Jairam Ramesh began the process of taking down the Indian economy and turned Ministry of Environment into a secret instrument for a new licence raj: Tavleen Singh

CENTER & ODISHA, ENVIRONMENT, EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, Puri, Universities: existing and upcoming 4 Comments »

Following is an excerpt from an article by Tavleen Singh in Indian Express.

So a junior minister, Jairam Ramesh, was allowed to begin the process of taking the Indian economy down by stopping huge infrastructure projects after investments worth thousands of crore rupees had already been made. Why did the Prime Minister not stop the Ministry of Environment from being turned into a secret instrument for a new licence raj?

Unfortunately, Odisha bore the biggest burnt of Jairam Ramesh’s folly when he stopped Vedanta University.

Odisha’s growth will be steady; albeit slower than what some desire

EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, Odisha govt. action, Odisha govt. Inaction, POSCO, Universities: existing and upcoming, Vedanta 9 Comments »

In the recently held by-elections in Umerkote in Nabarangpur district the BJD candidate won handily. The winning candidate from BJD had 54,713 votes while the candidate from BJP had 33,652 votes and from Congress had 32,877 votes.

In the 2009 elections the numbers were: BJD candidate – 44326, BJP candidate – 30,155, Congress candidate – 25,512.

Although this is just a single point data, but based on such data, my informal survey of people, my observations, and some other reasons I give below I predict the following:

  • BJD will win the next assembly and parliament elections handily in Odisha and it may even have more parliament seats than it got in 2009.

I now give some reasons for my prediction.

  • In the 2009 election BJD jettisoned BJP at the last moment; so it was not as prepared in some of the constituencies which had BJP representatives.
  • For the same reason, during the 2009 elections, in many people’s mind BJD and BJP were aligned together, while Congress was the opposition. So with the vote split between BJD and BJP, Congress was able to sneak through in some places.  Good examples of this situation are the Balasore and Sundergarh parliamentary constituents. In both places the BJP had strong candidates (in Kharabela Swain and Jual Oram, respectively) and thus the anti-Congress votes got split resulting in Congress wins in both places. The situation will be different in the next election. In the next election the anti-government votes will get split between Congress and BJP and both will do worse than they did in the 2009 elections.

Now let me list some of the attributes of the BJD party and its government and some points regarding the situation in Odisha.

  • BJD’s supremo is a gentleman and closely guards his party members at all levels to follow some basic principles. There are aberrations, but he sorts them out expeditiously. Following is what I mean.
    • The state ministers have very little authority or power. That way they don’t have much of an opportunity to engage in corruption; they can not do any corruption on behalf of the MLAs; the MLAs themselves or party workers at lower level  can not indulge in any big corruption. So in general, there is no (or very little) visible corruption among BJD MLAs and ministers, especially towards personal gain. (Note: All parties in India get their party funds from various sources. There is some corruption involved in that.)
    • The state functions via the bureaucrats and the important departments are headed by bureaucrats that have more or less spotless reputations. So the corruption by higher bureaucracy is not there.
    • With a long running government BJD has a lot of party workers, but they are not like cadres of other parties. They are restrained from indulging in violence or similar activities that would antagonize the people. The BJD party and the Odisha government’s way of dealing with Kalinganagar and POSCO situation and its comparison with Singur is illuminating. In both Kalinganagar and POSCO, although the opposition parties have indulged in unlawful and sometimes violent methods, the BJD party has not countered with its cadres. The government has followed the strategy of wearing people out with time and leaving matters to law and order authorities but with strict instructions to be soft. Thus, even though some newspapers published by opposition parties have used the term "BJD goondas", the public does not have such a view of BJD having a goonda cadre.
  • BJD has given SOPs to the poor people (2 Kg rice), have indulged in populist people pleasing policies (bicycle for girls), and has sincerely helped people during calamities. So its popularity among common people is growing.
  • In essence, the government and the BJD party is not heavy handed and not arrogant and is perceived as people friendly. Ofcourse pockets of people are unhappy in places (e.g. Dhinikia) where promotion of industry clashes with people wanting to be left alone or people agitated by others; but by the government and its party not being heavy handed, arrogant or violent, such unhappyness is localized and as in Kalinganagar, it decreases with time. 
  • The *local* media–especially the top news papers–in Odisha keep a sharp eye on the government. They scrutinize every action and inaction of the government and are mostly critical of the government. They rarely praise any government initiatives. If one is not careful, one solely reading the local media may start having a distorted image of Odisha. But, although, I often feel bad by the negative portrayal of  many things in the local media I realize that in the big picture view, this is good for Odisha. It keeps the government on its toes, keeps it in check, and prevents it from being arrogant. Once one takes the perspective that the job of the opposition and the local medial is to "oppose", "criticize" and "scrutinize" every government actions, and they are able to do that well and freely, then it is easier to get a better picture. Reading some comparative articles in the national media, such as this, also helps.

So how does BJD winning another term after this term reflect on Odisha’s future.

  • It means that the current policies will continue and some of the big projects will happen. In particular, POSCO will go the Kalinagnagar way with the resistance slowly decreasing and development creeping in. Already a good chunk of the land has been acquired and basic efforts for construction (such as access roads) have started. The opposition can stop some of the land being acquired but they can not lawfully stop construction to happen in land that has already been acquired. They are trying, but I don’t see such unlawful efforts being sustainable. Similarly, if the Supreme Court gives ok to the Vedanta University land acquisition so far, then that will happen too. For both these big projects one can look back at Kalinganagar and Dhamara as models. In both Kalinagnagar and Dhamara, it took much longer than originally projected, but they happened. My prediction is same with respect to POSCO and Vedanta University.
  • Although by various measures (of investment) Odisha is among the leading states in the country there is the perception that things move very slow here. The perception is true, but perhaps moving slow is necessary. Running roughshod over the people backfires in many ways. Again, Singur, West Bengal is a good example of that. Also, Chandrababu Naidu’s fast moving steps did not help him win the next election. So Odisha will move forward in a slow and steady manner slowly modifying some of the people’s anti-industry attitude and taking them along.

The above are broad stroke observations. There would be exceptions at individual levels. Similarly, the predictions are based on assuming that no abnormal events happen; the future is unpredictable and small events can change everything.

Now what can Odisha and BJD do better.

  • Rope in good technocrats and have more people with decision making authority: I think BJD and Odisha would do better if BJD ropes in some good technocrats who have spotless reputations. There is so much one CM and a few trusted officers can do. The party needs to find a few more people within its ranks and increase its ranks with people it can trust (to be effective and not corrupt) and have more people with real decision making  authority.
  • Find ways to listen to local and regional voices: Currently, most in BJD are winning elections because of the party supremo’s image. Plus the tight control from above results in that they do not have much of a voice in government decisions. As a result they are not able to forcefully state regional aspirations and demands. This results in regional aspirations and demands being sidelined. For example, in this site we have highlighted many demands of Rourkela people. Because the local representatives (MLAs and one of them happen to be a minister) do not have much of a voice, for little things (like a new train) they have to hit the streets. This is not healthy and could ultimately result in BJD’s downfall and/or more vocal demands to split the state. If the MLAs and ministers can not be fully trusted and the trusted officers rule the roost in the government, may be a few more senior officers (besides the RDCs) can be each entrusted with a cluster of districts to look after. In particular, their job would be to bring to the higher level of the government demands and aspirations of people of those districts.

Tavleen Singh on irresponsible activism of N C Saxena that greatly harms Odisha


Following is from Tavleen Singh’s article in Indian Express.

Last week in the Idea Exchange page opposite was the interview of a man who has been responsible for terminating a project that could have turned India into a hub for aluminum production and brought enormous prosperity to Orissa. I read the interview with N C Saxena carefully to try and understand what he did and was astounded to discover his reason. He said that if Vedanta had provided 500 jobs to local people, the environmental inquiry committee that destroyed its bauxite refinery in the Niyamgiri hills would have taken quite a different view.

The reason why this was so astounding an admission was because it is impossible to believe that someone prepared to invest more than Rs 11,000 crores in a project should not have been able to take care of 500 jobs. Mr Saxena admits that the adivasis of Niyamgiri were as keen on improving their lives as anyone else. “They also want to see TV and own cell phones, because now they have seen that some of them who are lucky enough to get a job in the factory have a cell phone. They also want to have that kind of life. No one has given a thought to what can be done to improve the lives of the 100 or 500 families there.”

So, we have a situation in which because 500 people did not manage to get jobs in the refinery, an investment of Rs 11,000 crores will go waste and a project that could have helped double the revenue of Orissa stands terminated. Even more worrying is that a member of the committee that recommended the closure of Vedanta’s refinery should admit that they did this despite noticing that the adivasis would have benefited if the project had not been closed. It is important here to note that Mr Saxena is on Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council (NAC) so we must assume that he represents a wider consensus at the top.

As someone who visited Koraput and Kalahandi during the drought in 1987 when adivasi women were selling their babies for as little as Rs 40, may I say that the poverty I saw was hideous. The sight of small children dying slowly of hunger on the dirt floor of mud huts is one of the worst things I have ever seen. Things have improved since then but only barely as most adivasis in most parts of India continue to live off what they can make from marginal farming. Their lives are so devoid of even minimum comforts that nobody can hope that they should continue to live forever off their small scraps of land. And, yet there are mighty NGO crusaders these days who want to ‘preserve’ what they call ‘tribal culture’.

They see the hideous poverty and the mud huts of ‘forest dwellers’ as charming and romantic without noticing that the adivasis do not agree with them. This is evident from the fact that it is from the ranks of adivasi forest dwellers that the Maoists recruit their troops. This is evident from the eagerness with which adivasis embrace modernity and the benefits of the 21st century any chance they get. The young adivasi girls who greeted Rahul Gandhi when he went to Niyamgiri to tell them that he was their ‘sipahi’ in Delhi had hairpins in their hair that could only have come from a modern shop.

