Bloodbath in Orissa

Tribals up in arms against anti-people developmentBasudev Mahapatra BhubaneshwarThe excitement of new year on January 2 at 11 a.m. was still in the air when people living in the villages in and around Kalinga Nagar Industrial Complex, Jajpur district, near the capital Bhubaneshwar, came to know that TISCO had set heavy earthmovers and machineries to level the fields still under their possession. Soon people came out with lathis and other available weapons like bows and arrows. They congregated near the site and marched in groups towards the TISCO site to protest against such work without any prior notice to people.The police tried to stop them by first flinging tear gas canisters. Next it tried rubber bullets. The march kept on. Finally, real bullets were fired by the police on the people at 12:30 p.m. The congregated mass dispersed. Twelve civilians and one policeman succumbed. This incident brought to fore the anti-people development led by the Orissa chief minister, Naveen Pattnaik and his band of ministers. Opposition took political mileage out of it. The government in its defence turned on the Jajpur district collector (DC) and the superintendent of police (SP), who were not even present at the site, according to eyewitnesses. The DC and SP were dutifully transferred. The additional DM, Kalinga Nagar, Santh Gopalan, was believed to have given the order to fire at the mass,  till it later came to light that the tahsildar, Kalinga Nagar had signed the order restricting the police officials to fire below waist. But the police people forgot about all restrictions while firing and even didn't hesitate to mutilate the dead bodies. However, nobody including the new DC dares to confirm this because the state government has ordered for a judicial probe into the matter. Additional pressure, as the state and its adjoining areas erupted in protest, led to the government increasing the ex gratia to be paid to the next of kin of the victims of the police firing from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. The chief minister also directed that a person from each affected family be provided a job in the government or in a public sector undertaking and the injured persons should get an ex-gratia of Rs 50,000. He is reported not to have even visited the site. As part of the political mileage, Congress party head Sonia Gandhi announced a grant of Rs 5 lakh from the central government and another Rs 1 lakh from the All India Congress Committee to the surviving families of those killed in the police firing. While the majority, including Bharatiya Janata Party, a partner of the ruling coalition said that the police, intelligence and district administration were responsible, some district officials and ministers maintained that the police was compelled to fire because of the aggression of the tribal protestors who were armed and first attacked the police with lathis and bows and arrows. Reacting to such a statement the group of tribal people gathered at Ambagadia said, 'Neither the police nor the officials know how the tribals attack. Not a single policeman would have gone alive from the place if we had used our bows and arrows against them. Our people died with bullets; did a single police officer die with our arrows? How can they blame us like this? However, it won't be the same in future. We will definitely use our bows and arrows to protect ourselves and our rights.'The Kalinga Nagar incident is not the first where people protesting against industrialisation-led development were greeted by a trigger-happy police. Maikanch and Kashipur against the Utkal Alumina project were earlier instances (see Hardnews October 2005 'Kashipur: Force-fed "development"' by Nagraj Adve). Tribals have registered protest at the Vedanta Alumina project site at Lanjigarh. These past incidents were not forgotten. Struggling fisherfolk of Chilika had also fallen prey to the bullets of Orissa's police.The issue remains the same. The government of Orissa has signed memoranda of understanding with over 40 steel and aluminium companies to set up their plants in Orissa. The affected, mostly tribal, lack the records to support their stake. The procedure of trying to prove their case is lengthy and difficult. The rehabilitation package is not fair; nor is it drawn uptaking those most affected into consultation. In the Kalinga Nagar TISCO project, the rehabilitation package was neither declared in time nor was made public. The decided price of the land was much less than peoples' expectation. Still they had to sell it to the Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO), government’s land acquiring agency, under the threat that government would take their land anyhow even if they do not agree to sell it at the fixed price. For the said project, IDCO acquired the lands at Rs 35,000 per acre during 1992-94 and which are now sold at Rs 3,50,000 to the company. "Instead of looking after our rights and interest, our government is keen to protect the interest of industrialists. It is trading our interests. It is making huge profit from our land. But when we just demand our share, they simply kill us. It is not our government. It is another East Indian Company," complained Devendra Jarika whose family has lost about 15 acres for this project. The affected families are offered Rs 50,000 and 10 decimal of land to build their house. According to Damodar Hansda, an affected person, 'The compensation is the same for a broken-down hut and a well-built house worth Rs 2 lakh. The worst is that there is no house in compensation before they are ousted from their existing houses and provided with the monetary compensation. An interim of Rs 2,000 is given for accommodation until the new house is built. The housing allowance is again given in three instalments. There is no consideration for the time taken to build a new house and housing until then. Those not keen on land and the allowance are paid Rs 2 lakh. To us, money is not a solution. We rely on land and natural resources for sustenance. Once that goes, what will people do? As promised by the companies, they will put only one member of the family on job, that to if the family forgoes 70 per cent of its land. What will the other members of the family do? They won't have the lands to continue agriculture. So we need minimum land for agriculture as a part of compensation.'The industrial-mining complexes are planned adjacent to forests, on which tribals depend for their livelihood. Development packages do not take this into account. Those resident in the forests cannot be simply dislocated and provided with economy-type houses in rehabilitation colonies. Instead of working on a people-friendly rehabilitation package, the government is supportive of the large industries even through their defiance of standard guidelines. In the Vedanta Allumina Project at Lanjigarh, there are standing rules for adequate plantation before deforestation which the company has never taken seriously. Laxman, tribal leader at Kalinga Nagar, is scornful of such development. 'Whose development? Tata company? Other industrial houses? Or, the politicians themselves? If the government speaks of our development then I will ask one question. What development is the government planning by killing us or ordering a massacre in the state?' Sini Soi, the mother of Bhagaban who died in police firing at Kalinga Nagar, added, "We have seen many industries set here: Nilachal Ispat Nigam Ltd (NINL), Med-east Integrated Steel Ltd (MISL) of Mesco group, VISA Steels, and Jindal Stainless Steel Ltd (JSSL), among so many others. The people who were comfortably off when the government acquired land for industries are now working as daily wage labourers or begging on the road side. Have they fulfilled the rehabilitation packages declared by them? How many local boys and girls are employed in those industries? Whoever works is either a peon or a driver or a domestic servant in the houses of big bosses. Is this what you mean by development?"These campaigns of mass eviction in the name of rapid industrialisation are aimed at the benefit of large multinational and Indian monopoly houses. Kalinga Nagar or Kashipur, it's the same story. People know that eviction spells extinction and are offering a determined resistance. Police excesses have only strengthened the resolve of tribals not to vacate their land and encouraged them to continue to resist against the handover of natural resources to corporations. Tribal communities from across Orissa and neigbouring states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have gathered enough strength to go for a massive campaign against such pro-corporate rehabilitation policies. Families displaced by SAIL's Rourkela steel plant are pressuring the government to settle their problems. Under pressure, the state governmenthas finally promised to develop an updated and effective rehabilitation policy in three months. But this assurance is not enough. The employees of the projects are not secure and are hiring private security. The government nonetheless continues to bulldoze its way through state-wide bandhs, weeklong blockade of highways, and worries about the sustainability of such investments in the face of high local opposition and hostile public reception.