Orissa govt must revisit R&R policy to avert further unrest in the State
After the introduction of the new economic policy in 1991, the trend of acquiring land, as an integral part of the liberalisation policy, is evident in Odisha. The overall effort of the state government was to acquire more land for the different private ventures including Posco and Vedanta.
Once again, Odisha is much in news but for the different reasons. In the 1980's, Odisha got the attention of the world when media exposed the incidences of large-scale starvation deaths and selling of children in Kalahandi and other districts. Although such incidents are also still taking place but the attention has now shifted from these human stories to the financial matters. In Odisha, "foreign investments", "export promotion" and "privatization" are the new buzz word.
In 1990s, the state announced new power, infrastructure and mining policies to woo foreign and domestic private investments. During 1995-96, Orissa received the largest amount of private investments in India, both foreign and domestic. In the post-liberalisation period, Odisha ranks sixth in foreign investment in the country. Between 1992 to 1997, Odisha has attracted Rs. 97,300 crore of investments. Majority of investments are in heavy industries consisting of steel, alumina and power projects.
All the new projects are solely attracted due to the natural resources of Odisha. The big business houses are eying at the mineral resources as Odisha has 90 percent of India's chrome ore and nickle reserves, 70 percent of bauxite and 24 percent of coal reserves. Besides, the state government is offering exceptionally huge subsidies to investors and there is abundance of cheap labour further makes it investor-friendly state.
Role of International Finance
The new investments are backed by a number of loans and aided projects by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and G-7 countries to facilitate the entry of international capital in Odisha. According to IPS study, the World Bank is providing loan guarantees and low-interest loans to a number of projects in Odisha. The World Bank's financed projects include coal sector rehabilitation project, power sector restructuring, Ib valley coal-fired plants, and Talcher coal-fired power project. The World Bank is expected to finance super-highway between Talcher and Gopalpur and four-lane road from Rourkela to Sambalpur. The Balasore-Kharagpur highway is also financed by the World Bank. The ADB is supporting Paradeep port expansion, Orissa power sector restructuring and AES/Ib valley power project. These investments are between 1992 to 1997 in the state. After that many more international finance institutions and MNCs came forward with new investment plan in the state. All the investments and the proposals are solely attracted by the mineral resource wealth of Odisha and offering of huge subsidies to investors by the state Govt.
Odisha government has promptly and proactively taken several steps for the investment, industries and land acquisition but very slow and inactive towards problem of displacement and R & R.
Odisha R and R of projects – affected person policy 1994
In 1994, the department of water resources, GOO, in consultation with NGOs and the world bank, came up with the Odisha R and R of projects- affected persons policy vide the dept resolution no 25296 dated august 27 1994.
Certain guidelines were prepared by the revenue and excise dept, GOO. ( GOO. 1989). Nalco is the first ever-industrial projects in the state to formulate a policy for rehabilitating both locally displaced persons and substantially affected persons. Between 1994 to till to the year 2005 the govt just ignored the issues of displacement and R & R of the people.
During the draft period of 2005, many suggestions from different Civil Society Organizations were brought into the notice of UNDP. Among them CSOs Displace People's Forum of Koraput suggested many important points in the draft policy. They had also demonstration and rally before the state assembly in March 2005 and submitted a memorandum with suggestions to the Honourable Governor, Chief Minister and other higher officials for action.
However, some of the suggestions were included in the final draft of 2005 which was submitted by the UNDP to Odisha government on June 4, 2005.But due to the pressure from the industrial houses and companies the government sat over the policy and did not place before the assembly.
The Kalinga Nagar massacre happened in the January 2, 2006. The police gunned down 12 of them who opposed the construction of a boundary wall for the proposed steel plant of Tata Steel. After the tragic incidence and subsequent blockade of road by the tribals, the government woke up from the deep slumber and announced that a committee headed by revenue minister Biswabhushan Harichandan will study the R & R draft policy that was pending with it since August last. The committee was formed with a group of ministers. Instead of consulting the displaced people and the civil society members the government send some of the ministers to other states like, AP and Karnataka to study their R & R Policy.
The committee drafted a policy ignoring the previous positive points from the R & R draft of UNDP. In a hurry, the R & R policy was finalised and got the cabinet approval and gazetted on May 14, 2006, by passing the Assembly. The policy was also not placed for comments in the public domain. The said R & R policy is made in favour of industries and before finalization the industrial houses were consulted and they dictated it. Delivering the valedictory address at a two-days seminar on " corporate sector responsibility in 21st century" at the Business Administration Department of Sambalpur University, Odisha's former Minister for Revenue, food and Civil Supplies, Mr. Manmohan Samal said that " The ministers were deliberating on the possible changes in R & R policy of Odisha and industries would soon be invited for their views before the policy was given a final shape" But the consultation with the Industrial houses was done in closed door and it was never done public.