This brings me to another interesting aspect of the closure of Vedanta’s refinery. Nobody seems sure why it happened. Rahul Gandhi in his speech the day after the refinery was closed said he was happy that the adivasis had managed to save their land. The Environment Minister announced that he was closing the refinery down because it violated forest laws and now we hear from a member of the ministry’s inquiry committee that the problem was 500 jobs. What is really going on?

Whatever it is, the only people who are winning are those who would like to see India’s poorest people remain poor forever and ever. If Vedanta’s project had not been closed and if Posco manages somehow to go ahead with its steel plant, the revenue of one of our poorest states could double. How can this be a bad thing?

Only massive private investment can bring the schools, hospitals and basic living standards that India’s poorest citizens desperately need. For more than sixty years, taxpayers’ money has been poured into government schemes that have served mostly to make some officials very rich. So when a major private investment is delayed or cancelled on flimsy grounds, it is an act of extreme irresponsibility. It is India’s misfortune that this kind of arbitrary action is becoming the leitmotif of Dr Manmohan Singh’s government. As an economist, he knows the irreparable damage being caused. Why does he not stop it?

Swapan Dasgupta on Jairam Ramesh’s arbitariness and malevolent political calculations; Odisha is the worst affected


Following is an excerpt from Swapan Dasgupta’s article in the Telegraph.

… The last occasion Singh spoke publicly on the unending growth versus environment controversy was at a media interaction on September 6 last year. Asked about industry’s fear of the rampaging minister for environment, Jairam Ramesh, the PM proffered what seemed a tangential answer. We have, he said, no intention of reverting to the licence-permit raj.

The answer was revealing. Having played a part in blunting the jagged edges of over-regulation, Singh was able to see the headline-grabbing actions of Ramesh for what they really are: a resuscitation of controls, using a ‘green’ cover.

… The rise and rise of Jairam Ramesh has been one of the most astonishing stories of 2010. An apparatchik with not even a hint of a mass base, he is today arguably the most powerful minister in the UPA-II government. He has become to economic policy what Pranab Mukherjee is to political management. His reputation isn’t based on his success in making India a more green and pleasant land but on his penchant for saying ‘no’. In a polity where real power lies with the states, he has made his ministry the instrument of the Centre’s intrusiveness, with devastating consequences.

Ramesh’s ‘achievements’ are awesome. He has blocked the largest foreign direct investment of Rs 51,000 crore by Posco in Orissa, stymied the emergence of India as the largest aluminium producing hub in the world, disrupted the Rs 2,000 crore initial public offering of the first private sector-created hill station of Lavasa in Maharashtra, and put a spanner in the works of two Jindal-promoted steel plants in Orissa and Chhattisgarh. The opportunity costs of his veto may well equal the Mahatma Gandhi national rural employment guarantee scheme budget!

That’s not all. He has unilaterally flouted all guidelines and committed India at Cancún to positions that could undermine national sovereignty and jeopardize the country’s future growth. He has shifted the parameters of India’s environment diplomacy at both Copenhagen and Cancún, disregarding the advice of India’s tried-and-tested negotiators. What is particularly striking is the dreary frequency with which he has personally repudiated the inviolable red lines of India’s global positions, much to the amusement of the rest of the world.

In between, he has questioned the government’s approach to national security during a visit to China and batted shamelessly for Chinese companies, presumably in pursuit of his Chindia pipe dream. More astonishing, Ramesh has done all this and more after repeatedly rubbing the PM and senior cabinet colleagues the wrong way.

A lesser politician would have been shown the door and made to cool his heels on the back benches. Shashi Tharoor (before his political hara-kiri) was ticked off by party bigwigs for his harmless displays of public-school humour on Twitter. But Ramesh has emerged unscathed from all the controversies and, indeed, grown from strength to strength. He even considered it prudent to level a blanket accusation at the entire political class, claiming harassment by members of parliament lobbying for corporates that have been stung by his decisions.

There are activists who see Ramesh as the best thing since sliced bread: a doughty ‘green’ crusader who is not afraid of doing what is right and playing by the rule book. He has, they say, put environmental activism on the map of India, not least by heeding Medha Patkar on Lavasa, Bianca Jagger on Vedanta and Greenpeace on Posco, appointing National Advisory Council activists to expert committees, and being influenced by internationally-funded advocacy groups on climate change. If public opinion in India was shaped by earnest graduates of American liberal arts colleges and environmental journalists, Ramesh would have been top dog politically — with the added attribute that he is ‘very close’ to the equally earnest heir apparent.

Unfortunately, life isn’t all black and white. Behind Ramesh’s fearless willingness to kick all polluters in the butt lurk malevolent political calculations. The minister, for example, played with a straight bat on the airport in Navi Mumbai. He made Praful Patel sweat, shed tears for the mangrove swamps and then proceeded to clear the project with token caveats. The stakes were just too high and any non-clearance would have led to him being roasted alive by the state Congress.

Equally, he deemed the Jaitapur nuclear power plant of strategic importance and linked it with the Indo-US nuclear agreement. In a different context, he would have waved a report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, describing the project as a “social disaster”, to issue an immediate ‘stop work’ notice. This time, the protests didn’t matter because they were, in his view, “politics on the pretext of environment”.

He should know. The stay on Vedanta’s Niyamgiri project was timed to allow Rahul Gandhi his “sipahi” moment. The dispute in Lavasa arose out of a turf battle: should the clearances have come from the Maharashtra government or the Centre? In the case of Posco, Vedanta and Jindal, brownie points were earned by deflating Naveen Patnaik’s aspirational balloon. Additionally, in the case of Posco, there was the delight of undermining the prime minister, who had taken a personal interest in the successful completion of the project. Presumably, from Ramesh’s perspective, these decisions didn’t amount to playing “politics on the pretext of environment”.

There were other sub-texts as well. The Lavasa promoter, it is widely believed, was tarred and made to suffer a huge loss of business credibility for supposedly being ‘close’ to Sharad Pawar. A project which began in 2004 and has more or less completed its first phase was ordered by Ramesh’s ministry to restore status quo ante! The order was subsequently modified but it revealed a mindset. In the case of Vedanta, N.C. Saxena, a member of the inquiry committee, recently admitted to The Indian Express that the decision would have been different if the company had given jobs to 500 local tribals. Posco was asked by Ramesh’s ministry to commit some Rs 3,000 crore to a corporate social responsibility programme as a precondition of clearance. These may be worthwhile political calculations, but they were certainly not “green” considerations.

In a recent interview, Ramesh claimed that “I want to professionalise the system of decision-making. I have proposed the establishment of a National Environmental Assessment and Monitoring Authority — a professional body, independent of the Ministry.” This may well happen in the future but, for the moment, Ramesh has made the ministry of environment a celebration of discretion and arbitrariness. He has merrily set about adding to the scope of his jurisdiction, taking on non-Congress state governments and overturning existing clearances. His ‘green’ norms are breathtakingly simple — “show me the person, I’ll show you the rule.” That, many would say, is what defines governance in India.

Who will pay for the lost 10 crore/year developmental work in the Lanjigarh area

Aluminium, Anil Agarwal, Bauxite, CENTER & ODISHA, EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, Kalahandi, Rayagada, Supreme Court 4 Comments »

Following is an excerpt from a report in Economic Times.

After stopping bauxite mining in Orissa the government now finds itself in a bind on the issue of rehabilitation in Lanjigarh. Corporate-backed developmental activities in the tribal region, one of the most backward places in the country, have come to a standstill following the environment ministry’s ban on mining.

The Anil Agarwal-controlled Sterlite Industries had been ordered by the Supreme Court in August 2008 to spend about 5% of its profit for development activity at Lanjigarh.

Since the environment ministry in August 2010 had barred mining, the rehabilitation package which includes about Rs 10 crore of annual development activity including the building of roads, schools and hospitals, has now been stopped.

"If disbursement from the development fund were to continue, it would imply approval of mining which would be contrary to the ministry’s order," said one person directly involved in the developmental work. On August 30, 2010, the ministry of environment and forests issued a notice barring bauxite mining in Niyamgiri on grounds of violation of environmental norms.

According to the same person quoted earlier, if the government asks Sterlite to stop developmental activity it would amount to contempt of court as it would go against the Supreme Court directive.

"Under our order we suggested rehabilitation package under which Sterlite Industries is required to deposit 5% of annual profits before tax and interest from Lanjigarh project or Rs 10 crore per annum whichever is higher," said the Supreme Court order. "The said project covers both mining and refining. The amount is required to be deposited by Sterlite Industries every year commencing from April 1, 2007. For the above reasons, we hereby grant clearance to the forest diversion proposal," read the order dated August 8, 2008.

… Among the projects which have been left uncertain include a Rs 3 crore hospital and a Rs 1.8 crore tribal school upgradation in the Lanjigarh block.

I hope the central government will consider paying this lost amount of 10 crores/year for developmental activities in that area.


13th Finance Commission projects Odisha to be number 2 in the country in its growth between 2010-11 and 2014-15


Following is an excerpt from

… in the GSDP(Gross State Domestic Product) growth projected by the country’s apex finance panel-13th Finance Commission for next five years(from 2010-11 to 2014-15) in the country after Goa(in the first position) and Orissa(2nd position).

The panel has projected that Gujarat’s GSDP will grow in next five years at average 12.46%(projection based on the base year 2007-08) while the highest growth has been projected for Goa(13.06%) and Orisssa(12.63%). While others states to grow at 12% plus are Haryana(12.30%) and Chattisgarh(12.28%). The other states which are projected to grow at 11% plus are Jharkhand(11.5%), Assam(11.32%) and Meghalaya(11.9%).

