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


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#India – Tribal affairs ministry `turning tables’ on SC order on Niyamgiri mining rights #WTFnews


English: An ethnic Wife of Dhaneshwaran from t...

 

 

, TNN | Jun 4, 2013,

 

NEW DELHI: Despite the Supreme Court‘s order, the village councils, or gram sabhas of the Dongria Kondh tribals may not be able to decide upon their traditional and religious rights against the mining interests of Vedanta. A narrow interpretation of the SC order by the tribal affairs ministry promises to turn the district administration into the final decision-making body and the village councils of the tribals as only a claimant of their rights.

The move could snatch away the village council’s rights to be final arbiters of their traditional and religious rights over the contentious Niyamgiri hills, and leave it in the hands of the state government to take the final call.

The apex court had ordered that the village councils to decide if mining of bauxite would impact the cultural and religious rights, besides impinging on the tribals’ livelihood. It had ordered the Centre and the Odisha government to facilitate a free and fair decision by the affected village councils.

The tribal affairs ministry moved quickly to ask the state government to ensure all village councils get a chance to vote and decide on the matter. The state government whittled down the list of villages involved to only 12, including five and seven in Kalahandi and Rayagada districts, respectively.

Now, the tribal affairs ministry itself has limited the village council’s powers by suggesting that they can only entertain claims from the locals and convey their views, which would then be decided upon by the sub-divisional and district level panels set up under the Forest Rights Act(FRA).

The sub-divisional committee in Odisha consists of sub-collector as chairman, sub-divisional forest officer, three members of panchayat samiti and tribal welfare department officer as member secretary. The district-level committee is headed by district magistrate with divisional forest officer, three zilla parishad members and tribal welfare department officer as member secretary.

The panels are meant to form the three layers that determine the livelihood and land rights of the tribals, but the recent SC order had stated that village councils would decide on their cultural and religious rights and take a call on whether the project would be an impediment towards their privileges.

The subtle alteration in the reading of the order through a ‘training module’, which the tribal affairs ministry has prepared especially for the tribals ahead of crucial village councils’ vote, has vested power in the hands of the Odisha government.

The apex court verdict had given another route for tribals to protect their lands after the Union government shied away from defending the existing norms that require a direct consent from village councils before forestlands can be used by industries. But the precedent-setting verdict of the court could stand substantially diluted in the test case itself.

 

 

 

#India – Tribals set to decide Vedanta project’s fate #forestrights


, TNN | May 14, 2013

Tribals set to decide Vedanta project’s fate
The Supreme Court order has left it to the villagers to decide the fate of the Vedanta project, and the call revolves on whether the venture would affect their religious and other rights.
NEW DELHI: The villages of Dongriya Kondh tribals around Odisha‘s Niyamgiri hills are likely to simmer again as the Centre and the state government along with civil society groups are planning to converge on the site for the proposed Vedanta bauxite mine.The Supreme Court order has left it to the villagers to decide the fate of the Vedanta project, and the call revolves on whether the venture would affect their religious and other rights.

The tribal affairs ministry has moved with alacrity to order the Odisha government to ensure the tribals can vote freely. It has asked the Naveen Patnaikgovernment to ensure all villages, which express their rights in the contentious zone, are identified and given the opportunity to decide the project’s fate.

Civil society groups too have begun to mobilize their own resources – both experts and manpower – to make sure there are third party observers at the site, which has been turned into a fortified zone by the state government ever since the row erupted.

Battle-lines have been drawn among the Centre, Odisha government and corporate interests over the high-profile project. The interpretation of the rules and the court order is underway in various wings of both central and state government. One section has begun pushing for an interpretation of the apex court order that would reduce the number of tribal village councils that would get to decide the venture’s fate.

Another set within the government has tried to interpret the law and the SC order to suggest that the tribal gram sabha can only put forth claims about their rights – religious or otherwise – but they would have to be settled by higher echelons of power, or the state bureaucracy.

Any curb on gram sabha powers through interpretation of the law or restricting the number of gram sabhas, who would get to vote, is perceived as a major challenge in the backdrop of heavy state ‘bandobast’ and the judicial monitoring that the apex court has ordered.

The unusual promptness and enthusiasm shown by the tribal affairs ministry in this case has as much to do with the apex court’s verdict as the ministry’s need to be seen aligned with the drift of the Congress leadership on the case. After it had come out standing by the PMO in favour of dilution of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) — that the environment ministry had used to step back in favour of partial dilution of tribal rights over forests — the tribal affairs ministry is bound to pounce on this one single case to underscore its credentials.

Environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan had scored brownie points with the Congress leadership by deftly handling the case, using the innovative ploy of religious rights to defend the UPA’s decision to block Vedanta’s mining rather than the norms that empower tribal gram sabhas to reject projects that impinge on their forests. Using the latter defense would have spelt trouble for the government, which has allowed several other projects on forestland without seeking similar gram sabha clearances.

The occasion of Dongriya Kondh tribals voting has presented tribal affairs minister Kishore Chandra Deo the opportunity to reassert his primacy over the FRA — a pro-tribal promise by the UPA — that he had earlier led from front in the party to get through Parliament.

