Your questions and my reply
First of all, I would like to know what is the status of bauxite mining in Kashipur today? Everything I read about the mining in Kashipur is dated from over 1 year ago. What is happening?
Answer : Now UAIL has hundred percent investment of ADITYA BIRLA COMPANY OF INDIA. Recently we came to know, in December 2008 when an elected assembly committee visited the aera, that still the company does not have environment permission nor mining permission from the central government. But since 2005 they have been trying to complete the construction work of plant site and railway track. Some times people oppose , come on to the company’s area to stop the work, sit on a dharna and the company stops its construction work. Again police intervenes, forces the villagers to leave the company’s place and company resumes its work. From 2005 this has happened atleast ten to twelve times where local people, in hundreds, came and sat before the gate of the company and force to stop it. Then police came to threaten of arrest and torture. More recently on 17th December 2008 local villagers sat on a dharna and stoped construction work. But on 15th January, police became successful to break it.
But still Aditya Birla has not yet completed its construction work of the plant site. So they have not gone for production neither at the plant site nor at mining site.
I would also like to know what is happening with the Adivasis and the Dalits from Kashipur? Is the government helping them in any way? Compensations? and what about the "Fifth Schedule"?
Answer ; The proposed bauxite mining and alumina plant of the UAIL is a plan of the company and the government to accumulate corporate profit in name of economic development of the area as well as of the nation. We have seen it in many areas and the same is in kashipur. UAIL earlier gave compensation against land (per acer) in 1996 and enhanced the price in 2002. Except this and a non-permanent home in the rehabilitation colony (constructed in 2005) for the physically displaced families, local people have not got any thing. The jobs for the displaced families promised by the company have not yet been given even after four years of their displacement, not at the construction site even. The displaced families are working as contract labor with no work no pay condition with the constructors.
In 2007, cholera deaths happened in kashipur and nearly 200 people died in two months out of one lakh population of this area. But neither the company nor the government did effective steps to check it. During this one year in post cholera epidemic situation they have not taken any permanent majors to improve the health standard of the area.
This area comes under fifth schedule and in 2004. UAIL and government of Orissa sought pallisabha (local village) consent and they got it from those who were later left their houses and went to rehabilitation colony in 2005. (The number of displace families is same as in 1996)
Concretely, what is the government doing to help the development in Kashipur?
Is Shri Naveen Patnaik to working to close with the mining companies? Should the government act as a neutral regulator?
Answer: government is not taking any special majors for the development of the region. I am not finding any special plan of the government looking to industrial pollution, water scarcity, air pollution and migration, going to happen due to the project in the future.
It is not new that Naveen Patnaik is working closely with mining company. If it is not true, then how a company dares to work without permission from the central government. Even Indian judiciary is not willing to listen it. PSSP sent letter to the court months back but did not get any reply of it. The state administration was also informed but there is no result of it.
Had the government acted as a neutral regulator, it would have listened why people are resisting for such a long time.
What about the companies? Which company is working in the bauxite mining in Kashipur at the moment? How close is the police with the mining companies?
Answer; it is UAIL now but with hundred percent investment of Aditya BIrla, an Indian company. Since its beginning police has played a very hostile role. In my case I have many criminal cases (10/12) against me. Before the state and police I am a criminal because of my support to the kashipur struggle. For this, I can be arrested at any time if my movement comes into knowledge of police. Similarly, there is one hundred fifty criminal cases against the people of kashipur in which more than one thousand people are in “criminal list” of the government. Whoever comes in front in organizing the event, making public speech, giving statements to the public, move around villages to tell the truth like us are definitely be listed as dacoit, attempt to murder, disrupting the movement of government officials, arson etc. So police is playing as hired goons of the company.
What is the role of PSSP with the bauxite mining in Kashipur? What are the actions? What is your solution?
Answer: PSSP is still opposing the mining company. With the local villagers it is sitting on dharna to stop the work. Now a days PSSP believes that the government should concentrate more on development of the locality as well as all affected families and pressurize the company to do so as promised earlier. Otherwise the company should leave the area. It is a shifting in the ideological position of PSSP between 1995-2007 and post 2007. Because of heavy repression and flow of unaccounted money in the area, PSSP was forced to soften its stand and in its way “otherwise/if” came.
PSSP has gone for direct action with families those are already displaced and those have received compensation. There is still few villages who have refused the compensation like Kucheipadar, Bagrijhola and D Karol. They are active in PSSP. Besides dharna and rally at Rayagada, district headquarter and in Bhubaneswar, state capital are part of the collective actions of these people.
It is the role of the government to listen the voices of people and give priority to it while talking about development of the nation. A nation can not exist without existence of its citizens. A company’s growth and profit is not the priority of a nation and should not be a priority rather its citizens.
What do you think,yourself as an individual, of a solution? Is there one? Is it possible to not do mining at all or have better working environment?
Answer : In a healthy democratic system, always the government should give priority to the people’ opposition to its own decision. People’ resistance is the voice of own development of local community. Secondly, in the capitalistic development, mining per se is a process and without mining growth of capital can not be possible. On the other hand, mining for capital development is profit oriented and it has gone against the community at the local level and society at the larger level every where, whether in US, in Canada or in third world countries in Africa and Asia. Many tribal communities got devastated due to mining in Australia also about which news are also coming up.
I am not coming up to the debate whether we want mining or not and if yes what type. Rather we should engage ourselves into the debate that what mining in those years had given to us. This would stretch into the debate of development- what the community wants and what the government and the company are giving.
If we concentrate more on environment then we should not go for more production to keep ourselves competitive in the global market and for higher GDP growth to show that our standard of living is improving. In reality, the standard of living of few sections of people is improving. Those improved sections, in my experience, are talking more about protection of environment (with few exceptions also). For example, much heard of Global Warming is coming from these sections now. But behind global warming a class factor is also there.
What do you see for the future in Kashipur? What would you like to see?
Answer: it is very difficult to say. Apart from UAIL more bauxite mining and alumina plant are in queue. All are watching the success of UAIL. If succeeds then the same devastation will happen what is happening in other mining area. This is well imagined. Because it is neither the government nor the company are serious about Kashipur.
If resistance succeeds then at least devastation will not happen but standard of living will not improve much. If government gives emphasis on agricultural development of the area (because most of them are agriculturists) and cooperative system is emerged for selling of their produces (with active role of government atleast to protect them from clutches of traders) then it would help the local community to improve. It does not need money for the government rather it needs willingness and a political conviction for the ruling party. People on their own or the community is not in a position to do it. In those years we on behalf of PSSP tried to do it but failed due to many external factors.