Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hydro-development & mining - of no benefit to Orissa, India's rural people

State Of Disgrace


Even on his pet industrialisation front, Navin’s report card is singularly bare. The ambitious Posco steel plant at Paradeep, the biggest of them all, has run into such rough weather that it is unlikely to take off in the foreseeable future. After burning its fingers in Kalinganagar, the government is wary of using force to break the resistance. It has even stepped aside and allowed the company to deal directly with the people for land. But that does not appear to have helped matters. The other two big-ticket investment proposals – Vedanta Alumina in Lanjigarh (Kalahandi) and Mittal steel plant in Patna (Keonjhar) – have fared no better. If anything, the movement against these two plants is getting stronger by the day. The mega UAIL alumina project, of course, has been in a limbo for nearly a decade now.

Kalahandi, Raygada, Jharsuguda, Sundargarh, Keonjhar – you name it, the resistance against industry is spreading rapidly throughout the state. People are skeptical about claims that industry will bring jobs for those who are going to be displaced. Similar promises made by industries that have already gone on stream have not been kept, so there’s no reason to believe that things would be different now or in the future. If anything, the scope for employing local people – a significant proportion of whom are tribals and semi literates – is diminishing fast with high technology and increased mechanisation. The locals see the promise of jobs is a mere ploy to make them vacate their land.

In the aftermath of the Kalinganagar bloodbath, the Navin Patnaik government sought to assuage the hurt of the people by coming out with a rehabilitation and reconstruction (R & R) policy. Though claimed as the best in the country, there were few takers for this sop and understandably so. After all, nearly a decade after being driven out of their homes to make way for the joint venture Nilachal Ispat Nigam Limited (NINL), just 115 of the 650 families have been rehabilitated so far. Even those who got the mandatory 10 decimal piece of land are yet to get the patta. If this was the more recent experience, the past experience has been much worse. By the government’s own admission, over 9, 000 families displaced by the first major developmental project in the state, the Hirakud dam, are yet to be rehabilitated.

Navin Patnaik may have become the darling of industrialists and the pink papers, but his affair with them has soured his relationship with the people of the state. If he has acquired even an iota of political understanding during his seven-year rule as Chief Minister, he can see that the industrialisation drive could well prove to be his undoing. May be he has already realised that. But so powerful are the forces that he has unleashed with his single-minded pursuit of industrialisation in the last three years that it would be very difficult for him to put the genie back in the bottle.

Here is the full article.