States with 10% plus growth projections are Karnatka(10.53%), Rajasthan(10.33%), Kerala and Himachal Pradesh(10.30%), Jammu & Kashmir(10.25%), Uttrakhand(10.17%) West Bengal(10.04%) and Andhra Pradesh(10.03%). Maharashtra, Taminadu and others state are expected to grow at 9% or below that.

Though projections have been made for Gujarat in top three GSDP growth states but the incremental growth(year to year improvement) rate has been projected as one of the lowest. For the same period incremental growth of Gujarat has been projected at 2.04% while for Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh its has been projected at 4.57, 4.46, 4.47, 4.24, 4.20 and UP 4.01% respectively.

One needs to worry about the negative impact of the anti-growth and anti-Odisha agenda of the prince of Congress and the environment ministry. The PM is a saving grace; but if the prince takes over then Odisha as well as India are doomed.

Professor Sumit Ganguly on the Vedanta decision by Ramesh

Aluminium, Anil Agarwal, Bauxite, ENVIRONMENT, EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, Kalahandi, Vedanta 6 Comments »

Following is from’s-pyrrhic-victory/.

… Some commentators in the Indian press with a strong anti-corporate orientation, meanwhile, are also gleeful that the project has come to a halt.

Ostensibly, this delight stems from having stopped a greedy multinational corporation from ruthlessly exploiting the natural resources of a remote part of the country and the traditional homelands of some of India’s adivasi (original), tribal population.

Yet despite the delight of these disparate groups with the decision, a more sober and dispassionate analysis suggests that the ultimate losers may well be the hapless tribal population who are the inhabitants of this region.

Generations of governments, despite loud promises, have done woefully little to improve their lot. The region lacks adequate roads, has few public clinics, limited educational facilities and an appalling lack of employment opportunities. Consequently, the locals remain mired in harsh and abject poverty.

The mining investment might not have been a panacea for their many woes. However, it did offer the promise of new schools, better roads, the opening of hospitals and above all the prospects of better-paid work. With the seemingly sagacious decision, none of those possibilities will materialize despite the rather facile promise from a popular Congress member of parliament, Rahul Gandhi, that he would act as the ‘sipahi’ (guard) of their interests in New Delhi.

What is being portrayed as a great victory of environmentalism is sadly little more than a crass effort to win the votes of the tribal population in a desperately underdeveloped state. The Indian state that has long failed to protect and improve the plight of the country’s tribal population needs to do far better than what transpired this week. More to the point, romantic environmentalists and their cheerleaders in the press should think about how they are becoming unwittingly complicit in the Congress’ Party’s feckless quest for votes.

His short bio from the same page:

Ganguly is the Rabindranath Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations and a Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. Ganguly is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of twenty books on South Asia and serves on the editorial boards of Asian Affairs, Asian Survey and Current History among others.

Varied coverage on Vedanta and Jairam Ramesh’s high-handedness

Aluminium, Anil Agarwal, Bauxite, CENTER & ODISHA, ENVIRONMENT, EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, Kalahandi, Vedanta Comments Off on Varied coverage on Vedanta and Jairam Ramesh’s high-handedness

Earlier the media thought that the underdogs were the locals and tribal and the valiant NGOs fighting for them against the big monster Vedanta. So all the stories (except direct publishing of Vedanta press releases which they had to do once in while to keep getting Vedanta’s ads) were from the angle of how mining in Niyamgiri would destroy the way of life of the tribals. How Vedanta did this mistake or that mistake which was magnified and circulated by the NGOs. No body outside of the government and Vedanta dared to defend the mining aspects as they were afraid of being labeled as bought outs, being bribed, or just monsters who do not care about poor people and tribals.

But now it seems Jairam Ramesh has behaved in such a high handed and partisan manner that slowly the media is discovering the other side of the story; which they mostly ignored earlier.

Here are some of the coverages.

1. From

In a shocking volte-face, the most vocal tribal voice against the Vedanta project in Niyamgiri hills of Orissa, is now its brand ambassador – Jitu Jakesika is now trying to convince tribals on the benefits of the mining project. Twenty-two-year-old Jitu Jakesika belonging to the Dongoria tribe of Orissa had come out in fierce opposition against the Vedanta mining project in 2008, when Rahul Gandhi had first visited Langigarh. He’s now crossed the line and is espousing the Vedanta cause.

"The NGOs and the political parties used to come to us and tell us that Vedanta would blast at Niyamgiri hills to extract bauxite and thus our livelihood and culture would be destroyed. I was convinced by their theory though I was educated. Later, I realised that this mining project will not have a detrimental effect on our livelihood and culture in any way. It would rather usher in development in our area." In 2009 Jitu was sponsored by Vedanta to study business administration in Bhubaneswar. His views have changed since. Jitu’s critics allege bribery and corruption. But he is unfazed.

"Our tribal people worship at the Niyamdanga hills not at the adjoining Niyamgiri hills as is being propagated by the NGOs. So where is the question of our worship place being destroyed coming from? We tribals worship mostly in our houses," insists Jitu.

Vedanta had also sponsored a visit of the tribals to NALCO’s bauxite mining site in Koraput, gaining some supporters for the mining project in the process. Now, Jitu has intentions of visiting Delhi soon to meet Rahul Gandhi and the prime minister and convey to them that all tribals in his community are not against the Vedanta project. However, whether Jitu’s contrarian voice would be heard or not isn’t clear yet.

We earlier mentioned Jitu in our article

2. From a rediff article by Nilmadhab Mohanty.


First, the manner and time-line followed in the decision-making. The Orissa state government seems to have applied for final clearance in August 2009.

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) has been deliberating the proposal at least since November 2009. In addition to the information submitted by the State and the central government’s own agencies, it had the benefit of the recommendations made by a three-member expert group which submitted its report in February 2010.

FAC then asks for yet another committee under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, which is the nodal agency in the central government for tribal rights. The environment minister, however, appoints his own committee (the Saxena Committee) in the last week of June 2010.

Then the pace quickens: The environment minister writes to the law ministry on July 19 to obtain the Attorney General’s opinion if the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) apply its mind and decide in the light of the Supreme Court’s earlier decision giving forest clearance.


The AG replies promptly on the following day; Saxena submits report on August 16, FAC deliberates without much loss of time and submits recommendations on August 23, and the minister announces his decision with a 20-page reasoned order on August 24, 2010!

The must be a record in governmental working! The affected party, namely the Orissa government, is hardly given any chance to given an explanation to the MoEF.

In fact, the hapless Orissa officials seem to have met the minister on August 24 when he was in a tearing hurry to announce his decision!


The highhandedness I refer to is that fact that Ranesh did not give much of a chance to hear the Odisha government’s response to the Saxena committee report. He seems to have already made up his mind. So much so that Rahul Gandhi’s trip to Kalahandi was already announced on August 21st, while CM Naveen Patnaik met PM Manmohan Singh and Jairam ramesh on August  23rd and Jairam Ramesh met the Odisha government officials on August 24th. 

No one will believe that Rahul Gandhi made the decision to visit Kalahandi without knowing what Ramesh’s decision would be. Ramesh’s scant regard for what Odisha has to say on the issue shows his highhandedness. His informing Rahul Gandhi about the decision before even the report was submitted by FAC on August 23 shows that the government in Delhi is not a democratic government but a fiefdom of the Gandhi’s.

There are many more disturbing questions raised by the rediff article by Nilmadhab Mohanty.

3. The article by Saubhik Chakrabarti in Indian Express raises many other questions.

4. The blog entry at

5. Tavleen Singh in Indian Express:

6. Indian Express Editorial:

7. B G Verghese in Business Standard:

See also his op-ed in

Saubhik Chakrabarti gives a nuanced picture of Lanjigarh in Indian Express

Aluminium, Anil Agarwal, Bauxite, CENTER & ODISHA, ENVIRONMENT, EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, Kalahandi, New Indian Express, Indian Express, Financial express, Vedanta 2 Comments »

Following is from his article in

…Niyamgiri, or Niyamgiri hill range—more than 100 hills; 250 square km approximate area—justifies the use of a few cliches. Lush. Verdant. Breathtakingly beautiful in clear, early morning light. The abundance of flora is easily evident (fauna, of course, is not easily spotted, but there are indisputable authoritative declarations on its abundance). Dense clusters of fruit-bearing trees on the slopes can pleasingly unnerve a typical city type. Niyamgiri mangoes are going for Rs 5 a kg or even less at small local markets. Medicinal plants that grow on the hill slopes, say locals, can cure severe wounds. A long trip to the indifferent care of the public heath centre is not required. So, yes, you can think ‘unspoilt’. Many members of the local tribal population—Dongria Kondh, who live on the upper slopes of Niyamgiri and the Kutia Khond, who live near the foothills—were bussed in for Rahul Gandhi’s rally on Thursday, and many of them were clearly happy that mining in Niyamgiri is now stalled.  …

There are plot twists. Seven twists, in fact.

1. A question on local tribal custom.

2. The nuanced answer to the question, what do tribal groups want?

3. How the private investor in Niyamgiri is a bad advertisement for private investment.

4. Where’s the ruling party in Niyamgiri politics?

5. Can we assume a tribal arcadia?

6. Could Niyamgiri have become a laboratory of intelligent mining?

7. Can Orissa afford the Niyamgiri decision?

First twist: That the tribes are protected groups, under Schedule V of the Constitution, that wildlife protection rules apply to much of the area, that the ecosystem is something special are all undisputed facts. That tribal groups have always associated their deity with the hilltop is also supposed to be undisputed. But if you ask around persistently, you don’t get a clear answer. Some locals, otherwise unimpressed with Vedanta’s development efforts, say the hilltop becoming ‘sacred’ is a recent change. Many others dispute this. And this lack of local consensus on what should be widely known local tribal tradition is important because bauxite in Niyamgiri resides on the hilltop—that’s where the mining was to happen before the Central environment ministry denied Orissa Mining Corporation a clearance. This part of the story is more complicated than the usual anti-mining narrative suggests.

