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Orissa Industrialisation drive needs space for tribals and farmers

"Investment policies have been framed keeping the interest of Capitalists. Despite the net Gross Domestic Product is increasing at the rate of 5% but the rate of employment has gone down to 1.97% but still industrialisation is glorified in the name of creating employment opportunities."

Pravin Patel : January 29, 2009

The new liberalized economy has opened up opportunities for Indian industries and the investors and at the same time widened the gap between rich and the poor. Few people, who have access to the corridors of power, thrived when a larger population faced the wrath of livelihood loss and displacement in the name of development through industrialisation.

The controversy over diversion of farm land for industries, mining and other purposes is gathering strength because of the opposition from the communities who are losing their homes, villages, farm lands and all the socio-cultural amenities that have been integral to their life. But their issues remain unheard or neglected by the administration, the leadership and a greater portion of general public that is always fragmented for small interests.

A please-all solution by addressing the issues of affected communities in an absolute transparent manner, which is the need of the hour, is unfortunately not happening. Instead of involving communities in the process of development or industrialization by taking them into confidence, a less involved bureaucracy without any accountability clubbed with a selfish, vote hungry, insensitive and irresponsible political leadership mark the land of the poor farmers and tribal communities for industrial projects in the name of development. These poor farmers and tribals come to know of the reality only when the industrial house approaches to take the marked area into possession.

While pursuing the industrialisation, there is a need to ensure that no injustice is done to anybody and, more particularly, to the farmers on whose land the eyes of industrial corporations are centred. The need is also to have a policy that takes care of the interests of the land losers as well as the industrial corporations. But what happens in reality is that land owners are pushed to the corners by the use of force and also by committing brutalities on people, just to make the corporate houses happy. Those who support the genuine demands of the land losers are labeled as anti development forces. It’s only to safeguard the interests of corporate houses and make their journey easy, bullets have been sprayed on tribal and poor people of Orissa on many occasions like in Kashipur, Gopalpur, and in recent past, in Kalinga Nagar. One should not be surprised to see few more battle grounds in the future too.

A bare look at the MoUs makes one find that the industrial and mining corporations are duty bound to work in the direction of enriching all segments of the society, but the reality has been otherwise. Due to lots of flaws in the mining as well as industrial policy, the development goals remain unachieved and issues of people remain unaddressed. Agricultural lands are being grabbed for industrial and such other commercial purposes even though the guidelines of National Agriculture Policy and also Ministry of Environment say no to use of farm land for industrial and such other purposes.

Two most important legal provisions of the Panchayat (Extension of the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 also restricts such conversion of land. In Section 4 (d) of the Act, it is mentioned that: "The community at the village level in the form of Gram Sabha is competent to manage community resources." Section 4(i) says "The Gram Sabha shall be consulted before the acquisition of land and(also) the rehabilitation of the affected people".

In fact, average size of landholding is so small that those poor farmers and tribals can not match to counter the powerful industrial houses and influence the decision makers. The need is to have a better farm policy keeping this faction in mind to improve the economic status of farmers by improving agricultural productivity. The need is to find a long-term planning before we jump to address the situation in bit and pieces as is being done currently. We should not force the distressed farmers to keep away from agriculture and shift to manufacturing and services and other non-agricultural pursuits, or even become a daily wage earner, which is being witnessed so far.

Similarly, the scenario on the water or environment front needs a serious attention. Steel, Power plant and other large mineral based industries require huge quantities of water. we have not done enough to irrigate the farm land even though over sixty years passed since our independence. But when the need for industries is there, it takes no time to divert the water from the river or dams which is primarily meant for irrigation. Why such discrepancy? The problem is that the government machinery works in favour of private investors and companies as if the system is meant for the moneyed people only. The government and representatives of people, who should fight for the rights of the farmers, tribals and the poor as well, do not bother to act against the will and interests of people who have elected them. The government, administration and political leadership has gone maniac to safeguard the corporate interests even by openly bulldozing peaceful public dissent, social consensus and people's aspirations, push the people to a point of no-return.

