A five member fact-finding team from
the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi (PUDR) visited parts of Rayagada and Kalahandi districts in Orissa from
16 to 21 April 2005 to examine the question of people’s rights in the context of acquisition of land, and resettlement
and rehabilitation, for three bauxite mining projects: Utkal Alumina in Tikiri and Kashipur PS areas, Aditya Alumina
in Tikiri PS of Rayagada district and Vedanta Alumina in Lanjigarh block of Kalahandi district. The team interviewed
numerous people from nine project-affected villages and one resettlement site. It also interviewed police officials in Tikiri
PS, and other state officials in Rayagada and Bhubaneshwar.
and the state government have painted a rosy picture of mining ushering in an era of development. Of jobs being created,
of people welcoming the mining companies and gladly giving up their land and home for a fair compensation package. They dismiss
any opposition to the projects as merely irrational behaviour on the part of the oustees instigated by “outsiders”.
The reality that confronted us was overwhelmingly different. The real story of alumina is that of an unstated and unequal
war being waged by the government, the companies and their paid goons against some of the poorest peasants of the land, largely
tribal and dalit. Land from which they will be dispossessed – those displaced may get alterative housing, very few may
get jobs and no one gets cultivable land. So the future for the majority, if not for all, is an extremely uncertain one. People’s
consent for this process is being obtained, or, in other words, their opposition is being silenced, through coercion, half-truths
1. THE FRAUDULENT MANUFACTURING OF CONSENT
1.1 The vagueness of the
initial surveys: In numerous instances, we were told of people not being informed about why a survey was being conducted
in their area. In Ramibeda village, for instance, the surveyors, on being asked, were extremely vague about it. In Kendukhunti
village, people were told the survey was for children’s education and it is only much later that they realised it was
meant for mining. This is seemingly a way to ensure that opposition to UAIL is muted but is also a violation of Section 5.1
of the National Policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation of Project Affected Families, 2003. The lack of information also
led to people being excluded simply because they had seasonally migrated for work at that time.
1.2 How the ‘consultation’
has happened: In order to pay lip-service to the Constitutional requirement that residents cannot be alienated from their
lands in the Vth Schedule areas without their consent, the Collector is holding palli sabhas (hamlet meetings) with armed
presence of 2-3 platoons of police. At
D.Karal (Kashipur), the palli sabha, which accepted compensation for their land, was held with the police cordoning off the
whole village. Villagers allege that in the meetings, they are not asked what they want; they are told what to do. With the
threat of police or state action against them, the villagers are afraid to speak their mind in the meetings. And where they
do, and question the mining or the validity of the compensation offered, they are made to shut up. The minutes of such meetings,
bearing the decisions and resolutions are sometimes in English, their contents hardly ever explained to the village representatives
before they sign it. In Puhundi gram sabha on 17 March (re. the Aditya Alumina project), residents were asked to sign on blank
paper. The decisions of that sabha are as yet unknown to them.
A similar requirement of the Orissa State Pollution Control
Board led to a meeting at village Phulajuba of Kashipur on 27 November 2004. The notice was published on 25 October giving
no details whatsoever of the environmental threat due to the project or the result of any study in this regard conducted by
the SPCB. The minutes of the meeting in English contain responses to the project by 18 persons – 15 of them generally
welcomed the project and 3 expressed specific fears. There is no attempt to gather the views of the entire gathering or hold
a vote. The minutes disregard the specific fears mentioned and conclude that people approve of the project and provide vague
and meaningless recommendations. The village representatives are made to sign without explaining to them the contents of the
In the case of
UAIL, the government tried to bypass the requirement of gram sabha’s consent for 7 years. And today a sham of gram sabha
consent is being obtained when the compensation has already been paid and the acquisition underway. All the above make the
entire exercise a farcical one, besides of course being a violation of the Constitution’s 73
1.3 Making false promises:
It’s not as if everyone who accepted compensation or welcomed mining did so under threat. A sizeable number of villagers,
some of whom our team met, are looking forward to the mining, dreaming of jobs and money. Feeding on their poverty and lack
of exposure to the market, the company is weaving a web of absurd promises. Illiterate villagers are being promised jobs with
salaries of Rs 8000, in some cases the figure went up to Rs 15,000, a figure even the police OIC Tikiri found absurd. There
are vague promises of permanent jobs once the mines and the factories are built. Truth is, all the work the company has generated
so far is that of unskilled daily labour (which some of them believe to be permanent).
