Land to Tribal: Government’s New Device to Deceive or is Real?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

“I am talking about millions of men whom they have knowingly instilled with fear and a complex of inferiority, whom they have infused with despair and trained to tremble, to kneel and behave like flunkeys”. ( A.Cesaire in ‘Discourse on Colonialism’ ).

When majority of our people is in such a pusillanimous state, tribals are distinctly different. Soft like children in heart, they are like lions in attitude. They constitute the majority amongst all segments of inhabitants in Orissa. They never hesitate to hit back on reaching the limit of endurance. Not only as Bhagavati Panigrahi had told of Ghinua in his famous story ‘Shikar’, but also as witnessed in present days, a tribal fearlessly reports to police with chopped off head of a person whose tortures he was no more able to endure. This disposition, the government knows, is conducive to spread of ultra left influence, as it also knows that Naxal activism has grown more discernibly in the tribal dominated areas of Orissa, which are worst hit by the anti-people alliance of political administration with private and foreign industries. As most correctly interpreted and established by Felix Padel (author of ‘The sacrifice of human being: British rule and the Konds of Orissa’) and Samarendra Das, this alliance has pushed the tribals of Orissa into a state of living death.

“…..seeing the sudden confiscation of the land where their ancestors lived and the collapse of their communities, no longer able to grow their own food and forced to eke a living through degrading, exhausting coolie work for the very projects which destroyed their homes, Orissa’s displaced Adivasis exist in a living death, witnessing the extermination of all they have valued” ( Anthropology of Genocide: Tribal Movements in Central India against Over-Industrialization, 2006).

Naturally, therefore, retaliation is what is logically expected of them. Howsoever the governments brand it as Maoism, the fact in reality is that tribal endurance reaching its limit, the sleeping lions in tribal hearts has started roaring. The Maoists, as per their agenda, are adding ideological strength to this roar.

Therefore the governments, both in the Center and the State, headed respectively by Manmohan Singh and Naveen Patnaik, whose priority on private industry and imperialism is more defined and discernible than on the people, are in nervousness and impatience. They have been using all possible tricks to suppress and silent the rising tribals.

When they have been using state-terror of the most heinous and monstrous type as witnessed in killing of tribals in Kalinganagar or Maikanch and seen in arrests of hundreds of them under false charges, because the industries want the treasure of ores that Mother Nature has stashed below the lands the tribals dwell, they are also assuring them with allocation of land in exchange of the land the rich men need. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is an instant of this mischief.

Originally moved as the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005 in the Parliament on 13 December 2005, it had to suffer the attacks from Indian Parliamentarians that, eager to oblige the industries for reasons best known to them, were in mentality against the tribes. Eventually, it metamorphosed to “The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006” and with President’s assent on 29 December 2006, came into force. But has it given the tribals the benefits it had pronounced? Has any tribal displaced by industries and their agents in power been allotted with the alternative land of his choice? How far it is implemented?

Council of Social Development (CSD), New Delhi, had taken a stock of its implementation in 2010. A synopsis of its findings makes it clear that “all of the key features of this legislation have been undermined by a combination of apathy and sabotage during the process of implementation. ……. The testimonies made it clear that this is not merely a result of bureaucratic failure; both the Central and the State governments have actively pursued policies that are in direct violation of the spirit and letter of the Act”.

So, the spirit of the Act was being killed by the administration in nexus with the mafia when the central government had been asserting to use helicopters to shoot at the tribals opposed to displacement, in the name and design of getting rid of Maoists, as to it, the rebels in the forests were Maoists.

Manmohan Singh’s meretricious tears for the tribals threadbare exposed by the social and official audit organizations such as CSD and CAG, and by the very fact that the Act of 2006 is more violated than implemented, special funds are being addressed to development of areas where tribal disposition is adding strength to ultra left bodies, so that people in the grassroots may stay away from rebellious agendas. To further the conspiracy against the people, Dr. Singh is actively for developmental investments from corporate companies so that they shall emerge as de facto government exactly as the East India Company had emerged as the government of India.

