People's war against environmental destruction

Magnus Bernhardsen magnus.bernhardsen at
Wed Jan 24 07:48:18 MST 2001

(I guess this document is from the CPI (ml) Peoples's War. I foreward especially
because it concerns a Norwegian TNC. Magnus)

Government Policy : Kill Tribals to Loot Mineral Wealth

On December 16 two platoons of armed police entered Maikanch village, in the Kashipur
region of Rayagada district in southern Orissa. They beat the women asking for the
whereabouts of the men who had fled to the hills. Hearing the attack on the women, the
men descended. As soon as the police saw them, they went berserk, opening fire at
random. They shot to kill. Three died on the spot and eight others were seriously
injured. This unprovoked firing is part of the attack by the government to crush the
growing resistance of the tribals to the huge baux­ite/aluminium mines planned in the
region. Ever since the rights to loot the rich aluminium deposits of Orissa was given
to the imperialist/comprador company 'Utkal Alumina' in 1993, there has been a war
raging in the forests of Rayagada. On the one side stands the TNC COMPANY, backed by
the entire political spectrum [BJP, BJD, Congress(I) etc], and the state machinery; on
the other side stand the tribals organised into a fighting force. Ever since the land
was handed over to the COMPANY in 1995, without so much as a paisa of compensation to
most tribals who do not have land records, the tribals have resisted. While the
COMPANY and their agents in the government and media spent lakhs propagating the
'great' advantages to the tribals of 'develop­ment'; the tribals have their own
experience with such projects. Road blockades, demonstrations and dharnas were
orga­nised in front of government offices at Kashipur and Rayagada. Survey teams of
the companies were denied access to the area. Day and night vigil was maintained to
prevent the entry of government and company officials. Every village was turned into a
fortress of resistance. On the other hand the COMPANY pumped in thousands of rupees to
create a pro-mining group comprising contractors, traders, pro­fessionals, sarpanches,
lumpens and touts to oppose the tribals. 'All Party Committees' were formed to back
the project. The local administration and police were mobilised to terrorise the
tri­bals. A day before the fir
 a meeting of the tribals who had gathered to plan a 'road blockade.' They were led by
BJP district president, Bhaskar Rao. The people foiled their attempts, chased the scum
out of their village, and continued with their meeting. To take revenge, these
politicians returned the next day with the armed police, massacring the tribals. This
is the real essence of the BJP's 'vanvasi' project !! And, as for the BJP's ally, who
runs the Orissa state government, the BJD, it has been holding rallies and meetings
attempting to mobilise public opinion in favour of the project. No doubt, the
commission they have re­ceived for their efforts is huge.

The COMPANY, Utkal Alumina, is a mining consortium comprising Aditya Birla's HINDALCO
and two multinationals - Hydro Aluminium (or Norsk Hydro) of Norway and ALCAN of
Canada. The entire project is of little value to India as it is 100% export-oriented.
The state government has no role in the mining project, except to seize the tribals
lands and hand it over to the COMPANY at the lowest possible costs. It is estimated
that a huge 1,750 hectares of land will be required for mining, the plant site, a
township and dumping spots. Apart from this, a stretch of land approximately 20 km
long and 50 metres wide will be required for conveyer and corridor maintenance. Most
of the tribal people do not register their land rights, though they have tilled the
land for generations. Most of the land in this region comprise forests and uplands.
Although the tribals in the lowland areas own land, their rights are not recorded, or
they have been cheated to record it in outsider's names. The uplands are also tilled,
where possible, and used for grazing. Ever since the finalisation of the project,
government officials say that the transfer of land has been made and the tribals have
to vacate. Egged on by the state government and local officials, the TNC-Birla combine
now claim that they are the real owner of the land, on which the tribals have lived
for centuries. Massive displacement of the population, destruction of the envi­ronment
and ecology by mining and industries, with no compensato­ry employment .... has been
the earlier experience of tribals in the neighbouring regions. Besides, if unopposed,
with mining being totally opened out to foreign capital, vast tribal areas of Orissa
face similar devas­tation. Orissa has a substantial proportion of the country's
deposits of chromium and nickel ores and also bauxite. The TNCs and compradors have
set their sights on the Kashipur region, which has a considerable concentration of
bauxite. In that re­gion, the Baphilimali hill is estimated to have deposits of 196
million tonnes of bauxit
 tonnes, and the Sasubohumali hill 86 million tonnes. Another 40 million tonnes lie in
the neighbouring Katuramali hill. These huge deposits are a veritable gold-mine for
the robber barons of 'economic reforms.'

The NALCO Experience

The tribals already have the experience of the public sector National Aluminium
Corporation Ltd, which is located just 100 kms from the proposed project site. Being a
PSU it promised one job for every family displaced and a re-settlement township. But
the results have been horrifying. The 're-settlement' is a defacto slum with little
civic amenities, the jobs are the mostly menial and of a casual nature, and the simple
tribals have been ruth­lessly exploited by the contractor-trader-officials combine,
even duping many of the girls into prostitution. Besides, the waste material spawned
by NALCO has destroyed the soil and polluted the water sources. Over and above this
the devastation caused by the recent breach in one of the ash ponds of the captive
power plant on December 31, 2000, has created even greater fear amongst the tribals.
The discharge of slurry has caused a flash flood in the Nadira river destroying houses
and depositing ash on thousands of acres of agricultural land. Neither compensation
nor assistance has been given to the tribals for the devastation caused. The captive
power plant of NALCO continues to release about 4,000 million tonnes of ash every day.
Since December 31, this is being re­leased into the rivers Nadira, Brahmani and
Kharasrota which are being heavily polluted. With such an example before it, it is no
wonder that the tribals of the Kashipur region are vehemently opposing the COMPANY.

The PW Example
With the CPI(ML)[People's War] squads already active in some nearby regions, the
tribals would be aware of the successful opposition by the PW to various mining,
hydro-electric and national park projects in the neighbouring Bastar region of MP.
>From experience they realise that it is only by relying on their own organised
strength and militant struggles that such projects can be successfully op­posed. They
see all the parliamentary parties acting as mere commission agents of these big
COMPANIES, and also the futility of non-violent forms of struggle like that of the
Narmada Bachao. Inspite of worldwide publicity, the dam on the Narmada continues to be
built; while the huge dams on the Indravati have been success­fully stopped and also
the bauxite and iron mining projects in North Bastar have been forced out of the area.
If the tribals of Kashipur continue on the path of struggle they will, no doubt, be
able to successfully protect their hearth and homes. In November 1998 a team from the
mining consortium was stopped by tribals and three members of the Norwegian company,
Norsk Hydro, were taken to a "public hearing", where they were made the reluctant
audience to a string of denunciations against the project. Before, they were released,
the three were asked to sign a statement criticising their own employers. The recent
police firing has, apparently led to the Norwegian company to re-think its
involvement. Besides, people's opposition has already stopped two other proposed
aluminium projects in the region. Hindalco's other proposed plant in Lakshmipur block,
and L&T's (Larsen & Tubro) project in Sungur (also in Kashipur block) have already
been stalled. It is a victory for the tribals against 'economic reforms.'

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