Update on the people’s struggle against South Korea’s POSCO steel project

POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), Nov 11th 2010

POSCO, a large corporation, wants to invest in the mining industry in Orissa (India) and build a steel plant, captive power station and port in Erasama block of Jagatsinghpur district – people’s protest intensifies.

Police oppressionPolice at the 1st April, 2008 rally

A Note of POSCO Pratirodh Sangharsa Samiti ( PPSS), Jagatsinghpur, Odisha

A Brief Background:

On June 22 2005, Pohang Steel Company (POSCO), a large South Korean corporation, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Orissa in eastern India. This MOU outlined POSCO’s proposal to invest in the mining industry and build a steel plant, captive power station and port in Erasama block of Jagatsinghpur district.

For the last five years, people living in the villages of the proposed site under the banner of POSCO Pratirodh Sanghrsa Samiti (Anti-POSCO People’s Movement) have been relentlessly protesting against the land acquisition process. More than 4000 families totaling a population of 30,000 will be affected by the project. These include all those persons directly dependant on the betel vine cultivation, pisiculture, cashew nut cultivation, and fishing in the Jatadhari Muhana (estuary) where the port has been proposed.

Another 20,000 people from Erasama, Tirtol, and Kujang block will be affected if the port comes up at Jatadhari. Loss of self-sustained and thriving local economy, of livelihood and of an entire way of life is the major concern on which the local resistance to the project is based. Continue reading

India: “Dispossess them first and then hunt them down as criminals”

Adivasi women protest government repression in Lalgarh, West Bengal

Indian State’s policy towards the Indigenous Adivasi People

by Stan Swamy, November 9, 2010

Dispossess them first . . .

Displacement is painful for anybody. To leave the place where one was born and brought up, the house that one built up with one’s own labour can be even more painful. Most of all, when no rehabilitation has been worked out and one has nowhere to go, it is most painful. And when it comes to the Adivasi People for whom their land is not just an economic commodity but a source of spiritual sustenance, it can be heart-rending.

Displacement in Jharkhand

Undoubtedly the most pressing problem facing the poor, rural and tribal population in Jharkhand is the constant threat of their displacement from their ancestral habitat. This displacement is being justified by the politicians, bureaucrats and the urbanites, (totaling only 23% of the population of Jharkhand), as necessary for the progress(?) and development(?) of this State. The progress and development is for whom and for whose benefit is a matter that is often left unsaid.

The figures for displacement resulting in misery for the majority of Jharkhandis are quite revealing – a population of about 17 lakhs [1.7 million] have been displaced so far, out of which almost 85% are tribals and locals and only about 25% have been halfway and half-heartedly resettled. The above figure points out  only the formally displaced for various projects and not the informally displaced. Continue reading

Political Geography of Special Economic Zones in India–and Mass Resistance

 

Mass rally against petrochemical plant in Nandigram, West Bengal–this movement was successful in stopping the project

October 27, 2010

By Partho Sarathi Ray, Sanhati

Summary: We found from the geographical distribution of SEZs in India that SEZs have been set up near the big cities, on fertile agricultural land, in coastal areas and in areas rich in water resources, and in the states where the governments have been most aggressively following neo-liberal economic policies. This dispels several myths, for example the fact that SEZs will build new infrastructure in the interior.

In addition to the clusters, there are also vacua: we see how a spectrum of peoples’ struggles, ranging from the legal methods used in Goa, to the peaceful protests by the villagers of Jagatsinhpur in Orissa against the POSCO SEZ, to the armed struggle being waged in large parts of east-central India, has been able to stop the establishment of SEZs in large portions of the country.

Five years have passed since the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government passed the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act in 2005. In these five years 111 SEZs have started functioning in different parts of the country, 353 have been notified and 574 have received in principle approvals from the government. Altogether 1083 SEZs, in different phases of development today, represent the most naked form of aggression by neo-liberal capital in India. This huge number of SEZs is unprecedented in any other country in the world. 1.5 lakh hectares (3.75 lakh acres, 1 lakh = 100,000) of land has been acquired, or is in the process of acquisition, for the setting up of these SEZs.

It has been calculated that around 2.7% of the total arable land in India is in the process of being diverted to SEZs. This number might not sound large in itself, but considering the pressure on agricultural land in India, and the precarious condition of food security of a large section of our population, diversion of such a proportion of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes might spell disaster, especially under conditions when normal agricultural production is affected, for example when the monsoon fails, as has happened in some parts of India this year. Continue reading

Struggle of sharecroppers in West Bengal expose tall claims of land reform

Shramik Shakti, April 2010. Translated by Koel Das, Sanhati

For a long time, we have been hearing tall claims about land reforms in West Bengal. The law was passed back when Siddartha Shankar Ray was the Chief Minister. After the Left Front came to power in 1977, the sharecropper law had also been amended a few times. But the recent struggles of villagers of Sujapur in Murshidabad is evidence to the fact that real land reform does not happen by just passing the law.