And, his Orissa supplementer Naveen Patnaik, who, as Chief Minister, did not bother to utter even a single word of sympathy to the family members of the tribals that were brutally exterminated by his police at Kalinganagar simply because of their opposition to hijacking of their habitat by Tata, has been working upon a scheme to allocate around an acre of lands to every tribal family living in 17,974 hamlets under 118 tribal dominated Blocks shrouded by ultra left influence. On Wednesday, minds were steered into this scheme in the highest level of administration.

The contemplated scheme is aimed at assuaging the piling up anger of tribal people of Orissa over their enforced displacement and continuous threat to their natural habitats and living environment as one after one eco-systems that they depend upon for their livelihood are being handed over to private industries, shattering their every dream to live peacefully in their soil.

But the scheme shall not work. It cannot give economic emancipation to the tribals. it cannot help their habitats substituted.

Firstly, the bureaucratic conduct witnessed in the Forest Rights Act will not be – and in a corrupt environment that has engulfed Orissa, can never be – congenial to implementation of this scheme in right earnest.

Secondly, the tribals, who from birth are habituated in their own traditional, yet, peculiar process of fetching their livelihood to their satisfaction from the forest land they belong to, will not be able to use the new land in their own method, if at all they are allotted with any.

Thirdly, the new allocations will give them dry lands away from the cooling trees and streams. One acre of such dry land will never be cultivable economically and hence will be of no use to the tribals except fetching a supposedly small sum of money by mortgaging the same to land grabbers, from whom the same would never be retrieved. The planners know it and the people too.

So the scheme to provide the tribals with around an acre of land per family to justify the official acquisition of tribal lands for industry, will push them further into penury with no scope of rescue.

This is going to happen to the majority portion of our countrymen, because the governments run by collaborators of industry and imperialism are determined to handover our hills to be mined by corporate companies, who, if the central government’s scheme to make them major players in area development works, will eventually turn people dependent on them, consequent upon which, the company that would be addressed to for development of the area, will emerge as the de facto government just as the East India Company had become the government.

If constitutional authorities like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik are not for such an undesirable scenario, it is incumbent upon them – as they run the governments – to desist from giving the corporate companies priority over the people and to frame and enforce laws for community cultivation of lands as only thereby fragmentations thereof under laws of inheritance can be stopped and scientific cultivation can commence. Instead of creating image of industries as providers of funds for development, they should frame and enforce laws for imposition of ceiling on accumulation of wealth in private hands and as Indira gandhi had done in respect to agricultural lands, should confiscate ceiling surplus wealth for use in mass development programs. Ceiling on personal wealth will also stop corruption.

To begin with, Orissa government must not proceed with allocation of a mere acre of land to each tribal family as is being contemplated. Instead, it should first earmark consolidated plots of land congenial to tribals and put that consolidate patch under their collective ownership in identified villages, to be managed by their commune democratically. As for example, if a village has 50 tribal families, a single patch of 50 acres of land, at the rate of one acre to each family as the government proposes, should be put under their collective ownership after they are educated and trained in collectively sharing the package of practices, the products and profit. This would stop future fragmentation of the one acre being proposed to be allotted and facilitate scientific management of the entire patch of land leading to higher productivity.

But for this, the government will have to be pro-people, not pro-industry. Otherwise, the new contemplated scheme would be viewed as a new device to deceive the tribals, not to serve them in reality.


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The Supreme Court of India in its ruling on May 8 has suspended all mining activities in the 448 sq. km. area of the Aravalli Hill range falling in Haryana’s districts of Faridabad and Gurgaon including Mewat. The basic reason is: The Aravallis, the most distinctive and ancient mountain chain of Peninsular India, mark the site of one of the oldest geological formations in the world. Due to its geological location, desertification is stopped and it prevents expansion of the desert into Delhi.

The essence of this observation fits in its entirety to Niyamagiri, Khandadhara and other hills of Orissa. But the Supreme Court has not looked at it.

In matters of national importance, the Supreme Court is many a times seen to have clubbed scattered but similar cases of various States, extending the impact thereof to whole of India. So, mining exploitation of natural heritages of Orissa like the Niyamagiri or Khandadhara should be given the benefit of mining ban in the Aravali hills.

