Chhattisgarh PUCL’s Memorandum to the NHRC


To

The Hon’ble Chairman,

National Human Rights Commission

Camp Raipur.

Sub:   Regarding the Human Rights situation in Chhattisgarh – a Note by the         Chhattisgarh PUCL

Sir,

First of all we welcome the fact that the National Human Rights Commission has, in its present sitting at Raipur, not only taken up several extremely serious cases of human rights violations to which the State Government had miserably failed to respond to so far, but has also invited various non-governmental organizations to share their experiences and suggestions.

On behalf of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, being the Chhattisgarh State Branch of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, we would like to place on record, along with a copy of “Chhattisgarh me Manav Adhikar ki Haqeekat” – a compilation of our Reports over the past two years (henceforth referred to as our Report), the following note delineating some of the serious aspects of the human rights situation in the state, which we believe require deserve the urgent attention of the National Human Rights Commission:-

Aspects of the Human Rights Situation in Chhattisgarh

1.       Widespread displacement of peasants and adivasis from livelihood resources:-

On account of a large number of MOUs (121 as on 30.03.2011 as per the Chhattisgarh government website) to set up power plants, steel plants and cement plants, as well as the grant of a large number of Prospecting and Mining Leases (already more than 2 lakh acres have been covered under 354 MLs as on 30.03.2011),  a large scale transfer of agricultural lands, commons and other livelihood resources – particularly forest lands and water (both surface and ground water) – is occurring from the peasants and adivasis (who enjoyed these earlier both privately and collectively) to private corporate entities. While this phenomenon is visible all across this mineral rich state, it is particularly acute in the districts of Raigarh, Sarguja, Janjgir-Champa and Korba. This is causing a crisis of livelihood among a vast rural population, intensifying earlier trends of migration to brick kilns, human trafficking and other forms of bondedness.

In carrying out acquisitions of land the State Government is misusing its powers of eminent domain in the name of “Public Purpose” whereas the reports of the CAG of the state clearly indicate that in granting such largesse corruption is occurring on a large scale, and private companies are gaining at considerable loss to the state exchequer. The case of allotment of coal blocks is an example in point where the spirit of the Directive Principles of State Policy is being violated.

The legal provisions designed to protect agriculturists and tribals are being systematically violated, bypassed or turned into an empty formality. This is particularly true of the provisions for mandatory consultation with the Gram Sabha under the “Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act” (PESA Act) in the Scheduled Areas. Similarly the provisions for making objections under Section 5A of the Land Acquisition Act are circumvented by misuse of the provisions for urgent acquisition under Section 17 of the Act.  Despite the law being clear that the consent of both owner and occupier are mandatory for entry into private land for mining by a company (other than a government company under the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition Act), the State acts on behalf of the private company to present the farmers with a fait accompli of having to accept compensation as if in the case of acquisition.

Almost in all affected villages there have been protests, some sporadic and short lived, others more prolonged and determined, but almost all have faced state repression. The leaders of the protests and often large numbers of villagers have been victims of malicious prosecution by powerful corporates in which the local police and administration have been hand-in-glove. The Chhattisgarh PUCL has documented a few such cases of malicious prosecution of farmers’ leaders, trade unionists and environmental activists at Pages 60-65 of its Report. An extreme example of this is the case of the murderous attempt on the life of environmental activist Ramesh Agrawal at Raigarh by persons associated with the Jindal Steel and Power Limited.

2.       Increasing attacks on dalit communities:-

In the aforesaid scenario, as the pressure on land mounts, we find repeated instances of targeted and brutal eviction of dalit families. PUCL has documented at Page 58-60 of our Report one such stark representative case of 34 dalit families of Village Chichour Umariya, district Raigarh brutally evicted from generations-old occupation of forest land (for which forest rights applications were pending) by the dominant caste community. Even more serious in this case was the absolute failure of constitutional mechanisms to bring relief either through a Writ Petition in the High Court or by a complaint to the State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Private as well as state violence against dalits has been on the increase. PUCL and other human rights groups had also taken up the case of custodial torture of young dalit workers belonging to Village Lailunga, district Raigarh culminating in the death of one, which is reported at Pages 27-31 of our Report. Despite detailed statements by the victims and their families, neither the enquiry of the DSP under the SC-ST (Prevention of) Atrocities Act nor the Magisterial Enquiry has resulted in any action taken against the culprit private persons or policemen.