 

Tribal affairs ministry gets cracking on apex court’s order on Vedanta #goodnews


Author(s):
Kumar Sambhav S…
Issue Date:
2013-5-2

Odisha government gets a slew of orders to ensure the order is properly implemented

The ministry of tribal affairs seems to have pulled up its socks to ensure the Supreme Court’s order in the Vedanta case is properly implemented on ground. In a letter to the Odisha government on May 2, the ministry directed the state to facilitate the gram sabhas affected by the proposed bauxite mining project on Niyamgiri hills to decide—independently and in a transparent manner—the veracity of religious and cultural rights claimed by the tribal people on Niyamgiri hill. It has issued several legally binding directions under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) to the Odisha government and has prescribed a timeframe for the entire process.

On April 18, the Supreme Court ordered [1] that village councils in Odisha’s Rayagada and Kalahandi districts would decide if projects of the metals and mining giant,Vedanta, have infringed the tribal communities’ right to worship. The court made it clear that the religious rights of the tribals must be protected. It also asked the gram sabhas to consider afresh—under FRA—all other individual and community claims of the tribals.

The ministry has now asked the Odisha government to issue advertisements in newspapers, including those in vernacular languages, asking all the tribals and traditional forest dwellers in Kalahandi and Raygada districts to file claims of religious and cultural rights, along with the individual and community rights under the FRA. The ministry has also asked the state to display this notification along with the details of the SC order in all villages in the two districts irrespective of their proximity from the mining site. “This will ensure that there is no allegation of subjectivity in the selection of palli sabhas (gram sabhas) where the meeting will be finally held as per the direction of the Supreme Court,” the letter says.

The ministry has asked the state to prepare a list of all the villages near the mining site and on the Niyamgiri hills where tribal people have made claims of traditional rights. It has given the state government 20 days to prepare the list.

The selected gram sabhas will then have to be sensitised by the state with the help of independent experts working on tribal rights as guaranteed by the FRA as well as by the SC judgement. The decision on the claim will be taken by the gram sabha in presence of a judicial officer, as per the court’s directions.

The ministry has directed the state to involve non-profits in the process to make it transparent. It has also asked the state to submit the audio and video recordings of the gram sabha meetings—replete with all the resolutions passed by the village body—to it right after the meetings. A Bhubaneswar-based analyst said the ministry’s move was welcome because the company has started dividing the community. “A few people who have got some benefits from the project might try to manipulate the whole community. Rights activists are already facing problems in having access to the affected villages. The ministry’s action is certainly timely. Now it it needs proper follow-up,” he said.

Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/tribal-affairs-ministry-gets-cracking-apex-court-s-order-vedanta

 

Joint Statement Condemn Police Excesses in Lower Suktel Project area in Balangir, Odisha


Warning sign for police brutality.

Warning sign for police brutality. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

Scrap the Lower Suktel Dam project immediately

 

 

 

We, the undersigned, are anguished and appalled by the brutality and excesses of Orissa Police on peaceful demonstrators and concerned citizens near Magurbeda village of Balangir District in Orissa on 29 April 2013. At least 40 persons received severe injuries in this unprovoked lathi-charge and police brutality. We strongly condemn such police action and demand that responsible policemen be brought to book immediately!

 

Shockingly, during this standoff police dramatically turned into a confrontation, women were pulled by their hair, thrown on ground with policemen deliberately trampled over their feet and private parts as if they were trying to get confessions out of hardened criminals – all this under the supervision of the Sub-Divisional Police Officer and the Sub-Collector of Balangir, the latter with magisterial power.

 

It is absolutely unacceptable that state police in tacit approval of the state government engage in such brutality on peaceful protesters. The Odisha government needs to explain to its people as why Lower Sukhtel area has virtually become a war-zone, when people are democratically pressing for their demands.

 

Notably, Amitabh Patra, a journalist-filmmaker, who was shooting the confrontation, was purposefully targeted and rounded up by about a dozen policemen who beat him and kicked him ceaselessly on his head and face. Policemen seized his two cameras and broke both even as he lay unconscious for several hours. We would want an explanation from the government as what authority the Odisha Police has got to stop filmmakers from shooting such stand-offs? Under which rule of law, the Odisha Police has the power to strike at a journalist or a filmmaker with such brutality with intention to damage his head, when he was only a witness to what was going on? More shockingly, under pressure from the police and administration, the doctor at the government district hospital was refusing to admit Amitabh despite visible head injuries until a few local activists and journalists made a noise and forced him to do so!

 

At least 16 persons (including 9 women) were arrested from the site including Lenin Kumar, writer and editor of Odia literary journal – Nisan – and Amitabh Patra himself. We also strongly condemn the unilateral fatwa of Balangir Bar Council not to take up any cases in favour of any ‘outsiders’, as Lenin Kumar and Amitabh Patra are not from Balangir! Only after much deliberation, a lawyer friend from Titlagarh came forward to move the bail. Confrontation between police and a determined people has almost become routine since 8 April 2013 in the area; and on several occasions, the peaceful protestors are lathi-charged, foul-mouthed, and physically abused. In these last four weeks, more than 100 persons have endured massive blows of lathi and beatings in hands of an armed state. About two weeks back, 80 protesters were arrested and later released on bail. The demonstrators have been peacefully opposing the Lower Sukhtel project over concerns of loss of livelihoods and displacement for over 10 years. The project will submerge more than 56 villages, pushing the displaced and affected to precarious futures.