When we were campaigning for declaration of Similipal as a Biosphere Reserve, in my article published in East Point on February 1, 1990, carried also by the Hindustan Times, I had shown how Orissa, standing face to face with Sahara on latitude 20 in the northern hemisphere of the glove, has been saved from desertification because of her forests. This argument was a mega factor of Similipal bagging required attention to become a Biosphere Reserve. As the Supreme Court has been pleased to observe that the Aravali hill range “prevents expansion of the desert into Delhi”, it should be pleased to note that its observation is more aptly applicable to Orissa as the State stands face to face with the Sahara, which could have engulfed the entire province by now had the hills like the Niyamagiri, Khandadhar and Similipal not prevented its advancement.

The Supreme court has banned mining in Aravallis as it was reported that the mining going on there was illegal. The illegalities located in Haryana are minor in comparison to Orissa. Hence the Supreme Court should rise to the occasion and cover Orissa mining under the Aravali rulings.

In issuing the rulings, the SC has noted, “Mining sector is regulated by a large number of environment and forest statutes. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974; Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 were enacted to implement the decisions taken in United Nations Conference on Human Environment in 1972 at Stockholm. These environment and forests statutes interact with mining regulations under Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957; Mineral Concession Rules, 1960; Mineral Conservation and Development Rules, 1988. On account of depletion of the forest cover, we have the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, which was enacted to regulate the diversion of forest area for non-forest purposes. Similarly, under the EP Act, 1986 we have several notifications, including Environment Impact Assessment Notification 1994. At the same time, mining comes under the purview of large number of mining statutes, which are required to be implemented inter alia by State Forest Departments, State Pollution Control Boards, Forest Advisory Committee(s), MoEF etc. The grant of mining leases (major and minor minerals both, including quarry leases, quarry permits, short term permits etc.) inside forest areas coming under the purview of Section 2(ii) of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. It applies to mining leases. It is important to note that in order to operate mining inside the forest area, the lessee is required to possess clearances under Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 (“1957 Act”); under Section 2(ii) of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980; and to Environment Clearance under EIA Notification which applies to mining of major minerals and to the areas exceeding 5 hectares. In case of mining projects, a Site Clearance is also required which is issued either by the Central Government or the State Government depending upon the area of land let out on lease. Further, Section 2(ii) of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 prohibits grant or renewal of mining lease without prior approval of Central Government”.

With the authenticity I command by virtue of the facilities available to me to look deeply into affairs of administration, I state that none of the above laws are honored in Orissa. But this State is having no social audit provision. Hence, when discrimination is not legal, the Supreme Court should test Orissa on the matrix of its own observation in Aravalli case and find out the facts through its own agency as it has done in the matter of mining in Aravalis. Till then, a temporary ban on all mining activities in Orissa should be imposed with riders that the Chief Minister, the Chief Secretary as well as the Collector of the concerned District would be personally prosecuted against if any violation of the ban is found, because no mining is possible without direct or tacit support of these three functionaries to such illegality.


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Even as we have exposed how the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been torturing Bhubaneswar in these pages on the 7th January and on several earlier days, the High Court of Orissa has passed an Order yesterday directing the State Pollution Control Board (PCB) to file a Criminal case against the BMC Commissioner and report compliance on the 11th February.

This means, the lady IAS officer Aparajita Sarangi will face criminal prosecution within a fortnight for her criminal negligence to the health of the city.

The only work that a Municipal Body is meant to perform is management of urban waste.

BMC has utterly failed in this.

The lady IAS officer is marked for her burning zeal in demolition of the basic sources of livelihood of the local venders; but the local Press and politicians are yet to find out if the drive is tuned with concealed advantage for kiosk makers.

As we have exposed, the Commissioner has sloughed over the Supreme Court of India orders in the matter of saving Bhubaneswar from the horrific hazards afflicted upon its environment by herds of milkmen who, about 4000 in numbers, have encroached upon all lucrative locations in Bhubaneswar. The Municipal Corporation Act 2003 has put a blatant ban on keeping of cows and buffaloes etc in and around the BMC area against which the milkmen preferred their final appeal before the Apex court and the judgment passed in 2006 has rejected their appeal while making it mandatory for the BMC to oust the milkmen immediately without any compensation and/ or rehabilitation package.