3.       Conditions of Industrial workers and Contract teachers (Shikshakarmis):-

Chhattisgarh accounts for the highest number of industrial accidents per lakh of workers in the entire country. In the large and ever increasing number of industrial establishments in the state, the labour laws are violated with impunity, 12 hour work day is the norm and even minimum wages – which are grossly inadequate – are not paid. Even permanent, perennial and core production activity is carried out by contract workers who are not even given statutory proof of employment. Precariousness of employment results in extremely poor unionization. Compliance with the ESI and Provident Fund Acts is poor. Recently in the Ambuja Cement Factory at Village Rawaan, district Baloda Bazar (now a unit of Swiss multinational Holcim), the collapse of fly ash hoppers due to gross negligence in design and maintenance of buildings resulted in the death of five workers literally buried in hot cement ash in a confined space. (A fact finding Report by the Building Wood Workers International, New Trade Union Initiative Federation and local unions is available.)

Nearly 2 lakh Shikshakarmis (contract teachers ostensibly employed by the Panchayati Raj institutions) were on strike recently for their legitimate demands of absorption as regular teachers in the Education Department as in fact mandated by the Right to Education Act and the principle of “equal pay for equal work”. 17 teachers and their family members committed suicide/ died unnatural deaths during the agitation in the course of which tens of thousands of teachers were suspended, dismissed, cane charged and arrested.

4.       Jail deaths:-

Chhattisgarh again tops the states in the proportion of overcrowding in its jails, which house prisoners to the extent of between two and three times their capacity.

The PUCL recently filed RTI applications with regard to deaths in jails and discovered shocking facts. At Page 78-81 of our Report, for instance are the details revealed by Central Jail Bilaspur. We see that:-

a)       All 11 deaths were of undertrials, and three of them were held in preventive detention (151 or 107/116 of the Criminal Procedure Code) when they died in jail.

b)       The caste composition of the 11 dead prisoners was – 7 SC, 1 ST, 2 OBC, 1 Muslim.

c)       6 of them died within a short time of being admitted into jail ( 5 days, 16 days, 3 days, 2           days, 2 days, 8 days) which is indicative of either being admitted with serious injuries or           having being subjected to ill treatment in jail.

d)       One died owing to the barrack roof having collapsed and he having sustained head injuries.

e)       In all cases the nature of illness/ cause of death as per the Medical Officer was “serious”.

The documents obtained from Central Jail Jagdalpur show that deaths due to severe anaemia (3.5 grams or 5.0 grams of Haemoglobin) was the commonest cause. Usually blood transfusion could not be arranged in a timely manner and there is nothing on record to show that any efforts were made to contact the family to find a blood donor.

5.       Violence against women:-

Trafficking of young women for work as domestic servants in the metropolises and also in prostitution has been widely reported from the districts of Jashpur and Sarguja and Advocate Sevati Panna, who is also an active member of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, has conducted meticulous research in exposing the so-called “placement agencies”.

The recent cases that came to light regarding sexual abuse of young adivasi girls in State run Ashrams/ hostels has now also been verified by the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights.

Violence against women takes on an even more serious dimension in conflict areas, where it has been observed internationally and also elsewhere in our country that sexual violence is used as a means to subjugate a population. Even today the affidavits of 99 women alleging rape by SPOs, Salwa Judumm and the security forces, which are filed before the Supreme Court in the Nandini Sundar and Kartam Joga cases (challenging the constitutionality of Salwa Judum) remain to be acted upon.