 

The project was seemingly abandoned by the state for a long time since originally conceived in 1979 following the rout of BALCO from the Gandhamardan Mountains (for bauxite mining). Water from Lower Suktel will be purportedly diverted to the mining company. The project has been variously criticized by several research and human rights groups since its inception. Most notably an authoritative study by Anita Agnihotri for UNDP (2008), only stops short of quashing the project calling it ‘prima facie unjustifiable in terms of anticipated benefits’ and in suggesting that ‘it will be worthwhile to explore an alternative to this costly undertaking’ and the government has viciously responded by refusing to make both the DPR (Detailed Public Report) as well as the Environmental Assessment Report public.

 

The present haste to start work on the project need to be seen in conjunction with the applications by a number of mining companies to mine the mountain. This renewed interest also needs to be located in the electoral dynamics of the state, which is going to face elections in 2014.

 

The trampling of peoples’ right to peaceful protests cannot be tolerated in a democratic polity! The Odisha government must answer some compelling questions. What calls for such mindless police brutality when people were peacefully raising slogans and organizing? Why concerned citizens and activists are repeatedly targeted, as is in Magurbeda at the moment?

 

The state government needs to remember always that people have constitutional right to protest and register their grievances. No state government, not even the Indian state can abrogate that right! It’s time that state governments, and police, are made accountable for their unjustifiable actions!!

 

We demand:

 

  1. Immediate and unconditional withdrawal of cases lodged against the people arrested on 29 April 2013
  2. The state must ensure proper treatments to all those who were injured in police brutalities on 29 April 2013
  3. The Superintendent of Police and the sub-Collector, Balangir, and all those police personnel who were engaged in the act must be put on trial immediately.
  4. Police force must be withdrawn immediately from the lower Suktel area.
  5. The Odisha government and the state police must apologize to those injured and / or arrested on 29 April 2013.
  6. Trumped-up cases against all those part of the Lower Suktel resistance since 2005 must be withdrawn immediately.
  7. Land acquisition on the Lower Suktel Project site must be stopped immediately.
  8. The government must immediately set up an independent judicial inquiry into the more-than-100-crore-rupee scam involving land-acquisition and compensation for the Lower Suktel Project, which even the CAG has pointed out. The inquiry must also look into all illegal land dealings done in the area by urban vested interests – with full knowledge and direct compliances of the district administration – in the submergence area even after land-acquisition notifications were made.
  9. The Lower Suktel Project must be scrapped immediately, and the suggestion by the Lower Suktel Budi Anchal Sangram Samiti to construct series of small barrages in lieu of a big dam be considered in all sincerity

 

 

 

In solidarity,

 

PUCL, Delhi; WSS; Socialist Front; Krantikari Yuvak Sangh; Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra; People’s Democratic Front of India; Left Collective; Jan Morcha; New Socialist Initiative (NSI); National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM ); Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF); Students For Resistance; Gandhi Peace Foundation; POSCO Pratirodh Sabha; SANHATI; and many more individual, students of Delhi, and social organizations; All India Forum of Forest Movements (AIFFM);Jharkhand Jangal Bachao Andolan (JJBA);North Bengal Forum of Forest People and Forest Movement

 

 

 

#India – Why are people opposing Lower Suktel Irrigation project in Odisha ?


 

“O government! Open your ear and listen to us ,We do not need Suktel dam.”
                   – writing on a wall in GS Dungripali, one of the villages that will be submerged if the Dam comes up

piccourtesy- down to earth

 

Context / Background

 

 

 

The river ‘Suktel’ originates from Gandhamardan Mountain (situated in between Balangir and Bargarh districts) in Orissa and flows into ‘Tel’ river. As a part of Lower Suktel Irrigation Project, Government of Orissa plans to build a dam on Suktel river which will be located 20kms from Balangir. According to Government of Orissa (GoO) this irrigation project will wipe out all miseries of people in Balangir which is otherwise known for its droughts and poverty. If the project promises such bright future ahead, why is it that people are protesting against the project for more than a decade now? The issue is much more complex than it seems to be and it is understood by the people in the area – at least those who have been with the ‘Lower Suktel Budi Anchal Sangram Parishad (LSBASP). In the following section we will explore more about the hidden and not so hidden agenda of this irrigation project and the larger politics behind it, the wrath of devastation, the evolution of a mass struggle and the process so far apart from understanding the organizational structure and systems.

 

 

 

The Project & the Scale of Devastation

 

 

 

The water resources department, GoO describes Lower Suktel irrigation project as a ‘major irrigation project’ where a dam and a spillway will be built. According to the GoO the dam will fully displace people from 16 villages and people of another 10 villages will be partially displaced. The survey that was done in 1996 pitched the figure of displacement at 4160 families which is much less than the real number. The GoO has apparently identified the land in three villages to build the rehabilitation colony. Around 638 hectare land will be affected due to this project. There are plans to hand over non-forest areas to the forest department for afforestation and GoO has a provision of Rs. 159.26lakh for this.

 

 

 

The dam project is stated to be planned with a help from the World bank worth Rs.600 crores.

