Odhisha State is bestowed with huge natural wealth and possesses rich culture with glorious past. It has a beautiful coast line that not only attracts tourists from all over the world but also provides livelihood to many. Rich forests with flora and fauna on the surface and huge mineral wealth below the surface are all more than enough for its four and half crore population to make them happy and become the leading state of India.
However, in contrast to the glorious past, the present is shocking with uncertain future.The rich land is witnessing more than half of its population below the poverty line who struggle to survive; high rate of illiteracy; lack of quality education and non existence of minimum required health care in rural tribal areas; ruined rural economy; demographic attack on tribal areas disturbing their culture and destroying sources of livelihood and exploitation of the rural poor are some of the hard realties, that has resulted in ultras gaining more and more strength every day.
Is this the development that the people of the state looked at from successive governments during last sixty years of Independence?Retrospective of the facts reveals that the definition of development has been redefined at Odisha not once but several times. Blindly pursuing the policy of rapid industrialization; mortgaging the long-term strategic interests of the state by bowing down to the powerful corporate houses is the latest definition of development. At Odisha, the definition of development is defined again and again. Let us have a look.
Rural economy depends on agriculture and related activities. What a farmer needs is quality seeds, fertilizers and water to irrigate the field well in time with proper marketing support. Helpless farmers are left on their own to look at sky for rains, while the mining and industrial corporations manage to divert the water to their plants.
Poor farmer with no money has to depend on middlemen who supply those poor inputs, charging exorbitant rate of interest and lifts the harvest from the farms to recover money. Such shylocks cause humiliation, stress and economic ruins for the helpless poor tribals bringing tears in their eyes. This is the story with most of the marginal farmers in the tribal areas. Umarkote area in Nabrangpur district will expose that a number of mafia styled Shylocks operate illegally defying Odisha money lending act with many poor persons in their clutches. Who can expect those poor farmer to gather enough courage to lodge a complain? Neglect the farm sector and ruin rural economy to make farmers vulnerable is the first definition of development.
National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) provides the right to get minimum 100 days of employment to rural poor. Villagers through the Gram Sabha are to decide the work which is needed but in nexus with contractors, BDO decides the work that has been done using earth moving machineries but by preparing false muster rolls, Crores of rupees have been eaten away. Any one complaining is taught lessons by the musclemen of the contractors. A report of Parsuram has exposed scam of Rs 500 crore at KBK. Playing mischief in an important program to eat away money meant for creating for employment for the poor and needy and forcing those rural poor to migrate to the urban areas in search of livelihood is second definition of development.
Tribal habitats are bestowed with huge natural wealth in shape of forests and minerals. But by pursuing faulty mining policies that is tilted heavily takes the care of mining and industrial corporations. Iron ore (International market price is Rs. 10,000/tonne) is allowed to be virtually looted at laughingly low rate of royalty of average Rs 17/tonne, speaks of how big games are played to play mischief with the mineral wealth of the state.
Similar is the situation in Bauxite and other costly minerals. While private corporations earn hundreds of crores of rupees, poor tribals are forcibly displaced and huge environmental losses are in bonus for the state. Corporate social responsibility remains on paper as a visit to the mining area villages is more than enough to understand the big games played in the name of development.Pursuing faulty mining policies that makes the state poorer and make tribals vulnerable is the third definition of development.
Forests and Tribals are made for each other. Without forests tribals can not live and without tribals forest can not be safe. Faulty anti-people policies have resulted in the exploitation of tribals to fill the coffers of the private parties and state exchequer. While bamboo is supplied to paper mills at 49 paisa a piece, tribals are harassed and denied their rights to use bamboo for their livelihood.Even at the rate of Rs. 7/- fixed by the forest department, he finds great difficulty to procure it to weave basket and other products.
Similarly Kendu Leaves that generates about Rs. 500 crore per year on average, state collects more than 40% as Royalty and taxes. As per KLCC committee meeting held on March 11, 2008, chaired by Chief Secretary of Odisha, the target for 2008 crop year was fixed at 4.46 lakh quintal. Purchase price of KL has been fixed at Rs. 1420.20 per quintal that means a payment of Rs. 63.34 crore to 10 lakh pluckers, which is a meager amount of only Rs. 639.34 paisa per person. Where as the budget for about 12,000 strong forest staff was fixed at Rs. 20.09 crore as establishment cost.
Forest Rights Act empowers tribals with right to collect, process and sale Kendu Leaves, Bamboos and other non timber products but in absence of any clear rules, there are confusions how to transport the material to the customer's destination. Playing gimmicks to give shoes for free to Kendu leaves pluckers and exploitation of tribals to fill the coffers of the state and private corporations is the fourth definition of development.
