Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Maoists hold industry at gunpoint

4 May 2009, 1343 hrs IST, ET Bureau



To them, corporates are evil, period! Even the country’s largest aluminium maker and Orissa’s pride, Nalco is seen as an MNC that is out to exploit
the state’s mineral reserves for the benefit of the rich.

And to prove this, they managed to effortlessly seize Nalco’s famed Damanjodi bauxite mine on April 12 night for eight long hours. The ease with which the Maoists staged an operation of this magnitude — and at a time when security has been tightened for the general elections — has sent shockwaves across India Inc and driven home yet again that it is the writ of the Maoists, and not the government’s, that runs in this part of the country.

In a written statement in Telugu (a copy of which is with ET) issued on Thursday, the Andhra Orissa Boarder Special Zonal Committee, state military commission of CPI (Maoist) has said: "This is just the beginning and other plants coming up should take note of the raid on Nalco. We will continue such raids. We are opposed to the displacement of tribals by the government. We extend our cooperation to the people of Kashipur, Kalinga Nagar, Singur, the entire eastern Coastal Corridor covering bauxite mining and processing plants proposed in the Eastern Ghats.

"In the (Nalco) operation, we lost 4 members, 3 from Dantewada and one from AP. On the other side, they lost 11 constables while 9 others sustained serious injuries. We seized sophisticated weaponry and two tons of explosive material. While the war was continuing, some constables surrendered before us. On purely humanitarian grounds, we let them off. This proves our courageous fight with the armed constabulary," the statement added.

At the 9th Congress in January-February 2007, the Maoists had asked all "forest dwellers to resist till the end, the massive displacement taking place and to protect their land and forests from robbers and looters."

Small wonder then that after years of low intensity warfare, even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recognises them as the "single biggest internal security challenge." Emerging stronger in Orissa, Maoists have now started targeting top corporates, which together have submitted investment proposals of a whopping Rs 6 lakh crore. A few large ventures on the cards include Posco’s 12 million tonnes Paradip Steel Plant, ArcelorMittal’s 12 million tonne steel plant in Keonjhar, Tata Steel’s six million tonne steel project at Kalinga Nagar, as well as other mining and large enterprises.

Maoists maintain that government policies will lead to further marginalisation of tribals and forest dwellers in the Orissa and it is a well-known fact that industrialisation on this scale will inevitably lead to massive displacement of resident population in those areas.

Guru Mohanty, senior lawyer and Peoples’ Union of Civil Liberties secretary who had volunteered to hold talks with Maoists said : "When the central government speaks of Maoists obstructing development such as in tribal areas, it means that Maoists’ presence obstructs corporate exploitation of minerals, forests, water and land resources of adivasis. Corporations come with capital intensive, low job creating investments, which entail import of skilled labour from outside and token employment for locals as members of an unskilled low wage labour force."

Incidentally, Mohanty has been closely monitoring resistance movements in the state right from the days of Baliapal, the Balco agitation to recent ones against displacement in Kalinga Nagar, Kashipur and Jagatsinghpur.

"People are unwilling to give up their land to MNCs as they have seen their brothers and sisters turn to begging or pulling rickshaws in neighbouring states after handing over their land to industries that had come up earlier in the region," he said.

Maoists had infiltrated even in the area where the Posco investment is due to come up. Undeterred by what is touted as the largest FDI investment in the country, Maoists had successfully orchestrated a revolt by uniting locals. Police, however, claimed that the protesters have been driven out and their leaders arrested. Maoist frontal organisations are also currently opposing the Tata Steel project in the Kalinga Nagar area of Jajpur District.

Between the two extremes of justifying war and abhorring it, there lies in the ultimate analysis, a zone of social reality. As in Orissa, so in Jharkhand, Bihar and somewhat in West Bengal too, the Maoist menace has been largely seen by the administration as evil. Might has been used to combat might. The underlying picture, however, is the same everywhere. Maoists have taken root in precisely those areas that have been long neglected by the administration. Whether in West Bengal’s Purulia district or the tribal areas of Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa, near inhuman poverty has been allowed to thrive through the decades, while successive governments irrespective of party colour, have remained content doing lip service. The centuries’ old resident population in these areas therefore do not quite think of the Maoists as evil. The Maoist movement therefore grows with local help. Much therefore will hinge on future policies that can ensure the resident population in these areas a life that has dignity and freedom.

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