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.

 

Odisha – Niyamgiri tribe’s question on Gram Sabha issue #Video


KBKNews, May 27
Under a scorching sun, after walking miles and miles in the hilly terrain, these bare feet have come here to tell the most astounding tale, if we care to hear them out: stories of human grit, resolution, revolution; stories of a resolute struggle to protect one’s dignity, self-reliance, and the ultimate provider — Mother Earth. For the more than five thousands adivasis assembled at Muniguda on the foothills of Niyamgiri on 22 May 2013, it was yet another occasion to declare to the world, on top of their voice, that THEY ARE NOT GOING TO ALLOW MINING ON THEIR SACRED MOUNTAIN, COME WHAT MAY.But, the Indian State refuses to hear that roar. It has hatched yet another plan to micromanage the interests of a company, in the form of Gram Sabha that will be orchestrated and controlled by the State itself. However, the adivasis have already announced their verdict, and have vowed not to budge a bit.

If the stupendous gathering of people suggests their unity and resolve to fight the mighty State, the unprecedented absence of police force (hardly 15 to 20 in number) during this rally could be another sly strategy of the State to suggest that ‘the State is not interfering or intimidating’.

In the previous post of KBK Samachar, we had KumtiMajhi blasting the Indian State and the company (Vedanta) for threatening and stooping people from attending meetings and public hearings. So, did the government take notice of that? Will the forces and company goons not show up if Gram Sabhas are held as well? …It will be interesting to watch that.
Here we present an excerpt of the protest rally of 22 May 2013.

 

India – Put Gram Sabhas in charge of all social sector schemes


NAGAPATTINAM, May 22, 2013

P. V. Srividya

Mani Shankar Aiyar in conversation with The Hindu in Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
Mani Shankar Aiyar in conversation with The Hindu in Mayiladuthurai, Tamil Nadu. Photo: B. Velankanni Raj
TOPICS

Mani Shankar Aiyar-led committee prescribes a mechanism for panchayat control

How relevant is panchayat raj in the everyday lives of the people? What is the role of panchayat raj institutions (PRIs) in poverty alleviation and human development? Is poverty alleviation possible through a peripheral role for panchayats as conceived in various Central sector schemes?

Taking up these questions, the Mani Shankar Aiyar-led Expert Committee on “Leveraging Panchayat Raj Institutions for effective delivery of public goods and services,” which submitted its report to the government recently, has suggested that the Gram Sabha should be empowered to monitor and make decisions on all the social sector schemes — Central and State. Citing MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme as the model for other schemes, Mr. Aiyar told The Hindu in Mayiladuturai that this move will remove the lacunae in the ‘last mile delivery’ of the schemes.

A panchayat-driven social sector expenditure model empowers the community with a sense of ownership as against the bureaucracy-driven, top-down model currently inbuilt in the Central sector schemes. It calls for a rethink on the way central sector schemes (CSS) on poverty alleviation are designed and the need to retrieve PRIs from the fringes to their rightful place as drivers of rural welfare.

Outcomes are not in sync with the outlays, says the report. The multifold increase in social sector expenditure has barely translated into positive outcomes. There was no tangible rise in the Human Development Indices, despite the exponential increase in social sector expenditure.

The Committee — drawing its template from the Prime Minister’s address to the Conference of Chief Ministers in 2004 that calls for a rethink on the top-down design of programmes — prescribes Activity Mapping for each CSS. Activity Mapping envisions clear delineation of “functions, finances and functionaries,’ shifting the ownership of Schemes from the line departments to elected Panchayats. The report illustrates model Activity Mapping for eight CSS to lead the way.

Grassroots devolution

When the Panchayat Raj experiment was started two decades ago, there was a certain degree of naïveté in believing that effective devolution would just happen, Mr. Aiyar recalls. “Unlike the West, with its local government experience in parishes and counties, here local government was imposed from above. We had to devolve, while the West evolved from local governments.” But, ours was the first such experiment at grassroots devolution leading to tangible social engineering, says Mr. Aiyar.

The Committee’s recommendations include a Centre-drafted model Gram Sabha law to motivate State legislation; freezing of rotation of reserved seats to two or three terms to incentivise good work and facilitate capacity building of panchayat leadership; incentivise PRIs for transparency and accountability and the States to devolve; reorient the outlook of lower bureaucracy to panchayats. The report also prescribes collateral and institutional measures such electronic tagging of funds, setting up of a National Commission for Panchayat Raj, and strengthening Gram Sabhas in PESA areas (tribal areas to which the Panchayat system has been extended by law).

The report recommends the MGNREGA scheme and BRGF (Backward Regions Grant Fund) model that locate PRIs as central to implementation. “We have wonderful examples in MGNREGA and BRGF. MGNREGA was initially worked out without a role for Panchayats. On my personal intervention and literally in a midnight, government’s amendment to the Bill, (and) a strong role for Panchayats came by. Today, it is a highly functional scheme,” says Mr. Aiyar.

While the Committee advocates strong Gram Sabhas that the panchayats are accountable to, the Bill on Land Acquisition lends only consultative powers to the Gram Sabhas.

Even as Mr. Aiyar sees no inherent conflict between intent and action, he does believe there are vested interests. ‘The Sub Committee under me strongly recommended consent by Gram Sabhas. But, there are always vested interests.” Also, most States have not legislated on powers for the Gram Sabhas.

According to the report, effective devolution leads to better outcomes, which in turn engenders political will. It was lack of bureaucratic will and not political will that has stalled effective devolution, says Mr. Aiyar. “My recommendations as chairperson of the Empowered Sub Committee of the NDC (National Development Council) were not acted upon by the Planning Commission. The Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission and the Cabinet Secretary are not elected and their inability to enforce their own circulars reflects lack of bureaucratic will.” The political class did not bear down on the bureaucracy like it did with MGNREGA.

“It is bureaucracy that will have to produce the methodology of devolution. But they did not. Now our report illustrates how to do it through Activity Mapping. They just have to implement it.” Recounting a personal conversation with Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, Mr. Aiyar says the former Prime Minister envisioned a generation’s time for effective devolution. “It is only 20 years now; we have five more years to realise that dream, if our recommendations are implemented.”

 