THE USE OF COERCION
2.1 Intimidating presence
of police: The first thing that struck us as we started our journey from Rayagada is the number of guns we saw. The area
is teeming with armed policemen, including Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) personnel. One should remember that this is happening
after police bullets claimed three lives and injured many more in Maikanch village in 2000. And the PK Misra commission,
which investigated the incident, had attributed the escalation of tensions to the large armed police presence in the predominantly
tribal area. Today again terror is in the air. Another Maikanch is just waiting to happen.
In an area that
desperately needs more schools and healthcare facilities, money is being spent to set up a new police outpost on the company’s
properties as at Doraguda near
D.Karal village, that too against the expressed wish of villagers and their panchayat. For all practical purposes, the police
are acting like a private army for the company. They are operating out of UAIL premises, and village eyewitnesses allege that
the food for the camping policemen comes from the company.
The terror tactics
are many. According to the villagers of Bagrijhola, Doraguda and Kucheipadar, the policemen from Tikiri PS routinely raid
village haats in search of people from the protesting villages wanted in one criminal case or another. Not just the
leaders or activists, all villagers live under the shadow of arbitrary arrests. You never know whether you’ll get back
home, or spend the night in a police lock-up. And it’s not just the police. Numerous people have told us that criminal
elements hired by the police have been threatening people. Worse, it is alleged that some of these goons were responsible
for the killing of an activist of the Niyamgiri Surakhya Samiti, Sukru Majhi, in Lanjigarh.
allege that on 1 December 2004 the OIC of Tikiri PS, KC Mund publicly threatened to rape adivasi women if they continued to
resist the forcible setting up of a police outpost at D.Karal village. When asked by our team he denied it, rhetorically
asking in turn why he would desire to rape 45-50 year old adivasi women.
Presence of the
gun, threat of arrests and false cases, is forcing people to sign statements vowing not to oppose the mining project. A case
in point is the sarpanch of Maikanch village who ‘surrendered’ when threatened with arrest warrants when a hundred
CRPF personnel were planted in the village for over a month.
2.2 Arbitrary and false cases:
Through the last year there have been at least six criminal cases registered against those who oppose the UAIL project
– every protest demonstration leading to at least one case of rioting against scores of named and unnamed ‘others’.
Those arrested stay at least a month in jail since the district court routinely refuses bail.
In Kashipur it’s a crime to hold an opinion against
the UAIL, let alone refusal to give up one’s land and livelihood or organising protests. While the police claim that
they are impartial, and their presence is just to maintain peace between the anti-mining and pro-mining groups, the fact of
the matter is that only those protesting against the UAIL project are being arrested. All the cases registered in the context
of mining are against the protesters.
IMPACT UPON PEOPLE
3.1 The illusion of jobs:
While it is being repeated ad nauseum that the projects will generate the much needed employment for the local people,
but even a cursory look at the rehabilitation package indicates that the companies are not committed to providing the same.
In the case of Aditya Alumina project, the Collector has been empowered to decide whether to employ a displaced person
or give a lump sum payment instead. And a “displaced person” is one whose family loses their home. No one from
a family that loses all its land, and consequently their livelihood, is entitled to a job.
In the best-case
scenario there’d be a job for one person per family, provided he or she is qualified for that job. It doesn’t
take long to see how inadequate that is, and a number of resettled people we met are already questioning it. With the education
infrastructure being what it is, how many families would have a member who can be trained for a skilled industry job? Vedanta
Alumina is training some resettlers in an ITI in Bhawanipatna, 27 are doing the course this far, of a hundred families settled
There are other
questions asked: would one job feed a full family like the land used to? Unlike land, a job can’t be divided, shared
or collectively worked on. So it irrevocably changes the relationship within the family – to one of dependence. This
is most marked for the older people who are unemployable as far as the companies are concerned.
The jobs created
by mining are also not sustainable. The villagers had worked on their land for generations. The jobs however will last only
as long as the mine; and with the latest extraction refinery technology, that is not very long. A refrain we heard often was,
“One of our generation may get a job, what about our children?”
3.2 Serious lacunae in rehabilitation:
Firstly, Orissa lacks a comprehensive policy for rehabilitation. Some slip-shod arrangement is made in consultation
with the company for each project leading to arbitrariness and inadequacies.
no compensation is being offered for the forest resources produce such as fruits, roots, fodder etc. that the villagers presently
depend upon for a substantial part of the year. Thirdly, the dangar lands which are the only means of livelihood for
the landless are not even being compensated for – a violation of S.3.1(e) of the National Policy on Rehabilitation,
Moreover, use of water resources are
not specific to those being ‘displaced’ or those ‘affected’. They are used by villages situated downstream
and this impact has not been accounted for. In a clever maneuver, the government is putting the entire focus in the package
on land and household. In the agenda set by the state, compensation for lost natural resources isn’t even making it
to the bargaining table.