Second twist: What are the tribal groups opposing? They are opposing mining on the hilltop. But are they opposing the building of social and physical infrastructure in an area that’s staggeringly underdeveloped even by Indian standards? The answer’s no, and that might seem obvious. But its implications are not obvious. No one denies that successive state governments, Congress or BJD, have been worse than negligent in terms of building social/physical infrastructure. Niyamgiri is in Kalahandi, which is part of the infamous KBK (Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi) group of districts: extreme underdevelopment is the KBK signature. KBK districts account for 72 per cent of Orissa’s below the poverty line population. Of the 82 very backward blocks in Orissa, 53 are in KBK. KBK literacy rate is an abysmal 43.3 per cent, while Orissa’s state-wise average is 63.08 per cent. These are all figures (source: 2002 Orissa BPL Census) that tell a dreadfully grim story. And everyone in the Niyamgiri battle, whichever side they are on, agrees.

Siddharth Nayak, leader of Green Kalahandi, a local activist group that counts among its supporters Vandana Shiva, Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy, said lack of minimum and halfway reasonable quality infrastructure is a big problem. He also said Vedanta Aluminum Ltd (VAL) hasn’t developed as much infrastructure as promised. This is a complaint made by many locals, tribal or otherwise. But if there’s no Vedanta, or no mining, no trigger effect from private investment, who will develop infrastructure, build schools, hospitals, roads? To say that the state administration should do it seems a bit of a cruel joke given decades of history. And especially because local infrastructure is linked to local economic vitality.

There’s no convenient railhead for Kalahandi, a brutal reminder of the district’s lack of minimum economic heft. Apart from agriculture in tiny holdings and forest produce, the latter, consumed and sold locally, and therefore offering no multiplier effects, Kalahandi has little to offer, except a king’s ransom in minerals. Eco-tourism on hills like Niyamgiri is the local activists’ favourite solution to act as a development trigger. But will eco-tourism concentrating on the lush hill ranges bring in the kind of investment that large-scale industrial activity can? And minus the large-scale investment, can enough jobs and enough infrastructure be created? Locals loudly complain that Vedanta doesn’t employ enough of them, that its school—DAV Vedanta School, an impressively well-appointed facility—doesn’t enroll enough tribal/non-tribal children. Vedanta officials deny this. But the fact of these complaints says something: that there was and is a strong expectation, from tribal and non-tribal locals, that big private investment can have beneficial effects. If we assume Vedanta’s corporate social responsibility hasn’t been up to the mark, then the question, from locals’ point of view, is one of more locally engaged private investors, not solely of the absolute villainy of private investors. But the villainy is what the simple narrative of Niyamgiri highlights.

The more nuanced telling of this story comes from the likes of Raju Sahu who came from Bihar to Kalahandi 10 years ago and runs four tea/food stalls on the state highway that links Lanjigarh—where Niyamgiri and the Vedanta factory are situated—to Bhawanipatna, the district HQ. Sahu says his business has more than trebled since Vedanta started operating from here about four years ago. But he complains: what will happen if operations shut down, and why isn’t the state highway in a better condition; his business would be even better then. All along the road and right up to the site of Rahul Gandhi’s rally, tiny businesses run by locals talk of a quantum jump in sales and brood about it all ending. They, too, are locals, and the Niyamgiri story and the Kalahandi story can’t be delinked from what they represent: the possibility of local economy regeneration.

Third twist: Vedanta hasn’t made it easy for themselves or for the cause of private investment. This is apparent even if one sets aside questions about how Vedanta set up its bauxite refinery, how it increased the capacity and the sources of its current bauxite.

Vedanta officials offer you stacks of folders on CSR activities. But local complaints on Vedanta’s less-than-stellar efforts are universal. Lanjigarh or the wider area surrounding it doesn’t even look like a company town, as habitations surrounding big industrial projects often do. The bauxite to aluminum business gives very high returns. Those kind of margins sharpen the question of effective spending for local development.

Also, the company faces several allegations of what activists call its “reliance” on strong-arm methods. A recent case, much mentioned by activists and Congress leaders, is that of the police picking up Lado Sikaka, a Dongria Kondh, and later releasing him. Sikaka says he was brutally roughed up and was almost “kidnapped” because, as he alleges, he’s a prominent anti-mine activist. The local police say picking him up was an error. Vedanta says it doesn’t support any strong-arm methods. But perceptionally, the company seems to have lost this battle.

The state highway mentioned earlier is a good example of bad optics. Vedanta’s 16 tonne carriers, which weigh 33 tonnes when packed with aluminum oxide produced in the plant, trundle down this road every day, 30 trips a day on average. The road shows the toll of this traffic. Local administration officials admit the state highway, never top quality in the first place, is in increasing state of disrepair. They talk about charging more toll from the carriers and rebuilding the road. But, strangely, Vedanta hasn’t helped in making this road better. The company’s response to this highlights the local administration’s responsibility, while adding that it has built roads elsewhere. But this is literally the road to the project. It was entirely appropriate therefore to see, on this road, a shabbily painted Vedanta signboard, hanging askew, with a Rahul Gandhi poster pasted smack in the middle of the board. That pretty much tells you the story of Vedanta’s big PR problem in Lanjigarh.

Another aspect of the same problem is how Niyamgiri was planned to be mined. The Orissa Mining Corporation and Sterlite (Vedanta’s sister concern) formed a joint venture, the Southwest Orissa Bauxite Mining. Sterlite has 74 per cent shareholding. This JV was supposed to act for OMC in choosing and monitoring mining on the Niyamgiri hilltop. But given that the controversy on Niyamgiri mining was brewing for two years, was this arrangement—essentially Sterlite in charge of ensuring good mining practices for bauxite that’s needed by its sister concern Vedanta —the smartest? Vedanta officials say Sterlite’s experience makes it ideal for the purpose. But they don’t have a good answer to the question whether this is credible in a charged atmosphere. Knowledgeable local activists keep making this point, with some justice.

Fourth twist: The absence of enough competition in local politics. The Congress is front and square in the Niyamgiri agitation, delighted now by its ‘victory’. But where is the BJD, Orissa’s ruling party? The line between activists and the Congress is muddled enough for the local Congress MP, Bhakt Charan Das, to have been a past head of Green Kalahandi. But the BJD is so politically ineffective here that bandh calls on Wednesday and Thursday were comprehensively ignored. The BJD’s local weakness may seem surprising for a party that has won three state elections, and whose chief minister, Navin Patnaik, has made a determined effort to appear tribal-friendly. The explanation lies in the vagaries of alliance politics. When the BJD and the BJP became allies, Kalahandi was given to the BJP to build a base. The alliance broke up on the eve of the 2009 assembly elections. So, the BJD essentially had a late start in Kalahandi. That political weakness has resulted in giving the local Congress, which was always strong in Kalahandi, a headstart in political mobilisation on Niyamgiri. Had the BJD been stronger, had it been in a position to work among local tribal groups, the contest would have been more even. Local BJD officials admit this privately.

The Niyamgiri story is not just about activists and tribal groups, it’s also about the Congress getting an unusually clear political field. There are no credible local politicians to speak for the mining project. The sharp irony here is that Patnaik is also the forest minister, who has publicly led the campaign for tribal land rights, but the Niyamgiri mining proposal has been deemed dramatically violative of forest rights. There’s no local BJD counter-point to this.

Fifth twist: Tribal arcadia? Yes, Niyamgiri provides plenty of natural resources. Yes, the hill inhabitants don’t get affected by the droughts that are so common to Kalahandi. Yes, rank starvation is not a feature in Niyamgiri. But the tribal groups still operate in what is a subsistence economy, and they don’t have access to basic facilities in education or health. Tribal groups seems more aware of this than those romanticising the Niyamgiri way of life. Which is why local tribals complain about not getting jobs or education for their children. Which is also why Sitaram Raju, an 18-year-old security guard at the under-construction Vedanta co-funded mid-day meal cooking centre in Lanjigarh, has these stories about several inquiries from local tribal people on when the centre will start operating?

Our children will get eggs and good rice, local tribal people said when asked about the mid-day meal centre. There’s desperation for wanting something more than what they have in that wish. Raju, from Sambalpur in Orissa, earns Rs 4,200 a month. That’s a handsome salary in comparison to local average incomes. And Raju got the job because private security agencies have come in numbers since Vedanta started building sites. A local young tribal—he said he’s “eight class pass”—when asked whether he would like a job that pays what Raju gets, looked at his interlocutor as if the latter was an idiot. Of course, he said. But there are no jobs.

The hazards of romanticising tribal ways of life are colourfully exemplified by Kalahandi’s self-proclaimed “most important communist”. …

Sixth twist: Could Niyamgiri have become an ideal laboratory for good mining? Some Niyamgiri stats bear mention. There are around 8,500 tribal people in the 250 sq. km. hill area. That low population density makes industrial activity easier to handle in terms of fallout. The proposed mining area was four square km: a very small part of the hills. There’s seemingly irreconcilable debate about whether the bauxite-rich hilltop is green-friendly or not. The pro-mining view says trees don’t grow on bauxite-rich hilltops because the mineral doesn’t retain water. Post-mining, when the bauxite reserve is exhausted, the hilltop can, this view says, be made green-friendly. The example given is Nalco’s greening of the hilltop in the Koraput mine; Koraput is a neighbouring district. The anti-mining view says bauxite is porous and it therefore allows water to filter down and that keeps the hills lush. Establishing the real position objectively seems a lost cause in Niyamgiri. The talk is only about Vedanta’s violations and keeping mining away forever. Vedanta may well have violated legal norms, as the environment ministry says. And definitely, the Vedanta-OMC arrangement on mining Niyamgiri, as explained earlier, doesn’t pass muster in terms of a conflict of interest test. But sustained talk of huge ecological devastation, as the Saxena report for example talks about, has killed intelligent discussion on whether Niyamgiri could have been intelligently mined, under proper supervision. Also, bauxite mining, because the hilltop deposits are shallow, rarely needs blasting, the most disruptive of mining activities.

