Background of Alternative Politics in Orissa/Odisha


 

~ Prafulla Samantra & Rabi Das, Nov 2012

 

In the first decade in Independent India idealism, service and sacrifice had its impact on politics, which resulted in the process of nation building and strengthening the democratic institutions. The process gradually weakened and corruption affected state policy and administration; the mass discontent created by this was reflected in the anti-Congress campaign in 1969. The leadership was conscious that the country should not deviate from the fundamental principles of the freedom struggle. That is why in the decades of the ‘70s when authoritarianism and corruption raised its head, a mass movement developed against it. The people of the country confronted emergency and expressed a clear-cut opinion in 1977 to re-establish democracy. However, corruption engulfed the entire administrative system and the state and central leaders were neck deep in corruption, which resulted in a serious economic crisis in the country. Taking advantage of this situation, without the knowledge of the people, the economic policies of neoliberalism and globalization were imposed on them.

 

Under this economic regime, the impact of foreign and Indian capital, including the Indian and foreign companies, increased on politics and economy to the country. The foundation of this economy is dictatorial and the repressive administrative system, which is reflected in every aspect of the country. This is completely against the fundamental principles of the freedom struggle and democracy.

 

In this, the social, economic and political rights of the people are shrinking and the importance of capital and capitalists has increased. Most of the leaders and parties ruling the country and states work as their agents and have unleashed repression on the common people. Their only aim is handing over the precious natural and common resources to the companies and providing them lakhs of crores of profit and buying the public opinion by the help of their financial power. Due to their policies, poverty is increasing, farmers are committing suicide, colossal economic disparities are created and the natural environment of the country is being destroyed. In this condition, there is a need for creating an alternative politics and organization for re-establishing the values of the freedom struggle and defending the fundamental freedom and rights of the citizens. The leadership who have ruled and ruling our state Odisha for the past fifty years are not free of corruption. There is a gradual degeneration of the state administration due to the corruption of the leadership who have been ruling our state Odisha; the politics is also polluted. Today’s politics is governed by black money. As a result of this, more than 50% of the people are below the poverty line. 70% or 3 crore people of our state are Adivasis, Dalits, agricultural labourers, marginal and landless farmers, who are unable to get the necessary nutritional diet, education and health service. Politics has been gradually reduced to a business by the ruling parties. Democracy has completely vanished from the political parties. The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has been ruling Odisha for the past 12 years, who’s head Naveen Patnaik is unable to talk to the common voting public and people also do not understand what he says. Though the Chief Minister is getting votes, he is not able to recognize his own MLAs. It is said that Naveen is quite clean and above board, then how come in his rule thousands of crore rupees of corruption is happening in daal, water and mines.

 

The quantum and rate of corruption in police stations, Tehsil block offices and other departments have increased instead of decreasing. The property of ruling party MLAs, engineers, senior officers and ministers continues to increase. If the Chief Minister is free of corruption, then from where is the ruling party getting thousands of crores of rupees to spend on elections. Therefore, it proves that the corruption of the past 12 years rule is far more than the past 40 years. As a result of this, the politics of ruling BJD revolves around Naveen Pathak. The MLAs are neither free to speak in the legislation assembly nor to the Chief Minister about the problems of the people. Departmental secretaries have been given the scope to work sidelining the ministers, as a result of which there is whimsical governance in the administration and party by the boss. This type of anti-people and undemocratic politics is propagated as pro-development by the mass media who are financially controlled by the companies such that it becomes easy to plunder the natural resources of Odisha by the companies. Now this boss has been projected as a supremo by the mass media.

