Issues that are of concerns to tribals and others in the state of Chhattisgarh.
BACKGROUND: Before eight year, the eastern geographical area known as Chhattisgarh in the undivided Madhya Pradesh felt neglected. There were talks that the tribal populated states is neglected as and as such in the name of their development a new state "Chattisgarh" was finally born on 1-11-2000. Tribals who constitutes almost one third of the total population and other poor felt on the top of the world with big dreams that their miseries will end soon. The elected representatives to the state assembly from this area were renamed as the Members of the Chhattisgarh State Assembly. A person whose tribal caste is in serious dispute was bestowed by the party high command to handle the reigns of the government. Raipur became the capital city while High Court was established at Bilaspur. Congress party in power made historical blunders by buying few MLAs which is known as horse trading. Many of those horses lost the race when the state went for the first time to the polls in the year 2003. Large amount of money was spent in the run up to election but it failed to attract the notice of the concerned authorities. But all was fair in the war of ballots where each vote had its own value but the leaders use to tell from the rooftop that they do so to humbly serve the people of the state.
We are again going to the polls for the second time in the new state. It is time to take stock of the situation and let the people of Chhattisgarh know to review the social, economic, cultural and political status of the state. They need to think about the real issues concerned to see what has happened and is happening in the new state of their dream to the economic, social and cultural values of the sons of the soil.
1. FOREST RIGHTS ACT & "FASAL CHARAI"
Affected districts are: Korba, Koria, Bilaspur, Kawardha, Jashpur and Rajnandgaon. Forest Rights Act provides land ownership rights to all those tribals who are in the occupation of the forest land before June, 2005. Unfortunately at few tribal populated districts mainly Korba, Koria, Bilaspur, Kawardha, Rajnandgaon etc there is a systematic attack since the rules have been made to implement the forest rights act. Few non tribal elements in nexus with the forest department officials have made serious attempts to deprive those eligible tribals to drive them out of the forest land under their possession, since years.
Modus Operandi adopted is almost same all over the state, goes to confirm the doubts that a well thought out plan has been put to practice by few non tribals aided by the forest department officials who also uses tribals of other tribe in front to escape from the jaws of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 and rules thereof. Mob consisting of about 500 people targets land of tribals at a particular village and goes there with a herd of animals who are let loose to graze the standing crop of the targeted poor tribal. Immediately, the mob gets busy in planting Jatropha / Bamboo plants on those land. Protests of tribals are not heard and eve they are abused and physically assaulted. The matter does not end here. They they are traped in false cases. Despite drawing the attention of the autorities, tribals do not get relief but face further harassments.
2. TRIBALS ARE VICTIMS OF THE TENDU LEAVES POLICY
Forests are rich in natural wealth but the tribals are poor. Why? The simple answer lies in the faulty forest policies put to practice to benefit corrupt forest staff and forest contractors, where tribal is exploited as a tool.
Despite over six decades of gaining independence, the tribals have remained the poorest of the poor in the country. Forests products and land are the main source of livelihood for tribals. The policies cultivated by the state and more particularly by the current Raman Singh Government to advance sell green Tendu leaves is heavily tilted towards forest
Continuation Sheet No. 2
contractors who have become multimillionaires where as poor tribal is struggling to obtain a BPL card. Tribals have been pushed from poor to penury as they have not the capacity to even buy chappals for them. The height of the joke is that while over 12.5 lakh families are involved in Kendu Leaves plucking, only one member per family is entitled to get a pair if at all distributed. V
3. CEMENT INDUSTRIES IN THE STATE
ILLEGALITES IN MINING ACTIVITES; DESPATCH OF CLINCKER / BAUXITE GOING OUTSIDE THE STATE; CARTEL TO ARTIFICALLY RAISE THE PRICES
Natural Wealth: Few large cement plants have been established are allowed to exploits the natural wealth but instead of consuming to make cement, they export huge quantities of clinker to West Bengal, Jharkhand and other states.
Similar is the situation in Bauxite. Large quantities of the bauxite mined from the state is going out of state round the clock. Daldali mines at Kawardha and Menpat mines at Sarguja district by BALCO and Samri Mines at Sarguja district by HINDALCO are live examples to see thousands of trucks heavily loaded with bauxite goes out of the state contrary to the statement of the Chief Minister that no mineral wealth will be allowed to go out of the state. This makes us laugh at the authorities when they make big public announcements that only those industrial units will be given mining rights who established their value addition plants here in the state. What is said is not practiced by the very authorities.
