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Displaced and deprived

Common man's fate in Naveen's prospering Odisha

 

  Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, Displacement
Last updated 09 Apr 2016 09:41:00 +0530  
The large-scale displacement inducing industrialisation and development pursued during the rule of Naveen Patnaik looks to be more in the interests of rich corporate and industrial houses than of the State and its people.
 

Fifteen years of governance under Naveen Patnaik is often presented as the period of industrialisation and rapid development in Odisha. Government’s unilateral approach in development planning and implementation has widened the gulf of mistrust between people and the government.

This gap has brought the government and project affected people face to face against each other, over the issue of displacement.

Despite formulation and implementation of the Odisha Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy (ORRP), 2006, by the government, issue of displacement still continues to be a reason of mass discontentment.

Cause of conflict

To explain how grave the issue of displacement is and how it affects industrialisation in the state, veteran politician and the leader of opposition in the Odisha State Assembly, Narasimha Mishra has said while speaking in “The War for Steel” (2013), a documentary reflecting the conflict between people and their elected government over the POSCO Project, “People, hearing the name of development or industry, are being alarmed. They hate the idea of industry, they disapprove the idea of industry because they lose everything and in return they get nothing.”

Displacement from homestead and farmland and other perennial sources of livelihood has been the issue leading to conflict in most project areas. The state police, on insistence of the local as well as district administration and the state authorities, has resorted to repeated armed actions against the displaced and affected people while demonstrating their opposition to the respective projects.

The two known cases of firing by the state armed police at the tribal people agitating against industrial projects occurred during the rule of Naveen Patnaik. In 2000, the year of Naveen’s ascendance to power in Odisha as the Chief Minister, Odisha saw the first incident of police firing at Maikanch in Rayagada district. The second incident occurred at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur district on January 2, 2006.

   

Quotation starts

As per information provided by the industry minister to the house of assembly, 66 out of 92 projects, the Naveen Patnaik government has signed memoranda of understanding (MoU) for, have started full or partial production. But, ironically, a complete database on families displaced and affected by different industrial projects is not yet available with the government.

Quotation ends

 

During last few years, the state police has indiscriminately thrashed protestors and, even, opened fire at people agitating against POSCO Steel plant Project area near Paradip in Jagatsinghpur district.

The Niyamgiri episode of people’s movement against mining still stands as a testimony to the Naveen Patnaik government’s non-inclusive approach in pursuing development, which has only helped hostility to grow in most areas of industrial, mining and large infrastructure projects.

The government also doesn’t give adequate importance to the issue of livelihood displacement while listing families displaced or affected by industrial or other projects.

Dispute over definition

The ORRP 2006 says, only a family ordinarily residing in the project area prior to the date of publication of notification under the provisions of the relevant Act and on account of acquisition of his/her homestead land either displaced or required to be displaced from such area is to be counted as a “displaced family.”

But the affected communities contest this definition placing the livelihood sources as important as house and homestead land.

Speaking about the issues of displacement and livelihood in connection to the POSCO steel project, the largest foreign direct investment (FDI) project planned on the coast near Jatadhar river mouth in Jagatsinghpur district, leader of the people’s movement against the project Abhay Sahu says, “Taking the economic group into consideration, the fishermen community and peasantry both will be deprived of their natural livelihood. So, we consider the displacement of livelihood is the real displacement of a family. The family may be there; his house and homestead may not go in the project area; but if his livelihood is displaced; his dependency on the forest land is displaced; his dependency on the sea, Jatadhar River is displaced. That is the real displacement for which we have been fighting tooth and nail relentlessly against the POSCO steel plant.”

If snatching out the source of livelihood is to be termed as displacement, Naveen’s first term as the Chief Minister of Odisha is to be termed as the phase of large scale displacement. Thousands of skilled and unskilled workers lost their job during this period with closure of state run public sector units (PSUs) like Konark Television, Ipitron and many more including state run spinning mills and the Odisha Textile Mill (OTM), in the name of disinvestment. Supported by DFID – the British Agency for International Development – this process of closure of PSUs is believed by many to be a conspiracy to make Odisha industry starved and pave the road for global players to exploit and loot the State’s huge mineral reserves in the name of industrialisation.

