials collude with some of the miners to allow them to mine beyond their limits.”

At the Orissa Mining Corporation’s Khandabandh iron ore mines in Keonjhar, spread over 294.53 acres, the lease expired in November 1993. Though the OMC filed its first renewal-of-lease application for a period of 20 years in November 1992, it is yet to be renewed and the mines have continued to run on “deemed renewal” for 19 years. None of the steel and mines officials The Indian Express spoke to was willing to comment why mines were being allowed to run on such extensions for years together.

The state forest and environment department too contributed to excess mining when the mines were on deemed renewal. In May 2011, the department recommended the diversion of 390 hectares of forest land in the Sarkunda iron and manganese mines of Sundargarh district for Feegrade & Co. Official documents show that the lease area contained 3.208 million tonnes of iron ore and 1.629 million tonnes of manganese ore, and the company was allowed to mine 0.98 million tones every year. The extraction would have exhausted the mine in just four years. The mining hardly helped locals as the company’s own application for forest clearance said it would give jobs to only 20 people.

The Orissa Pollution Control Board, which gives consent-to-operate (CTO) certificates under the Water and Air Pollution Control Acts for a period of five years, too granted such certificates to miners whose leases had been deemed renewed. Under the laws, no mine can operate if the CTO has not been obtained or not been renewed after its lapse. A CTO certificate is also a prerequisite for environment clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Usually, the CTO is issued for a specified period and is subject to compliance with various conditions imposed by the board. The OPCB in a letter dated February 4, 2011, said mining activities may not be stopped just for the want of a CTO certificate from the State Pollution Control Board. The letter, addressed to the Eastern Zone Mining Association, stated that consideration of consent to operate beyond May 31, 2011, would take some time but unless consent has specifically been refused, it may be assumed that the application for consent to operate was under active consideration.