Thus, though strengthened by the Supreme Court verdict, the BMC was to demolish forthwith all the cowsheds and oust all the milkmen from its limits, it has never caused that to happen.

It is inferred that this colossal failure to implement its own Law has a backhander factor behind it; the suspected volume touching the border of one crores of Rupees per month.

In the cirumstances, it is significant that the braggart pretense of development of Bhubaneswar has failed to hoodwink the High Court.

One may now hope that the Commissioner subjected to criminal prosecution for crafty deception in waste management, the BMC will rise to oust the cowherds from the city and to save its air and environment from stench and cow dung.

The lady Commissioner should be prosecuted against by name as otherwise the responsibility for wrecking havoc on inhabitants’ lives cannot be punished.


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Our intelligentsia is our asset. But there are scoundrels in our intelligentsia who support the foreign firm POSCO and oppose our people.

One need not be astonished. These types of people were also playing hosts to invaders in the past. Without people of these types East India Company could not have occupied India; Keshari kings could not have annihilated Buddhist Siddhacharyas and destroyed Bauddha Stupas of Orissa; Choda Ganga could not have captured Orissa and could not have dared to transform Sri Jagannatha from Buddha to Vishnu.

Time has changed from era to era. Power has changed hands. But scoundrels have never changed.

The syndrome called self-seeking motive

Scoundrels are scoundrels. Notwithstanding change in notions of time, notwithstanding change in pattern of education, notwithstanding change of people in power, there has never come a change in self-seeking motive and modus operandi of scoundrels.

Even in the modern world where class is determined by political economy they continue as a class beyond the realm of political economies! They are neither active nor passive participants in implementation of any of them; but in confusion, they prefer to brag like political cocks.

If their roles could be compressed into a single word, that word would be opportunism.


Opportunism is neither capitalism nor communism. It is a synonym of the habit of its practitioner to support whosoever has massive money notwithstanding non-existence of any chance of percolation of any of that money to the said practitioner.

Therefore opportunism is a method practiced by self-seekers, lacking in self-confidence and sense of security, to bask under an imagined elitism that perhaps psychologically stills their inherent sense of insecurity.


Born in an environment where their childhood was not secured, despite education acquired by consuming up state exchequer, they remain so cocooned in their phobia about poverty, that wherever they smell money, they rush in support of that, even though that goes against the interest of people, who, while perishing in poverty, had contributed their might to the exchequer on which their education was dependent.

Let scholars in psychology term them as they like, but we can, for the purpose of this write-up, call them opportunists.

Genuine citizenry against POSCO

Barring the people of this type, every genuine and responsible citizen has condemned the way Orissa government has been torturing our people to promote POSCO.

An instance of savagery

An instance of savagery of POSCO supporters has come on records with former Judge of Orissa High Court, Justice Choudhury Pratap Mishra narrating on December 10 how a sitting-in dharana by the affected people against the threat to their self-employed status was shattered as participants were severely injured at Dhinkia by bombs thrown at them from behind their back.

This is well on records that the people were there to express common grief over sequestration of their land by their own State government in order to satisfy the foreign firm.

A combine of State Police and POSCO goons threw bombs at the peaceful congregation from behind and severely injured many of the participants. The people could not even know that the deadly bombs were being thrown at them.

This brutality was meant to scare into silence the sons of our soil who have been peacefully raising their collective voice against their land being given away to the foreign firm.

Gandhian obtains impartial report

Responding to a request from a revered follower of Gandhiji, Smt. Annapurna Maharana, Justice Mishra had led a ten-member spot-study team of apolitical stalwarts of Orissa to the Balitutha area of Jagasinghpur where farmers are helplessly seeking protection of their traditional source of livelihood, their soil, from the pernicious avarice and grip of the foreign firm POSCO.

