Assembly in Session // Has Mining helped Orissa? The question is directly put to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, history will certainly note, has squandered away Orissa’s mineral wealth in the name of earning for the State Exchequer. I have written on the subject so many times in these pages. Without going to any further elaboration, I will prefer to place here what his Minister of Mines Sri Prafulla Mallik has put on records in answering a query from Sri Dillip Ray (BJP) in the Assembly.

According to the Minister, the State has earned Rs. 5305.58 crores in the last financial year (2014-15) against mining worth Rs. 54,491.69 crores. In the preceding year (2013-14) the revenue earned was Rs.5,519.57 crores against mining worth Rs.54,556.73 crores. In 2012-13, the State had earned Rs.5,679.35 crores while Orissa was denuded of minerals worth Rs.34,994.28 crores.

Thus, according to the government, Orissa has been denuded of minerals worth Rs.143,940 crores and 70 lakhs during only three years from 2012-13 to 2014-15, while earning for its exchequer a sum of only Rs.16504 crores and 50 lakhs.

Orissa government is deliberately not examining the cost of health hazards to which people are dragged into by the mining and related industries.

A single case study, which is the only research on the subject available so far,  covering a small patch of Anugul and Talcher years ago, gives us a chance to imagine to what unfathomable extent of damage mining and related industries are subjecting us to.

Scholar Dr. M. Mishra had conducted a case study of environmental economy in a micro level, under the head “Health Cost of Industrial Pollution in Angul-Talcher Industrial Area in Orissa, India”. In this research done a decade ago, Dr. Mishra has quantified the”health cost of pollution” to be Rs.1775 per annum in the average, only in the small patch of area under his research. This was when cost of health care was 200% less that the prevailing cost.

Just imagine what the cost of health damage management would be at the present rate all over Orissa!

Minerals are not created in a day. They take millions of years to be formed. Naveen and his likes, voted to power for a term of five years only, are finishing our mineral wealth oblivious of the needs of our future generations, obviously for private payola, when, as admitted in the above noted answer of the minister, the money earned for public exchequer is too marginally little to meet the cost of health damage, as the above cited research has indicated.

Will the Assembly in session note of it?

And, if the Assembly takes note, will the Chief Minister reveal, by way of study results, the cost of the health damage caused to whole of Orissa by mining?  The question is put to him directly in public interest.

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Global protests against Vedanta continue as verdict deferred again

By OrissaMatters Bureau

People across the globe have registered their protests against Vedanta once again. On January 11, parallel demonstrations took place in Orissa, London and New York where activists in hundreds raised slogans and upheld placards to denounce the corporate annexations of indigenous peoples’ lands.

Orissa

From Niyamgiri hills, more than 500 people turned up at a rally which covered about two kilometers in the Bhawanipatna town. Resistance movements in Lanjigarh have also inspired tribal representatives of Karlapat region whose mountains are now being targeted by the mining companies. In this rally, several people who were cheated of their lands narrated the atrocities and tortures they faced from Vedanta highhandedness in Lanjigarh. They also gave an account of how the company goons and the local police routinely harass the women in the afflicted areas.

London
In solidarity with the indigenous peoples of Orissa, a loud group of protesters from Foil Vedanta and other grassroots groups mobbed the company’s Mayfair headquarters in London the same day. Holding a banner that read “FCA: de-list Vedanta”, the demonstrators called for the Financial Conduct Authority to remove Vedanta from the London Stock Exchange for poor corporate governance and human rights crimes.

New York

Likewise, in New York City, protesters gathered outside the United Nations headquarters to highlight the company’s human rights crimes, displaying placards that read: “Our Mountain! Our Rights! Vedanta: Give Up!” and “Dongria Kond’s Niyamgiri: Hands Off!”

Simultaneously, the Supreme Court of India has deferred its final verdict on Vedanta’s planned mega-mine until 21st January. If permission to mine is denied Vedanta is likely to close its Lanjigarh refinery due to lack of bauxite costing them billions. On Sunday the Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh plans to visit the threatened mountain to visit the Dongria Kond.