Illegal mines : There are reports that many mines are operating illegally where government has failed to take action. There are reports that such mines exists in iron ore mining at Bastar, Kawardha and coal at Raigarh, Bilaspur, Koria and Korba district. Mafias have taken over the control in large scale illegal mining and trading activities but silence of the state appears to be surprising.
Illegalities in calculation of payment of royalty and cartelization to hike the prices are also areas of concern before the authorities but as usual, they have preferred to remain silent.
4. EXPLOITATION OF WORKERS; LAND LOSERS NOT PROVIDED JOBS;
Locals are exploited and not preferred in jobs: Big claims are made while announcing the inking of MoUs that state will get revenue and locals will get permanent employment. Yes, the announcements sounds sweet and pleasing but when we see the reality, there is an altogether different scenario comes before our eyes.
HINDALCO has opened their bauxite mining activities by the virtue of their inking an agreement with the state through the district collector of Sarguja way back in the year 1996. HINDALCO through state has acquired and also purchased land from the tribals and other persons where they are duty bound to provide permanent employment to atleast one person per family of those whose land has lost the land but that is not done even after 12 years. Out of over 200 persons we visited who have lost the land, only 3 confirmed to have been give permanent employment rest all others were found to have the pay slips of R.K.Transport, Bhilai who is employing them as contract workers to be paid on daily wages where they get about Rs. 90/- to as high as Rs.94/- that too, after they complete the contractual work to be completed to qualify for a day's wage.
The scenario in cement industry is also worst. Wages as determined by the Cement Wage Board are to be paid to workers engaged in the cement industry but are not paid. Even after winning a long legal battle of over seventeen years, workers are denied their legitimate rights. Despite the award clearly states that no contract system of work is permitted except loading and unloading activities, most of the operations are carried out in contract system. Locals are not only exploited but are not preferred in permanent jobs. They are used only as lowly paid daily wage earners.
Continuation Sheet No. 3
5. R & R POLICY OF THE STATE AND REALITIES
State has an R & R Policy that ensures to give land against land / Cash compensation and permanent employment in the project for which land is acquired. The reality is that there are huge gaps between what is said and what a practiced. We have a number of examples to illustrate that the government has failed to implement its own R & R Policy. Few of the same are stated here below:
Ø NTPC. 3009. Families have lost the land. Jobs to 53 or some odd have been given after much protest and again few more were given after the intervention of the state authorities but most of the land losers are yet to be provided with permanent jobs.
Ø RAYMOND CEMENT, now turned to LAFARGE INDIA has also betrayed the land losers. None of the land losers are on the permanent jobs of the company even though the land was purchased by the company way back in 1979 and onwards. The land acquisition has become a continuous affair.
Ø NMDC- NAGARNAR. The land was acquired in the year 2001 in the name of construction of a steel plant, which has never been established. Now a sponge iron plant is to come up in joint venture with a private firm. About 300 families whose livelihood has been snatched away by taking away their land have turned beggars.
PERIPHERY WORK NOT DONE: Though it is mandatory on the part of the industrial corporations to do periphery work for the development of the local area, very little is done so as to show off . Even despite drawing the attention of the authorities, there is no change in the situation.
6. MIGRATION , PDS & PADDY PURCHASES. [Palayan and Dhan Kharidi]
- Migration which was a problem at the time when the state was carved out of undivided Madhya Pradesh has acquired new dimensions. Large numbers of poor persons have no choice but to migrate to other states in search of livelihood is the indicator of the failure of the state policies to provide livelihood for those who needs it the most. Though the state government claims to have addressed the situation the hard reality is that the problem has only escalated. Poor tribals are herded as animals in cargo trucks to transport them to far away places. There are few cases that has come to light to expose the hollow claims of the state government.
- Corruption in NREGA stands exposed in increased migration.
- Corruption in Paddy purchases: Paddy purchase has become a major political game and a den of corruption. Even bigger games are played in custom milling. Paddy from the adjoining states of Orissa and Jharkhand also finds its way into Chhattisgarh. While farmers at times cry with problems, the players involved in the game are busy making huge money. "Dhan Kharidi Ghotala".