Download Report- Critical Observations on the Implementation FRA #Mustshare


The very enactment of the historic Forest Rights Act, 2006 by the Indian Parliament in the country
after the 60 years of India’s independence is a landmark constitutional reform. Campaign for
Survival and Dignity (CSD) played a vital role in mobilizing the tribals, forest dwellers and people’s
representatives at different levels in whole country and successfully got this Act passed by the Indian
Parliament which admitted for the first time in the history of India to have done historical injustice to
the tribals and forest dwellers before and after India’s independence. We believe that FRA aims at
reddressal of a numbers of problems arose due to the draconian Acts like Indian Forest Act, 1927 and
Land Acquisition Land, 1894 which were used to evict the tribals and the forest dwellers from their
homes and shelters like goats and cattle. The Forest Rights Act, 2006 not only revived the tribal self
governance regime in scheduled 5th area enforced by the Central PESA Act, 1996 but also it extended
the provisions of the PESA even to the non scheduled area(whole State) empowering the Village
Council, the Gram Sabha to decide over their fate and fate of their resources which has been upheld
by the Supreme Court, the highest Court of the nation in the Niyamgiri case on 18th April 2013.
All the State’s Apparatus has now to accept that “Gram Sabha” is the lowest unit or form of
“Government” having its own exclusive legislative, executive and judicial power and authority over
its stipulated areas like any other forms of Government at Block, District, State and Central level.
The FRA has also raised fundamental questions over the on-going Panchyatitaj systems;
representative system runs in different State and aims at implementation of direct democracy
sidelining the over empowered bureaucracy. Forest Rights Act, 2006 has also challenged the age-old
State hegemony over forest protection and conservation in the name of “scientific forest
management” and has strengthen the conservation regime handing it to the community people who
live and die in the forest.
As per the India State of Forest Report, 2011, the recorded forest area of the country is
769,538 km2, accounting for 23.41 % of the Country’s geographical area. The State of Odisha
constituting only 4.73 of India’s geographical area have around 7% of the total forest area of the
country. While the reserved forest is spread over 26329 km2 constituting 45.28%, Protected forest
spread over 15525 km2 constituting 26.70% and the Un-classed forest is found in 16282 km2
constituting 28% of the total forest area which is 37% of the total geographical area of the State.
However, as per the Odisha Government Report there is 15022058.35 acres constituting 39.16 % of
forest land in the State to its total geographical areas. It is reported that out of this 39.16 % of forest
land, the State Forest Department have 43.32 % of forest land including the reserved forest in the
State while around 52.26 % are Revenue forest land including the protected forest and rest 4.40 %
District Level Committee (DLC) forest land, the revenue land mentioned as DLC land in 1997 as per
the direction of the Supreme Court in connection with WP(c) No. 202/1995.
There is in total 8.21% of tribal population in India. Likewise the tribal population in Odisha
constitutes 22.13 % as per the 2001 census report mostly residing in the rural area. Also Govt. of
Odisha while targeting the implementation of the historic Forest Rights Act, 2006 in the State
referred the State of Forest Report, 1999 which stated that out of 46,989 villages in the State, there
are 29,302 villages located in close vicinity of forest which are to be covered under FRA. The GoO
also has estimated that out of 6420514 rural households, there are 1762342 ST households
constituting 27.44 % in the State. Besides, there is large number of Other Traditional Forest Dwellers
in the State depending on the forest for their subsistence needs to be covered under FRA. Besides,
Odisha has been the hub for the experiment of all the sensational issues in the country and always
been in the limelight of media may be for its ample deposit of mineral and natural resources or for
displacement, poverty, protest etc.

We believe that the effective implementation of this historic Act in its true letter and spirit would
definitely change the scenario of Odisha and resolve most of the socio-economic problems being
faced by the State including the problems of Outlawed Naxal. There has been much progress of
settlement of Individual forest rights of tribals and convergence of developmental progrmmes in the
State from last 2008 in comparison to the Other States of the country. However, still the State has
miles to go before reaching to the destination. After the enactment and implementation of the forest
rights act in the State, Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha is engaged in making forest
dwellers aware on FRA and actively watching the development and progress of FRA implementation
in the state. And whenever found loopholes in FRA implementation, we have appraised the GoO
through discussion and even through Protest Rally and Dharana. Besides, in many districts, the
different community based and civil society organizations affiliated to the CSD, Odisha have played
a vital role in facilitating forest dwellers in filing forest rights claim. Whenever and wherever we
found rights violations of FRA, we have rush the place, met with our aggrieved people and have tried
to resolve them discussing with the concerned SDLCs/DLCs. We also documented the violations
stories and have shared them with the SLMC and also with the media. We have had special Interface
and discussion with the SLMC on the various FRA implementation issues on 28th Feb 2009, 9th Jan,
2010 and 13th Jan, 2011 etc.
We appreciate Government of Odisha, especially the SCST Department for sincerely
bringing monthly FRA Progress and Status Report which is again unique in comparison to other
State of the country. We also sincerely appreciate the Department for bringing a number of positive
circulars, clarification, guidelines to facilitate the FRA implementation process in the State. Thanks
are also due to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Govt. of India for looking after the implementation of
the FRA in the State and guiding the State Government for its better implementation.
This “Critical Observations Report” is based on our involvement and experience in last 10
years of struggle and engagement in the grounds FRA implementation. We have been analyzing the
monthly FRA implantation Progress report, identified a number of issues and have appraised the
government of Odisha time and again to resolve them. Even the GoO has considered some of them
and have brought changes too i.e issuance of ST certificate by the Gram Sabha, segregation of CFR
titles distributed under Section 3(1) and 3(2) etc. Of course a lot more has to be done. This time, our
“Critical Observations and Comments” are made against the monthly “FRA Progress Report Table”
produced by the SLMC from last 2009. Basically the comments are based against the data shown in
different Columns of the latest “FRA Progress Report Table up to 30th April, 2013” and issues
involved therein with the information that we have from the grounds. Besides, we have requested and
sought more information and clarification on the status of other important forest rights recognized
under the forest rights act. We expect the GoO, especially the FRA Nodal SCST Department would
appreciate our efforts and act upon the issues being raised.
We are very much thankful to all of the individual members of the CSD, Odisha, and other
civil society organizations working on FRA in different districts of the State for sharing with us all
necessary information to complete this observation report. Hope, friends interested to know and
understand the various FRA implementation issues in the State of Odisha would find this “CSD,
Odisha’s Observation Report” useful one.
20th May 2013 CSD, Odisha
csdorissa@gmail.com

Download full report here

 

Maharashtra- Protest brewing in Red zone as another project proposed in the tribal land


Gatta (Gadchiroli), May 18, 2013

 

PAVAN DAHAT, The Hindu

  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
  • Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat
    The Hindu Tribals of the project affected villages. No one wants the Jindal project here. Photo: Pavan Dahat

Suklal Baldir Topo, a Tribal of Jhajawandi village in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli district, is a concerned man these days.

Suklal is concerned about the proposed JSW ISPAT Iron Ore Mining project in Damkodvadavi hills, hardly a few kilometers from his village.

“I have seen my son grow up here and then his sons and daughters. Where would we go if this project comes here” asks Suklal.

Almost all the villagers of 17 villages in Gatta and Gardewada Gram Panchayats in Etapalli tehsil of Gadchiroli district share Suklal’s concern.

The JSW ISPAT Steel Limited has proposed an iron ore mining unit over 751.04 hectares of land on Damkodvadavi hills to produce 5.5 MTPA (Maximum Rated Capacity) of Iron Ore for which crushing and screening plant (3 x 250 TPH) will be installed in the mine lease area.

The JSW has been given mining lease for a period of 20 years. The produce of this unit will be used to meet the iron ore requirements of JSW Steel plant in Dolvi, Maharashtra.

A public hearing related to the environment impact of this iron ore mine project was held in Allapalli town on May 8 in the absence of the villagers from all 17 villages.

The Public hearing took place despite the Gatta Gram Sabha passing a resolution against the proposed project on May 1.

“The company or the government officials did not make available any information about the effects of this project directly or indirectly to all 17 villages in Madia language. The company carried out study of the area from the census document of 2001.But the proposed project requires approval of the concerned villages Gram Sabhas which was never taken. Forest is the mainstay of Adivasis living near the proposed project site and mining will badly damage water, soil, forest and air resulting in danger to our lives. Which measures will the company take to prevent this damage? The project will endanger the lives of birds and animals in this area and destruction of forest will result in the imbalance of environment. This area does not have skilled people to be given employment in this project. We don’t trust the company and the government to keep their promises. This Gram Sabha passes a resolution that we oppose the proposed public hearing of the project and the government should not give permission for this project and if it has given the permission, then it should be cancelled ” reads the resolution passed by Gatta Gram Sabha, a copy of which is available with The Hindu.