Sujapur is a village in Murshidabad and almost all of its inhabitants are sharecroppers or farmers. Most of the villagers belong to the fisherman community. The land in the village is wetlands (land J L no:129). These lands cannot be cultivated if there is excess rainfall. Most people earn their living by fishing in these wetlands. When the rainfall is less, Boro rice is cultivated here. There are about 2000 Bighas of wetlands.

For about ten generations, the villagers have either been farming or fishing in this place. 150 bigha of the wetlands were declared barga land which resulted in landless sharecroppers getting patta. Poor villagers had purchased some of these lands from the landlords. Villagers knew that the land belonged to the members of Ray family or the Trivedi family like Abhaypada Ray, Shibendramohan, Shubendumohan Trivedi, Jagannath Trivedi and others.

None of these landlords stay in Sujapur; they do not know definitively which land belongs to whom. But the village sharecroppers regularly give them a portion of the produce year after year. They have requested the landlords repeatedly to sell the lands to them. Although the landlords took cash advance from them, they never registered the land. They just showed the land map but never specified the plot of land and could not even produce a legal document for the landownership. Continue reading

Punjab: A trail of blood follows peasant struggles

Delhi demonstration againstt police attack on Punjab farmers

Sanhati, October 15, 2010

by Narinder Kumar Jeet

It was in Bhindi Aulakh, a small village in Amritsar District, on Indo-Pakistan Border, that Sh. Sadhu Singh Takhtupura, State Organizing Secretary of the Bharti Kisan Union Ekta (Ugrahan), was brutally attacked and killed on 16.1.2010, under a deep rooted conspiracy hatched by Veer Singh Lopoke, an Ex-MLA and a powerful Akali leader and his henchmen.

Sadhu Singh Takhtupura was murdered because he was mobilizing the abadkar peasants against illegal and forcible land-grabbing by a gang of powerful Akali leaders, police officials, contractors and anti-social elements. Under his leadership, the farmers rose in revolt against custodial deaths, illegal detentions and torture by the police, through which the above said gang used to terrorize the poor peasants.

In adjoining Gurdaspur district, the goons employed by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, controlled by the ruling Badal Akali Dal, had killed two tenant farmers and injured several others, when they were protesting against their illegal and forcible eviction from a Gurdwara land, which they have ben tilling for the last many years as tenants. Continue reading

Rural India and Rural China: Both Battling against Forced Displacement

 

Demonstration against the Narmada dam project

By Devinder Sharma

18 October, 2010
Ground Reality

In a few days from now, the Narmada Bachao Andolan will reflect on the 25 years of struggle  ‘questioning displacement, assertion of land and forest rights, right to fisheries, right to food and health, livelihood security, exposure of corruption and navnirman (reconstruction) through the Jeevanshalas (life schools), micro-hydel projects, and solar projects.’ The struggle that began in 1985 questions the flawed policies in the name of development and economic growth. Growth for whom and what cost?

According to the NBA, rallies and public meetings at both the places — Dhadgaon in district Nandurbar in Maharashtra, and Badwani in district Badwani in Madhya Pradesh on Oct 22 and 23, respectively — amidst adivasis of Nandurbar, Alirajpur and farmers from the plains of Nimad would be reinforced with presence of some of the well-wishers from outside. Some months back, after I returned from the Narmada valley, I had written an analysis: Over 200,000 Narmada Dam oustees still to be rehabilitated; a crime that goes unpunished for 25 years.

In that article I had not touched on the issue of construction of the proposed canal systems leading to destruction of irrigated lands. I don’t know how the planners can justify the need for canals in an area which is already irrigated by pipes and water bodies being saturated by water from the Narmada river. The dichotomy is brought out clearly in a letter to the Minister for Environment & Forests by a group of respected citizens. You must read the letter to know how development is flawed, and how it aims at only helping usurping land from the control of poor tribal. Continue reading

India: The Historic Struggles in Singur and Nandigram Against Displacement and Special Economic Zones

“In the name of development”

(English subtitled) 44:59

On the people’s historic struggles against the acquisition of fertile farm land by big Corporations, focused on Singur and Nandigram. The film is directed by Partha Sarathi Banerjee.  The film is in বাংলা (Bengali) but has English subtitles.

Indian government rejection of Vedanta bauxite mine a “landmark victory” for Indigenous rights

Dongria Kondh protesting Vedanta's bauxite mine project

Amnesty International :: 24 August 2010

Amnesty International today described the Indian government’s decision to reject the bauxite mine project in Orissa’s Niyamgiri Hills as a landmark victory for the human rights of Indigenous communities.