 

Now politics is only done for the profit of the companies. Common people have no place in this. The role of the main opposition political parties is the same. There has been severe allegation of corruption against the Centre, which is ruled by the Congress Party. This party blindly follows what is said by the high command. BJP has also adopted the economic policies of Congress, which devastates agriculture and farmers for the benefit of the companies. The BJP shared power with BJD for 9 years in Odisha; most of them are corrupted. The Congress at the Centre; BJD in Odisha; and BJP in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh; are equally responsible for the coal scam today. When agricultural land, river water, forest resources and mines are snatched from the people and handed over to the companies at cheap rates in our state, then the displaced farmers and Adivasis face police lathis and bullets when they democratically protest against these measures. But these main opposition parties are not ready to say a single sentence against these companies. Therefore, while the plunder of mines, water and land is portrayed as development by the Naveen Government in the name of industrialization, the two main opposition parties are unable to oppose the ongoing blind destructive industrialization. Contemporary politics is being corporatized and criminalized. This will drain the natural resources of the state. Mountains and rivers will be reduced to deserts; heat will increase with deficit in rainfall; agriculture will be devastated; farmers and Adivasis will lose their livelihoods, and the state will be become a food deficit state. Therefore, for the preservation of environment and along with alternative development, there is a dire need of a new political power. By a sustainable and balanced development, agro industries, construction of village industries, and small oil, sugar and spinning mills can be prioritized where it is possible to employ unemployed youth. The aim of this politics is to draw a prosperity line and provide the broad masses of people economic, educational and health services equally.

 

In the mainstream political parties in Odisha, farmers, Adivasi and Dalit leadership is totally absent. Though Adivasis and Dalits constitute 40% of the state’s population, in the political parties there has been no reflection of their voices in the leadership for the past 60 years. Instead of doing justice to agriculture and farmers, there is a conspiracy to finish off agriculture through senseless industrialization. By name, it is development, but in reality, it is the destruction of water, forests, agriculture and the livelihood security of crores of people who are dependent on them. In these parties, there is no place for the politics based on the socio-economic context of Adivasis, Dalits and farmers. In the entire state when the mass movements are going on for the preservation and security of agricultural land along with agriculture and forest resources, the ruling and main opposition parties are refusing to address the issues raised by them. It is because they get black money from companies for their politics. Where is the ruler of the state? He is there to provide security for the companies and for the repression of mass movements by engaging the police force. Today, in every nook and corner burglary, dacoity, murder and rape by antisocial goons are increasing day by day. Why is it not prevented? To save democracy today, it is necessary to unseat the parties and their leaders by 2014 that have pushed the people of the state towards anarchy by making the administration anti-people, undemocratic and corrupt; otherwise, life will be intolerable by the arrogance of this party.

 

After seeing all these, since the voters do not have any alternative during the elections, it is easy to garner votes using money and muscle power. Therefore, the biggest necessity of today is the politics, which can provide security for agriculture, farmers, fishermen, unorganized labour, Adivasis and Dalits, and create leadership by them. Hence, it is really necessary to create mass awareness for democratic politics in every village. The farmers of the villages have to question the political parties who come for their votes, from where they amass so much wealth? Today, when the condition of agriculture and farmers is precarious, then how MLAs, MPs, Chief Ministers and officials are becoming rich? Why can’t we be provided the pension drawn by a Class IV employee? Why education has been commercialized instead of making provision of common schools and teachers from villages to cities? Why are children discriminated? While asking these questions, politics has to be freed from black money by creating a new political force, which can provide education, health services and livelihood for everyone in Odisha. There is a need for a new political force and party where there will be no high command or a supremo in the party. There will be equal rights for every ordinary worker where there will be a collective leadership of Adivasis, Dalits and farmers to manage the affairs of the party. Gram Sabhas have to liberated from the high-handedness of the political parties.

 

Financial and organizational assistance will be sought by honest political workers on behalf of the people. To prevent astronomical expenditure in elections, people’s committees have to be constituted in every village. This type of political alternative will be able to implement alternative development policy for the farmers, agricultural labourers, forest workers and slum dwellers of Odisha. Otherwise, a leader like Naveen Patnaik who cannot speak the language of people, who does not have any emotional bond with the people, who runs the state like an emperor by the help of officials will ruin the state by opportunism, companification, commercialization and will pauperize the state by draining its resources and convert the state into a grazing meadow for the companies by corrupt administration and degenerate politics which will cripple our education and heath institutions, destroy our agriculture, land, rivers, oceans and forests. To prevent this, there is a dire need of an alternative political force, which can create an alternative political platform creating a united campaign, for the rights of people along with likeminded mass organizations. The main objective for a mass campaign for alternative politics is creating awareness among people regarding alternatives and developing people’s political organization in every Gram Panchayat. There is a need for a long struggle for the reflection of people’s power in the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha.