 

 

 

The compensation package for a displaced family include 20 decimal  homestead land, 2 acre irrigated land or 4 acre non-irrigated land, money to build the house, financial assistance for one year, money for relocating in new place plus Rs.500/ -.

 

 

 

The GoO has obtained the required permissions from Central Water Commission, Forest Department and Pollution Control Board. This project entails an investment of Rs. 217.13 crores and the GoO has already given the permission for the same.

 

 

 

The number of villages to be affected as given by the government seems unrealistic and has not been updated with the changes in plans. The original height of the dam that was cited by the government was at 36 meters which is now slated to be at 56 meters. This essentially means many more villages coming under water. At least 142 villages (86 full & 56 partial) are estimated to be affected due to this dam/irrigation project.

 

 

 

Loisinga block of Balangir, with 48% tribal population, which will be affected by the project is known for its extremely fertile land. The thick forest around the area and through which Suktel river flows is known for rich flora and fauna and is said to be home for wild animals. The fertile land enables people to produce very good quality vegetables such as parwal & brinjal, mahul, mango, jamun, jackfruit etc and crops. People not only in Balangir district but also many other districts in Orissa are benefited by this produce. The area has a massive reserve for Kendu leaf.

 

 

 

There will be a loss of at least Rs.10crores due to the felling of trees which will lead to minimal rains ultimately affecting the eco-system of the area. It is not understood how a dam can be built and effectively used for irrigation on a river which is already not heavy flowing and without rain, it will be a dry river.

 

 

 

 

 

The Ground Swelling and the Process so far

 

 

 

There was enough speculation among the people about the project despite rigorous attempts by the state to create a favorable opinion among the masses about the project. In 1997, the then district collector Bijay Arora organized the first ever public hearing in Chudapali, one of the villages which will be affected due to the project. More than ten thousand people from 26 villages, which were said to be affected, came to the public hearing. The district collector invited 30 representatives from the gathering to present their views on the construction of the dam in the name of irrigation. Everyone except one representative voiced against the dam. The only person who did not cite against the dam had only said that the dam is ok as long as it does not damage the road. The district collector ironically concluded the public hearing saying that people have no objections to the dam. This was unacceptable to people who had gathered there and especially when 29 out of 30 had opposed the dam construction.

 

 

 

It is on that very occasion and at that place, people gathered there decided to organize their energy and fight against this conspiracy. The deceitful act of the government led to the formation of a campaign under the banner of ‘Lower Suktel Budi Anchal Sangram Parishad’ (LSBASP). A Parishad was formed in each of the 26 villages that were to be affected, according to the government record, due to the project. An eleven member team was constituted in each village with a President and a vice-President to intensify the campaign and mobilise the affected communities.

 

 

 

Mobilisation on the ground grew as people understood the hidden agenda of the dam project. The politics behind the dam project was becoming clear as people could see a direct connection between the dam project with the mining plans in Gandhamardan. It must be noted here that the mining plans in Gandhamardan, which faced strong opposition in 1980s, is resurfacing now since as many as 200 companies trying to get permission. Strong peoples’ resistance in Gandhamardan in 1980s had forced the company to go back even after investing 32crores. Biju Pattanaik’s government finally scrapped the project in early 1990s. But the agenda of the state to give the mountain for mining remained and it looked for ways and means to get there. The dam project, otherwise portrayed as an irrigation project, was designed to get to Gandhamardan. It is rather ridiculous to even have a dam on a river which usually does not have enough water throughout the year. The reservoir is planned as such that water could be ultimately sourced from it for mining purposes in the Mountain, especially for the proposed refinery in Taankapani, a mere 20kms from the reservoir.

 

 

 

This inter-linkage was not difficult for people in Suktel area to understand and when they realized the actual danger inherent in the irrigation project, the struggle even became much broader. The support and solidarity action became much more vigorous as many other movements and peoples’ organizations joined in this struggle across the state.

 

 

 

Sensing the danger from the government in going ahead with the project, LSABSP adopted the strategy of establishing a shrine to worship ‘Banadurga’ at the entry point in Pardhiapali  village – giving a clear signal about the protest. The project faced a strong opposition from people when the government decided to lay the foundation for the project in 2001. LSBASP mobilized 30 thousand people on that day to stage a massive protest. Deterred by this agitation on the ground, the administration hurriedly located another place away from the village for the chief minister to lay the foundation stone for the project. The administration applied section 144 apart from issuing warrant against few agitators in the new area so as to keep the agitators away.

 

 

 

Defying the repressive measures of the administration broke the police barricade and entered the area cordoned off for the programme. Shouting slogans against the project, the youths waived black flags to the chief minister. Interestingly, the Pashim Orissa Krushaka Parishad, a government outfit in an act to appease the chief minister intentionally interpreted it wrongly and communicated to him that the group is happy about the project. Unfortunately, the state of Orissa has a chief minister who does not understand Oriya and also such protest measures. Police arrested around 70 protesters in addition to the warrants it had already issued. This was vehemently protested and demanded their release by 30 thousand people who had gathered there to oppose the project.