Various grassroots groups including Phulbari Solidarity Group, Japan Against Nuclear, Tamil Solidarity and London Mining Network, along with Foil Vedanta gathered at Vedanta’s London headquarters to add their voice to recent pressure for Vedanta to be de-listed from the London Stock Exchange for its poor corporate governance, illegal operations and major human rights violations. They shouted ‘Vedanta out of London’ and blew horns and whistles. Several parliamentarians and the former CBI Director Richard LambertLondon have highlighted how Vedanta’s listing is used for legal immunity to hide their corporate crimes.

At the Supreme Court in Delhi today lawyers for Vedanta dwelled on the ongoing demonstrations in London, asking why people are protesting there, and claiming that India is suffering because of this. Judges noted that this is not relevant to the case and pointed out that people have a right to protest. Foil Vedanta’s spokesperson reacted:

“Vedanta is a London listed company and profits from this affiliation. It is typical of Vedanta to assume they are above the law and above public accountability. We will continue to draw attention to their corporate crimes here in London”.

Activists at the rally in Bhawanipatna chanted “Vedanta go back: water, land and forest ours. We are Supreme people of the supreme court” while dalit leader Surendra Nag spoke about the loss of land and livelihood for local people, some of whom have ended up as beggars. One man spoke of how his whole family had been tortured by company goons and they had lost 6 acres of land to the company without compensation.

The project has been racked with controversy from the start, as a spate of recent coverage points out: The Lanjigarh refinery built to process the bauxite from the hills was illegally constructed, the court case presided over by a judge with shares in the company, and the refinery should never have been given permission without including the associated mega mine in impact assessments. The Delhi High Court is also currently investigating the large donations from Vedanta to India’s two main political parties which could be deemed illegal as Vedanta is a foreign (British) company.

A cover story in “Open Magazine” in December details evidence of corruption and collusion between Vedanta and the Orissa state government, local officials, judges and the police to force the project through. Meanwhile Vedanta’s chairman and 56.7% owner Anil Agarwal has launched a rare PR crusade claiming that Vedanta ‘have not cut one tree’ and respects and preserves the rights of the protesting indigenous tribe living on the threatened mountain. He sets out his extractive philosophy for India – suggesting that exploration should be drastically increased and regulation decreased to provide for the domestic market for metals and oil.

If Vedanta loses the case to allow state owned company Orissa Mining Corporation to mine the mountain on their behalf they may have to close the dependent Lanjigarh refinery costing them billions. Under enormous pressure from Vedanta the Orissa government has suggested alternative bauxite supplies from a deposit located in a major wildlife sanctuary and tribal area at Karlapat arousing anger and opposition from grassroots groups.

The court’s decision rests on whether the Green Bench of India’s Supreme Court rules rules the rights of forest dwellers to be ‘inalienable or compensatory’. In view of this, India’s Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo has asked the Environment Minister to ensure the rights of forest dwellers is protected in the spirit of the Forest Dwellers Act.

Speaking about the verdict, Dongria Kond activist Lado Sikaka states: “We will continue our fight even if Vedanta gets permission. Are these Judges above the Law? In effect, they act as if they are. Niyamgiri belongs to us. We are fighting because We are part of it. Our women are harassed and we are called by the police and threatened not to go to rallies. Last month they have been working like Vedanta’s servants.”

Foil Vedanta’s Samarendra Das says: “Vedanta is not the only mining company that should be de-listed for their corporate crimes. Infamous London listed offenders Lonmin in South Africa, Monterrico in Peru, GCM in Phulbari and Bumi in Indonesia should also be investigated for extensive human rights atrocities.”

People of Orissa are in Quandary, No Doubt

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Super supremo of Ruling BJD, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, in an interview to OTv, on the occasion of 14th foundation day of his party yesterday, has claimed that it would stay in power for the next 15 years in Orissa. Why 15, not 20 years?