 

[Translated into English by Asit Das]

 

Maoists sought release mostly of tribal activists


BHUBANESWAR, April 13, 2012

Prafulla Das

It may sound strange, but it is true. Of the 27 persons whose release the Naveen Patnaik government assured Maoists for securing freedom for the abducted Italian Bosusco Paolo (since freed) and Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka, 24 are tribals and they reportedly have nothing to do with Naxals operating in their region in Orissa.

Of the remaining three, only two are Maoists, according to Dandapani Mohanty, convener of the Jan Adhikar Manch, who acted as interlocutor for talks with the government. The two Maoists are Murla Neelam Reddy and Setu Pangi, both hailing from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. The other person, Subhashree Das, is the wife of Sabyasachi Panda, secretary of the Odisha State Organising Committee of the Communist Party of India(Maoist), which had kidnapped Mr. Paolo from Kandhamal district on March 14.

26 persons yet to be released

Ms. Das was released from jail after a fast track court at Gunupur in Koraput district acquitted her on Tuesday. The remaining 26 persons were not released till Thursday.

Land rights activists

Mr. Mohanty told The Hindu that the 24 tribals, whose release was demanded by the two different groups of Maoists who had kidnapped Mr. Paolo and Mr. Hikaka, were activists of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), a local outfit fighting for land rights for tribals for nearly two decades.

He said the cases against these activists pertained to an attack on the Narayanpatna police station in Koraput district, taking over possession of their land that had been in the custody of non-tribal families for long, and a quarrel between the two CMAS factions. Eighty-nine other CMAS activists, who faced similar cases, were already acquitted by different courts, Mr. Mohanty claimed. But many were still facing trial.

Common demand

As for the fresh demand by the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of the CPI(Maoist) — which had abducted Mr. Hikaka from Koraput district on March 24 — for release of five more persons, Mr. Mohanty said only one of them, Ghasi, was a Maoist. The other four were social activist and CMAS advisor Gananath Patra and three activists of the tribal outfit that was fighting for land rights for tribal people as well as opposing liquor trade in their region.

Interestingly, both groups of Maoists had demanded the release of Mr. Patra, who was acquitted by a court in Koraput district during the day in a case of atrocities on Scheduled Caste people, for want of evidence. In the recent past, he was acquitted in an abduction case. But two more cases are still pending against him.

POSCO’s steel dreams laid to rust


 With the National Green Tribunal scrapping environment clearance, Posco’s seven-year-wait is extended further, reports Bibhuti Pati in TEHELKA 

ON 30 March 2012, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) delivered a judgment that has sent India’s largest FDI back to the drawing table. In the landmark order, the NGT suspended the conditional environment clearance granted last year, and directed the environment ministry to carry out a ‘fresh review’ of the POSCO project. The project, a 12 million tonne iron and steel plant, has been one of India’s most hotly debated industrial projects. More than seven years since it was first proposed, the project has been symptomatic of India’s development riddle itself. While POSCO supporters see the project as a boost for India’s investment credentials, adversaries point to major irregularities and violations of law, human displacement, and the potential of largescale environment disaster.

In a vindication of protests against POSCO, the NGT in its order has noted that the full impact of the project is yet to be measured, since environmental impact assessments were made only for a 4 million tonne plant, not the full 12MT which POSCO plans to expand to. This is what TEHELKA had earlier reported, detailing the loopholes in the ministry’s clearance. While the environment clearance was given for a 4 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) steel plant, resources — land, water and iron ore — were allocated for a 12 MTPA project. (See ;Whose steel? Who’s stealing? TEHELKA 11 December 2010).

Significantly, this judgment comes just days after PM Manmohan Singh assured South Korea that efforts were under way for an early implementation of the POSCO project in Odisha. Singh told South Korean business leaders in Seoul that the government was “keen to move forward with the project,” while adding, “India is a stable and profitable long-term investment opportunity.”