6.       Large number of adivasi undertrials languishing in Bastar jails:-

There are a large number of poor adivasis languishing in the jails of the Bastar region. A recent estimate of the number of undertrials in three of these jails is as follows

Name of Jail Capacity No. of convicts No. of undertrials
Dantewada 250 4 577
Kanker 65 8 217
Jagdalpur 648 573 1120
Total 963 585 1914
963 Convicts + Undertrials  = 2,499

While we can understand and appreciate the complex conditions under which the courts and jails would be functioning in this region, we are concerned at repeated complaints that a large number of these adivasis are being implicated in serious cases without the concerned magistrate exercising his/her judicial discretion in an independent manner. This has resulted in thousands of ordinary villagers, routinely picked up in searching operations, being incarcerated under serious charges. Once, being implicated in a serious offence, and particularly a “Naxal Offence”, the undertrials are not produced in the courts for long periods of time, on account of there not being “sufficient police guard”. Owing to this the trial does not proceed for years together. Out of economic difficulty and for fear of harassment, family members of the undertrials are unable to visit them in jail. Particularly in situations of physical and mental ailments this makes the undertrials even more vulnerable.

Since “Naxal undertrials” are only kept in Central Jails, owing to overcrowding, many of them of them are transferred to Durg or Raipur Central Jails, where they are even more inaccessible, and too far away to be taken to court regularly. PUCL had been sent a list of 79 undertrials facing trials in Kondagaon who were sent to Durg Jail (more than 300 km away) and who had petitioned the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court in 2011 regarding their long incarceration without trial. One undertrial from amongst them Sukdas (32 years) died in jail on 1st February 2010.

Most of the adivasi undertrials are dependent on legal aid lawyers. However more often than not, the legal aid lawyers never go to meet the client or seek instructions regarding the case. Often they are careless in their conduct of cases and are amenable to pressures from the police or prosecution. The vast majority of adivasi undertrials speak only adivasi languages i.e. – Gondi, Halbi etc., however it is shocking that even now Courts in the Bastar region do not have official interpreters/ translators and the adivasis are unable to communicate with the Officers of the Court or otherwise effectively intervene in the judicial process.

On 12th January 2011, 379 adivasi undertrials in Dantewada Jail, alleged to be “Naxalites”, went on hunger strike saying that they had been held falsely, their trials were not being conducted and that they be released on bail.

It is unfortunate that the Nirmala Buch Committee, created in the wake of the abduction of Collector Alex Paul Menon, has neither been able to carry out a judicial review of adivasi cases nor conduct a fact finding mission to find out the actual circumstances of arrest of the large number of undertrials.

Another disturbing aspect of the functioning of the criminal justice system in Bastar is that political opponents or other “inconvenient” persons can easily be implicated in “Naxal offences” thus ensuring that they would be put away behind bars for several years. Page 77 of our Report has a list of all the activists of the Communist Party of India, a registered national political party contesting elections, incarcerated including Kartam Joga who was a Petitioner in the Petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging the modus operandi and the atrocities committed by the Salwa Judum, and was acquitted after being in jail for the past 3 years.

7.       Fake encounters and police excesses in the name of the anti- Naxal operations and failure of the constitutional response:-

Page 7-27 of our Report carries extracts of our Fact Finding Report titled “Just a Little Collateral Damage” which concerned four cases of alleged encounters in areas outside the Bastar region, namely Village Ledgidipa, district Mahasamund; Village Kade, district Rajnandgaon; Jamul, district Durg and Village Sawargaon in the bordering district of Maharashtra and which we found clearly to be cases of fake encounters. The Magisterial Enquiries announced in all the cases appear to have been routinely carried out only to support the police versions of events, and despite our finding that in all the cases local persons were vociferous in their allegations, their versions have never been recorded.