The team visited nerve centers of the area like Balitutha, Nuagan, Govindpur and Dhinkia and found that the Government is compelling farmers through its police to hand over their lands to the POSCO.

Spot study by Justice Mishra

On spot study it was found that the State police is terrorizing the people, not only by brute power, but also by instituting false cases.

The people of Balitutha area, the people of Gada Kujanga, Nuagan and Govindpur, are perishing under fear of police action even as the inhabitants of Dhinkia are shrinking under repression perpetrated by the state police and hired goons donning pro-POSCO attires under banners of the ruling party and colors of development.

Navin guilty of dividing people in POSCO interest

Naveen Patnaik’s contribution to Orissa’s development is not discernible. But very much discernible is the divide he has created amongst people of Orissa to provide POSCO with the muscles that it needs to grab our land.

It is sad that a part of Orissa’s intelligentsia is displaying pride in placing itself at the POSCO side of this divide.

Nothing better is expected of the scoundrels.


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

It is disturbing to note that after coming back from USA, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi has lost no time to allege that opponents of the nuke deal “are not only enemies of the Congress but also of peace and development”. Every Indian who loves India can be an enemy of the Congress, but how can he or she, for opposing the dubious nuke deal, is an enemy of peace and development?

In normal time, her assertion could have appeared too sophomoric to merit attention. But the time is critical. Under her command, a government of India is running. The Prime Minister of the country is dancing to the tune of the President of USA and the scenario is so bleak, that except the left, no other political party is opposing the nuke deal in right earnest. So, her statement, specifically as delivered after her return from USA, is worth attention.

Whether or not she has delivered a prompted dialogue, is a matter to be determined by the Country’s intelligence wing if the government could be addressed to political probity. But, I declare that I oppose the nuke deal. Am I an enemy of my people as Sonia’s spewed venom defines?

Is she more patriotic than me? Is she more patriotic than the people who genuinely love their motherland and hence oppose the nuke deal? Does she really understand what has she said? Does she want the entire country to be a country of sycophants to dance to whatever are her tunes? Does she take the entire Indian Nation to be a Nation of idiots who should be supporting every anti-nation activity that the Congress-led government has been pursuing?

If her diatribe was designed against any political party or group she should have pointed that out as emphatically as she has alleged and in that case that could have been rejected or accepted by the concerned politicians and then the citizens of this country could have watched a debate for better understanding of the conduct of politicians opposed to Congress vis-à-vis her own party and could have assessed who of them is more responsible for the present impasse. But she has not dared to name any.
Two categories of politicians are opposing the deal.

The Leftists, who work for Political Economy of Socialism, are opposing it on principle and the BJP, which works for Political Economy of Capitalism is opposing it sans any defined principle, but merely to gain out of the damage the Congress would suffer in course of the debate over the deal.

But non-of them is pursuing Political Economy of Americanism like Sonia and her sycophants in the central cabinet. And, the deal is a product of Political Economy of Americanism. Therefore there is no surprise in Sonia abusing either the left or the BJP in the context of the nuke deal.

Tricks of Americanism

But by alleging, after return from USA, that whosoever opposes the nuke deal is an enemy of our people, she has given enough material to infer that the USA trip has invigorated her to bite whosoever opposes American interest in India.

True Indians, who have the intelligence to understand how disastrous will be the nuke deal for India, are opposing it. Eminent members of our citizenry including Professors, Thinkers, Technologists, Nuclear- Scientists, Environmentalists, Jurists and Journalists are opposing this dubious deal. Are all of these Indians enemies of our people?

All of the true Indians, who have the brain to understand the American evil design and who genuinely love their motherland, have been opposing the deal on various grounds. And, they have been highlighting their views in public platforms, in symposiums and in media.

Whose interest?

I, in the media, have discussed in many of these pages as to why the nuke deal is against our people. I have cited American authorities, in whose language this deal “is so clearly in the interest of United States”.

When the deal, according to American authorities, is so clearly in American interest, why should we accept that it is in our interest?

I have earlier quoted American sources that have declared that the deal is a “bonanza for US Firms”.

When the deal, admitted by American authorities, would be a bonanza for US Firms, why should we accept that it is for our development?