 

 

 

LSBASP continued to contact people in all the villages and build collective strength through various mediums such as cycle rally, mashal yatra, village meetings and so on. The village-wise Parishad unit was effective in building one voice of resistance. On the human rights day in December 2001, the Parishad mobilised around 10-12 thousand people and submitted a demand letter to the collector and also sent it to the President of India. Interestingly, the President’s office responded and asked for papers (20 sets) on their struggle and suggests ways of irrigation without constructing a dam. Being a mass organization, the Parishad has always given primacy to the needs of the campaign on the ground and thus the requirement cited by the President’s office was beyond their bound. The Parishad communicated to the President’s office about the their inability to accommodate the request and urged him to visit the area to understand the situation first hand.

 

 

 

LSBASP asked the administration on 18 November 2001 about the reasons for not consulting people before going ahead with the project.

 

 

 

As the Parishad intensified its campaign, the state tried to mobilize people with lucrative offers. In 2002, people of 6 villages decided to withdraw themselves from the Parishad as they fell into the state tricks of compensations and benefits. The administration continued to motivate people through various ways such as taking the village Sarpanch into their fold. The roles of the land acquisition officer (LAO) and the bank officials have been extremely destructive as they have decided to play to the tunes of the state agenda and have continued to mis-guide people. This has led to people saying yes to compensation and rehabilitation deals and another 4 villages have got added up who have dissociated themselves from LSBASP by now.

 

 

 

The usual trick played by the LAO is to motivate the panchayat sarpanch and getting the entire village say yes to the offers. There are several instances where he alongwith the loan officer in the bank have told people to take compensation and build houses in the same area so as to get more compensation later. In the area, there are absolutely new houses coming up rapidly. This goes alongwith the line maintained by the Rural Development Commissioner (RDC)of the state who recently said that ‘there will be only compensation and no rehabilitation.’

 

 

 

Despite public outcry and massive demonstrations by LSBASP, the administration went ahead and distributed compensation in Khutpali village in 2003. A massive demonstation was organized in front of the police station by LSBASP and the administration assured that no more compensation will be distributed without consulting the organization. Apprehensive about the motive of the administration, LSBASP continued to strengthen its struggle on the ground. It ahs been demanding the admistration to make the ‘detailed project report’ public which the administration has been evading. The rift between Khutpali and GS Dungripali is growing as it is fuelled by the administration.

 

 

 

Compensation was distributed in Parjhapali on 11 January 2004 with heavy police presence. In fact the police did flag march in the entire area to keep off the people from resisting the process.

 

 

 

LSBASP has always communicated its displeasure about the manner in which the administration has motivated people to take the compensation. The leadership has always maintained that they are against the dam construction and thus no question arises about discussing compensation package. They find it very unfortunate to see the RDC engaging in mobilizing the people as Gagan Dhal, the RDC once said that compensation will help people to buy vehicles which they could use during the construction of the dam and earn a living. Ever since the villages have fallen into the clutches of the administration and accepted the compensation, there is an increase in the number of egg and liquor shops, vehicles and new houses in the area. The happiness of those who have taken money is short-lived

 

 

 

For LSBASP 11 May 2005 was the day when the administration and the local representative made the biggest blunder so far. The day was slated for bhumi pujan by the administration and as usual there was a heavy deployment of police. The local MLA Narsingh Mishra, whom people used to have a lot of faith, had assured people that there would be no such activity in the area till the administration makes the documents public and till people agrees to go ahead with the project. On this day he duped people and got the police to raid GS Dungripali village. People in the village recount that day with horror and anguish as they stood mute spectator to the dastardly act of the police. Police picked up 70 people including minor children. Each house in that village was ransacked by the police and women were abused severely. There were 15 platoons of police deployed for this task.

 

 

 

People also retaliated and it can be left to imagination to think what would have happened to the local MLA if he was there. It was kind of a ceasefire that continued for quite sometime. It took more than a month for LSBASP to mobilize support and get the people released.

 

 

 

This gruesome act of the administration has left the people in other villages completely baffled and scared. According to a villager in Kaindapali, “we saw what happened to people in GS Dungripali as police beat people mercilessly. It was cruel and we do not want to face the same situation. Police can do that to us also and we do not want that. That’s why we said yes to taking compensation when the administration came to us.” Kaindapali is one of those villages where the people have taken compensation but now refuse to move if they are not given equally fertile land and appropriate house to stay. This is the village where a man has got Rs. 6/- as compensation in lieu of his big house. So, one can imagine the skewed way of calculations as far as compensation is concerned.

 

 

 

Earlier this year, 2008, the present collector said that the collectorate will engage in any kind of discussion with LSBASP only if it agrees for dam construction. This put off the leaders and they decided to meet the RDC who showed sympathy but expressed his inability to do anything. The helplessness of the state government is vividly seen all over the state. In fact, the state government is in this kind of a situation not by chance but by choice where all the decisions are made in serious consultation with the corporate and international financial institutions.

 

 

 

The main slogan of the movement is “Maribu pache chati pati, nai chadu; Maribu pache Daribu Nai.”