Dearth of data

As per information provided by the industry minister to the house of assembly, 66 out of 92 projects, the Naveen Patnaik government has signed memoranda of understanding (MoU) for, have started full or partial production. But, ironically, a complete database on families displaced and affected by different industrial and developmental projects is not yet available with the government. This otherwise speaks about the seriousness Naveen government has in regard to the issue of displacement.

“Although the department (of Revenue and Disaster Mitigation) launched an application software named 'Project Punarbas,' in 2009, with the objective to automate the land acquisition and RR process, develop database, survey methodologies, set up responsive grievance redressal system etc. for the entire state, the project failed during its implementation stage despite expenditure of 1.40 crore rupees,” says the audit report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India.

However, on basis of records of 32 test checked industrial projects in 13 districts, the CAG report reveals that 6533 families have been displaced and 35632 families affected during the period between 1992 and 2013 by industrial projects acquiring 36555.180 acre of land.

Taking all projects - industrial, mining as well as development projects - together, number of total displaced families goes up to 23,845, says a report, published during the end of 2014 in The Hindu newspaper, which also brings to light that 38% of it or over 9,000 displaced families are yet to be resettled by the government.

Because of absence of any system for collection of data about displacement taking place in the state, there have been instances where data and figures about displaced people and families have been manipulated by companies and officials.

In case of Bhushan Steel Limited in Dhenkanal, 1865 families are affected by the industry as per the minutes of Rehabilitation Advisory Committee (RAC) meeting. But the figure is twisted to 1663 and 1296 in survey report and monthly progress report (MPR) respectively, the CAG report points out.

The government too plays its part in the nexus that works to deprive the displaced families of the RR benefits. Citing the case of Angul based Jindal Steel and Power limited, CAG report mentions, while the MPR of October 2013 indicated the numbers of PDF and PAF as 261 and 2073, a report submitted to the State Legislature in August 2013 says that the said numbers are 583 and 5029 respectively.

When non-availability of data creating scope for such manipulation are the reality, the obvious question is, which figures were taken into consideration for disbursement of compensations and other RR benefits under ORRP 2006? But there is no single point where one can get an answer to this question.

Norms for the namesake

Instead of dealing with the issue of displacement, which has a bigger role in ensuring an industrialisation friendly environment, the government has rather seriously attempted to deny RR benefits to affected families. In an official order issued by the Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management Department of Odisha, it is clarified that families who are normally residing in or near the project areas for a period of at least 3 years prior to the date of notification may be considered as ordinarily residing and thus for the purpose of RR benefits as project displaced families.

The clarified definition of “residing in or near the project areas for a period of at least 3 years prior to the date of notification” has deprived many tribal families, residing in villages affected by the mining project of Utkal Alumina International Ltd. (UAIL) in Kashipur block of Rayagada district after being displaced by the Indravati reservoir project, of their rightful benefits.

Though section 7 (iv) of the ORRP 2006 has provision of additional 50% of the normal compensation payable as ex-gratia to families facing multiple displacement, such families settled in villages like Durmusi and Suryagarh, near Baphlimali bauxite reserve, have been forcefully driven out by the local administration even without any compensation just to serve the interests of UAIL.

This indicates how official orders in clarification of some specific norms have superseded the very intent and objective of ORRP 2006 and have made the policy almost dysfunctional. Cases of multiple displacement are rampant in districts like Sundargarh, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur etc.

The CAG report confirms non-payment of any additional compensation to families facing multiple displacement, in violation of ORRP norms, while citing cases of 43 project displaced families (PDFs), displaced earlier due to Hirakud Dam Project and settled in Lapang area under Sambalpur district, of Aditya Aluminium Project and 130 PDFs of Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL), earlier displaced by Derjang Project in Angul.

Not only in case of multiple displacement, there has been serious lapses and negligence in cases of first time displacement for industrial and developmental projects in the state.

As the CAG audit report notes, 798 PDFs displaced during 1992-2013 have not been properly rehabilitated and full benefits due to them have not been extended because of inadequate institutional mechanism and absence of proper planning. Even the process of extending RR benefits to the displaced and affected families has been faulty in many cases.

While project authorities in many cases have made payment at pre-revised rate despite revisions in the amount for rehabilitation assistance on the basis of wholesale price index (WPI), the CAG also finds gross irregularities in distribution of Record of Rights to the resettled families.