The way Orissa’s mineral wealth is being looted under the umbrage of administration and squandered away by the government itself, ever since Navin Patnaik of BJD has taken over as Chief Minister, meteorologists and scientists of relevance are sure that the State shall be totally denuded of its stock within 15 years from now. And, the way Orissa has been led into the grip of non-Oriya land-grabbers; there should be no land to lease out after 10 years from now.

So, naturally after 15 years from now, if the BJD stays in power till then, Orissa shall have no natural resources to loot. There shall be nothing in Orissa to feed the power vultures any further. And naturally it should have no attraction for BJD after 15 years.

How could Mohapatra be so sure of occupying power for next 15 years in Orissa despite under Navin the plundered province has earned the ignominy of being viewed as the most wretched amongst all the States in the den of poverty in India?

Are the people of Orissa such idiots that BJD will continue in power for next 15 years? No, they are not the idiots.

In the last election they have wisely rejected the party of USA lobbyists, the Congress. In the last election, they have also rejected the party of profiteers, the BJP. They have bitterly punished the communists as, instead of initiating class war, their leaders have shown aptitude to ally with the agents of capitalism.

So, it cannot be said that Orissa citizenry has no ability to reject wrong doers.

But BJD is in power because both of its mainstream opponents – the Congress and the BJP – are so densely anti-people that rejection to BJD could have helped them and hence would have become more disastrous.

Mohapatra has composed his hope for BJD on this ground only and he knows, if his party stays in power for further 15 years, there shall be no mineral and natural wealth left in Orissa to allure the pack of his feather any more into electoral politics. This is why his stress is on 15 years from now; not on 20.

And, if EVMs are not discarded or tampering thereof is not made impossible, any combine of criminals donning attires of political parties, may occupy power sans support of the people.

So, BJD can continue in forming governments in Orissa till her entire mineral and natural resources are exhausted, which may take 15 years in the present speed of plunder.

People of Orissa are in quandary, no doubt.

WHY IS NAVIN PATNAIK SHYING AT CBI?


Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Former secretary of National Union of Journalists, India, Sri Balbir Punj, who presently represents Orissa in the Rajyasabha, has demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the massive mining scam perpetrated and going on in Orissa under the reign of Navin Patnaik.

Punj, in his spot study of the scam in Keonjhar district, had led a team of BJP leaders that comprised also his colleague in Parliament, Sri Chandan Mitra, who like him is a Journalist turned politician with right wing attire.

The team made a spot estimation of loot of ores at Kashia, Chormaldar, Loidapada and Regudi where ESSEL, OMC and RBTL are nefariously involved and came out with facts too revealing to be refuted.

Not the Vigilance police that works under Navin Patnaik, but the CBI that runs not under Navin Patnaik should be asked to investigate so that the truth of loot may not be stopped from coming out, declared the BJP leaders.

But to Navin Patnaik, this is nothing but a political notoriety resorted to by BJP.

Punj and Mitra have gone to the spot and have made the allegation on the basis of what they have seen on the spot. Chief Minister Navin Patnaik has never visited the spot so far.

He obviously uses the State Vigilance in matter of the loot. The loot is so very discernible that the Vigilance Police is not able to say that there is no loot.

Now that admittedly there is loot, Navin should confess that in his regime the loot has occurred. But he has not done it so far.

As time passes, he looks murkier.

If he is to depend upon hearsay about the occurrence and / or non-occurrence of the loot, why should he not depend upon the CBI than the State Vigilance to know what really has happened?

The matter is so critical but delicate, even if the State Vigilance Police would act honestly and bring out details of the loot and the looters, people would sure look at that askance.

Therefore it is true that the Chief Minister by not accepting the demands for the inquiry by CBI, is dragging the State Vigilance to a state of forfeiture of its credibility.

Will the CM amend himself and entrust the investigation to CBI as demanded by Punj and Mitra?

SUPREME COURT SHOULD STOP ADHOCISM AND COVER ORISSA MINING UNDER ARAVALI RULING

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.