There’s something odd about the Central approach to ecological impact of the proposed Niyamgiri mining. Niyamgiri had received environmental clearance in October 2007. This okay comes after impact assessment studies under the Environment Protection Act. The Saxena report, which was submitted with a speed rare in government—formed in late June this year, the report was submitted on August 16—spends pages on ecological impact. But what does this mean? That the Centre was unaware since 2007, when the EPA clearance was given, that Niyamgiri mining would be environmentally harmful, and that the dangers were discovered only after a two-month study by the Saxena committee?

The seventh and the biggest twist: Can bauxite be mined in Kalahandhi, which has a huge reserve of the mineral? The Central environment ministry says the denial of mining rights is based on rules violation, in particular violation of forest rights under Forest Rights Act. This seems to imply that had Vedanta played by the book as per the ministry’s assessment, clearance would have come. But the Saxena report also puts emphasis on tribal groups’ livelihood traditions and on potential ecological damages. On the ground in Kalahandhi, it’s these two that are being highlighted. Local Congress leaders and activists talk of attempts at stealing away tribal land. If the Centre reckons that subsequent applications for mining hilltop bauxite can be measured only against legal benchmarks, it is probably making a mistake.

Kalahandi is a scheduled area, with heavy tribal presence. Tribal habitations are typically in the area’s hills. The hilltops have bauxite. The ‘victory’ in Niyamgiri has fired up activists and the Congress. Not all tribes who live in other bauxite-rich hills have the heavily protected legal status enjoyed by the Kondhs of Niyamgiri. But, as Nayak said, every mining application will now be met with movements about tribal rights. He reckons Niyamgiri has created a precedent that’s too strong to be ignored. This is good from the activists’ point of view, or for Orissa Congress’s political calculations, but it’s hardly good news for Kalahandi and Orissa.

This is the real big potential fallout of Niyamgiri: it can create more Niyamgiris. 

Following are some of my comments: 

  •  Earlier, we also made the point regarding how sacred the hill-top was. In India, both tribals as well as Hindus have many things that they pray. Often many people make temples to usurp government land.  So the lack of consensus regarding the hilltop being sacred and even people who are unimpressed with Vedanta suggesting that the "hilltop being sacred" is a recent change points finger at the activists being behind hyping up the sacred aspect of the hill top.
  • On Vedanta not having developed infrastructure: The various reports say that with importing bauxite from outside the company was not making profit, so based on short-term economics it did not spend enough in developing infrastructure. But that was short-sighted action from the company.
  • The author makes a nice point that the local and tribals do want jobs, schools etc.  and  were not opposed to development per se.
  • Vedanta’s trucks are directly responsible for the deterioration of those roads. They should have spent money on those roads and made them better.
  • BJD has a unique opportunity now to counter congress and shore up its base. It should immediately announce and start a state university in Kalahandi; it should take over the half-constructed medical college and make it a government medical college; and it should augment the agricultural college. Being in power in the state, it can do that. It can then go to the people and say: "See Congress is against development. But we are not going to let their anti-development stance hurt the people of Kalahandi. We will do our best to bring development to Kalhandi." (Hopefully Congress will then counter this with some kind of a central institution there.)

My final thought is why did not Saubhik Chakrabarti write such an article before. In the past the only views on Lanjigarh mining that would come out is that of the activists and the press releases by Vedanta. Both were one-sided. So the Indian media is partly responsible for the negative effects of Ramesh’s activism. If only they had given nuanced views like the above before Ramesh made the decision then Ramesh may have made a more nuanced decision.

Jairam Ramesh, environment, Vedanta and Odisha

Alleged rogues, Anil Agarwal, Bauxite, Bhubaneswar- Cuttack- Puri, ENVIRONMENT, EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, Forestization, Kalahandi, Key Center-State issues, Koraput, Malkangiri, Mine related pollution, Nabarangpur, Puri, Vedanta 12 Comments »

People reading this blog must must have seen the news about the Saxena committee (which was empowered by Jairam Ramesh and the environment ministry) report on Vedanta’s operations in Lanjigarh, Odisha.

Although the report reads like an activist team’s report, the fact remains that the laws of the country are sacred and needs to be followed.

It is a different matter that laws are broken with impunity at all levels ranging from the laws reported to be broken by Vedanta to normal people extending their houses and gardens into government land, groups building temples as a ruse to capture government land where ever they feel like, people blocking roads, trains, doing bandhs whenever they feel like, etc. etc. In India laws are broken with impunity and are broken more often than they are adhered to. But this does not excuse what Vedanta is reported to have done. The committee report also rebukes the Odisha government for its hand in the whole affair.

However, one needs to put this report in perspective with what the environment ministry and Jairam Ramesh have found in rest of India. Following are excerpts from a report in that gives us some added perspective.

… several industrialists are also upset about what they call Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh’s activist-like positions. "He is taking positions, which are normally associated with unreasonable activists and their organisations," says one leading industrialist whose project is stuck. …

… Data from the ministry’s website show that of the 58 projects that have come up for Coastal Regulation Zone clearance since April 2009, it gave only half a dozen of them the green signal.

Over 1,800 projects are awaiting clearances as of the first week of this month.

…"There are people who consciously instigate and organise people in coastal Andhra against projects coming up in the region," says a spokesperson of a power company,  which is promoting a project in coastal Andhra Pradesh.

"Land availability is a big issue in India. Developers can approach the ministry only after either acquiring the land or have assurances to get the land, to request for the terms of reference to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment study. By that stage, a lot of investment and time may have gone into execution of the projects, and still you are not sure of getting the clearance," says Sanjay Sethi, executive director (infrastructure) at Kotak Investment Banking.

"It is necessary to have more transparent and clear guidelines and checklists for land available for various commercial and industrial uses, with clear maps of sensitive zones, which should be easily available to project developers," he adds.

… To be fair to the environment ministry, there are issues like misrepresentation of facts by project developers and the state, or conflicting reports on issues by expert panels.

In a recent development, the environmental clearances for at least four projects in an around Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh were suspended by the ministry.

On July 15, the ministry cancelled the clearance given to Nagarjuna Construction Company’s 2,640 megawatt (Mw) coal-based super critical thermal power plant at Gollagandi and Baruva villages in Srikakulam.

An expert panel said most of the project land allocated by the state government might be regarded as wetland, contrary to an earlier panel report that the 750 acres of grasslands were barren and not fit for agriculture.

The same expert panel, which visited East Coast Energy’s 2,640 Mw thermal project near Kakarapalli village in Srikakulam during the same time, found the state government had ignored reports on the ecological value of low lying areas of the well recognised Naupada swamps wetland and migratory bird breeding in nearby Telineelapuram of Srikakulam.

"This amounts to suppression/distortion of facts," the panel said.

A nearby project – that of JSW’s 1.4 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) alumina refinery and a co-generation plant – is also being reviewed by the ministry.

… On June 28, the ministry directed the formation of a supervisory committee to monitor the influence of toxic effluents from JSW Energy’s 1,200 Mw thermal power plant at Jaigad in Maharashtra, following apprehensions that effluents could affect the quality of Alphonso mangoes and cashew orchards in the region.

… Ten days before that, Jindal Power Limited drew the wrath of the ministry for commencing construction of a 2,400 Mw power project at Tamnar in Chhattisgarh,  without obtaining prior environment clearance.

The ministry has directed the state government to stop work and initiate action against the Naveen Jindal-promoted company.

Some of the other high-profile projects that have been halted include the Maheshwar Hydroelectric project on the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh on grounds that the conditions of the statutory environmental clearance were not complied with and the resettlement and rehabilitation of the project-affected families was less than satisfactory – charges denied by the state chief minister and the company.

… Also, many say the minister has involved himself in much-publicised wars of words with Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel over the environment ministry’s reluctance to clear the Navi Mumbai international airport, citing destruction of mangroves, razing of a hill and diversion of two rivers; with Road Transport Minister Kamal Nath, who openly accused him of blocking projects;

… But, even his sharpest critics agree on one thing: Ramesh has made sure that no one can treat the environment ministry lightly any longer.

… "This is probably the first time that an environmentalist has become a minister. He is almost single-handedly bringing about a paradigm shift within the government about how to view progress and development," says Pandey.

I agree with the sentence in the red. Earlier companies and state governments were not taking the environment ministry that seriously. Ramesh’s actions will make sure that everyone take the environment ministry seriously. That is a good thing and kudos to Mr. Ramesh for that.

However, as far as Odisha is concerned Jairam Ramesh seems to have something against it. We say that for the following reasons.

  • When Odisha was trying for an IIT Jairam Ramesh insulted Odisha with his comments. See
  • Recently, Hindustan Times (see reported the following: "The Union Environment Ministry on Tuesday put on hold the controversial Rs.150 billion Vedanta University project in Orissa following complaints of alleged irregularities by its promoter Anil Agarwal Foundation. The direction to keep the project in abeyance has come within a month of the Ministry granting conditional environmental clearance to the Foundation which is building the university." Now stopping a mine or a factory or an airport for environmental reasons may make sense, but a university?? That too, just because some one complained. No investigation! Just people complained and he stopped the project, when the project was about to construct a medical college!!
  • Jairam Ramesh and his ministry recently granted environmental permission to construct the Polavurum dam in Andhra Pradesh against the objections of the Orissa and Chhatisgrah government. See . Times of India was surprised with this. It wrote: "Oddly, while the ministry had set up separate committees to investigate the settlement of rights under the Forest Rights Act in other high profile cases such as Vedanta and Posco which propose to displace far lesser people, in the Polavaram case the ministry has decided to accept the state government’s compliance report on face value.  The mega-project is expected to submerge 276 villages displacing upwards of two lakh people by some estimates. "   

In summary, while Jairam Ramesh deserves kudos for putting his foot down on environment laws and making sure everyone takes them seriously, people of Odisha need to be very careful of him as he seems to be against Odisha; he has stopped projects clearly beneficial to Odisha (namely, Vedanta University) by using his environment stick, and at the same time has allowed projects clearly harmful to Odisha  (namely, the polavurum dam) even after the Odisha government and Odisha chief minister have vehemently objected to it. This does not at all gel with the actions they took against Vedanta University. There the project was ordered to stop because some people complained. Here the project was given green signal despite the state of Odisha and its chief minister complaining and that too reportedly without any enquiry. 

