| Jharkhand Adivasis up against mining companies
|Step into Jharkahnd's Tentoposi village in Seraikela district and you will be greeted with hostile glances. Sitting on rich mineral reserves of iron ore, residents of this village are constantly under the fear of displacement and loss of livelihood sources.
Tata Steel has already announced that it will set up a 12-million tonne integrated steel plant in the area at an investment of Rs 42,000 crore and has signed mou with the state government.
The villagers suspect that there are people lurking around the village to usurp their land.
Hence, they are on alert. They have created a security cordon around the village. Volunteers, wielding bows and arrows, guard the barricaded village at all hours. No government official or a media person is allowed in.
Similar security cordons are common in Hazaribagh's Karanpura valley.
According to the state industries department, the valley has huge coal reserves; its Punkhri-Barwadih coal block alone has deposits of 1,400 million tonnes of thermal grade coal. Industries, including the National Thermal Power Corporation (ntpc), a public sector giant, have placed bids to mine the area. ntpc plans to set up a coal-fuelled power plant here. The project also envisages opencast mining to extract 15 million tones of coal a year, which is likely to displace 14,000 people?belonging to the Santhal, Ho and Munda tribes.
There are several other companies eying the rich mineral deposits of this tribal-dominated state. Since the state was carved out of Bihar in 2000, the state government has signed 44 mous with companies like Arcelor Mittal, Tata and Jindal for mega industrial ventures worth Rs 198,362.26 crore.
These prospective investors will acquire over 45,000 hectares and eventually displace more than 1,000,000 people, mostly from the east and west Singhbhum and Seraikela-Kharswan region, says Xaviar Dias, coordinator of Bindrai Institute of Research Study and Action (birsa), a Jharkhand-based tribal rights group.
Recent incidents at Singur (in West Bengal) and Kalinganagar (in Orissa) have incensed the tribals more. They have vowed to sacrifice their lives to protect their land rather than vacate it for industrial development. All villages where the industrial giants have announced to set up projects are currently under the vigilance of more than 60 tribal organizations. Under the banner of Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee (jmacc), these groups have announced a battle against mining and displacement. "The minerals will be tainted with blood if any of these companies dare to acquire even an inch of tribal land," says Puneet Minz, general secretary of jmacc. Minz refuses to divulge names or any information about the tribal groups involved in the anti-displacement movement. "Police and the state machinery are after us. Once we disclose the names, they will be either picked up or tortured to quit the movement," says Minz.
Movement in the making
The state government says the investments will help the state achieve its economic development goals. But the tribal groups have lost faith in the government, particularly after it signed the mous with the industrial giants without preparing a rehabilitation and resettlement (r&r) policy. Jharkhand still follows the rehabilitation policy of the Bihar government. The tribal groups also blame the government for repeatedly ignoring people's opinion while leasing out land for mining.
jmacc has released a list of eight public hearings, where the industrial giants received support from the government machinery to get the tribal opinion in their favour (see box: Public hearing facades).
"In Jharkhand, the government is the lawbreaker. The Chhottanagpur Tenancy Act, 1908, prohibits sell or transfer of land in scheduled areas to non-tribals. Then why is the government signing mous with mining companies," says Minz.
jmacc has chalked out a clear strategy to not let any mining company to set up projects in the state. It has already gone ahead alerting and educating people about how the companies cheat the displaced and has imposed a 'janta curfew' (a ban on entry of outsiders) in 30 villages where the industries have proposed to set up their projects. It is also pressing the state government to carry out a detailed survey of the displaced tribals and to frame the r&r policy with their consensus. It has urged the central government to include tribal people's right to land in the central r&r policy.
the tribal movement that is in the offing. "There is skepticism whenever the issue of displacement arises because of a new venture. We are a company that invests prominently in the social sector. Tata Steel will develope the village," said Prabhat Sharma, senior manager, corporate communication of Tata Steel. The state industry minister, Sudhir Mahato, says he is aware of the disgruntled tribal groups. "The industry department has nearly completed the r&r policy, which will be tabled before the cabinet in a month or two. It will address all contentious issues? and curb exploitation during displacement, " Mahato said.
Alternative to industries
The tribal groups involved in the movement refuse to be swayed by the assurances. The movement is not just to evade the problem of displacement, says Dias. We are committed not to let an inch of land go into the hands of industries, he says. jmacc has prepared a blueprint of how to earn the maximum revenue from the existing mines without leading to further exploitation.
"The existing mines of coal, iron ore, bauxite and other minerals are enough to bring fortune. The government just needs to treat minerals on the lines of the international oil cartel, the Organization of the Petroleum of Exporting Countries, and sell them directly in the international market. The central government should take an initiative in this direction. Or else, even if industrial giants like the Mittals pour in Rs 40,000 crore to establish plants in Jharkhand, it will be a bad deal for the state," says Minz.
As of now, jmacc and the tribal groups are aware of the confrontations lying ahead. But they are sure of winning the battle and say: we are not going to part with our jal, jangal and jamin.
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