Page 31-36 contains the Fact finding Report of the Chhattigarh Bachao Andolan into the murder of a minor girl Meena Khalkho in Sarguja by the police and security forces in July 2011, again claiming her to be a Naxalite. The Judicial Enquiry announced has not even begun, though again, the family members have been brave enough to submit their affidavits. Similarly an investigation into an alleged encounter at Village Harri, district Jashpur, revealed that the police and security forces had manhandled and beaten ordinary villagers and had been rewarded for their “bravery in Naxal encounter”. The unaccounted funds allotted to Naxal affected police stations and to Naxal- affected districts seem to be an incentive to claim Naxal activity even where there is none.

Page 46-52 contains the Fact Finding Report of the Co-ordination of Democratic Rights Organisation into the fake encounter which occurred on 27-28 June 2012 in the clearing between Villages Sarkeguda, Rajpenta and Kottaguda in district Beejapur. The Magistrate conducting the Enquiry turned down the villagers who had come to depose before him. The Notification for Judicial Enquiry signed in November 2012 was notified in December 2012, and this Notification was not even communicated to the concerned villages. It was only when lawyers associated with PUCL contacted the villagers that they came to know of the Judicial Enquiry. The Terms of Reference made to the Judicial Enquiry Commission have, perhaps deliberately, mixed up this obvious case of fake encounter with two other cases of possibly actual encounters in Village Chimlipenta and Village Silger, both of district Sukma on the same day, to which the villagers have objected. Although the villagers have filed affidavits, the Enquiry does not appear to have started in earnest. In the meantime two villagers arrested from the spot of the encounter continue to languish in jail as “Naxals” and the victims of the encounter have had a string of cases put upon them showing them to also have antecedents of “Naxal cases”, and this includes the 12 year old bright student Kaka Rahul.

A case filed in the High Court in regard to the Singavaram fake encounter and demanding a CBI Enquiry remains pending even after about 6 years, while another filed in the Supreme Court in regard to the killings in Village Gompad also remains pending for the past 3 years. Thus, the people of Bastar have continuously been denied constitutional remedies, which has accentuated their alienation.

The PUCL received by post in the year 2011 a letter from a journalist in Bastar enclosing a list of 135 villagers alleged to be killed during Operation Green Hunt between January 2009 and April 2010. Many of the incidents narrated could be correlated with newspaper reports and some news of protests by villagers. However, we have not been able, through our own investigation, to verify these serious allegations, mainly because there has been a denial of physical access to the entire Bastar division to concerned citizens from other parts of Chhattisgarh or India over the past 3-4 years. This denial has been systematic – whether to an All India Women‘s Team who were trying to meet women who had filed complaints of rape against SPOs (November 2009); or to Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey and other members of the NAPM who were going to join activist Himanshu Kumar in a public hearing in Dantewada to which the Union Home Minister had been invited; or to a team of Gandhians who were on a Peace March (May 2010) including Shri Banwarilal Sharma and Swami Agnivesh who subsequently made efforts for talks with the Maoists. The modus operandi of such denial has been through the mobilization of SPOs and Salwa Judum camp inmates who have organized demonstrations and brickbatted the teams. Individual researchers, lawyers, film makers and journalists have been detained, intimidated or otherwise ―persuaded to leave Dantewada. Even the CBI has not been spared. The acts of burning of the huts of adivasis in Morpalli, Tadmetla and Timmapuram, in regard to which the Supreme Court had, in the course of the Salwa Judum case directed CBI Enquiry, could not be carried out by the CBI, as per their application in the Court, owing to an attack by Chhattisgarh Auxiliary Force (into which the SPOs have been absorbed)!

8.       The civil war in Bastar is creating a grave humanitarian crisis:-

The districts of the erstwhile Bastar division in Southern Chhattisgarh are now undisputedly the arena of a civil war and also the region where Operation Green Hunt, as it is still referred to by the police and security forces in Chhattisgarh despite denials by the Union Home Minster, is been carried out with the greatest ferocity. The already heavy deployment of security forces is being continuously reinforced, now the Army has a training camp here and even helicopters of the AIF are being pressed into service. Almost every day there are reports of ambushes and land mine blasts by Naxalites killing security forces; and reports of searching and area domination exercises by security forces with considerable number of Naxalites being killed in encounters and also a very large number of arrests. SPOs and police

informers who are being recruited in hundreds are being targeted by Naxalites.

