Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Great Resource Grab Continues: People Fight for Law, Government Throws It To The Winds


On November 20th, the police opened fire on an unarmed protest rally in Narayanpatna, Orissa, by the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha and killed three people. The Campaign condemns these murders – for that is what they are - in the strongest possible terms. Meanwhile, adivasi groups organised demonstrations across Andhra Pradesh yesterday against the State government's illegal move to record community forest management rights and powers in the name of Joint Forest Management committees – which function as proxies of the Forest Department. In Andhra Pradesh or in Orissa, the irony is the same: it is the people who are fighting for the law, and the government that is using all the force possible to break it. In Delhi we find the Prime Minister and the Home Minister talking of the “rule of law” all the time, but for the government it seems that the “rule of law” is just another word for the rule of brute force.

The Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha is an adivasi movement that came to attention earlier this year when it mobilised to take back adivasi lands. The lands had been illegally taken over by non-tribals, in violation of the Orissa Land Reforms Act and the Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property Regulation. Though the government insists, as usual, on calling the Sangha a “Maoist front” and a “Maoist overground organisation”, the Sangha's leaders have always been very clear that they are not linked to the CPI(Maoist) and have publicly stated their differences with the Maoists. They have organised people in a mass movement for adivasi land rights. This movement, of course, is intolerable for the government and for powerful interests; so, as usual, those fighting for people's rights are labelled Maoists and, on this pretext, killing, beatings and torture all are considered justifiable.

On the 20th, the adivasis gathered to protest harassment of women and children, including beatings, that had taken place during so-called “combing operations” in the preceding days. According to fact finding reports, they were not carrying even their traditional bows and arrows. The police opened fire within half an hour of the protest reaching the police station. An estimated 60 people have been injured (no injuries to police have been reported) and those injured are not receiving medical treatment. The police are still engaged in combing operations and have arrested a number of other adivasis. There is no report of any action being taken against those responsible for the killings.

In Andhra Pradesh, meanwhile, a quieter attack on democracy is underway. The Forest Rights Act recognises the right and power of forest dwellers to protect, conserve and manage their “community forest resources”. This was the biggest step forward in this law, and it is the one part that the government appears most keen not to respect. In AP, the Forest Department has found a new trick to get around these provisions – it has persuaded the State government to confer community management rights under the Act on Joint Forest Management committees, which have forest guards as their secretaries / joint account holders and are effectively controlled by the Department. This is completely illegal and amounts to robbing people's resources through the back door. But, once again, we find deafening silence or active support from the Central government for these illegal activities, and reportedly AP has even been cited as a 'model' by Central officials for this action.

Thus the struggle of the people for control over their resources and their livelihoods continues. The question that the government has to answer is very simple: does it actually believe in the rule of law? Or does it believe in crushing all those who fight for the very laws that it has passed?

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

Ph: 9810819301, http://www.forestrightsact.com

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Biggest Grab of Tribal Lands after Columbus

(Page Number 160 and 161 of DRAFT REPORT of Committee On State Agrarian Relations and Unfinished Task of Land Reforms, VOL. I prepared by Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India, New Delhi)

Conclusion of Chapter Four, Alienation of Tribal and Dalits Lands, (Report of the Sub Group - IV)

A civil war like situation has gripped the southern districts of Bastar, Dantewara and Bijapur in Chattishgarh. The contestants are the armed squads of tribal men and women of the erstwhile Peoples War Group now known as the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on the one side and the armed tribal fighters of the Salva Judum created and encouraged by the government and supported with the firepower and organization of the central police forces.

This open declared war will go down as the biggest land grab ever, if it plays out as per the script. The drama being scripted by Tata Steel and Essar Steel who wanted 7 villages or thereabouts, each to mine the richest lode of iron ore available in India.

There was initial resistance to land acquisition and displacement from the tribals. The state withdrew its plans under fierce resistance. An argument put forward was ‘you don’t play foul with the Murias’, it’s a matter of life and death and Murias don’t fear death. A new approach was necessary if the rich lodes of iron ore are to be mined.

The new approach came about with the Salva Judum, euphemistically meaning peace hunt. Ironically the Salva Judum was led by Mahendra Karma, elected on a Congress ticket and the Leader of the Opposition and supported whole heartedly by the BJP led government.

The Salva Judum was headed and peopled by the Murias, some of them erstwhile cadre and local leaders of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). Behind them are the traders, contractors and miners waiting for a successful result of their strategy. The first financiers of the Salva Judum were Tata and the Essar in the quest for ‘peace”. The first onslaught of the Salva Judum was on Muria villagers who still owed allegiance to the Communist Party of India (Maoist). It turned out to be an open war between brothers. 640 villages as per official statistics were laid bare, burnt to the ground and emptied with the force of the gun and the blessings of the state. 350,000 tribals, half the total population of Dantewada district are displaced, their womenfolk raped, their daughters killed, and their youth maimed. Those who could not escape into the jungle were herded together into refugee camps run and managed by the Salva Judum. Others continue to hide in the forest or have migrated to the nearby tribal tracts in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.
640 villages are empty. Villages sitting on tons of iron ore are effectively de-peopled and available for the highest bidder. The latest information that is being circulated is that both Essar Steel and Tata Steel are willing to take over the empty landscape and manage the mines.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless and eternal, may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change. Whatever Seattle says, the great chief at Washington can rely upon with as much certainty as he can upon the return of the sun or the seasons. The white chief says that Big Chief at Washington sends us greetings of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him for we know he has little need of our friendship in return. His people are many. They are like the grass that covers vast prairies. My people are few. They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain. The great, and I presume -- good, White Chief sends us word that he wishes to buy our land but is willing to allow us enough to live comfortably. This indeed appears just, even generous, for the Red Man no longer has rights that he need respect, and the offer may be wise, also, as we are no longer in need of an extensive country.