Etapalli and Gatta are known to be Naxal zone and the Naxal’s writ runs large in the area after Gatta village.

The public hearing of the project was conducted 70 km away in Allapalli town for “security reasons”, according to Gadchiroli District Collector Abhishek Krishna.

But Mr. Krishna refused to comment when asked how the project will be put up if even a public hearing has to be conducted 70 km away.

“The District administration’s job was to help the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in conducting the public hearing and to send the proceedings to the government. The government will decide on the next course of action” said the Collector.

Hardly anyone in these villages knew about the proposed project until May 1, says Ravi Atram of Gatta village.

“There is something that this government is trying to hide. The advertisement of the public hearing was published in one English and one Marathi newspaper which hardly come to these interior areas” says activist Anand Dahagavkar.

“But the district authorities ignored the pleas of activists to postpone the public hearing in the absence of project affected people” said Amol Marakwar, the Zilla Parishad member of Gadchiroli who was present in the public hearing.

“The tribals depend on forest for their livelihood and this project, if granted permission, will destroy the tribal culture and life here. Everyone knows how much pollution an iron ore mine project causes” added Mr. Marakwar.

The Naxals have also jumped into the bandwagon and have made their opposition to the project clear.

According to some reliable sources, three days before the public hearing in Allapalli, the Naxals called a meeting of all the project affected villages and assured them the “CPI(Maoist)’s complete support against the Jindal project”.

Almost all the affected villages visited by this reporter in this area, do not want this project to come.

“We are happy with our life now. We will not leave this place even if they offer us Rs. 10 lakhs” says Madi Danu Hido of Kowanvarsi village.

According to activists, the JSW and the government have not said anything about the number villagers to be rehabilitated due to this project.

Rajan Malani of the JSW Ispat said “No village will be relocated. Everything is at an initial stage now. Just a public hearing has happened. And the public hearing was the administration’s lookout. They could have taken it in Nagpur. Our company is very strict about its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and we will do everything that can be done to help all these villages”.

“Mining does not cause much pollution. Our company and the government is very strict regarding this and all the environmental regulations will be followed strictly. And as far as security is concerned, again it’s administration’s responsibility. The government’s help will be taken for security” added Mr. Malani.

But Mr. Malani refused to comment on the resolution passed by Gatta Gram Sabha against the project.

The local MLA Deepak Atram who staged a token protest in Etapalli in protest of public hearing taking place in Allapalli says, “Whether we want it or not this project will come because the Jindal group is a strong group and they have government with them. They will put up CRPF camps if they decide to go ahead with the project”.

Mr. Atram does not have objection to the project but he expressed his displeasure over the way it is being brought.

“It will provide job opportunities to the educated youth of our region” says the MLA but has no answer when asked about the possible destruction of Tribal livelihood dependent on forest in this area.

But Mr. Atram as well as activists working in this area, are concerned about the possibility of an intensified conflict between the Naxals and security forces if the government remains adamant on bringing the project here “because the project’s proposed location is almost a Liberated Zone”.

 

PRESS RELEASE – Fact Finding Report- Scrap Posco Project


We are surprised to see the Supreme Court judgment on mining lease allotment to controversial POSCO Company which has made our lives miserable. At least after the welcome judgment on Niyamgiri where the Gram Sabhas have been given the authority to decide what constitutes their rights, the natives of Khadadhar area should have asked also to decide in Gram Sabha whether such a mining was needed or not. Now asking the central government to take crucial decisions will inevitably harm the interests of Tribals protected under FRA 2006 as the central government is more than favourably disposed towards POSCO. We too strongly feel that our Gram Sabhas views so clearly and so categorically resolved on October 18, 2012 must also be considered while deciding the fate of mining involving POSCO.

The peaceful demonstration is continuing at Govindpur Village against the trench cutting work for boundary wall construction for POSCO. Today more than eight hundred villagers have assembled at the site to peacefully oppose the construction work.

On 9th May 2013, with the help of eight platoons of police forces, the Jagatsinghpur administration along with IDCO and POSCO officials started the trench cutting work for boundary wall construction for POSCO. The district administration indiscriminately axed fruit bearing trees. This shows how the police and the District Collector and the Superintendent of Police in Jagatsinghpur district, Odisha, are colluding with each other to supress our opinion and to serve the interest of POSCO Company with utter disregard for the verdict of National Green Tribunal (NGT).

Our villagers held demonstrations and raised slogans against the illegal constriction of boundary wall. This is a violation of the direction passed by National green Tribunal on 31sr 2013. As a result, the police went back.

Meanwhile a seven-member-team comprising representatives of two human rights organisations made a visit to our area and released a report. The group demanded scraping of the Posco project as it was being set up in violation of guidelines laid down in the industrial policy document of the Union government.
Report is below-
DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS FORUM (DRF)

ORGANISATION FOR PROTECTION OF DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS (OPDR)

Posco Issue – A Preliminary Report by DRF & OPDR Team

A 7 member team of two human rights organisations – Orgainisation for Protection of Democratic Rights (Andhra Pradesh) and Democratic Rights Forum is in Odisha on 4,5,6 May 2013 to look into “POSCO problem”. The immediate context of the team’s visit is opening an armed Police Camp at Village Gobindapur and the subsequent reported repression.

The Team met representatives of PPSS, CPI(ML), CPI, SUCI(C) at Bhubaneswar on May 4. The team visited the villages Dhinkia, Gobindapur, Patana, Nuagaon and Gada Kujanga on 5th. The team intereacted with scores of people in those villages, especially in Dhinkia and Gobindapur. The Team had a long talk with Mr Abhoya Sahu, the President and Sisir Mahapatra, the General Secretary of “Posco Prathirodh Samgram Samithi” (PPSS) at Dhinkia village.

We have gone through various documents like i) MOUs between POSCO and Govt. of Odisha in the year 2005, ii) Forest Rights Act, 2005, iii) Judgement of Supreme Court of India CLIA 2134 OF 2007, IV) N.C.Saxena Committee Report, v) Meena Gupta Committee Report and vi) Ray Paul Committee report.

The team members observed the area is rich with Betel vine orchids, Casuarina Plantations, live paddy fields, big and small fish ponds and many water resources, domestic backyard vegetable plots, mango trees, coconut trees, etc. We rarely found poverty stricken people in the area. It is like Nandigram of West Bengal and Kakinara coast belt of A.P.

We are informed the daily wages of agriculture labour varies between Rs.200/- and 350/- per day depending upon the nature of work and the season. It is heartening to learn that the area provides work to thousands of migrant labour from far away districts like Mayurbhanj, Keojhar $ Ganjam of Odisha in paddy fields. So the economic position of the villages in which POSCO Project is proposed to be established is bountiful and all sections of people were leading a peaceful and happy life until the Salvo of POSCO is fired upon them jointly by the Government of India and Govt. of Odisha in 2005.