What is of great concern are the repeated reports and complaints of thousands of adivasis fleeing these areas in several waves since 2005. Indeed at page 39-46 of our Report is a joint write-up of different human rights groups including PUCL into the serious conditions of internally displaced adivasis in Andhra Pradesh. The recommendation of the NHRC in the Enquiry conducted on the directions of the Supreme Court in the Salwa Judum Case, that the displaced villagers be rehabilitated back in their villages, has not been acted upon at all by the State. On the contrary, those NGOs which were trying to assist such resettlement were severely victimized. The  Ashram of Himanshu Kumar, who is also one of the Vice Presidents of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, was demolished and two activists associated with him – Koparam Kunjam and Sukhnath Oyami – active in rehabilitating the adivasis of 10-15, were arrested under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act. Sukhnath was finally acquitted after several years in jail and Kopa Kunjam had to obtain bail from the Supreme Court. The Sarkeguda village was also one such rehabilitated village. Indeed it appears that apart from the counter insurgency strategy of clearing the villages to bring the adivasis to roadside camps, there is a ground clearing motive, possibly connected with mining since 7443 hectares of land in Kanker,  Narayanpur and Dantewada alone have been given out in prospecting leases to various private companies as per the Government website.

Another issue of grave concern is that with the withdrawal of educational and health services of the State as well as ration shops from the so-called “Naxal” stronghold areas, into which a large proportion of the population has fled, a situation has arisen in which several lakh adivasis have been automatically “outlawed”. This population is being deprived of basic needs. Anti Naxal operations in this area could result in a virtual genocide and killings of unarmed civilians and non-combatants on a large scale. Additionally the State programme of bringing children to study in roadside hostels and ashrams and separating them from their families is repeating the “historical mistakes” committed by the Australian government on its indigenous peoples for which the Australian Prime Minister recently rendered a public apology.

The democratic voices in Chhattisgarh have been repeatedly demanding that the way to de-escalate violence in the Bastar region would be to rehabilitate people in their villages, restore the civil administration and whole heartedly comply with the Forest Rights Act and PESA Act to give the adivasis of the area substantial rights. Decisions to carry out large scale mining and set up industries in that area can only be effective if carried out with a genuine consultation with the people and by winning their confidence.

(Sudha Bharadwaj)

General Secretary,

Chhattisgarh PUCL.

 

#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

 

Three killed in industrail accident Jindal Power Ltd (JPL) , Chhattisgarh


By Indo Asian News Service | IANS – Thu, Mar 7, 2013

Raipur, March 7 (IANS) At least three workers were
killed and two others critically injured in accident Thursday at a
captive power plant owned by the Jindal Power Ltd (JPL) in
Chhattisgarh‘s Raigarh district, police said.
“The tragedy occurred Dongamahua captive power plant when a few
workers were engaged in boiler maintenance work,”

Additional  Superintendent of Police Praful Thakur told IANS over phone.
“The death toll could rise. We have launched an initial probe, no one would be spared if found guilty,” Thakur added.
The deceased have been identified as Alikh Barik, 35, of Odisha, Ajay Gupta, 30, of Uttar Pradesh and Mitra Bhanu, 19, a local resident. The injured were taken to JPSL-managed O.P. Jindal Hospital in Raigarh.
According to sources, the company has announced a compensation amount of Rs.12 lakh for families of each of the three killed besides a
monthly pension of Rs.2,500.
The JPL mishap is the second such industrial tragedy in the state in
2013 after five workers were killed Jan 31 at Ambuja Cement Plant in
Bhatapara in Baloda Bazar district.