There are enough legal provisions available to tribals to protect their property rights. Panchayat Extension of Schedule Areas Act (PESA) is of much importance. Under PESA, it is mandatory to obtain positive consent of the villagers through a properly convened and conducted Gram Sabha. But by imposing section 144, preventing the tribals to attend the meeting, crushing their democratic right of protest, forwarding those who take leadership initiatives under false criminal cases to remove them from the scene and as if this is not enough terrorize them by beating with lathis, firing tear gas shells and even live bullets, all to forcibly acquire the land of the poor using century old colonial land acquisition act for the "Private Purpose" of corporate houses in the name of "Public Purpose". Making mockery of the laws of the land to make `Private Purpose' to 'Public Purpose' by bulldozing the rights of the poor people of the state is the fifth definition of development.
R & R Policy of the state is decided in consultation with the project proponent which is to be well explained to the people who are to be displaced. Two major components of the R & R Policy is to make a one time payment in lieu of the land lost, to be determined by the state in consultation with the project proponent and the other is to provide one person from each family a permanent employment in the project that is to be created by displacing them.
Poor tribals, most of whom are illiterates and do not know how to use those money fall in the hands of touts who lure them to cheat them of their money. The result is land is also lost and money is also gone. The proud land owner within no time becomes a pauper and has no option left except to become a poorly paid daily wage earner. Secondly, the permanent jobs never reach to them. Take the list of the displaced person from any project and compare with the list of permanent employment provided them. The result will be shocking.
Locals are pushed to corners and many new faces close to the project proponent and people in power takes benefit with both hands while locals are pushed to corners, barring few lucky ones who are used as show case, who are also shown the door once the purpose is served. Farmers of 3,400 acres of land lost at Behrampur to Tatas, nor the plant has come even after twenty years nor any employment is provided. Making mockery of the R & R policy and not to take penal action against the defaulting private corporations is sixth definition of development.
Promising huge sops to the private industrial and mining corporations including assess to water from natural water bodies, minerals, granting monetary concessions and other assurances as conditions to give permanent employment etc are all the components in the MoUs but are kept a secret document for example MoU inked with Tata Steel at Kalinganagar which is in the news due to bloody killings. In the largest democracy of the world, there should be a policy of democratic industrialization in which complete transparency is assured. Hiding facts from the very people who have voted the government to power as if they are agents of the private industrial corporations is seventh definition of development.
Orissa State pollution control Board is a statutory body duly empowered to ensure that Air and Water pollution norms are strictly complied as per law. Board issues mandatory clearances i.e. "Consent to establish"; "Consent to Operate", only after fulfilling the required criteria and set norms and guidelines.
It is also a vital clause that on submissions of wrong information or violations of the conditions of the clearances issued, Board is empowered to withdrawal the consents and even seal the unit. But despite serious violations and false submissions the Board has failed to discharge their official duties. Mandatory clearances have been given to one metallic company at Khairban (Latikata Block) on land not owned by them. Village school which is located within 500 meters is shown beyond 1.5 KM, Kalushira village (Kuarmunda Block) is within one KM of Ganesham and two other sponge iron plants but it is shown at a distance of 25 KM, Population of the village is over 8,000 which is shown as only 50. A number of houses are located within 500 meters but it is shown that there are no houses within 2 Km distance.
A visit to any village in the vicinity of the coal based sponge iron plants is more than sufficient to see how the norms are openly flouted, causing irreparable losses to the health of the villagers and the sources of livelihood. How the mischief is played in conducting public hearing is also not a secret. Despite the facts are brought to the notice of the Board, no action taken is concrete proof of an unholy nexus existing between Board and those defaulter plants is the eighth definition of development.
The negative role of the administration that has expertise how to misuse the state police force to crack down on the democratic protests of the villagers, make mockery of the legal provisions of the country in broad day light, behave as a private army of the private corporations, not registering the complains of the poor and instead acting on false complains the victims are made culprits. From Khairban to Kalinganagar many incidents are in front of us where excesses committed by the misuse of state police force. Grossly misusing police force to intrude and bulldoze democratic rights of the people is the ninth definition of development.
Continuing the legacy of the previous governments, the present state government has also opened up all the tribals areas for the liquor vendors to brew and sale liquor, even when the tribals have rights to brew liquor for their own consumption. This has not only resulted in driving those poor tribals to economic ruins but those liquor vendors are busy in all sorts of illicit liquor activities. The result is repeated hooch tragedies in Odisha. Practising faulty excise policy to benefit of liquor mafias operating in nexus with corrupt excise and police officials even at the cost of huge losses of revenue and pushing tribals to economic ruins is the ninth definition of development.