 

 

 

Demands

 

 

 

 

 

The stated objective of the dam is to irrigate Balangir and flood management. But the fact remains that ground will be prepared for mining companies to take over Gandhamardan Mountain which has a rich bauxite reserve in the name of community development by way of compensation during the irrigation project. This will essentially destroy the age-old practice of lift irrigation in the area. As mentioned earlier, this area produces maximum variety of vegetable in large numbers and the production here caters to at least 6 big towns in Orissa.

 

 

 

IN last more than a decade LSBASP has seen people coming together, drifting away under pressure, state repression and so on. But the resolve of the organization is far from shying away from the struggle. The organization has the following demands:

 

 

 

–       No dam for irrigation – promote lift irrigation

 

–       no displacement

 

–       the rich bio-diversity can not be compensated

 

–       government must make the DPR public

 

–       stop state repression in the area

 

–       withdraw the false cased filed against people in 2005

 

 

 

The organization functions as a mass organization and draws strength and solidarity support from like-minded groups and individuals. Each village where the organization is active has a Parishad which amalgamates with the collective. LSBASP is led by a President and vice-President who are also office bearers in the Parishads in their respective villages. Women have continued to play major role in demonstration, rallies, mobilizing people in their villages. The organization recognizes the contribution of women in the struggle but does not have a policy to have them at the decision making body. The common notion, as shared by a number of Parishad office bearers, the office bearers have to do a lot of running around and women are not in a position to do so. This is the reason, according to them, why women do not figure in the list of office bearers in any of the villages actively involved in the struggle.

 

Written by — Mamata Dash

 

 

#India – Report on Lower Suktel Project and People’s Protest


April 21, 2013

By Amitabh Patra

suktel1

Lower Suktel:
Suktel is a tributary river of Mahanadi in Odisha, flowing in the districts of Bolangir & Sonepur. The state Govt. has been trying to build a dam named “Lower Suktel Irrigation Project (LSIP)” at G.S. Dunguripali. CWC (Central Water Commission) allotted a sum of Rs. 217.13 Crores at 1994 estimate for the same later revised to Rs. 1042 Crores in 2009. State Govt is said to have spent Rs. 300 Crores for land acquisition, of which more than 60 crores has been mis-appropriated as pointed out in the CAG Report and is under recovery process. The project is said to irrigate about 31000 hectares of land, whereas the FRL will submerge more than 4000 hectares of already existing multi-crop agricultural land, forest, best kendu (tendu) leaf production area, vegetable and paddy production area and self-reliant 30 villages of the drought prone dist.

The supporters of the project – mostly the demand coming from the Bolangir town. It is being told by the affected villages of submergence area that many of the powerful people of the town and outsiders to the region, rich man with money and muscle have purchased huge patches of land and have converted that to make profit from the compensation money. A few powerful and influential political leaders of the region have purchased hundreds of acres of land as “Benaami” (anonymous) downstream keeping in view of the future mineral processing of Iron Ore, Thermal Power Plant, Bauxite, Lead and many other valuable minerals, including gem stones.

The question arises here: an irrigation project, why is it being opposed?

Resisting villagers have given the alternate proposals – that instead of the said 30 meters tall dam, small height multiple barrages be done at multiple stages across the river. That will not submerge the fertile agricultural land, productive forest, won’t uproot people and villages, are less expensive and low maintenance in the long run. That will be more effective for irrigation, keeping drought in control of a much larger region than the big dam, and maintain the bio-diversity. Large dams not only cause big displacement, but they also create water deserts. The biggest example is Hirakud Dam in the state, where the loss incurred to the people and environment is enormous. The huge reservoir is a big water desert of the region.

Possible Falsification of Facts by the Construction Company & Govt.:
In a fact finding journey to five villages, it was found that, the figures presented by the officials are misleading and full with lies. Some of the villages which the survey report states as partial submergence, checking on ground at those villages with GPS device, it was found to be under 8 meters of water during FRL, at the highest point at middle of the village. Also as with experience we have seen in Hirakud that the villages where there was never before submergence, flood of 2011 August, they were washed off, on the upper region of Hirakud Dam due to Back-water. So partial submergence is a myth during the monsoon.

Compensation issue:
People in some villages have been paid up compensation for their land, house, trees etc. The maximum amount that has been paid for per acre of agricultural land is Rs. 55,000/- + Rs. 10,000. With this price, it is almost impossible to purchase equivalent land at elsewhere. The burning example is displaced people of Tikhali Dam near Nuapada/ Khariar. Only a handful of the displaced about 10% have been able to settle at a new place. Remaining 90% people have lost their culture, society, rights to common land, cattle grazing land, forest and other common resources of human civilization. The displaced people are looked upon in an inferior manner at the new place where they go. Some pro-displacement people argue that they should move to nearby towns and live happily; but while saying so, they forget that it is impossible to live up without a neighboring society. As said by the uprooted at gunpoint people of the Tikhali (Lower Indra) dam project – “where ever we go, people kick us out. They say that we are detached flying leaves.” In a recent bizarre incident, the villagers did not even let the dead body of a displaced person being burnt at their mortuary. The dead body had to be brought back to a distance of 13 kilometers for the last rites. Many villagers still have not received any compensation whereas the dam construction is over by 70%. Those who were displaced are preferring to even come back, and rebuild their houses at the old place. Since past 5 years over a hundred school going children have been deprived of their basic right to education