What’s Rahul Gandhi up to in Odisha?

Aluminium, Anil Agarwal, ENVIRONMENT, EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, Jagatsinghpur, Kalahandi, POSCO, South Korea, Steel 5 Comments »

Following article titled ” `Rahul hand behind POSCO, Vedanta mess’ – Cong counters BJD charge” is from Times of India Bhubaneswar edition. Thanks to HM for bringing this to our notice and sending it to us.

The educated tribal view of Niyamgiri and its mining?

Aluminium, Anil Agarwal, Bauxite, EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, Kalahandi, Telegraph, Vedanta 2 Comments »

There are tons of news items alleging how mining in the Niyamgiri hills will destroy the way of living of the Dongria Kondh people. Reputed organizations such as Action Aid and Survival International have strongly campaigned against the mining there and have castigated the state government of Odisha and Vedanta Resources for intending to mine Bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills. The following report from Telegraph gives a different viewpoint that one also needs to read and think about.

From the remote Dongria Kondh village in Sakata to the capital’s Aryan School of Management Information and Technology, Jitu Jakesia has come a long way.

The first from the Dongria Kondh tribe to clear the Class X board examination, the firebrand tribal leader from Muniguda block in Jakesia, is now concentrating on his studies.

He believes that without education, the Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) cannot succeed in its mission.

Representing his community before the joint committee of the ministry of environment and forests and ministry of tribal affairs, Jakesia put forward the problems faced by the Dongria community and what should be done to remedy them as per the provisions of the Forest Rights Act.

…“After passing the matriculation examination, I started began attending high school in Muniguda College. I pursued studies in the Arts stream. I completed my graduation from the same college. During my three years in college, I worked as an activist, fighting against industrialisation. I thought that this would make a difference, as I was inspired by NGOs and political parties,” he said.

Jakesia was, however, disillusioned by political parties and voluntary organisations.

“At the end of the day, resources really matter. During my student days, I received no help from voluntary organisation or political party. The members of my family were alcoholics. All these problems forced me to focus on my career as a student and not an activist. I ended up continuing my studies,” he said.

…Regarding industrialisation and its effects on Niyamgiri, Jakesia said: “I realised that for bauxite excavation, only the surface level of the rock is used.

This is unlike iron ore and coal mining, where one has to go below the surface. Thus, the process is fairly smooth. You will be surprised to know that puja offered to Niyam Raja was never performed there. Now, after the spread of awareness, the puja is performed on top of the hill.

He said that there was a time when no one was aware of Niyamgiri.

“If you search on the internet now, you will find thousands of results. The industrial development has given Kalahandi many things. It’s quite visible in the economy and development. So, I do not think development is unnecessary’’ he told The Telegraph.

During submission of his grievances regarding the Forest Rights Act, Jakesia had said: “The revenue officials have made many blunders by marketing forest land as hill land.”

There are many instances where there is no scope for individuals or communities to derive benefits from the Act, as the officials don’t understand the problem.

With so many loopholes, requisite amendments should be made, Jakesia had told the joint committee.

See also the article at and the following youtube video for more on this young man’s views.

The Telegraph article spells the name of the young man incorrectly. His correct name is Jitu Jakasika. If one googles his name one will read many old article where Jitu is fighting against mining. See for example this article at in the pages of Survival International.

Dhinikia Gram Panchayat has spoken; POSCO should stay away from Dhinikia; Both pro and anti POSCO people should shun violence

Against Bandhs, Against Road Blockades, EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, Jagatsinghpur, Paradip - Jatadhari - Kujanga, POSCO Comments Off on Dhinikia Gram Panchayat has spoken; POSCO should stay away from Dhinikia; Both pro and anti POSCO people should shun violence

The Anti-POSCO candidates for the gram panchayat elections have won. The details are below. I hope POSCO removes Dhinikia from its plan and both anti and pro POSCO people shun violence and illegal activities sich as blocking roads. Let POSCO be established in those areas where people want it and stay away from places where they are not wanted. Following is an excerpt from a report in orissadiary about the gram panchayat election results.

Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti … PPSS fielded its sarpanch candidate Mr Sisir Mohapatra and PS member candidate Mr Prakash Jena in this panchyat election. Mr Mohapatra is working as secretary of PPSS while Mr Jena has been languishing in Kujang jail since seven months after his arrest on Posco violence issue. PPSS candidate Mr Mohapatra has defeated his rival candidate Mrs Salila Nayak, wife of former sarpanch late Basant Nayak by margin 73 votes .Mr Mohapatra has got 2005 votes while Nayak has got 1932 votes.

Similarly, PS member candidate Mr Jena has also defeated his rivalry candidate Mr Nrusingh Das by 282 votes in which Jena has got 1672 votes while Mr Das has got 1390 votes. Sarpanch candidate Mr Nayak and PS member Mr Das who were defeated from this seat was backed by Posco supporters.

On the other hand, Zilla Parishad candidate Mr Saubhagaya Behera who was contesting as independent candidate has defeated his rival congress candidate Mr Rupakar Sethy by 995 votes. Mr Behera has got 6742 votes while Mr Sethi has got 5767 votes.

Orissa needs to avoid going the West Bengal way


An article in the Statesman  gives the dismal state of affairs in West Bengal. Orissa must resist the communist party’s indiscriminate opposition to industries and industrialists to avoid going the West Bengal way. People of Orissa must also learn to avoid listening to leaders from West Bengal who are routinely invited by Orissa communist leaders. These people have already destroyed West Bengal. Listening to their ideas and acting on them will take Orissa on the wrong path. Following are excerpts from that article.

Bengal’s dismal economy

According to the latest estimates of the RBI, West Bengal has a total debt of Rs 1.47 lakh crore, including small savings loan of Rs 61,000 crore and market loan of Rs 31,579 crore. It means, 8.5 crore of the state’s people have a per capita debt of more than Rs 17,000. Among the states, only Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have larger indebtedness, although both have larger areas and population than West Bengal.

In order to reduce the states’ indebtedness and their fiscal imbalance, the Central government introduced the FRBM Act three years back. It provided opportunity to the states to be relieved of Central loan to the extent they would reduce their fiscal deficit. But unlike other states, West Bengal could not utilise this benefit. On the other hand, the state has indulged in gradual rise in its non-developmental expenditure, particularly in escalating its salary and pension bills.
Around 2001, the state government’s expenditure on this account was 155 per cent of its own tax collection. It has, however, managed to bring it down to 90 per cent, first by ceasing and then minimising government recruitment. In the comparable other states, this ratio varies between 55 and 70 per cent. Such a massive unproductive expenditure naturally leaves a paltry sum for the state’s economic development.

Dr Dasgupta, in his budget speeches, never mentions such huge indebtedness of the state nor ways to reduce it. Rather he always speaks high of the state’s economic growth, which, according to him, is more than that achieved by the country as a whole. The question then arises, what benefit has it brought to the state. A state’s high rate of economic progression should be reflected in its growing tax effort. But this is only 4.5 per cent in West Bengal, when the same is 8 to 10 per cent in other big states. Even in Orissa, it is 6.67 per cent.

This lowly mobilisation of its own tax resources not only points out its backwardness in industrial and commercial activities, but also makes the state dependent on external sources of finance, creating uncertainties in its economic planning.

In the election time, Dr Dasgupta and his party comrades are lamenting the shifting of the Tata Motors’ Nano car plant from Singur to Sanand in Gujarat, pulling up the Opposition for its “irresponsible” protests.

But what about the 2,126 big and medium industrial units which have been shut down in the state during resistance and opposition less 32-year rule of the Left Front government? The number of closed small-scale industrial units is about 55,000. Is not the irresponsible and destructive trade unionism of Citu responsible for most of these closures? Besides, why are 80 collieries and 32 tea gardens closed?

Presently, West Bengal contributes only 4 per cent of the total industrial output of the country, which was 18 per cent in 1965 when the state achieved industrial supremacy. Since then, even in its own income, contribution of industry fell drastically from 36 per cent to only 11 per cent.

Moreover, whatever industrialisation the state has achieved, it is mostly concentrated in and around Kolkata. To be specific, 87 per cent of the industrial units in the state are localised in the five districts of Howrah, Hooghly, Burdwan and North and South 24-Parganas, apart from Kolkata. As commercial activities evolve around industries, most of the districts have poor growth of business and commerce as of industries.

It has resulted in a low rate of urbanisation in the districts away from Kolkata. In fact, in nine such districts, rural people constitute 90 per cent or more of the total population. This could be described as some sort of “ruralisation” that the state has achieved instead of urbanisation over time. It has created enormous pressure on agriculture for livelihood making it almost a subsistence work to many farm dependent people. Non-viable agriculture has compelled many to leave farming and become wage labourers.

Failure of the state to provide public irrigation and rural electrification, the two vital ingredients of Dr Dasgupta’s “alternative way” of development, keeps village people jobless over a larger part of the year.

The state government has failed to consolidate the gains from land reform measures of its initial years through setting up industries, particularly of the small scale type, by ensuring infrastructural development.