India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests today rejected the mine project proposed by a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources and the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation, after finding that the project already extensively violates forest and environmental laws and would perpetrate abuses against the Dongria Kondh adivasi and other communities on the Hills.

“The Dongria Kondh and other local communities have been struggling for years for this decision, which is a very welcome one,” said Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director, Madhu Malhotra.

“The companies and the Orissa government should now guarantee that they will not attempt to simply move the project to another site without ensuring adequate safeguards – they must ensure they will respect the human rights of Indigenous and local communities wherever the companies operate.” Continue reading

Maoist land reform in India

[The Times of India looks into Maoist land reform, and describes it  in contrast to the practice of the CPM, a bourgeois party that still uses, disingenuously, the name of “Communist Party of India (Marxist)”.-ed]

MIDNAPORE: It was land distribution under Operation Barga that brought CPM to power in 1977. Thirty-three years later, the Maoists in Jangalmahal are treading a similar route to consolidate their support base in 200 villages from Goaltore to Midnapore town. The 60-kilometre stretch forms the ” Maoist core zone”, where men most wanted by the police like Manoj Mahato, Asit Mahato and Gopal Pratihar have a free run.

But this new avatar of Operation Barga is different from the one implemented by the CPM. Maoists have set their own parameters for land reform here. Family income and connections with the ruling party get maximum weightage in this reform process.

The jotedars close to mainstream political parties CPM and Jharkhand Party are the targets, and the beneficiaries are the landless farmers. The Maoists have begun this process in two villages Chandabila and Malkuri under the Midnapore Sadar block, six kilometres from Midnapore town.

First, they drove out Toton Singh and Naru Singh jotedars of Malkuri village, who have 150 bighas [about 50 acres] of land and own a huge ancestral house. Like CPM zonal secretary Anuj Pandey’s house, this building too was pulled down by Maoist-led labourers of around a month and a half ago. Then the guerrillas took possession of the entire land and distributed it among 53 local landless labourers. Naru Singh’s son Ajit, who is known for his proximity to CPM minister Sushanta Ghosh, could do little to prevent it. Continue reading

Struck Off the Travel Posters

Bharati Chaturvedi

Environmentalist and founder of the green non-profit, Chintan

July 29, 2010

Where are you currently holidaying? Chances are, if you are on a trip to India, you would have seen the many dramatic images they put out for tourists.

In the 1980s, Indian government offices were lined with colourful posters with a breathtaking image that said ‘India’ in both English and Hindi. Sometimes, it would be a photograph of the Taj Mahal, and sometimes, one of India’s many indigenous people. I would stare at these posters with fascination — that was the closest I had ever come to these brightly dressed fellow Indians.

But you would have seen the newer ones, from the mid 2000s. The Incredible India campaign. The photographs this time showed another, slicker India. A skinny woman in silver leotards doing yoga on a mountainous ledge, for example. I’m struck by how the rural and the indigenous folk are no longer extravagantly advertised. But I also know there is a reason for this: they are now engaged in numerous David versus Goliath kind of battles against the government and giant private companies over their land and natural resources. The country is not officially proud to show them off. Continue reading

Vandana Shiva: The Killing Fields of Multi-National Corporations

Vandana Shiva at one of many demonstrations by irate and desperate farmers

By Vandana Shiva

19 July, 2010
The Asian Age

The Bhopal gas tragedy was the worst industrial disaster in human history. Twenty-five thousand people died, 500,000 were injured, and the injustice done to the victims of Bhopal over the past 25 years will go down as the worst case of jurisprudence ever.

The gas leak in Bhopal in December 1984 was from the Union Carbide pesticide plant which manufactured “carabaryl” (trade name “sevin”) – a pesticide used mostly in cotton plants. It was, in fact, because of the Bhopal gas tragedy and the tragedy of extremist violence in Punjab that I woke up to the fact that agriculture had become a war zone. Pesticides are war chemicals that kill – every year 220,000 people are killed by pesticides worldwide.

After research I realised that we do not need toxic pesticides that kill humans and other species which maintain the web of life. Pesticides do not control pests, they create pests by killing beneficial species. We have safer, non-violent alternatives such as neem. That is why at the time of the Bhopal disaster I started the campaign “No more Bhopals, plant a neem”. The neem campaign led to challenging the biopiracy of neem in 1994 when I found that a US multinational, W.R. Grace, had patented neem for use as pesticide and fungicide and was setting up a neem oil extraction plant in Tumkur, Karnataka. We fought the biopiracy case for 11 years and were eventually successful in striking down the biopiracy patent. Continue reading

India: 2 killed in Srikakulam as police fire on protest challenging power project

Two protestors were killed and many injured when police attacked and opened fire

15/07/2010

K. Srinivasa Rao

Sompeta on the boil; protestors launch agitation against proposed power project

SOMPETA (Srikakulam dt): Two persons were killed and dozens injured when police opened fire and resorted to lathicharge to quell angry agitators protesting the establishment of a 2,640 MW thermal power project here on Wednesday.

