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Odisha buys development against militarization and threatened sovereignty

 

First posted Thursday December 12, 2013

Last updated Wednesday July 06, 2016

Odisha, Police, Armed Force  
 
Given circumstances of foreign investments in the State of Odisha bring another serious threat to sovereignty of the nation as they are empowered to control and deploy security force at their own without any accountability.  

Subash Mohapatra

 

In a horrifying move, ruling Biju Janata Dal government legalizes the transfer of the State’s civil police power to non-state actors by going against the spirit of the Indian Constitution. The Odisha Industrial Security Force Act - 2012 has provision for the constitution and regulation of an Armed Force of the State for better protection and security of industrial undertakings. The proposed armed force shall be under supervision, direction and control of the authority-in-charge of that autonomous body, establishment, strategic and vital installation and Managing Director of any private or public undertakings against a cost and payment. Any member of the proposed armed force can arrest and search without any warrant if he thinks proper.

 

No court shall take cognizance of any complaint against the said member of the force without prior sanction of the State Government.

In the context of industrialization by ruling BJD government of Odisha, the protests against development aggression continues in different parts of the State, mostly in adivasi populated districts. The protests rise in the rural and tribal areas against the land grabbing, including by rich non- adivasis from adivasis and State’s acquisition for private industrial undertakings. Adivasi outfit like Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh continues to retake the land from non-adivasis allegedly with force. The State government harshly tries to suppress them, including use of force and false criminal charges against the people who fight for their means of livelihood-a piece of agricultural land. The Kalinga Nagar, Posco and other unrests still persist.

Even today, after a long 7 years, no action has been taken against the perpetrators of Kalinga Nagar massacre. In the history of Odisha after Kalinga War probably in 261 BC, it is the most heinous, cruel and barbaric show occurred in 2006 when 28 palms from the dead bodies were chopped off in the hospital during post-mortems to teach the adivasis a lesson against their decedents. In another incident at Maikanch village of Raygada, three young adivasis were killed by police firing and the inquiry commission found that the police firing was not necessary. Yet, no action has been taken against the culprits. The perpetrators enjoy impunity.

Amidst the adivasis and peoples’ uprising, the present government’s industrial security Bill became Act without any debate in Odisha Assembly. The Act states in its objective to provide better protection and security of industrial undertakings, and the principle adopted therein is that the industrial undertaking/borrowing units will bear the cost as and when they requisition the force. The Act also provisions for replicating infamous Salwa Judum model in the State using Special Police Officers and private security guards for augmenting the armed force. During last 13 years of BJD’s ruling, there are nearly 100 Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) have been signed with private undertaking, and the State government agreed the government agrees to provide security, including establishment of police stations. For example: Clause 17 of the memorandum of understanding between the State government of Odisha and the M/S Posco on 22 June 2005 reads, “The Government of Orissa will take action to provide overall security as per applicable law, as may be required to all parts of the Project during the operation phase. All necessary steps in this regard including setting up of police stations, if required, would be taken by Government of Orissa”.

Towards the fulfillment of the State’s commitment, the BJD government has established many police stations in the premises of the industrial undertakings and covering the jurisdictions to the project affected villages. It caused a dangerous trend of non-accessibility of justice mechanisms as the security officers of the concerned industrial undertaking thoroughly scrutinize the people and their purpose of visiting the police station and it is their mercy whether to allow entrance or access to their premises from where the police stations run. In turn false and fabricated criminal charges have been filed against the people who have different of opinions, including people from media.

During the BJD rule, three journalists namely Khuturam Sunani, Lenin Kumar and Laxman Choudhury were falsely booked under serious charge like sedition. On 4 November 2013, Daitari Pradhan, the president of Kalahandi Bar Association and 25 other lawyers and activists of Kalahandi were framed under sedition. The National Human Rights Commission issued notice to the State Government by asking for a reply. Further the OISF Act guarantees better protection and security to certain groups and industries infringes the Article 14 of the Indian Constitution that enshrines the equality before the law or the equal protection and fairness in action by the State. It is difficult to accept that the State can be permitted to act otherwise in any field of its activity, irrespective of the nature of its function, when it has the uppermost duty to be governed by the rule of law. Non-arbitrariness, in substance, is only fair play in action. This obvious requirement must be satisfied by every action of the State or its instrumentality in order to satisfy the test of validity. Every State action must be informed by reason and it follows that an act uninformed by reason is arbitrary. Rule of law contemplates governance by laws and not by humour, whims or caprices of people to whom the governance is entrusted for the time being.

List II in the Seventh Schedule read with Article 246 of the Indian constitution grants States to have their inherent and exclusive jurisdiction over public order and the police (Entries 1- 2). Thus, BJD government has no jurisdiction or power to transfer the civil police power to an armed force, and that again is to be supervised, directed and controlled by non-state actor. It is important to notice how entry number 1 in the State List reads: "1. Public Order (but not including the use of the army, naval, military or air force in aid of civil power)". It means, the State cannot make a law with respect to the deployment of the armed forces while it can legislate with respect to public order. The State can, no doubt, request the Central Government to send its armed forces for maintaining public order but it cannot itself direct such deployment.

Given circumstances of foreign investments in the State of Odisha bring another serious threat to sovereignty of the nation as they are empowered to control and deploy security force at their own without any accountability. The said Act legalizes the act of the State government to provide the armed force to private industries against the costs and payment. And, as per the Act, the said armed force shall be generally supervised, directed and controlled of the authority-in-charge and/or the Managing Director of the particular industrial undertaking. Further, it requires to be kept in mind that whatever a police officer sees, hears or learns is of confidential nature and shall be kept secret unless the performance of duty or legal provision requires otherwise. Members of the public have a right to security and privacy, and information obtained about them which must not be improperly divulged. The Act’s provision for non-state actor’s supervision, direction and control of an armed police force raises a maze of questions about the intention of BJD led government.

Indian constitution clearly states that sovereignty of our country lies in the hands of people. At this juncture when the non-citizens and foreigners are empowered legally to control a specialized armed force, where will the value of the sovereignty lie?

Author is an investigative journalist and human right activist. He writes about conflict, human rights and anti-corruption.

 
   
 

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