Pages

Subscribe:

Neglect of farm sector at the cost of blind favours granted to industrial and mining corporations

To,

The Hon'ble Chief Minister

Government of Odisha

Bhubneshwar.

 

 

Respected Shri Navin Pattanaik ji,

 
Your government has been voted to power by the people of the state of Odisha. Not once but again and again putting great trust on you with a belief that you shall do them immense good for their welfare and all round development. You being head of a welfare state are duty bound to do welfare of the people of Odisha; almost half of whom are struggling to survive.

 

 

It is time to take a stock of the situation before it gets late. You have championed in inking one after another MoU, in which lands of farmers has been inked without their consent or even their knowledge. Only when survey team visits their farms they come to know about it. Their democratic protests to protect their rights are crushed with heavy hand. But when it matters to serve the interest of the Corporations, your government turns a blind eye.

 

State Pollution Control Board appears to be no more than a puppet. Despite huge pollution created at Belpahar Refractory and even your assurance given on the floor of house has failed to invoke any action. Take hundreds of Sponge Iron Plants who are the worst polluters but no one dares to even touch them.

 

Take IDCO or IPICOL, who have failed to repossess 3400 Acres of land at Gopalpur that were forcibly acquired for Tatas during 1988 for setting up of a Steel plant that has never come up.
 

 

EMPLOYMENT: land losers feel cheated by the Corporations. Taking benefit of the poverty and compulsion of the unemployed educated youth, they are lured with false promises. I remind you of the statement of the CEO of POSCO that they will create employment of one lakh persons in their proposed 12 MTPA plant at Odisha whereas they do not employ even 3675 employees in their existing plant of similar capacity at Korea.

 

I also take the opportunity to share with you that AGM of Tata Steel has filed an affidavit before the Kalinga Nagar Inquiry Commission at the Premises of Hon'ble High Court at Cuttack, which states that Tata Steel will create employment opportunities where land losers will be given priority. It does not speak a word on how many will be given direct employment.

 

Take Neelanchal Ispat in Kalinga Nagar, or Orissa Cement Ltd., in Rajgangpur or Rourkela Steel Plant in Rourkela, or any other corporations, the truth is that large number of land loser farmers have been cheated despite their lands have been forcibly acquired. Protests are crushed with brutal use of force. In schedule V area, mockery of the Panchayat Extension of Schedule Areas Act, 1996 is made in full public view. Public hearings have become puppet shows. Thousands from outside the state of Odisha can be seen working where as locals are only exploited as lowly paid daily wage earners. An independent survey by reputed agency will bring shocking facts before the world that will open the eyes of many. 

 

  

Diversion of Water and neglect of farm sector: 

 

Hirakud dam, one of the longest dam of the world has come up over an area of 743 Sq. Km, submerging 50,000 hectares of fertile land of 300 villages by forcibly displacing thousands of tribals adversely affecting the livelihood of about 1,50,000 tribals. As per a report even 4000 families are yet to receive their compensation package even after a lapse of 50 years.

 

This dam was created with objective to promote irrigation to boost farm sector. First Prime Minister of the country Pandit Jawaharalal Nehru had laid the first batch of concrete on 12th April 1948 and inaugurated the dam on 13th, January 1957 with principal objective of irrigation for agricultural development and hydro power generation. But now with the actions of your government, the dam has almost lost its principal objectives as more and more water is diverted to industrial sectors at the cost of causing misery to thousands of farmers.

 

According to a report of NDTV, Rajkishor Meher, a reader in Sociology at the Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies. which can be seen at the following link: http://www.ndtv.com/news/cities/hirakud_dam_is_failing_farmers_are_killing_themselves.php

 

This report quoting Mr. Meher states that "But at present due to silting of the reservoir and canals the tail end areas do not get adequate irrigation water for the second crop. The area deprived of a second crop is almost one-third of the created irrigated potential in the command area,"


" The effective irrigation coverage for the second paddy crop is now available for hardly 60,000-70,000 hectares of agricultural land and that is at the cost of loss of 50,000 hectares of agricultural land and disruption of livelihood of around 40,000 displaced families at present"  The situation will be grimmer with more and more diversion of water to the industrial corporations.

 

Even you must have the reports of the tragedies that we find in more and more farmers committing suicides in the state. Many farmers have committed suicide in Odisha in past few months alone. This must have disturbed you like any other civilized persons. There is an also report that Hirakud dam is failing, farmers are killing themselves. This can be seen at the link:  http://www.worldproutassembly.org/archives/2007/12/30000_farmers_d.html 

 

The report contains Photographs, datas and details that prove beyond doubt that Hirakud reservoir cannot provide water for both irrigation and industries. It also draws attention of your government that water from the Hirakud dam is for irrigation and not for industry.

