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Naveen’s Orissa: A journey along Neo-Development Politics - I

"Industrialisation of Orissa during Naveen’s regime seems to be a conspiracy planned at a pressure creating altitude at the global corporate circle for exploiting and looting Orissa’s huge mineral reserve. Naveen pursued the process of de-industrialisation in the name of disinvestment..."

Basudev Mahapatra : July 2, 2007

Orissa has been the steel hot spot and the potential investment ground during the regime of Naveen Pattnaik that started from 2000 and continuing till present. As the BJP-BJD coalition government came to power riding on the ravages of 1999 super cyclone, the first term of Naveen regime was a term of disaster management, rehabilitation and reconstruction since the the consecutive years were visited by floods and droughts that virtually shattered the state economy.

But once the coalition came to power for the second consecutive term, Naveen started his continuous MoU drama with big corporate players for mining and mineral based industries, Software parks, Retail complexes, SEZs, Universities and anything and everything corporate houses were interested for. This way Naveen signed more than 50 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) ceremonially with big players in the fields of steel and aluminium, Energy and IT, Institutes and Development Agencies etc. making way for a projected investment over 400000 crore of rupees in Orissa - the state with highest rate of poverty.

Things went smooth and ceremonial for Naveen until the signing of MoUs. The next phase of industrialization drive brought much bitter experiences for Naveen and his government. Acquisition of lands turned into the hardest task for the government machinery due to strong public resistance. Instead of motivating people and involve them in the process of industrialization, Naveen’s administration opted to curb the mass dissidence by using its trigger happy force who sprayed bullets on the people, most of whom are tribal, on many occasions as in Maikanch, of Rayagada district in December 2000, Kalinga Nagar on January 2, 2006. The Vedanta group has also been facing strong resistance from the tribal people living on the Niyamgiri forests in Lanjigarh of Kalahandi district against its alumina refinery. The major reason behind such resistance is the disagreement of people of Orissa to shift from their age-old sustainable economy based on agriculture to an industrial economy governed by labour and wage system.

The factor that insists the affected people to resist industrialisation is the poor record of rehabilitation works in the previous major projects like Rourkela Steel Plant, Nalco, Hirakud, Indravati, Rengali dam projects and many others. According to studies made by various development agencies, more than one-lakh families have so far been displaced and more than 20 lakh (2 million) other families have been otherwise affected in varying degrees by different irrigation and hydro power projects in Orissa. As the calculation goes, more than five lakh people would be affected by the forth-coming projects planned and signed by the Naveen Government.

Whatever is the situation and proposition made by people and development organisations, Naveen’s government is determined to safeguard the interests of the industrial houses. As a display of its commitment to the cause of profit monger corporate houses, Naveen’s government has deployed armed police force in the name of law and order situation at the sites of TATA Steel in Kalinga Nagar, Posco near Paradeep where there is a strong resistance against to stop the proposed plants. Such a step by the Orissa government in the aftermath of a nationwide debate over the Nandigram issue makes the intellectuals, bureaucrats and social activists raise their eyebrow in suspicion.

Claiming itself to be pro-people and pro-industrialisation, the greatest failure of Naveen government is its inefficiency to conduct the panchayat election in thirteen booths of Dhinkia Gram Panchayat - the GP that displays strong resistance to the Posco project. The reason is booth capturing and over-pressurisation by the pro and anti Posco groups in which some members of ruling parties are also involved. It is believed that ruling party leaders instigated their ground level force to bring favourable result for party candidates to prove their capabilities and show others that the wave in these places is pro-industrialisation. The administration cited as reason – ‘unfavourable law and order situation to conduct the election’. Many people including intellectuals and politicians are of the opinion that a personal visit to the site and a face-to-face interaction with the affected people can normalise the situation. Perhaps the legendary personality like Biju Pattnaik would have done this immediately and the projects would not apprehend an indefinite delay in realisation or immature death.

Large-scale industrialisation of Orissa during Naveen’s regime seems to be a conspiracy planned at a pressure creating altitude at the global corporate circle for exploiting and looting Orissa’s huge mineral reserve. Naveen pursued the process of de-industrialisation in the name of disinvestment during his first term through closure of almost all state run small, medium and comparatively big industries like the spinning mills scattered across the state, handloom industries, once called Orissa’s pride Konark Television, Ipitron and many more including Orissa Textile Mill (OTM). The process was almost funded by DFID – the British Agency for International Development. Workers were forced to quit their work place in the name of Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) with a little compensation. Just to keep people’s agony under control, few of the ousted workers were given short vocational training under social safety net programme that again designed and funded by DFID. Many people who were ousted under this plan are now living miserably and their families virtually starving. In case of OTM, the agitation by workers is still on and has been successful in dismissing the sale out proposal and pressurising the government to opt for its revival and pledge before the court in this regard. But, as revealed by a confident source, in a letter to the office of the advocate general, industries ministry asked to omit OTM from the Integrated Textile Park proposal as it is in the process of winding up. If it is true, then the government maintains duality regarding rerunning of OTM and is even playing the game of hide and sick with judiciary. This clearly indicates Naveen and his government’s disinterest in state promoted industrialisation. Was the closure meant to make the state virtually industry starved and set a logical atmosphere to pursue his strategic industrialisation for involving corporate houses in the mining and other sectors?


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