American terms

On the other hand, when, consequent upon the initial joint agreement between US President Bush and our Prime Minister Singh in July 2005, the American Senate voted on December 9, 2006 to approve the Hyde Act (United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act of 2006), it was underlined therein that “Indian parliament must agree to the text” of the deal.

To quote World Nuclear News on Nuclear Policy, “Once President Bush has signed the document and it becomes law, four further agreements must be made:

* A specific agreement between India and the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding safeguards of nuclear materials.
* India-specific trade guidelines must be drafted by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a 45-nation cartel which has restricted nuclear trade to NPT signatories since 1992.
* The USA must conclude a ‘123’ agreement with India on nuclear cooperation. Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act of 1954 requires an agreement for cooperation as a prerequisite for nuclear deals between the USA and any other nation.
* The Indian parliament must agree to the text”.

Indian Parliament kept in dark

So every conscious Indian was sure that the nuke deal agreement would be tested on the matrix of collective wisdom of the Parliament. But how is it that Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh “signed and sealed” the agreement making it “non-negotiable” without even placing the text of the agreement before the Indian Parliament and the Parliament agreeing to its text?

Motive is to bailout America?

Under the American Laws, US government is bound to “finally dispose off” used nuclear materials coming out of its one hundred and four outdated reactors in order to protect its own citizens and environment from nuclear radiation hazards. Its inside repositories are exhausted. Therefore it is urgent for US administration to ship away used nuclear materials to other parts of the globe. How would the used nuclear materials found hazardous to American health and environment be beneficial to Indian development?

Nuclear power generation in USA has become so uneconomic that it has also decided to discard one hundred old reactors and to install next generation reactors in their places. According to the source cited supra, “nearly 30 civil prototype and commercial reactors are being or have been decommissioned in the USA. A few have been totally dismantled so that the site is released for unrestricted use, notably Fort St Vrain, Big Rock Point and Shoreham. The majorities are in various stages of dismantling or safe store”. Had the right reactionary Prime Minister A.B.Vajpayee (as he then was) not dragged India to this trap and had the deterioration of political quality in India not paved the way for Sonia-Singh combine to grab power, the so-called 123 Agreement to help USA to “export” its uneconomical and outdated nuclear reactors as well as their used and hazardous fuels to India would never have been possible. How can the outdated reactors already decommissioned and / or slated to be discarded as the power they generate is much more costly than generation from other sources in the States be become economical in India? And how the used nuclear materials found most hazardous in the States be of no threat to our peoples and environment? Why Sonia is silent in this regard? Should every Indian honor every mistake its Government makes either without application of mind or with a deliberate design, simply because a lady of Quattrocchi fame is holding the reigns of this Government?

The inherent mischief

The deal is not a trade deal; it is a cooperation deal. The natural stock of Uranium in America is exhausted. Earlier in these pages the data is given. Boycotted in the world due to American conspiracy, India has developed her own method of nuclear fuel cycle using Thorium and having been blessed by Mother Nature with massive reserve of Thorium, we are very comfortably placed to march ahead in generating nuclear power to our own advantage. In this respect we are adjudged “unique” in the world. Face-to-face with paucity of Uranium, the States administration has set its eyes on Thorium stock of India and on the unique technology that we have developed on its use. The cooperation clause in the deal that Sonia is so determined to operate is designed to facilitate usurping of our Thorium stock by the States. Can the opponents of this deal be the enemies of Indian development?

Mrs. Gandhi, if she has any real concern for this country, should come forward to answer these questions first. Every genuine citizen of India has a right to weigh the pros and cons of this deal. Till doubts are cleared, opposition to this deal is the only patriotic step that a true Indian can take.

Circumstantial Indian

By calling the opponents of the deal “enemies of peace and development”, Mrs. Gandhi, I regret to note, has behaved only like a circumstantial Indian.

It would be better for the Congress to educate its president that it would be detrimental to its own interest if a circumstantial Indian tries to project genuine Indians as “enemies”.