As compared to similar other states, West Bengal lags behind in road and electricity. Its per capita use of electricity, 380 kwh, is only above Bihar while the national average in this respect is 81 times higher. Similarly, Gujarat and Karnataka, with population being less than 39 per cent and 34 per cent, respectively, have more than 49 per cent and 135 per cent surfaced road, respectively, than West Bengal. Likewise, Maharashtra, with only 16 per cent more population, has 544 per cent more surfaced road than West Bengal. Thirty-two per cent of its villages still do not have all-weather roads.

The infrastructural deficiency has constrained economic development in West Bengal only to generate huge unemployment, the official estimate being 70 lakh. In relative sense, it has 26.6 per cent of rural unemployment and 24.0 per cent of urban unemployment. These are the second and the fifth highest among the comparable sixteen states when the respective national average is 11 per cent and 15.4 per cent.

It is surprising that rural unemployment of 31.27 lakh in West Bengal, unlike most of the other states, is higher than its urban unemployment. Moreover, its educated unemployment, amounting to 33.50 lakh and comprising 11 per cent of the total of the country, is also relatively high among the states. Among all the states, West Bengal, with an average unemployment rate of 4.93 per cent a year, is only behind Kerala which has 5.56 per cent of such rate.

Dr Dasgupta has the only option of self-help groups to provide jobs. He speaks of lakhs of such jobs each year, but never mentions how many of such groups can repay bank loans or stay viable for long. Joblessness brings in poverty which is almost one-third in the rural and one-fourth in the urban areas of the state with the proportion of population remaining starved or half-starved in a year reaching the maximum of 13 per cent among the states.

In fact, one important reason of closing down of so many of small scale industrial units in the state could be lack of demand in the villages plagued by a high rate of poverty and unemployment.

…  (The writer is Reader of Economics, Durgapur Government College)


Opposition parties of Orissa must change their stratgeies

Elections 2009, EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, Land acquisition 4 Comments »

It is my impression that the opposition parties in Orissa over the years have focused more on finding fault with Government schemes and actions and often agitated to stop them completely. Although opposition should find fault with government actions, their approach of doing it indiscriminately, focusing on stopping the action altogether and only doing that, is a flawed approach and it has not only hampered the development of Orissa but has hampered the opposition parties themselves, especially when they are pitted against Naveen Patniak’s government.

Their appraoch would work if the government is seen by people to be corrupt and if other developments were not happening. However, that is not the case with Naveen Patnaik’s government. Naveen has distanced himself from corruption taints by taking swift action in removing his ministers and officers accused of corruption. So he and his government are not seen by the people as a corrupt government. Also there is no visible accumulation of wealth by Naveen Patnaik and neither does he have relatives dependent on him or relatives that he is trying to groom. So most people see that he does not have a reason to be corrupt. (Contesting in elections does require money. But most people  often do not question where that money comes from. Moreover, every party needs that money and spends that money. ) On the other hand they do see progress happening around, be it NREGS, or gram-sadaks or establishment of IIT. They also see Naveen Patnaik frequently dueling with the central government on getting more resources for Orisssa.

The opposition’s approach of fighting such a government by opposiing development programs indisciminately, and demanding that they be stopped, does not help them – may actually harm them, and also harms Orissa. It may harm them because because many people see them has blocking Orissa’s progress.

The opposition party should change their strategy and beat Naveen at his own game.

They should change their premise that Naveen is doing wrong things that need to be stopped to:

  • In addition to what Naveen is doing, he must do XYZ to protect interests of UVW people,
  • Naveen is not doing enough good things, and
  • Naveen is missing opportunities.

They should take the development mantra down to towns districts and blocks.

They should agitate and ask the state government to do XYZ in UVW district. They should compare regions/towns/districts/blocks across Orissa and agitate that XYZ region/town/district/block does not have UVW or is being discriminated against PQR. Now when they succeed in convincing or forcing the government to take action many people will give them the credit; the same way Naveen Patnaik’s government gets credit for getting IIT and NISER to Orissa even though they were central government decisions and PM Manmohan Snigh paid personal attention to this. Alternatively, if the state government does not give in to their demand they can make that their election plank.

Let us take some specific examples.

People in Balasore have been demanding a medical college. A smart opposition could have made a big issue out of it. If it had succeeded after some agitation then the people would have remembered that when casting their vote.

Similarly, the Rourkela area, the second largest metropolitan area of Orissa, does not have a general university. In fact, I would go out on a limb and say that it is the largest metropolitan area in the country to not have a general university where one can puruse graduate (Masters and PhD) degrees in fields like Economics, Psychology, Physics, Business, etc. A smart opposition party could have taken advantage of that and created a movement in Rourkela for that and would have benefited by that. 

A smart opposition should have taken up the issue of the Central University of Orissa in Koraput starting in Bhubaneswar instead of in Koraput.

These are some glaring examples. Every region, every block, every district, every town needs development related things that the state government may have neglected. A smart opposition advocating those needs would get the attention of people there.

Such a strategy is a win-win and no-loss strategy. No one locally will oppose the demand of a medical college or a university. Thus there is no loss. It is a win-win because if they succeed in getting XYZ they can claim that their efforts led to getting XYZ and if they don’t they can blame the state government for neglecting the region/district/town/block and promise that if they come to power they would make XYZ  happen.

Instead, Orissa’s opposition often follows a very risky strategy which often goes against them. What they do is they oppose the establishment of UVW, say because it displaces X number of families. While some of those families (Y < X) may not want to be displaced many others are happy with the compensation package. But a large number of people who live nearby and are not displaced would really like UVW established. In agitating againts the establishment of UVW the opposition parties usually create a lot of drama, get a lot of lefties – many from outside state – involved, sometime pursue violence, many times block roads (causing a lot trouble to the locals) and get a lot of press.  By reading the press, which usually jumps on reporting events (bandhs, violence, road closure, etc.), they wrongly assume that they are getting a lot of popularity.

But actually while they do get the support of the Y families who do not want to displaced, they have lost support of X-Y families who want to move and the neighboring people who think they would have been benefitted by the project. So the opposition parties, by  doing this, basically harm themesleves as well as Orissa.

If they were smarter they would be more discriminating in their  targets and in their approach. Ofcourse, if the govt is violating laws (including displacement laws) they should oppose that; If the compensation is not fair they should pursue getting higher compensation; etc. Such a constructive approach would not only get them the votes of X (all of whom would get a better deal because of the opposition) but also of many people locally and across the state who would be impressed by the constructive approach.

(The opposition parties will say that they do indeed point out laws that are broken and even go to court. That is true. They do. But often they make many frivolous cases which take time but ultiamtely goes against the opposition. All that results is the delay of the project, lost opportunity, and a lot of people annoyed at the opposition for their negative impact.) 

So I will advise the opposition to at least pursue the three examples I mentioned above (Medical College in Balasore, University in Rourkela and starting of Central University of Orissa in Koraput), change their game plan in regards to Vedanta University, Posco, and Tata’s Kalinganagar project, and in general pursue the alternate strategy suggested above. Let me now be more specific on some of these.

  • On Vedanta University, the opposition should create a database of all the people that are being displaced and make sure the promises made to them are kept. The opposition can make sure all other promises are being kept such as regarding to where water comes from, how the environment is not harmed, etc.
  • On POSCO, they can again make sure that the promises made to the displaced people are kept. They can push for better compensation. They can team up with the state government in pushing the center for better lease rates. etc.

Indian Railways exploitation of backward and tribal areas of Orissa: confronting Railway Board Chair with the facts in Toronto

Balasore - Niligiri (defunct?), Baripada - Bangiriposi (under constr.), EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES, FINANCE & BANKING, Gajapati, Ganjam, Interstate disputes on Water and rivers, Jaroli - Deojhar .. Chaibasa, Kandhamala, KBK Plus district cluster, Keonjhar, Koraput - Rayagada, Mayurbhanj, Nayagarha, Odisha Consumer Welfare Foundation, Paradip - Jatadhari - Kujanga, Railway maps, Rajathagara - Nergundi, Rayagada, Samaja (in Odia), Sambalpur, Sonepur, Sundergarh, Talcher - Barang, Titlagarh - Jharsugurha Jn, Tomka - Jaroli, Uncategorized 3 Comments »

Following is the news report on the discussion (almost a confrontation) with the Railway Board Chair, as reported in India Abroad. The basic premise behind our grievances against Indian Railways and our demands is simple.

  • Indian railways is scheduled to make 2500-3000 crores/year from Orissa, but spends only 1000 crores/year on Orissa in terms of new lines, doubling and gauge conversion.
  • Its current plan for major spending includes freight corridors, metro rails, and high speed rails, none of which touch Orissa. It plans to do gauge conversion of 12000 kms, most of which is unprofitable (this proves that Indian Railway lies when it says it only does profitable lines), very little (less than 100 km) of which is in Orissa.
  • Orissa is already behind the national average in terms of rail density and way behind its neighbors such as West Bengal and Bihar. If no changes are made to the 11th plan IR allocations Orissa will further fall behind.
  • Indian Railways must not take money from its profit in Orissa, and spend it else where, until it takes care of proper connectivity to Orissa’s tribal, backward and maoist infested areas. The 2500-3000 times 5 = 12,500 -15,000 crore that Indian Railways will profit from Orissa during the 11th plan must be spend in new lines in Orissa until the (i)-(v) lines below and other port and mine connectivity lines are completed during the 11th plan.
  • To Mr. Jena’s retort that Mumbai earns so much in taxes and not all of it is spent in Mumbai; we reply that it is often acceptable to take from rich and give to poor; But when did it become acceptable to take from poor (Orissa) and give to rich (freight corridors etc. in other states)?