For the last eight years the people are restless and passing through many sleepless nights and faced severe repression and four persons paid with their dear lives. Our team visited the house of Manas Jena, a martyr of 2 March 2013 bomb blast. This family is the worst affected in 8 years long anti-posco movement Kalandi Jana, father of Manas loosing his right leg in a bomb attack by goons of POSCO, the wife of the later committing suicide and sister of martyr Manas Jana, Kuni going through severe mental depression. According to Prashant Paikray, the spokesperson of PPSS at Bhubaneswar, around 200 cases are filed against 2000 people of the anti POSCO movement.

Issues Involved :

i) The biggest issue involved, we consider, is the life and living of the pople which given top most priority in the two most crucial chapters of Constitution of India, Directive principles and Fundamental Rights.

The argument that the Directive Principles are not maintainable in a Court of Law may be anything but spacious and many a judgements of the highest Court of India testified it. But it is painful to know that none of the Committees appointed by Government of India to study POSCO related problems have not properly investigated and reported keeping in view the Directive Principles.

ii) To whom the land belongs? Much hair-split is being done by various wings of the State including higher courts. The issue is whether the land belongs to the people or Government (s). We heard from Abhay Sahu, Leader of PPSS, the Govt of Odisha did lot of hair-split and now arguing that because the land under dispute is not a forest land between 1962-65(sic) and is saying the Forest Rights Act, 2008 does not apply. We consider this is ridiculous. It is against the reports of various committees appointed by the Central Govt. also. Who existed first on earth? People or Governemnt (s)? Every sane person agree it is People.

iii) Norms of Industrialisation : The paper of Government of India on Industrialisation unambiguously states that the land under cultivation should not be diverted to industrialisation. Everyone including the entire machinery of the state knew that 99% of the land under the three Gram Panchayats is under intensive cultivation. So the law maker has become the law breaker and hence Govt. has no locus-standi to govern. People are totally justified of their revolt from ethical, judicial as well as from Bharatiya ethos stand point of view.

Present situation :

i) In the villages the team toured, we do not come across a single person who is a votary of POSCO. In Govindapur village, the people who were pro-posco and neutral joined anti posco movement very recently and the whole village unitedly demonstrated against posco and police camp on 3 March 2013. They say the experience of the people displaced by the neighbouring oil refinery shows that if POSCO become a reality, they either become beggars in various towns of the State or go away to unknown places as migrant labour in search of work. The people say neither of the two options is acceptable.

ii) State Government established an armed Police Camp of about 10 battalions in Gobindpur Village. The police regularly patrol all the villages and threatening the people not to even sit together. The people, rightfully content, the very presence of the camp is an intereference in their otherwise peaceful way of life. They rightfully demand the immediate withdrawal of Police Camp.

Perceptions of the people about the rulers :

The perception of the whole people of the area about the Governments at the State and Centre is mirrored in the words of Chandan Mohanty, one of the evictee from his land and living in the POSCO transit camp at Badagabapur village for the last six years – “POSCO is like East India Company. There is neither a State Government nor a Central Government. POSCO is the real ruler. The Indian and Odisha Governments are mere agents of POSCO.”

Appeal of the POSCO affected villages :

Now, the trio of Government of India, Govt. of Odisha and POSCO are held bent upon establishing the project at the declared place and hence once again unleashing terror against US. A very strong statewide solidarity movement is the need of the hour. Please save us and thus save the whole people of Odisha wherein the Governments are resorting to destructive industrialisation including wreck-less mining of various minerals and diverting of huge amount of water for those purposes.

DEMANDS OF THE FACT FINDING TEAM :

We demand the State Government :

i) Immediately withdraw the police camp from the village Gobindapur which is disturbing the very peaceful way of life of the people of the 8 villages.

ii) Unconditionally withdraw all the cases filed against the people and leaders who resisted the forceful act of State in favour of POSCO. Identify the agent provocateurs of the POSCO Company, arrest and prosecute. Identify the erring officials and prosecute.

iii) Pay proper compensation to the bereaved families of those people killed in bomb blasts.

iv) Constitute a comprehensive enquiry commission, consisting eminent persons from different walks of life like eminent personalities from socio-cultural field, human rights campaigners and Bar & Bench to investigate into all aspects of the issue.

v) Withdraw the suspension of the Post Master of Dhinkia Post Office, Mr Babaji Samantaray immediately and restore postal communication to Dhinkia, Govindapur, Patana etc which is an established legal and constitutional right.

vi) Repair the road to Dhinkia via Trilochanapur and via Balitutha immediately which has become unnavigable.

vii) Scrap POSCO project because it is the violation of guidelines laid down in the industrial policy document of Government of India on against established well meaning interest of the people.

An Another Human Tragedy Crying For Solution :-

52 families of village Patana under Dhinkia Panchayat were allegedly attacked by the people of other villages immediately after Panchayat elections, 2007. The victims had approached the District Administration for protection and resolution of the dispute. Instead, the administration shifted them to a place adjacent to the village Badagabapur. These people hoped that the administration would send them back safe to their natural habitat, after few days. To their utter shock and agony, the district as well as the State Administration, in spite of repeated appeals, turned a blind eye, they complained to the visiting team. In one hour non-stop narration to the team, these people detailed their distress and difficulties at the transit camp. They stated in a single voice that they oppose POSCO in to-to. They want to go back to their own houses in Patana to live with honour and dignity. They appeal to all the democratic forces of the State to help them in this regard.

The fact finding team fully appreciate their position and a just demand and appeal to all the pro people political forces of the State to intervene in the matter and to hammer out an amicable and honourable solution.

The members of the Team are :

1. C Bhaskar Rao, General Secretary, OPDR, AP, Mob: 08121743800

2. Ch Sudhakar Rao, President, OPDR, AP

3. Ravi Palur, DRF, WB, Mob: 09433031311

4. Sunil Pal, DRF, WB

5. Sankar Das, TUCI

6. Adv Bibek Ranjan, DRF, Odisha, Mob: 9437215625

7. Pramila, AIRWO

 

Letter to President of India- Protect Rights of Indigenous People or Shoot all of them


Jharkhand Human Rights Movement
C/o-Mr. Suleman Odeya, Near Don Bosci ITC Gate, Khorha Toli, Kokar, Ranchi -834001. 0651-3242752 Email: jhrmindia@gmail.com

Ref: JHRM/PI/2013/01 Date: 01/05/2013

To,
His Excellency,
Sri Pranab Mukherjee,
President of India,
Rashtrapati Bhavan,
New Delhi – 110004
India.

Sub: Requesting to protect the rights of the Scheduled Tribes (Indigenous People of India) or to shoot all of them at once rather than excluding, discriminating, exploiting, torturing and making them landless, resourceless and beggars by alienating them from the natural and livelihood resources in the name of growth and development.

Dear Sir,

1. It is extremely painful to state that I come from an Adivasi (tribal) family, who was displaced by an irrigation project without rehabilitation in 1980 and my parents were brutally murdered in 1990. However, I was managed to survive. On 30th April, 2013, you have inaugurated a power project of the Jindal Steel & Power Ltd at Sundarpahari comes under Godda district of Jharkhand. However, it seems that the tribal people were not allowed to put their concerns in front of you. The tribal people of 11 villages had gathered near Sundarpahari to raise their voices against the power project as some of them had already been displaced during the construction of ‘Sundar Dam’ and now they’ll again be displaced by the Jindal’s power project. However, these tribals were detained in Sundarpahari police station instead of hearing their plea. The question here is do they have right to freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution? The police have regularly been coercing the tribals who don’t want to surrender their land to the Jindal Company. According to the Santal Pargana Tenancy Act 1949, the land is non-transferable and non-saleable, whether owned by tribals or non-tribals. But how the tribals land is being bought by the Jindal Company? Is the Jindal Company allowed to violet the rule of law?

2. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India through a writ petition (CIVIL) NO. 180 OF 2011 (Orissa Mining Corporation Vs Ministry of Environment & Forest & Others) has said that the Section 4(d) of the PESA Act 1996 says that every Gram Sabha shall be competent to safeguard and preserve the traditions, customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and community mode of dispute resolution. Therefore, Grama Sabha functioning under the Forest Rights Act read with Section 4(d) of PESA Act has an obligation to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the STs and other forest dwellers, their cultural identity, community resources. The Court has ordered the State Government to settle the matter with the Gram Sabha. But is the case of Jindal Company, where is the role of Gram Sabha? Why it has been undermined or put aside? Why did PESA Act 1996 not enforced in this case? Is it because the head of the Jindal Steel & Power Limited is one of the powerful leaders of the Congress Party?

3. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has also said through a writ petition (CIVIL) NO. 180 OF 2011 (Orissa Mining Corporation Vs Ministry of Environment & Forest & Others) that the Scheduled Tribes have the Religious freedom guaranteed under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution. It guarantees them the right to practice and propagate not only matters of faith or belief, but all those rituals and observations which are regarded as integral part of their religion. The Court has ordered to protect and preserve the tribals’ deity. However, in last 65 years of Indian democracy, thousands and thousands of sacred groves, religions places and graveyards of tribals were either submerged in Dams or destroyed in the name of development. These are several sacred groves and religions places of the tribal would be destroyed by the power project of the Jindal Company. However, the question is do the tribals really have the freedom of religion as the Apex Court has stated? Why is Government not upholding the rule of law?

4. The tribal people have already lost more than 23 lakh acres of land in Jharkhand in two ways – i) The major part of tribals’ land were taken away from them in the name of growth and development and ii) the non-tribals who came into the 5th Scheduled Area of Jharkhand for jobs also grabbed a huge portion of the tribal land illegally after earning huge money from the development projects and mining. Though the Article 19 (d) & (e) allows the all citizens to move freely throughout the territory of India and to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India but sub-clause (5) also emphasizes that the state can impose reasonable restrictions on the exercise of any of the rights conferred by the said sub-clauses (d & e) for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe. However, nothing has been done in this regard to protect the tribal people. Consequently, the population of the non-tribals is multiplying in the Scheduled areas and the tribal population is rapidly declining.

5. The Jharkhand Government has signed more than 100 MoUs with National and multi-National companies, who are grabbing the trabals land illegally and the government is facilitating it instead of protection the land rights of tribals. The Jharkhand Government has also proposed for two industrial corridors under the Jharkhand Industrial policy 2012. According to JIP-14 (a) State Govt. will initiate necessary steps to promote / develop two industrial corridors, namely Koderma – Bahragora and Ranchi-Patratu- Ramgarh Road, where the efforts will be made to develop the corridor with 25 KM each side of 4 laning, which means, major part of the land will be handed over to the corporate houses. If that happens then where will the tribal people go? Do they have right to a dignified life?

6. On 5 January, 2011, the Apex Court of India while hearing on an appeal (the special leave petition (Cr) No. 10367 of 2010 Kailas & others Vs State of Maharashtra) said that the tribal people (Scheduled Tribes or Adivasis), the Indigenous People of India but they were slaughtered in large numbers, and the survivors and their descendants were degraded, humiliated, and all kinds of atrocities inflicted on them for centuries. They were deprived of their lands, and pushed into forests and hills where they eke out a miserable existence of poverty, illiteracy, disease, etc. And now efforts are being made by some people to deprive them even of their forest and hill land where they are living, and the forest produce on which they survive. Despite this horrible oppression on them, the tribals of India have generally (though not invariably) retained a higher level of ethics than the non-tribals in our country. They normally do not cheat, tell lies, and do other misdeeds which many non-tribals do. They are generally superior in character to the non-tribals. The Apex Court said that it is time now to undo the historical injustice to them. However, the Indian Government has done nothing to protect them. Instead, it has been facilitating in corporate land grab of the Adivasis (tribals or Indigenous People) of India.

Since, you are the custodian of the tribal people of India, therefore, I demand for following actions:
1. To order for investigation on detention of tribals and land grab by the Jindal Steel & Power Limited in Sundar Pahari and also cancel the Jindal’s power project as it is a severe threat to the existence of the tribal people especially the Primitive tribes (Paharia) of Sundar Pahari.
2. To investigate and cancel all the MoUs signed since 2000 without consent of the Gram Sabha under PESA Act 1996 and also order for withdrawal of the Industrial Police 2012 and order the state administration to return the illegally acquired land of the tribals by the corporate houses.
3. To order for a judicial inquiry in all the cases of illegal land grabbed by the non-Adivasis in the Scheduled areas.
4. To order to stop the corporate to buy land by themselves and order the Government to acquire land under the Santal Pargana Tenancy Act 1949 and Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act 1908 for development projects with the consent of the Gram Sabha under PESA Act 1996.
5. To order the Government to enforce the rule of law i.e. Constitutional provisions, 5th Schedule Area, PESA Act 1996, CNT Act 1908, SPT Act 1949, the Forest Rights Act 2006, etc.

Indeed, it’s necessary to take the above said steps to protect the constitutional, legal and traditional rights of the tribal people. However, if you are unable to protect us, I would humbly request you to gather all the tribal people at a place and shoot them so that you’ll get rid of us and could build this nation on the graveyards of the tribal as per your dream.

The architect of the Modern India Pt. Jwaharlal Nehru’s Temples of Modern India has turned into graveyards of the tribals (Indigenous People of India). Therefore, in the next time whenever and wherever you inaugurate such development project proposed on the tribals’ land, please remembers that you are building this nation on the graveyards of the Indigenous People of India.

I believe you understand my pain, anguish and sorrow. I hope to hear your positive response. I shall be highly obliged to you for the same.

Thanking you.

Yours sincerely,
Gladson Dungdung
General Secretary,
JHRM, Ranchi.

 

#India – The Bastar Land Grab #tribalrights #indigenousrights


 An Interview with Sudha Bharadwaj

April 20, 2013

This intervew with SUDHA BHARADWAJ of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha was conducted by JUSTIN PODUR in Raipur on 5 March 2013

JP: As a lawyer and an activist, how do you see the relationship between legal work and activism?

SB: I see myself primarily as a trade unionist. I joined the union movement over twenty years ago, and it was the union that made me a lawyer. They felt that workers needed a good lawyer in their fight with the corporations. Our union is one of contract workers and has been striving to overcome divisions in the working class. Here, workers have a close connection with the peasants. So, we believe that working with the peasants is part of unionism.

When I got to the High Court, I found that all the people’s organizations were in a similar situation. The laws that give you rights are poorly implemented. When you fight, the status quo has many legal weapons, launches malicious litigation, etc. So we have a group of lawyers now (Janhit), and we work on group legal aid, not individual legal aid. The idea is that if you help a group, that can bring about some kind of change, create some space. I’ve also gotten involved with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), for which I am the General Secretary in Chhattisgarh.

JP: Can you give examples of some of these struggles?

