Friday, February 5, 2016

Unmasking Development: Why the locals oppose mining?

(A mobile pic: Ranjan K Panda)

An interesting scene was visible today, in front of the Collector's office in Odisha's Sambalpur district.  Hundreds of tribal villagers from two Gram Panchayats of Rengali Block, who have been protecting a natural forest of 73 acres since several decades, were staging a protest against the district administration's conspiracy to destroy that forest.  By side of this demonstration there was another group of protesters, ex-employees of the Bhusan Power and Steel Ltd. company located in the same Block, who were staging a protest against the Chairman and Managing Director of the said company.  This image unmasks the real face of development.  See how.

Rengali block is one of the heavily industrialised areas of the state. Several mining and industrial houses have been allowed to loot the mineral resources, forest resources, water and the local people in the name of development here.  One of the strongest arguments given for this loot by the industries and the government authorities is that these factories and mines create jobs and employment for the local people among others.  

The tribals oppose these industries because they not only fail to keep all their promises, but also destroy their life and livelihood sustaining resources forever. The Bhusan company has done exactly that.  It has chopped off thousands of hectares of forests, displaced lakhs of people, polluted the local area, killed several water bodies and destroyed the nearby streams/rivulets/rivers.  It also heavily pollutes the Hirakud reservoir.  All this in the name of employment generation and development.

However, the ex-employees of Bhusan company say they have been thrown away for no reason, citing funny explanations.  Many locals have actually been provided with wage labour jobs under private contractors and not by the Company itself.  And these jobs are completely at the mercy of private contractors who not only pay less but don't provide any job security or other facilities whatsoever.  The forests at least provided them food and woods when needed.  Now they have neither the forests nor the jobs! 

The tribals protesting to protect the Chirgun Dungri forests are at the first stage of war against development.  A private mining contractor is illegally mining quartz from their forests by getting a no objection certificate from the local Sarpanch in fallacious ways, they allege.  They have been complaining against this to the forest department and District Collector.  No one listens.  

They know mining kills forests and destroys their livelihood forever but the mining companies ultimately profit, along with them the politicians and bureaucrats get some benefits.  They are now preparing for their second stage of war, which begins with today's demonstration in front of the Sambalpur District Collector. 

I got a chance to address to the demonstrating tribals and I told that the demonstrators under the tent besides are fighting the burning example of the real outcome of Development.  Some of them must have protested against the land acquisition by Bhusan company at the first instance for sure, as the first stage of protest.  Then while some would have continued with the protest, some would have agreed to the promises.  Some would have then received jobs participating thereby in the Development Process.  

Now, the ones who have lost jobs are again at war with Development.  They burn the effigies of Bhusan company owners in front of Sambalpur's Collector office with a demand to return back to the Development process as because they have nothing to fall back upon, anymore.  Their lands are gone, forests vanished and ability to live with local resources is perhaps also lost.

However, the tribals protesting against mining in a lush green forests are, in my opinion, talking about the real Development: that is sustainable, that does not displace, that does not pollute and that does not cause global warning.  

Good that both the demonstartions were going on side by side.  At least the people with conscience would realize the real face of Development.  For those, who are sold out to interest of the greedy capital, nothing proves an eye opener!

I wish the Chirgun Dungri Jungle Suraksha Mancha all success!!

 - Ranjan Panda


  1. Dear Ranjan Pandaji,
    Thats an eye opening presentation of the so called development, and what's true development.

  2. I don't know the outcome but it was probably ineffectual. How complicit mainstream media in this ruthless financial promotion of such destructive "development".

  3. the CAG analysed Bhushan's development & criticised corporates and state government