- Huge stocks of rice transported out on false permits without payment are eye openers. Though enough proof are available, government fails to act goes to prove that those who are behind the wheel drives in the scandal are close to the political party in power. Even few ruling party leaders have also spoken similarly.
- Black market of Food grains and Kerosene oil meant for the poor finds its ways to the black market. While those for whom it is meant are struggling to make both ends meet, the black marketers mint money at the cost of hunger of the poor people of the state. At times, when some of the goods are seized, it makes a news to be forgotten soon.
7. FORCIBLE ACQUISITION OF LAND OF TRIBALS AT BASTAR.
MOCKERY OF THE PESA AT BASTAR: Though entire Bastar falls under fifth schedule of the constituton of India, where implementation of the Panchayat Extension of Schedule Area Act, 1996 and standing guidelines there of are to be strictly followed, the same has not been done. By making mockery of the PESA, lands of tribals has been targeted for forcible acquisition, much against their wishes.
Continuation Sheet No. 4
· Role of District Collector is under cloud, since despite he has an important role to play to safeguard the provisions of the PESA, he has failed to do so while acquiring the land of 1500 familes most of whom are tribals. Even sidelining and in violation of the PESA and standing guidelines, has acted otherwise to any how deprive tribals of their constitutional rights and legal provisions that safeguards their lands. Village council meetings (Gram Sabhas) were held under fortified condition with imposition of section 144 of IPC and putting barricades all over the area to ensure that no one can come out or go in to that villages where Gram Sabhas were to be held.
· Excesses committed on the tribals by the police and the revenue officials, falsehood in depositing cheques in to the bank accounts of the tribals just to facilitate Tatas, the largest investor of the country, and even deny them to meet H.E. Governor of the state by detaining them at Jagdalpur Police station for the whole night.
8. SALWA JUDUM : This has resulted in a near civil war that has resulted in the destruction of over 644 villages that housed 3.5 Lakh tribals in the undivided Dantewada district. Government states to have only 50,000 tribals in their camps. Question is raised where are those other 3 lakh tribals? Government is silent on the same. Fake encounters, Rape of tribal women, looting and burning of the belongings of poor tribal families, crushing of their voices in the name of combating naxalites are all the issues that have disturbed the lives of tribals in Bastar. Even during the polls, no body talks about the voting rights of those three lakh tribals. Are they not the equal citizens of this country?
9. FAULTY MINING POLICY :
The state allows virtual looting of the natural mineral wealth at laughable low rates of Royalty. For example While international iron ore prices are above $ 210 per M.Ton, the average rates of Royalty that is received by the state during the last three years is laughably low at Rs. 17/- per Ton only. I repeat, it is only Rupees Seventeen only and is not a typing or any other error. Similar is the situation in other minerals.
Musclemen hired by the mining companies have acted heavier on the tribals by pushing them ut of employment once their land is acquired and also by playing dirty games on them. Even Raymond now known as Lafarge [two plants in CG] and ACC, Bhilai and Ambuja, Ravan, Bhatapara now known as HOLCIM are also playing such games.
10. NEGLECT OF FARM SECTOR AND LAND GOINT TO OUTSIDERS
- Neglect of farmers is a big issue. Due to non irrigational facility, duplicate fertilizers, seeds and pesticides, farming has become a burden on the farmers of the state. There is a need to improve an all round situation of farm sector, which is showing a negative growth rate as well as the crime branch reports confirms that large number of farms in the state have committed suicide. But the state government fails to take notice of the same and even refuses to accept the fact.
- Lands of the sons of the soil is lost in the hands of outsiders : In the new state of Chhattisgarh, there is a mad rush of outsiders to lay hand on the land of the local farmers who due to the neglect of the state have become poor. Instead of securing their property rights and bring them to walk on the road to prosperity, they are left vulnerable at the hands of the outsiders. Durg District is an example where there are conflicts between the local communities and outsiders who have acquired farm land. As per unconfirmed reports, the situation all over the state is nearly same.
There is no policy of the government to secure the interest of the local farmers but the problem is fueled by displacement and urban flight. Instead of taking any effective step in the right direction, government has failed to take any concrete steps.
Pravin Patel __._,_.___
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