 

Work stopped in Jindal plant as per Govt order but 2nd laborer die in a week



Rajesh Tripathi from Jan Chetna in Raigarh is telling us that one
laborer died yesterday in Jindal power plant in Raigarh when a part of
the chimney fell on him. This is second death in a week and 3rd in
last 2 months. Govt had ordered work to be stopped on request from a
Govt company CMDC who said the plant is coming up on their land. Green
tribunal is also hearing the case. He demands a CBI enquiry on how
laborers are dying in a clsoed factory. For more Rajesh ji can be
reached at 09424183510

 

Listen to him click link below

http://www.cgnetswara.org/index.php?id=14305

#Chhattisgarh villagers plan ‘coal march’ to get mining rights on natural resources – Oct- 2


 

Location of Dantewada and Bastar districts, th...

Location of Dantewada and Bastar districts, the most affected regions in Chhattisgarh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Joseph John, TNN | Sep 28, 2012, 08.03PM IST

 

RAIPUR: Amid raging controversy over coal block allocations, Chhattisgarh is all set to witness a unique movement from October 2-Gandhi Jayanti day- when a group of villagers will start mining coal, demanding that local community be given mining rights on natural resources.

 

“Around 1000 villagers will break the coal law like Mahatma Gandhi led the movement against salt law. Local communities should have the first right on natural resources and not industrial houses”, Savita Rath of non-government organisation Jan Chetna Manch told TOI over telephone from Raigarh.

 

She said the villagers of Gare, Sarasmal and Khamharia in Tamnar block in Raigarh district would undertake a march to Gare mines to start mining of coal. The agitation is aimed at triggering a movement in the country against the plunder of natural resources on which the local communities have a natural first right, she said. Stating that more people from the nearby villagers have also pledged their support to the movement, Savita said the local communities could pay more royalty to the government than the industrial groups which had acquired coal blocks.

 

“If they are paying Rs 50 as royalty, we are ready to pay Rs 500”, she said. “The villagers have resolved not to allow the Jindal group to carryout coal mining in the area”, she said the government and the Raigarh district administration have already been informed about the proposed agitation.

 

 

 

Jindalgarh: Jindal All The Way– #Jindalistan #sundayreading


 

Manic markers? In advertising the O.P. Jindal Setu, built by JSPL over Raigarh’s Kelo river, the firm has perhaps gone over the call of duty.
 OUTLOOK MAGAZINE | SEP 24, 2012
Jindalgarh: Jindal All The Way
JSPL’s attempts to alloy itself to Raigarh have met with a steely resolve
Debarshi Dasgupta
 

Killed in a chopper crash in 2005, industrialist Om Prakash Jindal lives on in Raigarh, the heart of Chhattisgarh’s coal belt—not as Om Prakash, but ‘Omni Present’ Jindal. Visitors here are blitzed by O.P. Jindal’s name as also the green and saffron flag logo of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL), which he founded in 1989. Now managed by his son and Congress MP Naveen Jindal, the firm has been on overdrive, stamping its mark across the city. It hasn’t gone uncontested, though.

Whether it is the bridge that JSPL built over the Kelo river, promptly naming it the O.P. Jindal Kelo Setu; the road that it constructed alongside the river called, in keeping with form, the
O.P. Jindal Marine Drive; or the controversial naming of a major city thoroughfare as O.P. Jindal road, none can escape the Jindal patriarch’s reach in the city. Arrivals at the local government hospital are treated in the O.P. Jindal OPD block and residents of the nearby Pathalgaon Bal Ashram received goodies like bags and cots with Jindal stickers on them. The locals here are incessantly reminded of the Jindals’ munificence.


The town’s Jindal Open Cast Coal Mines. (Photograph by Jitender Gupta)

“Naveen Jindal wants to transform Raigarh into Jindalgarh,” says Rajesh Tripathy, a local activist. Subscribers to this view point to how the firm encroached and installed O.P. Jindal’s statue at a public roundabout on the national highway near the city a few years ago without the necessary clearances and despite public opposition. “The National Highway Authority of India told us they had not been granted permission,” adds Tripathy. Finally, the statue was relocated in 2011 to another roundabout on a road that cuts through JSPL’s plant. Jindalgarh also happens to be the name the firm has chosen to confer on a colony of its employees on the fringes of the city.