SB: We organize in the cement industry. One major corporation is Holcim, a Swiss multinational, that has taken over ACC and Ambuja, though these Indian corporations continue to retain their brand names. Holcim  has closed down its Spanish and American plants and has come here. Why? If you look at  returns on investment in this industry globally, they are 1.3%. In India, they are 13%. These multinationals have come here with deep pockets, and they have gotten a stranglehold over local administration – the ministers, the officers  of the forest, labor, mining and pollution departments – they have that capacity.

In the cement industry, there is a Wage Board Agreement that says no contract labor can be employed in the cement industry except in loading/unloading and packing, and even then they have to paid at the same rate as regular workers. But actually these multinational plants are using contract labor for all processes of cement production and paying paltry minimum wages, ignoring the law. When we take the struggle to the streets, they use the law against our workers. Ambuja in particular has been very vindictive. One of the leaders in the struggle spent 13 months in jail on a trumped charge of looting a mobile and Rs. 3500 from a Security Officer.

Look at the level of extraction. Contract workers at Ambuja get 180 Rs per day (less then $4), at ACC 200 Rs per day ($4). A permanent worker would get 700 Rs per day ($14). The Swiss worker gets 2500 Rs ($50), and the CEO gets 2.2 lakhs per day ($4400). The largest share holder Thomas Schmidheinney gets 2 crore per day ($400,000). Even getting basic labor rights is very, very tough and workers realize that the corporations are in an even more intense fight with the peasants and adivasis.

JP: And there are attempts at common struggles between workers and adivasis and peasants?

SB: There are. Our union is  a member of a platform called Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan which has  mass organisations like the Adivasi Mahasabha, Bharat Jan Andolan, Gondwana Gantantra Party etc., and most importantly many small village community organisations which are fighting displacement and trying to enforce the PESA act and Forest Rights Acts because individual struggles are just being crushed. This is an election year, so we might see some gestures from Congress, to cash in on the simmering discontent, but usually the political representatives of all parties have been trying to buy off opposition. The CBA may have critical mass one day. That’s what we hoped when it was  founded  2-3 years ago.

JP: I’ve been trying to understand what is happening in the forest, in Bastar.

SB: Take a look at a map of the periphery of Chhattisgarh. If you overlay maps of forests, of adivasi villages, of minerals you’ll find almost perfect overlap. When Chhattisgarh was created in 2000, carved out of Madhya Pradesh, the first Chief Minister coined a phrase, he said it was “rich land, poor people ”. In the 12 years since its creation, the people have become poorer, and more riches have been discovered in the land. This state is full of minerals – 19% of India’s iron ore, 11% of the coal, bauxite, limestone, all kinds of priceless minerals.

Paradoxically to understand Bastar, that is South Chhattisgarh, the place to start is north Chhattisgarh. In the north, in Raigarh, you will enter Jindal country, you’ll see Jindal everywhere. In 12 years, in Raigarh alone, 26,000 acres of agricultural land have gone for mining and plants. Where are the people supposed to go? Inequalities have intensified.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s the Maoists came into the northern district of Sarguja and were crushed. They came from Jharkhand. They redistributed some land. There were 20-25 encounter killings of their leaders, and many adivasi people are still in jail. Surguja has bauxite. It is densely forested. The forest ministry said it was pristine jungle,  a ‘no-go’ area for mining. The Chhattisgarh government made it a ‘go’ zone, with a rail corridor and power plants. In one village, Premnagar, the Gram Sabha (village-level government) voted 12-15 times, saying they didn’t want a power plant, they argued it out in a reasoned manner. That is because in a Scheduled Area (tribal dominated) the Gram Sabha has sweeping powers. So the State government, by a notification, changed the Gram Panchayat into a Nagar Panchayat  (municipal council) and took away its powers! This is unconstitutional, of course, but the final judgment  never seems to happen and there’s no interim relief – so the land grab can proceed in the meantime. Every possible protest is thrown to the winds.

JP: What is the role of privatization in this process?

SB: Mining for companies is based on leases with land owners, not by land acquisition. Earlier  leases used to only be given to the public sector, and you could not mine unless you built a plant. Now, with Public Private Partnerships (PPP), private companies can just mine, and even if it is not for captive use. This leads to ‘dig-and-sell’, a robber-baron kind of situation.

Kosampali village in Raigarh is surrounded by a 150ft deep Jindal mine on two sides. On the third side is the river. The people of the village have only one way out, and that land is scheduled for mining too. They are doomed  to become an island.

What does the law say about this? When the mining company applies for the lease, the application asks: does the applicant have surface rights? If not, has the consent of the owner/occupier been obtained? If the answer to these questions is no, then the application should be sent back immediately to obtain those consents. But instead, the mining company writes: “consent will be obtained”, and gets through this giant loophole that says “consent may be given after lease, but before entry”. So the government comes to the rescue of the mining company. The Tehsildar (a revenue official lower in rank to the District Collector) posts notice listing out all the plots in the lease, saying – come and collect your compensation as per the Land Acquisition Act. They don’t tell people that they have a choice not to consent. Normally people take it as a fait accompli. They come and take the compensation, and their consent is then assumed. In cases where villagers take the compensation, they try to buy land in other villages, and often the local people there see them as outsiders and don’t let them settle But the people of Kosampalli are saying, “No amount of money can compensate us if you take away these last lands for mining, because we won’t be able to live here any more.”  Our legal office managed to get a stay on the mining, and it’s fixed for final hearing. Jindal’s lawyer is the son of a Supreme Court judge. He is a Member of Parliament fom the town of Puri. Once the Jindal Company, at its own expense, took all the  judges of district Raigarh on a pilgrimage.

If you’re in Chhattisgarh, you should visit Jashpur district. It’s pristine forest at the moment, but the prospecting licenses cover the whole district. A whole hill and plateau atop it called Pandrapat where the Pahadi Korva primitive tribes reside is covered by bauxite mining leases. After the elections are over, mining will start, and the forest will be devastated.

JP: Talk a bit about the politics of power in this region.

SB: Janjgir-Champa, another district in the north, is a drought-prone area. The government invested in irrigation, and got 78% of the district irrigated. But now there are plans for 34 power plants using that water. There are plans for 70 plants in Chhattisgarh, to produce 60,000 MW. The peak electricity requirement in the state is 2500 MW, and we already have 5000 MW capacity. So are we selling it to our neighbours? Well, Andhra Pradesh is planning for capacity of 45000 MW, Gujarat 45000 MW, Madhya Pradesh the same. So what is going on? I think it is not about power. It is for the mining. There are 200,000 acres of land allocated for these plants, 100,000 acres for mining. The water required for these plants is more than all the surface water we have, so we’re going to dip deep into the ground water.

This is a net transfer of land and minerals to the private sector. When the global financial crisis set in, multinationals have begun to come here and continue to make huge profits by collaborating with Indian corporations. So Tata will be the Indian face of Corus when it needs iron ore. Foreign mining might face trouble – but if you have a great Indian company mining, no trouble.

Once you understand this pressure for mining, this pressure for land – then you can understand South Chhattisgarh, that is, Bastar.

JP: Bastar, where the Maoists are.

SB: The Naxals came to Bastar in the 1980s. The area was totally neglected. It was considered a “punishment posting” for the government officials who got posted there. Exploitation was blatant and brutal, of the forest peoples and adivasis. Many of the adivasis made their living collecting tendu leaves (used for rolling bidi cigarettes). There were huge movements to get the adivasis better prices for their tendu leaves, and the Naxals built a solid base with these movements.