 

However, overlooking the facts, forgetting the promise made to farmers to irrigate their lands, your government allocated 636.18 million liters per day to Hindalco's Aditya Alumnium, SMC Power Generation Ltd., Shyam DRI Power Ltd., Rathi Steel and Power Ltd., INDAL, Action Ispat & Power Ltd., Viraj Steel and Energy Ltd., Vedanta Aluminum Ltd., NTPC Ltd, Aryan Ispat & Power Ltd. This is what you stated on the floor of the house while answering to the questions during February-October 2007. . The Reliance plant, proposed at Hirma, will draw another 1,468 million liters.

 

The allocation of water to upcoming industries will make the situation worse. There are also reports that industries have set up water-lifting plants very near the canal head. Even your own government's technical committee set up to examine the Vedanta and Hindalco's water off-take plants has recommended in August 2007 that their locations would impact water availability for agriculture. If the trend continues, no body should be surprised to see mass demonstrations and protests of the farmers reaching to its peak in the days to come. Warning bells are ringing but it falls on the deaf ears of those who are supposed to act fast.

 

About our National and State Water policies.  

 

As you know, we have a National Water Policy 2002; in which at page 4 under the head Water Allocation Priorities, it is stated under clause 5 as follows:

 

In the planning and operation of systems, water allocation priorities should be broadly as follows:

 

·         Drinking water

·         Irrigation

·         Hydro-Power

·         Ecology

·         Agro-Industries and non agricultural industries

·         Navigation and other uses

 

Orissa State Water Policy 2007; under the head State Water Plan, at 1.1 on page 4,

it is stated as under:-

 

The State has developed a State Water Plan for a period covering up to 2051 AD when the population of the State is expected to stabilize. With competing demands for water from the same sources, it is necessary to lay down the priorities in its allocation. The State of Orissa adopts the following order of priority in water allocation in tune with the National Policy:

 

Drinking water and domestic use (human and animal consumption)

● Ecology

● Irrigation, Agriculture and other related activities including Fisheries.

● Hydro Power

● Industries including Agro Industries.

● Navigation and other uses such as tourism.

 

Any alteration in the above mentioned priorities will demand formulation of a new policy.

 

A bare perusal of the above even a layman can say that Drinking Water and Irrigation are at the top in the list of priorities where as non agro industries that is virtually at the bottom on the list gets highest priority. How such actions can be justified? The actions of the state are exactly opposite to both our National as well as the State Policy on Water. When millions do not have access to safe drinking water, thousands of acres of land are not provided irrigation, farmers are committing suicide but those dear eared and blind eyed officials are busy in diverting more and more water to least priority areas, for the reasons best known to them.

 

Now about National Mineral Policy.

 

While we see how the mockery of the Water Policies are made, we find that the state which can become a zero tax state in the country by properly exploiting its natural wealth levies highest rates of taxes in the country. Despite mining scam of several thousands crores of rupees, the silence maintained to order a CBI Inquiry raises more doubts. Even now screws are not tightened as there are reports that mining department officials are turning blind eyes to the big games that are played. Trucks with 16 MT papers move freely with 25 ton cargo. It is learnt that there are two sets of papers with such trucks. One is for actual load carried in the truck and another to show to authorities if checked during transit. Under invoicing is another mechanism to siphon off the royalty amount that should go to the state.   

 

Faulty Mineral policy is heavily tilted towards mining and industrial corporations. Mining licenses can also be described as virtual licenses to loot the mineral wealth of the state. When there is urgent need to repair the faulty mining policy, State pampers POSCO whom Brazil has shown the exit door. From the savings of iron ore prices alone, POSCO will recover its costs of investment. Thus, there should not be any doubt that POSCO plant is coming up with the money that belongs to the people of the state. But instead of educating the people about the facts, instead of inviting global tenders for mining rights in the state, Government of Odisha looks pigmy before the Giant POSCO.  

 

I conclude by drawing your kind attention on the above matters and request you to please ensure that long term strategic interest of the people of the state are taken due care. I also appeal to you not to divert water from any of the natural water bodies and dams at the cost of causing misery to farm sector. I also appeal to you to please ensure that democratic rights of the people of the state are respected and not hijacked by state forces.

 

 

Pravin Patel

Human Rights Activist