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Here, the question arises why the farmers should be made sacrificial goats in the name of development? Is it because the farmers and poor communities are not in a position to bargain or influence the state authorities and pressurize the corporate houses to change their attitude? Why those who make all this sound in the name of investment be asked to make sacrifices? When government dictates terms on farmers and poor, why it fails to act in a similar manner to the defaulting industrial corporations? 3400 Acres of land lost at Behrampur in the year 1988, neither plant has come up nor any employment is created, but state is silent onlooker. Injustice done to the farmers can not be justified.

There is a need to look at the realities in the field of agriculture also. The fifth National Economic Survey has stated the fact that during the year 1998 to 2005, employment opportunities in the non-agriculture sector has increased by 25%, where as the work force increased by only 2%., which during the year 1994 to 2000, it was only 1%. The situation in Odisha is worst.

The area of concern is that while 73% of our workforce depends on agriculture sector, it contributes only 21-22% to our GDP. Despite the employment rate grew by 7.3% in the years 1970 to 2000, much more are still unemployed or under-employed and over 26% of the population of country lives below the poverty line. This establishes the fact that despite the increase in the employment opportunities in agro sector, income of the individual or the family has not risen, rather suicides of the farmers has proved that in fact, their economic conditions has worsened.

Investment policies have been framed keeping the interest of Capitalists. Despite the net Gross Domestic Product is increasing at the rate of 5%, the rate of employment has gone down to 1.97%. But still industrialisation is glorified in the name of creating employment opportunities.

After speedy industrialization and rapid economic growth, we have entered in to the era of global recession. Lay offs and job cuts are on increase. We are in a situation where we see ill effects of the neglect of farm sector. The liberalised economy and rapid rate of growth of our economy has failed to address the unemployment problem. With more and more automation and new technologies that drastically reduces man power requirements, we are all set to be trapped in a situation looks dangerous. Considering the preset rate of employment, neglect of our farm sector and looking at 2001 Census, there will be huge battalion of about 20 million unemployed youth in the country by the year 2018. What will happen at that point of time is shear imagination.

Situation of Orissa can be worst, as we have large areas of land where there is no irrigation facility. Farmers are being trapped in the clutches of illegally operating private money lenders as the banking network in the State is much below the benchmark. The gap between the rich and poor may lead to chaos all around. The proposed labour law reforms, pursued by the industrial lobby, that advocates hire and fire policy will add fuel to the fire.

This has already happened, and is likely to become rampant in future, in a state which is gifted with immense natural wealth. Corruption, inefficiency and undesired political interference have not only demoralized the honest administrative officers but to the grass-root communities at large. Author of Orissa's economic growth have failed to improve the plight of the farmers who are also suffering from repeated draughts due to lack of proper irrigation facilities despite huge Dams have been constructed over the land of the poor in the name of development through irrigation and power generation. But, ironically, the water and power in the state is being diverted to the Industrial houses.

Agriculture is the way of life for majority of in Orissa. Land is their fundamental asset and primary source of income, financial security, social status and identity. Without land, tribals can not survive with dignity. For tribals, land is like their Mother and, thus, there are provisions in the Constitution of India to protect the land ownership rights of tribals.

Fifth and Sixth Schedule of the Constitution are significant in this regard. Attempts are needed to ensure that traditional command of the Adivasi community over resources is honoured. Development in the tribal area takes place with focus on the quality of the life of the Adivasis and development with equity. It is an irony that in the hurry for the so called development, the powerful wealthy and, also, those who can influence the government machinery have laid their hands on the natural wealth of the state. It is the duty of the state government to ensure proper execution of policies developed for the welfare of its people instead of blindly behaving as the representative of the powerful industrial and mining corporations.

There is a crying need to have a state-wide political discussion and debate on the negligence of agriculture sector and formulate policies for a holistic development of grass-root level communities and Orissa as well.

(Author is actively working in the field of tribal development and also associated with the alternative political forum Janata Vikash Manch)



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