I do not know if the party of her sycophants and family factotums will dare to educate Sonia in this matter; but, as I love my motherland, I deem it proper to retort her with the declaration that I oppose the nuke deal and to ask her straight: am I an enemy of my people, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi?


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Unless he obliterates an illegal order of the Managing Director of Orissa Forest Development Corporation (OFDC) forthwith, there shall be enough ground to suspect that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik himself is involved with a scam in Kendu leaf trade involving around Rs. 60 Crores.

Kendu leaf (KL) scam is not new in Orissa. Many a Chief Ministers have been scandalized over KL. Orissa’s political climate has faced many traumatic upheavals due to corruption at Chief Minister Level in the matter of KL trade and license. There are instances of use of fair sex to net in Chief Ministers to their clutch by KL traders. The issue, at a point of time, was so sensitive that a Judicial Commission of Enquiry had to deal with it. So, Orissa is habituated with scandals over KL. And, that too, involving Chief Ministers.

At the present juncture, the portfolio of forest is being handled by the Chief Minister himself. And thus the OFDC is under his direct control.

The Managing Director of the OFDC is answerable to him and acts under his direction. Undoubtedly he is his choice.

Such an order has been issued by the MD that could never have been possible without active but clandestine instruction of the CM.

What is the order? What has he done?

He has killed the Orissa Forest Development (Tax on Sale of Forest Produce by Government or OFDC) Act, 2003 to ensure that the KL merchants get benefit worth several crores of Rupees.

The Act under Section 3 stipulates:

(1)There shall be levied and collected, on and after commencement of the Act, a Forest Development Tax (FDT) on every sale of Forest Produce (FP) from the purchaser, at such rate, not exceeding twenty per centum of the sale price of such produce sold to him, as the Government may, by notification, fix in that behalf, and different rates may be fixed for different Forest Produce.
(2) The FDT levied and payable under this Act shall be in addition to and not in lieu of any tax levied and payable in respect of the sale or purchase of the same under the Orissa Sales Tax Act, 1947 or any other Law for the time being in force.

This Act was a necessitated to alleviate the anxiety of the people of Orissa over loss of its forest wealth due to mismanagement. It was necessary not only to exploit but also to develop the forests. A group of environmentalists had apprised the Governor on the occasion of World Environment Day on 05 June, 2003 of possible precipitation of desert (Subhas Chandra Pattanayak:Orissa Cares Little for Similipal Project, Hindustan Times,27 July 1996) by denudation of the forests and urged upon him to apply his prerogative to guide the Government towards conservation. And the Governor had discussed the matter with the Chief Minister. Then it was thought of building up a Fund for exclusive use in development of forests. It was decided to collect a specific tax from FP purchasers as a part of compensation against the loss caused to the Forests through exploitation, the benefit of which they enjoy. Thus took birth the concept of FDT. The issue was so urgent that the above provisions were formulated and enforced through an Ordinance on 18 July 2003 in promulgating which the Governor had underlined that “Circumstances exist which render it necessary for him to take immediate action for the levy and collection of FDT on sales of the FP”. The Ordinance was enforced at once and later the Assembly adopted it into Act 18 of 2003. Following its enforcement with effect from 18 July 2003, as required under Section 3 (1), the Government fixed the FDT on Kendu Leaf at 16 % over and above the existing rate of Orissa sales Tax / Central Sales Tax.

It is surprising and shocking that the MD of OFDC has now obliterated this Tax by promulgating a Notification which is a clear case of killing of the beneficial Act behind back of the Governor as well as the Legislature.

The State is set to suffer a financial loss of not less than 60 crores of Rupees by killing of the FDT. Over and above the direct loss on the current lots, on which auction is to commence from 23 August 2006 till completion, this order of the MD will weaken the position of the State before the Orissa High Court where around a hundred cases are pending in the matter of FDT.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik cannot plead ignorance. The auction is to start on 23 August 2006. The Governor should also not sit idly in this matter. He must not allow the Act, adopted by the Assembly and enforced by him, to go inconsequential by a Notification issued by a MD of a public sector corporation.

It cannot be countenanced that a notification overrides a Legislative Act. That too, to the total disadvantage of the State.