The obsessive desire to leave a mark and vociferous attempts at claiming credit for every task carried out as part of its corporate social responsibility leave no one in doubt that the Jindals want to make Raigarh synonymous with Jindal. Ajay Athaley, a Raipur-based theatre artiste, says, “Why must they shout to say they have done this or that? The government should instead place a sign saying the firm was bound to do it. They are not doing us a favour if a certain section of the profits goes to the city.” JSPL currently has a CSR budget of Rs 25.73 crore for the whole of Raigarh district; its profits in 2011-12 was Rs 4,002 crore.

In this region of Chhattisgarh, it isn’t photographs of CM Raman Singh that one can’t miss. It’s the pictures of a beatific Naveen Jindal pasted on hoardings across the area. One may be forgiven for thinking it’s some strange dictatorial land with a leader obsessed with propagating a cult of personality about himself. Even the hierarchy on JSPL’s signboards on public roads emphasises its units first, subsuming entire towns that follow the units on the boards.

Jayant Bohidar, local Congress worker and president of the Raigarh Zila Kisan Congress, says Naveen Jindal suffers from a “mania for propagating his family’s name”. Deepak Mishra, a former resident of this city, adds, “He wants the name ‘Jindal’ to be seen everywhere. The people should forget Raigarh. Jindal, Jindal, Jindal, Kahan jaana hai? Jindalgarh.” On the other hand, Hemant Verma, manager at JSPL for liaison and PR, says there is no attempt to make a Jindalgarh of Raigarh. He even suggested the statue was relocated from the highway not because of public pressure. “It was because of a Supreme Court ruling that prohibited it,” he qualifies.

As for the major thoroughfare rechristened O.P. Jindal Marg, few refer to it by its new name. For them, it has always been Laxmipur-Dhimrapur Marg and that looks likely to remain so—at least in Naveen Jindal’s lifetime.

 

JSPL guard part of plot to shoot RTI activist Ramsh Agarwal : Police


Ramesh Agarwal

Friday, 27 July 2012, Zee News
Staff Reporter In Raigarh

In a stunning revelation, the police claimed on Thursday that a security guard working with private steel major Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL) had hired contract killers to shoot a noted RTI activist who has a history of exposing industrial houses for flouting rules.

The police presented the three accused at a crowded Press conference in Raigarh town and said the interrogation revealed that the guard, who was working with JSPL through a security agency, had a key role in the daring attack on Ramesh Agrawal, 56, who was shot at twice in his office on July 7.

Agrawal was operated on more than once at a private hospital in Raipur and is still in the intensive care unit, though doctors have taken out both bullets from his body.

The accused security guard has been identified as Tarkeshwar Rai.

“Rai had given money to G Vyankatesh, who hired a few goons. The three of them have been arrested in Odisha last week and brought to Raigarh on transit remand. The attack plot was then revealed before the media by the police,” said Neha Pandey, Additional Superintendent of Police (city).

She added that the arrested men — Sunil Behra, Sanjay Das and Naresh Patro — were history-sheeters in the neighbouring Odisha, while one of the key accused, G Vyankatesh, was still at large.

“Sunil Behra revealed during police interrogation that he was given `10,000 to kill Agrawal. Police teams would soon be sent to track down Vyankatesh,” Pandey said.

Asked about motive behind the attack, Inspector General of Police Ashok Juneja told The Pioneer over the phone, “Very soon, the mastermind behind the attack will be in police clutches and then I will be able to give you more details about the sequence of the attack.”

JSPL has massive business interests in Raigarh district and Agrawal has a track record of lobbying against industries in the district.

In one of his most recent campaigns against the Jindal Group, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had, in April, cancelled environmental clearance granted for a 4-million tonne per annum coal mine to JSPL on the basis of documental evidence submitted by the RTI activist.

Agrawal had claimed before the tribunal that the mandatory public hearing held to clear the project did not follow accepted procedure.

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