By 2005, according to the Director General of Police (DGP) at the time, there were 50,000 Sangham members (unarmed members of the front organisations of  the Maoists). That might even have been an  underestimate. Thus there was this a huge area where the Forest Department and police couldn’t go, but teachers, doctors, were allowed. It was after  Salwa Judum), that violence greatly increased.. And the period of Salwa Judum correlates with the MOUs and the land grab some 2200 ha were granted to Tataand a similar amount to Essar, for iron ore prospecting.

So in  Bastar the state has this predicament. They want the minerals, they even want the forests a little bit for carbon credits, but they don’t want the people. In 2005, Salwa Judum starts. It’s typical strategic hamleting, moving people out of the villages and into camps. A similar approach was taken to insurgencies in the Northeast, in Mizoram and Tripura, for example. Here, they emptied 644 villages, by the government’s admission, 350,000 people. About 50,000 were brought to the camps, and today these camps still have about 10,000 people. Some fled to neighbouring states particularly Andhra Pradesh.Where are the rest? They seem to have gone even deeper into the forest, probably 200,000 people. . They try to cultivate and live in the forest, but they are being treated as outlaws.This displacement has been  a very violent process. There are  affidavits, evidence in the  “Salwa Judum” cases filed in the Supreme Court (Nandini Sundar’s case and Kartam Joga’s case). In one block alone, the Konta block, there were 500 deaths, 99 rapes, 2000 houses burned. This was a violent, state-backed vigilante movement, and was also essentially pushed back militarily by the Maoists.

The notion  of a few Maoists manipulating people is a bit simplistic. Even in the newspapers , when they describe ambushes, they describe 700, or 1000 attackers at times. Getting 700 people to a rally is difficult for us in the democratic movement. If 700 people are going to war, they must be looking upon it like an adivasi or national liberation struggle. And it is the State that has forced them to choose one side or the other.

JP: I’d never heard it characterized that way.

SB: Yes, you could say it’s a tribal rebellion, backed by the Maoists, who are ideological. But many  ordinary people who join it see it as the only way they can save their land.

Those of us in the democratic movement, in the PUCL, we say to the state: de-escalate the violence. Let people  come back to their villages. Let there be civilian administration. Let the teachers go back. The state has moved the schools, the ration shops, even the voting machines, to the Salwa Judum camps. How can you not have rigged voting in that context?

If you, as the State, think of these people in the jungle as outlaws, you’re ultimately behaving like an occupying army. The Indian army is also here, they came a year ago. There was a rally, of 700 elected representatives, sarpanches, panches, who went to the Collector and said, we don’t want army bases here, but no action seems to have been taken on their demands.

According to international law, indigenous people have the right to say no to projects on their land. In Indian law, inherited from the British, the tribal dominated areas are called  Scheduled Areas. Under the British, they were called Excluded and Partially Excluded areas. They were administered directly by the Union Government, through the Governor, not by the State Legislature. So, it was understood that these areas were a special case. According to the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act, the Gram Sabha is supposed to make the decisions, it is to be consulted for all developmental projects. Even under the Forest Rights Area, it is the Gram Sabha which declares and verifies rights both individual and collective. It’s supposed to be direct democracy in the tribal areas.

So we say, let it be implemented. If the adivasis, through the Gram Sabhas, say they want a freeze on MOUs, because their experience is terrible, with iron ore going to Japan for 400 Rs/ton ($8) while locals get no benefit, not to mention all the ecological damage, then you have to convince them. If it isn’t implemented, this will get worse and worse.

The government, internationally, says there is no internal armed conflict, because it doesn’t want any international involvement, no UN, no MSF, no Amnesty International eyes here. But internally, it labels the Maoists as the ‘greatest internal security threat’.

JP: Would international attention on this conflict be positive?

SB: It would be good. The Government would  have to then worry about civilian casualties. They ought to have nothing to lose. Why not allow the international community to monitor the situation? If you don’t, you are all but admitting that what you want to really want to do is a massive ground clearing operation. When there is a virtual war going on, recognition that it is going on would be better.

There was this village, Sarkeguda. It was very strong. The villagers refused to leave when the Salwa Judum started. Finally some people were killed by the Salwa Judum, some arrested and houses burnt, so in 2006 they fled to Andhra. NGOs like Himanshu Kumar’s Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, and the Agricultural and Social Development Society (ASDS), Khamam tried to rehabilitate some of these villages as had been recommended by the NHRC. They came back in 2009 and look again at what happened on 28-29 June 2012 – another fake encounter, 17 killed, 7 of them children. Eight years after their displacement, Sarkeguda is still trying to get re-established. They are feeling like the state doesn’t want them to live there.

Young men and women fear arrest when they go to the ration shop. When they go, their rations are carefully measured so they don’t have any extra, supposedly because it would go to the Maoists. There’s this total denial of basic human needs. They justify killings with this twisted logic. Earlier 17 people were killed in a faked encounter in Singavaram. The Superintendent of Police, Rahul Sharma, was sure that  someone “was or was close to Naxals” because  tablets of  chloroquine and a bottle of dettol were found on her person!

The government shows no interest in stopping the war through negotiation. A Maoist spokesperson who was coming forward for talks, Azad, was killed. A West Bengal Maoist leader who was in negotiation with the State Government, Kishenji, was killed. They state continues their military buildup and labels all the adivasis as Maoists. There are thousands of adivasis in jail, awaiting trial. When the police go into the jungle, they go in their hundreds, they pick up all those of  a  village who have not been able to run away, and bring everyone to jail. Most of these people, who speak adivasi languages and don’t speak Hindi,  have no interpreters, so they lie in jail and wait for acquittal – which will come, because there is no evidence against them. But they are waiting in a Central Jail, their family can’t see them, the lawyers don’t want to, because they get their photos taken and become known as “Naxal lawyers”.

The government has this Special Public Safety Act (SPSA), which means any “aid” to the Naxals is illegal irrespective of their knowledge, or intention that they are aiding.. In Bilaspur, tradespeople who sell olive green cloth are being prosecuted for  “supplying Naxal uniform”. There’s a military phrase for the action of security forces in that area – “Area domination” which means “Squash them all”. It doesn’t work, What happened in Kashmir? They “rooted out the militants”, now they have boys throwing stones. There’s huge anger, and the government is  not willing to come to terms with it.

In other areas, like the POSCO affected area in Odisha, people are struggling in different ways. The entire adivasi belt from North Bengal to Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh extending upto Vidharbha  is seeing huge struggles for land and forests, not just Bastar. And, unless the state decides to commit genocide, which is possible, this is not going to go away.

I think it’s time to rethink “rich land, poor people”. We allow private parties to dig up  the minerals, then what? Smart people don’t use up their own resources. The US still has oil, even though it was discovered hundreds of years ago. We in India are going to sell away  everything we have and cry afterwards, and we are going to violate all of our principles and the rights of our peoples to do it.

JP: How to resist this?