Though the government has revised the amount of monthly maintenance allowance (MMA) to 3400 per month, in effect from 1.4.2014, the pre-revised rates are still in effect in many cases. As a fact to substantiate, MMA fixed for the families displaced by UAIL in Rayagada still remains to be Rs.1800.00, which again has not been paid since last one and half years, as said by people of Bagrijhola, a village adjacent to UAIL plant.

The promises of social amenities in the resettlement colonies are unfulfilled in most cases. Most such colonies do not have basic health facility, piped water supply, provision of pond, street light, all-weather roads, school for education, place of worship etc., as the CAG report takes note of it and classify the resettlement habitats as “deficient on many counts.”

When original and amended norms of ORRP 2006 are being violated in most cases, the government has not set any mechanism for proper monitoring of the process of rehabilitation and resettlement to minimise public dissent by ensuring that all benefits due to ADFs and PAFs reach the target.

Even, to the concern of the CAG, “Review meetings conducted by the RDC and Collectors were also inadequate and no follow-up action were taken. Grievance redressal mechanism was inadequate as several petitions were lying unattended by the district authorities as well as project authorities.”

Employment - an eyewash

The government has always presented the possibility of employment generation as the primary motivator for its industrialisation drive. Reports based on facts presented in the Assembly say, in 66 projects that shave commenced production either partially or fully, direct and indirect employment has been created for 100,410 people, including 70,241 within the state with the balance 29,442 hired from outside the state.”

The figure of 70,241 seems to be an eyewash attempt because a report published in The Hindu during mid-2014 reveals that only 19300 persons have been employed during the past decade by all steel projects the government has signed MoUs for.

When employment provided to members of displaced families is concerned, the kind and nature of employment provided in various industries needs serious verification. In many cases, affected people working with companies are not taken as full-fledged staff members but as contractual or wage-based workers so that they can be ousted anytime.

As it came to notice during a recent visit to the villages affected by the UAIL project in Rayagada district, local people who lost their land for the industry are not getting employment in the plant or mining site. Even those who have been working since commissioning of the plant are not yet taken as staff members and are paid a meagre 3000 rupees a month. Some have also been asked, without any strong reason, not to work.

The CAG also observes in its recent report that “adequate employment was neither provided by industries nor the scope of self-employment created in project areas.”

Five industries, who should have sponsored 2085 members for ITI training, could sponsor only 233 and “employment or one-time cash compensation in lieu of employment was not provided to 588 families displaced by 10 out of 32 test checked industries,” the report adds.

Interview conducted during CAG audit in presence of representative of Collector with 597 persons affected under 12 industrial projects in four districts reveals that 53% (315) of people want permanent employment to be assured with a perennial source of income.

It can be imagined how difficult the life of a displaced family becomes without any employment because of non-realisation or delay in realisation of a project. This is one of the major issues and, also, a cause of resentment among people whose land has been acquired for the POSCO project. As the project is facing inordinate delay due to several reasons, land losers are forced to live without an assured source of income since more than last three years.

Same is the case with people who have lost their land for the TATA Steel project proposed near Gopalpur in Ganjam district. The project has been given an SEZ status during this government.

In fact, the volume of unemployed workforce created by the government is much higher than the number of employment it has generated through industrialisation.

Because mostly forest and agricultural land have been acquired for various industrial, mining and developmental projects, the forest dwellers and farming communities in the project areas have lost their livelihood sources. And, as employment scope in agriculture is not limited to the land owners only, unemployment created through the land grab for industrialisation has been much higher than the official displacement caused by the projects.

Apart from creating a vast unemployed workforce in the agricultural sector, Naveen Patnaik government has created an equally vast unemployed workforce by closing down a number of PSUs during its first term. Though the government claims to have provided training for self-employment under a “Social safety Net Programme,” this seems to be an eyewash attempt by the government to escape controversies and public criticism.

Caring the corporates

Despite its failure in addressing all the issues raised and analysed above, the Naveen Patnaik government has always favoured forceful displacement by limiting the constitutional rights of people to pursue its industrialisation agenda.

Be it for the TATAs, the POSCO, Vedanta and other big industrial houses, issues raised by people have not been heeded to at any level of the governance system. Norms set in Acts like Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act or PESA and the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, commonly known as Forest Rights Act, have not been respected. Rights of communities over forest and natural resources were taken away to promote industrial and mining projects against people’s will.

In the game, the poor and ordinary people always have to lose to make the corporate players gain.

[An edited version of this piece is published in the report "15 years of Odisha governance," brought out by Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA).

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