The NGT bench consisted of members Justice CV Ramulu and Devendra Kumar Agarwal. The tribunal observed: “A close scrutiny of the entire scheme reveals that a project of this magnitude, particularly in partnership with a foreign country, has been dealt with casually, without there being any comprehensive scientific data regarding the possible environmental impacts. No meticulous scientific study was made on each and every aspect of the matter, leaving lingering and threatening environmental and ecological doubts unanswered.”

Just 48 hours before the tribunal ruling on POSCO, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pointed out serious irregularities in the allocation of land to private promoters, misuse of emergency provisions for land acquisition and under-valuation of compensation for private land owners by the Odisha government. “The government misused the emergency provision under Section 17(4) of the Land Acquisition Act in several cases, depriving the land losers of the opportunity to be heard,” said the CAG report, tabled in the Odisha Assembly. The audit report pointed out that the state government acquired nearly 438 acre by paying a compensation of Rs 11.85 crore while the present market value of the land is more than Rs 65 crore.

The Odisha government had signed an MOU with POSCO for the steel plant to be set up near Paradip port, in Jagatsinghpur district in 2005. It has been embroiled in controversy since.

In August 2010, POSCO’s forest clearance was suspended following complaints of violations of law.

An enquiry committee constituted under Meena Gupta, a former MoEF secretary, was formed to review the project. In October 2010, three members of the enquiry committee submitted a landmark report saying environmental and forest clearances were illegal, while Meena Gupta dissented to say that the project can be cleared with additional conditions. On 31 January 2011, the MoEF with Jairam Ramesh as environment minister upheld all clearances to POSCO, while prescribing some additional conditions, mostly consisting of studies to be done in future. In June 2011, Prafulla Santra, an activist and convener of National Alliance of People’s Movement, challenged the final order in the NGT. This tribunal was created by the environment ministry two years ago to provide speedy environmental justice and help reduce the burden of litigation in the higher courts. POSCO has the option of appealing against this ruling in the Supreme Court.

In its ruling, the NGT questioned the appointment of Meena Gupta as the chairperson of the review committee, which was set up by the MoEF, stating that the ministry had ignored the views of the other three members and accepted Gupta’s arguments. “Whether Meena Gupta’s actions are fair or not, they are definitely hit by her personal, official, departmental bias. This is in gross violation of principles of natural justice,” the tribunal stated.
CAG pointed out irregularities in the allocation of land to private promoters by the ruling BJD

Describing this order as a ‘conspiracy’ against the state, ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLAs have now asked the state government to clear doubts over the fate of this Rs 52,000-crore mega project. The issue was raised in the Odisha assembly during zero hour, when members of the treasury bench along with those of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) expressed concern over the NGT order.

Meanwhile, POSCO has said that it is a law-abiding firm and would comply with all the directives in this regard. “The National Green Tribunal has asked the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to review afresh the clearance and we will ensure that we follow all directions given to us,” said a company official.

Welcoming the verdict, anti-POSCO activists strongly criticised Jairam Ramesh and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for selling the livelihoods of 4,000 people and the laws of the land to the highest bidder. For the last seven years, activists of POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) have refused to allow any construction work to begin. Villagers in Dhinkia, the panchayat most severely affected by the project, have been demanding scrapping or relocation of the project. They claim it will deprive them of their major source of income from the betel vines spread across nearly 3,000 acres of forest land.

“IT IS painful for a citizen of an independent and democratic nation to realise that his/her elected representatives are willing to serve an unscrupulous and erring corporation even if the people who have elected them suffer in terms of life and livelihood,” said petitioner Prafulla Samantra. “In light of the verdict, I demand scrapping of the project and booking the firm for all violations. Book the culpable officers for criminal conspiracy against the people and the land.”

“It is heartening to realise that the rule of law has been upheld by the National Green Tribunal,” added senior environmentalist Biswajeet Mohanty. “As a democracy, we cannot bend laws and overlook violations just for the sake of accommodating the largest FDI in India. The entire POSCO project is shrouded with illegalities. Land acquisition, environmental clearances, forest clearances and port clearances have been done in blatant violation of the laws of the country. The objections by the MoEF’s own officers and expert committees were over-ruled by the MoEF. This ruling establishes that both the (Odisha) state and the centre violated environmental laws to favour this project proposal.”

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