In any case people have little idea
whether the rehabilitation policy is being followed – they do not have access to the policy document. What the official
survey has concluded is also unknown to them – both the draft document prepared by the Collector or the final document
emanating from Bhubaneshwar are unheard of in the displacement villages.
If people feel the urge to address
these lacuane, they have little space. The redressal authority resides in Berhampur, hundreds of kilometres away. Most people
are illiterate, unable to write out their grievances. The local rehabilitation administrator does not speak to zilla parishad
members, let alone to individual oustees.
3.3 Environmental impact:
Mining in these three projects has not begun as yet, but experience suggests disastrous environmental consequences. Mining
in the Gandharmardhan Mines in the 1980s had resulted in serious water pollution and silting of irrigation projects. More
recently, mining in Damanjodi has resulted in the disappearance of one stream.
The expected impact of the three ongoing projects will be siltation of the water channels and minor
irrigation projects, reduction or stoppage in the flow of and pollution of local streams originating from the hills that will
be mined. Our team was told that about twenty streams emerge in the vicinity of Baphlimali (UAIL project) that run through
twenty-two villages around the hill. Even a partial drying of these streams will mean that a very large number of people will
be adversely affected both in agriculture and everyday tasks. Additionally, large tracts of forest form part of the mining
zones and face certain destruction.
This huge environmental impact probably
accounts for why Vedanta is today carrying on with construction activity of its refinery plant without obtaining environmental
clearance for the entire project – a blatant violation of the Environment (Protection)Act which stipulates that a project
cannot be subdivided in order to ease the clearance procedures. So the company and the government in tow, submitted the refinery
project for clearance without mentioning the mining project integral to the refining activity. Thus the large scale destruction
of forest land essential to the survival of two wildlife sanctuaries was omitted from the application for clearance. Additionally,
the tracts of forest falling in the refinery site were also not stated. Clearance being obtained on the basis of fraud, the
company started construction, which continues even today. With the guarantee that once sufficient investment is made, clearance
for the forest destruction would be granted by governments easily malleable to the interests of industry.
THE ANTI-PROJECT STRUGGLES CONTINUE
Villages like Kucheipadar have clearly
refused to part with their land. Even people who had accepted compensation for their lands are protesting against the farcical
packages offered. People of Ramibeda, Lower Karal and Kendukhunti have been on strike since April 1, refusing to do any work
for UAIL, and sitting on a public dharna demanding a better package. They want land compensation at Rs. 3 lakhs per acre and
a written agreement with the company guaranteeing jobs for all adult members of the family for the entire period of company’s
Likewise, the Puhundi village, whose
land is being required by Aditya Alumina, has refused the company’s package and has put forward its own charter of demands
which include better compensation rates and compensation for the resources apart from the land, as well as sustainable livelihood.
In all other places people are unhappy
– wishing their lives had not been disrupted in this vulgar way. Yet unable to find a way to express their wishes and
grievances, their resentment is vented only in private conversations. Those displaced by the Vedanta project appeared lost
and unsure about what awaits them. Many have no work to do and have begun to realise that concrete blocks of houses and cash
cannot really compensate for the lost land that provides livelihood down generations.
To conclude, our team
saw communities losing their land, their homes, their traditional rights over the forests and the streams, and also their
right to organise and struggle for a just future. High sounding phrases like ‘national interest’ and ‘public
purpose’ have been ways that have led to pauperization and displacement of lakhs of poor tribals and other marginalized
communities. This process needs to be prevented if democracy and fundamental rights are to retain any meaning.
Given the above, PUDR demands:
- that the police and forces of the
Indian Reserve Battalion be withdrawn from the project areas immediately;
false cases foisted against those opposing these projects be withdrawn, and the hunt for activists in the area by the police
be stopped forthwith;
- an enquiry be conducted into the
death of Sukru Majhi in Lanjigarh;
- action be taken against those responsible
for the three deaths in the Maikanch firing of 16 December 2000;
- the ‘consent’ taken from
the people through coercive gram sabha and palli sabha meetings be scrapped; detailed survey reports, environmental
impact studies and technical feasibility studies be made available in an accessible form to people and their organizations;
- and finally, given the seeming impossibility
of just rehabilitation and compensation, that the three projects be comprehensively reviewed, and, if necessary, scrapped.