Displacement by large scale water logging causes extinction – of culture, people, species, societies, forests, insects, birds, animals, reptiles, civilizations and brings in destruction, oppression, desertification, diseases, and deaths. Smaller is better, bigger is worse.

suktel2

suktel3

Government of Odisha Status Report on Lower Suktel Irrigation Project[PDF]

More bloodshed expected around POSCO Odisha Project


Residents are worried of further bloodshed if the POSCO Odisha [formerly known as Orissa] project continues

Human rights activist Direhdra Panda (left) and human rights lawyer Chandranath Dani, both from India, protest in front of POSCO center��셲 main entrance in Seoul��셲 Daechi neighborhood during the general stockholders��� meeting, Mar. 22. (by Lee Wan, staff reporter)

“Residents are worried of further bloodshed if the POSCO Odisha [formerly known as Orissa] project continues”

By Lee Wan, staff reporter

On March 22, two men from India stood holding a protest in front of the firmly closed doors of the POSCO center. “Shareholders of POSCO, please hear us out on what happened in Odisha”, they said. On this day, a general shareholders’ meeting was taking place inside the closed office.

Human rights activist Direhdra Panda and human rights lawyer Chandranath Dani described the situation in Odisha by saying, “The police are currently blockading three villages that are against the Indian government’s forced land expropriation for the POSCO Odisha steel factory”. Dani said, “The residents of these villages aren’t able to leave their houses because the police are issuing arrest warrants to everyone who opposes the construction”.

The Odisha Project started in 2005 when POSCO and the Odisha government signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to construct a 120 million ton steelworks factory at a cost of 12 trillion won (about US$1 billion). Since then, relocating the residents who live on the land that is slated to be used for the factory has been a problem.

The securing of land for construction has also been difficult. On Mar. 2, a bomb exploded in the house of a resident who had opposed the factory, killing three and injuring two. In order to gain control of the local iron ore mines and an increased presence in the growing Indian market, POSCO has no plans to abandon the project.

Panda said, “The police are pulling up Betel plants, which the residents rely on for their living. The police have violated the villagers’ human rights with violence.”

Panda and Dani, who first visited Korea on March 20 during a spell of cold weather, will meet with South Korean civic groups and Jeon Soon-ok, a Democratic United Party lawmaker, to provide information about the reality of Odisha. They return to India on the 25th. Dani said, “The Norwegian liaison office for ‘OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises’ proposed that an international investigation group be created to investigate the violence taking place in Odisha. I hope POSCO, a multinational corporation, accepts this proposal”.

The OECD guidelines were created to reinforce the social responsibilities of multinational enterprises, and are enforced by liaison offices in each country. Because the Norwegian public officials’ pension fund currently owns POSCO stocks, Norwegian civic groups are aware of the situation and have submitted a petition.

Heavily dressed against Korea’s cold, Panda added, “The Indian media is viewing the issue from the perspective of the government and the corporation. The residents of Odisha have been cultivating crops on this land for many generations. Even if they receive better compensation, they do not wish to leave”.

Translated by Kim Kyung-min, Hankyoreh English intern

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

PUCL Press Statement on the Arrest of Sri Dandapani Mohanty


People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) condemns the arrest of Sri Dandapani Mohanty, who acted as one of the interlocutors on behalf of the Maoists, both in the abduction of Malkangiri Collector and that of the two Italian tourists. The way the Odisha police arrested Sri Mohanty, violating all rules pertaining to arrest and detention, shows its highhandedness and utter disregard for the law of the land. Moreover, Sri Mohanty’s arrest at this juncture raises several questions which the Odisha government must answer.

Sri Mohanty’s family members have alleged that he was picked up in the afternoon of 8th February by plain clothes policemen from near his residence in Berhampur. The family members were not informed of this by the police. The Supreme Court of India guidelines regarding arrest and detention clearly say that the police officials who carry out the arrest or interrogation should wear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations. It also says that a memo of arrest must be prepared at the time of arrest which should be attested by at least one witness who may either be a family member of the person arrested or a respectable person of the locality where the arrest was made. It is shocking that the Odisha police have been continously violating these principle, particularly, when picking up people allegedly with Maoist activities or when the ‘accused’ are from the marginalised groups. It needs to be noted that in December last year Berhampur police had picked up Sri Sangram Mohanty, son of Sri Dandapani Mohanty, in the same manner. The police had actually picked up Sangram Mohanty from Berhampur town but falsely claimed that he was caught near Kamalapur gate near Mohana. A couple of year ago, Sri Gananath Patra, advisor of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha, Narayanpatna, was picked of exactly in the same manner. Apart from these ‘high profile cases’, PUCL has documented several cases in which the police have been blatantly violating the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India. The recent custodial death of one Sanjay Dehury on 1st January this year in Jarpada police station of Angul district was a result of such violation.