SB: As Marxists we have a notion of the State, of a system. Today the prospect of people getting their rights within  the system – through the executive, judiciary, or legislature – has shrunk. The system is not working. It has to change. Now, the Maoists have a strategy, they believe in the overthrow of that system. But democrats like us, we are confused. Some of us believe that we can transform the system through elections. The Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha has a flexible approach to elections. We’re not against elections and use different methods of contesting or opposing a particular candidate or supporting a particular candidate depending on what strengthens our organisation, but we don’t believe that they will change the system. In these elections where lakhs of rupees are spent even on village-level elections, and crores on MP or MLA elections, ordinary people trying to get heard among all this money is like giving a philosophy lecture in a disco. It’s ridiculous. The media is corporatized. While the media covered Anna Hazare, he had a huge movement. Then they just turned it off.

I watched how they dealt with the Occupy movement in the UK. They were frozen out, shut out of the conversation, isolated, and after some time, their tents were removed. It was a smart strategy. And the Indian state is no less smart. It’s very clever. Look in the Northeast, in Kashmir, in Bastar, in Gujarat. People are excluded, compartmentalized. We can’t get our act together.

As CMM, we refuse to remain silent on events in Bastar like the fake encounters or the adivasis languishing in jails,  just to be in the good books of the State. Some people say, armed movements invite repression. But all movements invite repression. They killed our leader Comrade Shankar Guha Niyogi in 1991, and workers have died in police firings in 1977, 1984 and 1991. Today our activists face the risk of being booked under the Chhattisgarh Special Security Act for this eminently democratic work. (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article2497776.ece). Still, we keep trying to work legally, democratically, and do mass mobilization, express solidarities, try to widen the circle.

Justin Podur is a Toronto-based writer and professor at York University, currently a visiting professor at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi. His blog is www.killingtrain.com and twitter is www.twitter.com/justinpodur

 

Activists Welcome the SC judgement on Vedanta, and mining in Niyamgiri #Victory #Tribalrights


 

vedanta

PPSS welcomes the verdict of Supreme court yesterday (i.e. 18th April 2013)  on  the issues of mining in Niyamagiri hills of Odisha. The verdict said that it’s upto the Gram Sabha (Village-level Assembly) to decide whether to allow mining in Niyamgiri Hills by the Vedanta Group. The Supreme Court has upheld the authority of Gram Sabha to control, manage and use the mineral resources in Niyamagiri hills. This comes as a very welcome judgment where community rights over mineral resources has been protected. This is a victory of long-drawn struggle of the adivasis in Niyamagiri hills and throughout the state.

It may be reminded that Gram Sabha of Dhinkia Panchayat of Jagatsinghpur district in Odisha held on 18th October 2012 had passed a resolution unanimously against the diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes. With the spirit of the Supreme court judgement on Niyamagiri hill, the state government should respect the decision of our Gram sabhha and scrap the POSCO project outright.

I would also like to bring your attention to the latest Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report. The CAG in its latest report, tabled in the assembly has found the Odisha government guilty of extending large scale undue benefits to steel major POSCO in allotment of a piece of land in the state capital Bhubaneswar. The government disregarded all norms in allotting the land with shameless favoritism.  While allotting the land, zonal regulation was ignored and the land was gifted away at an abysmally low premium. The CAG report is very scathing on it.

The CAG report said that the country arm of South Korean steel major Posco-India had applied for allotment of a plot measuring 12,000 square feet for its chairman-cum-managing director’s (CMD) residence-cum-guest house in 2006. However, later it enhanced the requirement twice to 25,000 sq.ft. in April 2007 and later 2 acres for the same purpose. Various committees, including committees appointed by Central Government, have unearthed serious illegalities in POSCO’s other operations earlier. Many more are still buried beneath as vested authorities try their best to hide those and get away with it. While proofs are piling up, our people are bewildered by a complete hijack of governance mechanism to patronize POSCO and connive with the POSCO and harming our basic life and livelihood sources as well as the interest of the larger society.

As the government is unwilling to play the ‘Rajdharm’ we are determined to put up a peaceful-democratic fight against this unholy alliance between the government and POSCO.

On April 12, 2013, the Left parties and various mass movements staged demonstrations at Bhubaneswar demanding withdrawal of police force from the proposed plant site area. Demonstrations were also held in various district headquarters in response to a call by CPI to observe ‘All India Solidarity Day’. The protestors held the placards saying “Posco Go Back” and “Stop Forcible Land Acquisition”.

As we have shared earlier a 12-member team consisting of human rights activists, journalists, academicians, democratic rights and civil liberty activists conducted a visit to our area on March 9, 2013  to take stock of the situation after the March 2 bomb blast in which three of our frontline activists died and one got seriously injured. The report of the fact finding team brings into the fore another evidence of the state’s cruelty. While releasing the report eminent legal luminary Justice Rajinder Sachar was awestruck by the fact that three people got killed in a bomb explosion and yet no inquiry was conducted into the incidence. ‘The incident was ghastly and the action of the government is horrible’, said Justice Sachar. That Committee in its report has demanded a high level judicial inquiry into the incident. You can read the whole report here.

In a separate but bizarre development we have come to know, from media reports, about POSCO’s attempt to influence a section media in its favour by sponsoring a pleasure trip for some journalists to Pune and other such places. But we firmly believe on the impartial character of our media friends who will continue to expose the POSCO’s illegalitiesand the government’s undue favor.

Attaching herewith an e-petition for your endorsement prepared by  an organization SOLIDARITÉ based in France for your information. Here is the petition, in French and English.

Kindly forward this mail widely.

Hoping for solidarity,

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

 

#India-After 100 years , Odisha villagers get rights to harvest bamboo rights #agriculture


JAMGUDA, March 4, 2013

Prafulla Das, The Hindu

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is handing over the patta at Jamguda in Kalahandi district on Sunday. Photo: Lingaraj
Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is handing over the patta at Jamguda in Kalahandi district on Sunday. Photo: Lingaraj

Tribal development must for curbing Naxal growth: Jairam

For the residents of this tiny non-descript village in Odisha’s Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput region, it was a rare celebratory occasion on Sunday when they got back the rights that had been snatched away by the British rulers nearly a century ago.

The official transit passbook for cultivation and harvest of bamboo was handed over to the Jamguda Gram Sabha by Orissa forest officials. Union Rural Development and Tribal Affairs Ministers Jairam Ramesh and Kishore Chandra Deo and Odisha Revenue minister Surjya Narayan Patra attended a Tribal Rights festival organised by the Gram Sabha to mark the event.

Jamguda became the first village in Odisha to be provided community rights to harvest and sell bamboo under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Mendha Lekha in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra was the first village in the country to have been given bamboo transit passbooks in April 2011. A few more villages near Mendha Lekha obtained the rights subsequently.

Mr. Ramesh had earlier written to Orissa’s Naveen Patnaik and the Chief Ministers of five other Maoist-affected States to hand over full control of transit passbooks to the Gram Sabhas where community forest rights were recognised.

Addressing Jamguda villagers, Mr. Ramesh and Mr. Deo said the Centre would extend full cooperation in providing tribals and other traditional forest dwellers the right over minor forest produce such as bamboo, kendu leaf and mahula flower.

Mr. Ramesh underlined the need for ensuring development of the tribal people in order to check the growth of Maoists in the tribal regions. “We have to understand why the tribal people were feeling alienated and were unhappy that benefits of development had not reached them so far and their land was being taken away by non-tribal people for different projects.”

Hostile treatment

Tribal people had been treated as enemies by Forest Department officials since the British enforced the Forest Act in 1927 and all land in tribal areas was declared forest land, said Mr. Deo. Under the present laws, granting tribals land rights should be the main priority, he said.

 

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