The two agitators killed in the police firing at Baruva near here were identified as G. Krishnamurthy of Lakkavaram village and Bandi Joga Rao of Palasapuram. Unconfirmed reports said two more, K. Venugopala Rao and E. Mohan Rao, also fell prey to police bullets. Continue reading

“Pro-Maoist” Organization Builds a Dam in Eastern India

[This is a translated, partial transcript of a Bengali video recently released.  The PCAPA, while under attack by the State military and para-military forces, is nonetheless continuing to serve the people and enable them to organize to meet their basic needs.  The media which released this information referred to the PCAPA as “pro-Maoist” though they have never, to our knowledge, described themselves in those terms.  Maoists have, it seems, worked with them, but the PCAPA represents a broad range of forces and views among adivasi people.-ed.]

PCAPA women doing development work in Lalgarh

A Pro-Maoist organisation Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA) builds a dam to protect the village from being flooded

1. LOCAL VILLAGERS DIGGING

2. WOMEN CARRYING BASKETS OF MUD ON THEIR HEAD

3. LOCAL VILLAGERS AT THE SITE

4. MEN DIGGING THE GROUND

5. A BANNER WRITTEN IN BENGALI

6. A BANNER ON THE SITE WITH RAW MATERIALS IN SACKS

7. A MAN WATERING THE SOIL

8. MEN CARRYING RAW MATERIALS FOR CONSTRUCTION

9. (SOUNDBITE) (Bengali) MANGAL MAHATO, PCAPA MEMBER, SAYING: “By this dam, almost thousand of families and the land would be protected and therefore we have started and undertaken this work ourselves.”

Q. Is the government helping you or any other private body helping you? Continue reading

Background on the People’s Struggle in India and Operation Green Hunt

Mass meeting of adivasis in Lalgarh, West Bengal

by the International Campaign against War on the People of India

All over the world, people are asking questions about the nature of India’s society and government, and about the war on the adivasis-the tribal peoples-that has recently been launched by that government with strategic assistance from the US and Israel.

Most commentators admit that the Indian people suffered greatly under British rule. Today, it is claimed, India is on a path of rapid technical progress and development; India has its own Silicon Valley, complete with high-tech R&D and hundreds of call centers for everything from Amazon to Victoria’s Secret.  New wealth is being created at a rapid rate, a large middle class is developing that is enjoying shopping malls, multiplex cinemas and imported cars, and much of this wealth is working its way down to the villages and urban slums seen in Slumdog Millionaire.

Largest Democracy in the World?

The most common claim is that India is “the world’s largest democracy.” However, it is a reality that the vast majority of the 1.2 billion people who live in India have no control over their lives.  Living and working conditions have not changed for the better from colonial times to the present. According to a 2008 study by the US Agency for International Development, three-quarters of the people live on less than $2 per day.

Illiteracy is widespread in the countryside, where more than half of the women cannot read or write and many children leave school to support their families. Nothwithstanding its “socialist” pretensions, successive governments since independence in 1947 have postponed and put off free and compulsory education for children. Continue reading

Over 200,000 Narmada Dam Oustees Still To Be Resettled; A Crime That Goes Unpunished For 25 Years

 

People's Occupation Of The Maheshwar Dam Site January 11 2000

By Devinder Sharma

26 June, 2010
Ground Reality

For 25 years now, they have struggled to get justice. In a peaceful and democratic manner, over 200,000 people displaced from the rising waters of the Narmada dams, have waited endlessly for a rehabilitation package, which is their legitimate right. Justice has been denied to them.

Yesterday, July 24, about 200 displaced people were present in the Gandhi Bhawan, in the heart of Bhopal city, to listen to the conclusions and recommendations of the three-member Independent People’s Tribunal on displacements in the Narmada valley. Chaired by Justice (Retd.) A P Shah, former chief justice of the Delhi and Madras High Courts, I had the privilege and honour of being part of the panel. We had travelled through some of the affected areas in the Narmada valley in the first week of the month, and then spent some days putting it all together in the form of this report.

Twenty five years after the work for a series of dams on the mighty Narmada began, the displaced people, a majority of them being adivasis, have been treated worse than cattle by successive governments. Looking at their plight, and their lost years, and knowing that they will continue to be deprived of justice, I wonder why have these people not picked up arms? At a time when the UPA government is asking the naxalites in neighbouring Chhatisgarh State to give up arms and come to the negotiating table, I fail to understand why the government is not talking to those who never picked up the gun? Continue reading