R & R policy of the 2006 : Contradictions and pseudo-ism
As mentioned earlier that the government is very fast and enlightened to help and support the foreign investment and the big companies. In this light, it is also facing many tragic incidents like Kalinganagar, Maikanch, lower Suktel and several unrests and protests in the recent past. So, it has created a myth, that there is a strong desire of the government to develop the displace people as a result of which policy has taken birth. And it is claiming its policy to be the best in the country.
The principles on which R & R Policy should be based
In search of a good R & R policy many researchers, affected & displaced people and the civil society members have raised many fundamental questions and suggested alternatives from time to time. The first task in this search is to identify the principle. The basic thinking in this approach was that every citizen of the country has a right to a life with dignity. Some cannot be deprived of their livelihood without their consent, to the benefit of another class, even in the name of national development. The following principles are
1. The consent of the people affected on the nature of public interest.
The land acquisition act 1894 allows people to be displaced without their consent, in the name of public purpose which is yet undefined. Thus it abrogates the democratic rights of the people. The first principle of a law or principle has to be recognition of this right. A developmental process should be based on the rational choice of the people.
2. The need to minimize displacement.
Its first step is to search for non-displacing alternatives while planning the project. The second is while selecting the site, and the third is on various components of the project. Minimization of displacement requires rethinking on many aspects on the LAAct. In attempting the land alienation easy the LAAct does not show much respect to the affected people. The only alternative is to ensure that displacement is avoided and when it is exceptional cases, to ensure that the smallest possible number is deprived of its livelihood.
3. Replacement value for compensation
Even a small number of people deprived of their livelihood have a fundamental right to begin life a new. In more than one case the Supreme court has interpreted article 21 of the constitution as right to life with dignity. None can be deprived of it in the name of common good if it involves sacrificing their livelihood for the good or profit of another class.
4. Rehabilitation as a right.
The principle based on justice that none be displaced without rehabilitation which has to be viewed as a right of those who are paying the price of development. As such it is the integral to the life with dignity under article 21, not a concession from the state or project authorities.
5. Transition to a new life
The project authorities need to ensure that the DPs\PAPs are prepared to face the new life they are pushed into often without their consent. They have to be helped with cultural, economic, psychological and social preparation to adapt themselves to the new life.
6. A caste /tribe and gender perspective.
The tribals, dalits and other service castes are its worst sufferers. Even among them women feel the most negative impact. So special attention has to be paid to the needs of these groups. In other words the policy should have caste\ tribe\gender biasness in looking into special and specific attention.
Recently, the Odisha government is attempting to lift the regulation on tribal land alienation provision to facilitate the easy process for business house to acquire land. Liberalization and globalization demands more land than in past, so greater displacement is likely to result as its impact. When the government is guided by the big business houses, forgetting its constitutional obligations the situation will be worse in next decade.
The very approach of the state government in the whole issue of displacement and R & R is questionable. When it is very active towards declaring many policies for the establishment of industries but have apathetic attitude towards the R & R issues. The earlier development oppressed the poor, tribals, dalits the present one excludes them. It can be inferred from the present R & R policy that the state of Odisha has given a little thought to the rehabilitation of the people. Whenever there is some echo of the tragic incidents, it is coming with a policy starting from the Rengali till to the Kalinga nagar incident. Majority of the displaced and project affected people have rejected the present policy in the state, still government is trying to offer more sops in term cash which is evident in the Kalinga nagar and POSCO area. Unless until the R & R policy is not based on the set of discussed principles people will reject it. At present the trend shows that the Big business houses are pulling the string and the state government is just a puppet.
In the age of globalisation, the national and multinational capitalist companies are eyeing for the land and other resources in the hands of the people. This, in collaboration with the state and bureaucracy, is sought to be achieved through the changes in relevant laws and policies. The Union government has recently introduced changes in Land Acquisition Act, has prepared number of Draft Policies for Resettlement and Rehabilitation.The Union Water Resources Ministry and National Thermal Power Corporation have also proposed different drafts of rehabilitation. Suddenly, these agencies have felt the need to talk about the resettlement that to in their term. The large-scale displacement, therefore, is in offing which needs to be debated at length.