Secondly, the arrest of Sri Dandapani Mohanty, clearly exposes how the Odisha government has been misusing its power to harass anybody who it finds too uncomfortable. According to media reports, the police have claimed that there are at least 15 cases, including six non-bailable warrants, against Sri Mohanty. Sri Mohanty has been booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and as the media reported, the cases against Sri Mohanty included murder, extortion, burning buses and destroying telephone towers. Surprisingly, some of these cases lodged against Sri Mohanty are related to incidents that took place in 2009 and 2010. Then the simple question we ask is: why didn’t the police arrest Sri Mohanty earlier when there were serious charges against him? Sri Mohanty was no underground Maoist cadre and was openly involved in political activities. Then why did the police have to wait till 2013 to arrest him? And, how was that the Odisha government accepted his role as an interlocutor for the release of the abducted Malkangiri Collector and the two Italian tourists, if Sri Mohanty had murder charges against him, as claimed by the police now? Or, are these cases fabricated by the police to silence Sri Mohanty, who has been quite vocal in raising the issues affecting the Adivasis, including the ongoing repression on them by the security forces, in the name of fighting the Maoists?

PUCL demands that the Odisha government must respect the law of the land, whether it is dealing with the Maoists, their sympathisers or ordinary citizens.

Pramodini Pradhan

Convenor, PUCL-Odisha

Contact no. – 9439200989

 

An Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India for atatck on epaceful protesters in Odisha


English: A screenshot from a Video posted by w...

English: A screenshot from a Video posted by http://www.whitehouse.gov. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shri Manmohan Singh

 

Honourable Prime Minister of India

 

 

 

7 February 2013

 

 

 

Your Excellency,

 

 

 

We, the undersigned, are deeply anguished over the recent attacks on the people of Govindpur and Nuagaon villages of Jagatsinghpur District in Odisha who have been using the most democratic means to resist the forceful acquisition of their lands for the POSCO project.

 

 

 

We are shocked to learn of the manner in which Government of Odisha officials along with over 12 police platoons entered the villages around 4 am on Sunday 3 February 2013 and indiscriminately hit women and children with lathis (sticks), cut trees and destroyed several betel vines. Reports indicate that more than 50 persons have been injured, of them three women and one old man severely. The police also arbitrarily arrested and detained several men and women who tried to resist the action, including one of the leaders of the people’s movement.

 

 

 

The use of indiscriminate force against women, children, men, and older persons by the police is highly condemnable. The state government claims that people are willingly giving up their lands for the POSCO project. If this were the case, it would not be necessary to send in over 12 platoons of police in the middle of the night and resort to lathi charge and violence. To be attacked at this hour and be caught unawares despite countless organised attempts on part of the affected villagers and POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) to appeal to the government, shows the deep failure on the part of the state machinery to engage in democratic means with the people whose land it seeks to acquire.

 

 

 

This violent act by the state government appears to be a result of the announcement on 28 January 2013 of the Commerce Minister (Mr Anand Sharma) that the Government of India will review delays in POSCO’s USD 12 billion plant in Odisha, as it is committed to ensuring “smooth take off” of the project – the highest foreign direct investment (FDI) in India. The Commerce Minister also reportedly announced that this project is being reviewed by you and your office.

 

 

 

This act of aggression by the government violates a range of national laws and policies, including the Constitution of India, the Forest Rights Act 2006, the March 2012 order of the National Green Tribunal suspending environmental clearance of the project, the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007 as well as recommendations of several independent and government committees. In its attempt to lure foreign investment into the state, the Government of Odisha and the Government of India has circumvented all democratic norms, including the Palli (Gram) Sabhas, and violated the human rights of its own people.

 

 

 

The actions by the Government of Odisha, with the support of the police and POSCO, also clearly violate several international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightsthe Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, all of which India has ratified. This recent attack on the people of the area also infringes international standards and guidelines, including the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement – which lay down obligations of both state and non-state actors.

 

 

 

The recent actions of the government are also illegal because the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between POSCO and the Government of India expired in June 2010.

 

 

 

Since 2006, the people of the area have been peacefully resisting the project because of its extensive destructive impacts on their lives and livelihoods. The non-violent resistance of local villagers to the project, however, has been met with violence, implication of false charges, and arbitrary arrests and detention of men and women. All attempts for dialogue with the government have failed, as the government has repeatedly used force with the support of the Centre in pushing for the POSCO project in Odisha.

 

 

 

We strongly condemn this violent and undemocratic attack on people and the violation of their human rights, including the rights to adequate housing, land, food, work/livelihood, health, and security of the person and the home.

 

 

 

Respected Prime Minister, since this project is being reviewed directly by you and your office, we prevail upon you to ensure:

 

 

 

  • Immediate withdrawal of police from the area;
  • Immediate release of people who have been illegally arrested and detained;
  • Immediate investigation and prosecution of officials responsible for perpetuating violence  against men, women and children in Gobindpur Village;
    • Halting of all forms of land acquisition;
    • Provision of adequate medical care to all the injured in the area;
    • Restitution, including compensation for injury and the destruction of property, trees and betel-vines; and,
    • An objective ‘social impact/eviction impact assessment’ of the project, as per the requirements of the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy 2007, and the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement.

 

 

 

 

 

We look forward to an adequate response from your government, and hope that you will act in accordance with India’s legal obligations and protect the rights of your people.

 

 

 

 

 

Signed by:

 

Miloon Kothari, former Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, UN Human Rights Council

 

 

Shivani Chaudhry, Associate Director, Housing and Land Rights Network, Delhi

 

 

 

Asit das- posco pratirodh solidarity delhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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