The lines in Orissa connecting to the tribal and backward areas that we demand to be finished during the 11th plan are:

  • (i) Khurda Rd – Nayagarh – Balangir: Lack of connectivity was one of the reasons a recent Maoist mayhem happened in Nayagarh. It seems after recent events, including the confrontation with the Railway Board Chair and various dharanas in Bhubaneswar, IR has started responding to this demand, but not to the extent to promise its completion during the 11th plan. Note that Balangir is the B in the KBK districts that are the most backward in India.
  • (ii) Lanjigarh Rd – Junagarh – Nabarangpur – Jeypore – Malkangiri – Bhadrachalam Rd in Andhra Pradesh: Only small part of this is approved. Most of it is not even surveyed. In the long run this will really bring those parts of Orissa closer to the rest of Orissa. This is the most important connection and has to be take care of at the earliest. Like the approved Vijaywada-Ranchi highway, this line will create an alternative Hyderabad – Ranchi path passing through backward and tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Jharkhand. This line will connect the Kalahandi and Koraput districts, the two K’s in KBK. The recent Maoist attack and killing of the Greyhound forces in Malkangiri might have been prevented if this line existed as then the forces would have used the train rather than being seating ducks taking a boat across a lake in Malkangiri.
  • (iii a) Rayagada – Gopalpur: This has been surveyed and but work on it has not started. Note that Rayagada is part of the undivided Koraput district, one of the K’s of KBK. This line could come under port connectivity and will be a viable line connecting the industries near Rayagada with the upcoming port in Gopalpur.
  • (iii b) Gunupur – Theruvali: This will add to the Naupada-Gunupur line and make it an economically viable line. (IR and Mr. Jena agree about its importance.) This line will be completely inside the Raygada district, part of the undivided Koraput district, one of the K’s of KBK.
  • (iv) Talcher – Bimlagarh (connectivity to the tribal district of Sundergarh): This line has been approved but is only being given a few crores each year, which is less than the inflation. This line will reduce the distance between Sundergarh district and teh coastal areas significantly. For example, it will make Rourkela only 4-5 hrs from Bhubaneswar.
  • (v) Baripada/Buramara – Chakulia: This line will connect the tribal district of Mayurbhanj to tribal areas of Jharkhand. It will add to the Rupsa-Baripada-Bangiriposi line and make it an economically viable line. (IR and Mr. Jena agree about its importance.)

All these lines can be completed if Indian railways just suspends its practice of taking from poor (Orissa) and giving to the rich for only a few years (may be just 3-4 years). The following maps show the above mentioned lines.

Tehelka interview with Finance minister: some relevant excerpts


Following is excerpted from a Tehelka interview. SC is one of the inerviewers Shoma Chaudhury.

SC: China has just six SEZs. But our Board of Control cleared more than 200 SEZs in its first sitting. I know that privately you…

It doesn’t matter what I think. We are not talking off the record, and I am reluctant to talk about it because I am bound by government policy. There is some consternation about the way the policy is operating. An empowered group of ministers has been asked to look into it. It’s taking more time than I would have liked, but hopefully some of the concerns expressed will be addressed.

SC: But our industrial projects, our growth centres, our cities have zero concern about environment, human life. Shouldn’t quality of life — a sense of well-being — be a factor in the growth story? France is revising what its GDP should mean to include the intangible but crucial idea of “well-being”.

Yes, but that’s after you reach a certain level of GDP, a certain degree of per capita.

SC: That’s the point. First we must arrive at the crisis, then we will look for the remedies.

Poverty is the worst polluter. If you are poor, you live in the most polluted world. The sanitation is poor, the drinking water is poor, the housing is poor, the air you breathe is poor. Everything is polluted. Poverty is the worst polluter. It’s our right, our duty, to first overcome poverty. In the process, yes, we will be sensitive to concerns expressed by other countries but not at the cost of our growth and our goal of eliminating poverty in our lifetime.

SC: The worrying thing is that on the ground the exact opposite of what you say is happening. Take the POSCO project or Vedanta or the sponge iron factories in Raigad. It is the poor who are suffering the most from the move towards industrialisation. Most of the unrest in the country today is over development projects that are anti-people — in terms of land takeover, resource usage, pollution of water and air. On the very things you talked about — air, water, basic health, basic living — the growth that is meant to alleviate poverty is adding to their misery. Do you call this inevitable collateral or would you admit the way we are going about things is wrong?

I think people are being deceived to believe that the existing state of life is an ideal state of life and development and industrialisation will make it worse. Here we talk about steel prices going up, but for three years we have stopped the world’s largest steel producer from producing steel in India. This could be categorised as a conspiracy of the socially-driven class to keep poor people poor. What is the quality of life we are talking about? They have no food, no jobs, no education, no drinking water. These districts of Orissa have remained poor since the world dawned. They live in abject poverty and you want me to accept the argument that if you set up a steel plant or mine the minerals there, they will become even poorer? What are we talking about?

SC: I am talking about the way it’s done. So what do we do?

We keep the minerals buried in Mother Earth? We keep the iron ore where it is, we keep the coal where it is and keep people poor? Is that what you’re suggesting? I’m telling you, we must develop those iron ore mines, we must mine that coal, we must build industries, we must give jobs to people. If this argument had prevailed there would be no Jamshedpur, and today the quality of life in Jamshedpur is better than in any other city in India. It has 24 hours water supply, electric supply, it has education for all its residents, and it has cleaner air than any other city. Had these people been around to advice Mr Jamshedji Tata in 1908, there would have been no Jamshedpur at all.

SC: There’s little evidence to go by. There was a culture of collective good and nation-building which no longer exists.

I don’t agree that the only ones with conscience and sensitivity to the environment are NGOs, and that business houses and entrepreneurs have no conscience and are totally oblivious to the larger good. I don’t agree at all. Just go to Neyveli and see. What was Neyveli? It was the poorest part of Tamil Nadu and today it is a humming, buzzing town and it has a school which has hundred percent pass results every year. The boys and girls from that school are toppers in competitive examinations. I sincerely hope you do not believe the poor enjoy a high quality of life.

SC: Our governments have been pretty derelict in regulating or nudging corporates to behave well. The Vedanta project in the Niyamgiri hills in Orissa is a good example. It earned international censure for its untenable behaviour in Orissa, a Norwegian fund even divested from it because of that. But here it took a PIL to stall the project. Would you agree that our government is failing to bat for the common good?

We have enough laws to take care of the issue. Apply those laws. If the Central or state government does not enforce environmental laws then blame that government. If the laws are inadequate, strengthen them, but in the name of the environment, for heaven’s sake, please don’t say that the poor should remain poor for the next five thousand years.

SC: Take Vedanta again. I’m asking what is the view from the other side, what is the government’s thinking on them? Even after they were stalled by the Supreme Court, the government asked it to reapply for the project under its Indian company. You argued as a lawyer for them when you weren’t Finance Minister.

In one of their excise cases. What has that got to do with this? Are you insinuating that my answers are coloured by the fact that I appeared for them? If a lawyer is pleading for a client in a murder case, does that imply that he has complicity in the murder? What is the relevance of your statement?

SC: Alright, I’ll withdraw it. I am asking, given their dismal track record in Orissa, why is the government defending their position instead of disqualifying them or pushing them towards better practices?

So do it. Who is preventing you? Apply the laws. But don’t stop the project. That’s the only way of rescuing those people from the clutches of abject poverty.

… SC: It sounds like a pipedream, because the experience on the ground is very different. Look at Gurgaon — emblem of India Shining, coming up on virgin land. It could have been a kind of urban utopia. Instead, there is no water, no electricity, no public transport, huge pollution, and absolutely no space or planning for the poor. Take any other B-town. Moradabad. Siliguri. Patna. Take the megalopolises — imploding under the weight of growth. The poor definitely don’t seem to be benefiting in these places.

So shall we leave people to live in these villages?

SC: I am asking is there a slower, deeper, more varied way of doing things that might not mean instant and insane wealth for a few of us, and yet ensure overall growth?

Apply the laws. Apply town-planning laws. The laws do not allow you to build without providing water and open spaces. You are passing off our collective failure to apply laws upon the model of development itself. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the model of development. It is just the unwillingness of the authorities to enforce rules and regulations. The answer is not to go back to the past and say, if we cannot apply the laws, let’s continue to live in our original state of poverty, neglect and despair.

SC: Let’s go back to national resources, like minerals. When you hand over natio – nal wealth to private corporations driven purely by the profit motive, what is the logic of usage? What’s to stop them cynically destituting a place before moving on?

Don’t hand it over to a private corporation. Set up an efficient PSU if you want.

SC: But you are against PSUs.

We are not, who said we are? We are putting more money in NTPC, SAIL, NMDC. We have revived 29 sick PSUs and put aside 13,000 crores in the last four years for this. So create a PSU. But why this old mental block that private is greed and therefore bad, and public is good.

SC: There are bad examples. Union Carbide, Enron.

If you want to continue with those traditional images of public and private sector you are welcome. The point I’m making is coal and iron ore is not meant to be kept buried under Mother Earth. They have to be put to use. As for your fears about environment and overuse, when we found that mining Kudremukh iron ore is highly polluting, we stopped mining it. But the argument that resources should not be used is an argument that must be rejected. Those who say that have a vested interest in perpetuating poverty.

I am with the finance minister on this.

Real face of the anti-R&R protestors in Kalinganagar: report from Sambada

Atrocities of some Kalinganagar protestors, Atrocities of some POSCO opposers, EXPOSING ANTI-ODISHA-GROWTH SCHEMES Comments Off on Real face of the anti-R&R protestors in Kalinganagar: report from Sambada

Following is a report in Sambada which was in its website today. For some reason this news about what the anti-R&R people are about did not appear in major news papers. However, similar actions by POSCO protestors, such as kidnapping officials did have major media coverage. ( Deccan Herald May 12 2007, DNA India October 13 2007).

Also, couple of days back walls of a proposed hospital was demolished in Kalinganagar by armed people. This was widely reported. (Kalinga Times,Statesman, Sahara Samay, etc.)