There was a time when our people covered the land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor, but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes that are now but a mournful memory. I will not dwell on, nor mourn over, our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with hastening it, as we too may have been somewhat to blame.

Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry at some real or imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with black paint, it denotes that their hearts are black, and that they are often cruel and relentless, and our old men and old women are unable to restrain them. Thus it has ever been. Thus it was when the white man began to push our forefathers ever westward. But let us hope that the hostilities between us may never return. We would have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Revenge by young men is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers who have sons to lose, know better.

Our good father in Washington--for I presume he is now our father as well as yours, since King George has moved his boundaries further north--our great and good father, I say, sends us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us. His brave warriors will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful ships of war will fill our harbors, so that our ancient enemies far to the northward -- the Haidas and Tsimshians -- will cease to frighten our women, children, and old men. Then in reality he will be our father and we his children. But can that ever be? Your God is not our God! Your God loves your people and hates mine! He folds his strong protecting arms lovingly about the paleface and leads him by the hand as a father leads an infant son. But, He has forsaken His Red children, if they really are His. Our God, the Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us. Your God makes your people wax stronger every day. Soon they will fill all the land. Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide that will never return. The white man's God cannot love our people or He would protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help. How then can we be brothers? How can your God become our God and renew our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness? If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial, for He came to His paleface children. We never saw Him. He gave you laws but had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes once filled this vast continent as stars fill the firmament. No; we are two distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies. There is little in common between us.

To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their resting place is hallowed ground. You wander far from the graves of your ancestors and seemingly without regret. Your religion was written upon tablets of stone by the iron finger of your God so that you could not forget. The Red Man could never comprehend or remember it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors -- the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems, and is written in the hearts of our people.

Your dead cease to love you and the land of their nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb and wander away beyond the stars. They are soon forgotten and never return. Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being. They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent mountains, sequestered vales and verdant lined lakes and bays, and ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely hearted living, and often return from the happy hunting ground to visit, guide, console, and comfort them.

Day and night cannot dwell together. The Red Man has ever fled the approach of the White Man, as the morning mist flees before the morning sun. However, your proposition seems fair and I think that my people will accept it and will retire to the reservation you offer them. Then we will dwell apart in peace, for the words of the Great White Chief seem to be the words of nature speaking to my people out of dense darkness.

It matters little where we pass the remnant of our days. They will not be many. The Indian's night promises to be dark. Not a single star of hope hovers above his horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man's trail, and wherever he will hear the approaching footsteps of his fell destroyer and prepare stolidly to meet his doom, as does the wounded doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter.

A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one of the descendants of the mighty hosts that once moved over this broad land or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit, will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful and hopeful than yours. But why should I mourn at the untimely fate of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless. Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers after all. We will see.

We will ponder your proposition and when we decide we will let you know. But should we accept it, I here and now make this condition that we will not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children. Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch. Our departed braves, fond mothers, glad, happy hearted maidens, and even the little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season, will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy returning spirits. And when the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your children's children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted, they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be alone.

Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death, only a change of worlds.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

An Agricultural Crime Against Humanity

Biofuels could kill more people than the Iraq war.

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 6th November 2007

It doesn’t get madder than this. Swaziland is in the grip of a famine and receiving emergency food aid. Forty per cent of its people are facing acute food shortages. So what has the government decided to export? Biofuel made from one of its staple crops, cassava(1). The government has allocated several thousand hectares of farmland to ethanol production in the county of Lavumisa, which happens to be the place worst hit by drought(2). It would surely be quicker and more humane to refine the Swazi people and put them in our tanks. Doubtless a team of development consultants is already doing the sums.

is one of many examples of a trade described last month by Jean Ziegler, the UN’s special rapporteur, as “a crime against humanity”(3). Ziegler took up the call first made by this column for a five-year moratorium on all government targets and incentives for biofuel(4): the trade should be frozen until second-generation fuels - made from wood or straw or waste - become commercially available. Otherwise the superior purchasing power of drivers in the rich world means that they will snatch food from people’s mouths. Run your car on virgin biofuel and other people will starve.

Even the International Monetary Fund, always ready to immolate the poor on the altar of business, now warns that using food to produce biofuels “might further strain already tight supplies of arable land and water all over the world, thereby pushing food prices up even further.”(5) This week the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation will announce the lowest global food reserves in 25 years, threatening what it calls “a very serious crisis”(6). Even when the price of food was low, 850 million people went hungry because they could not afford to buy it. With every increment in the price of flour or grain, several million more are pushed below the breadline.

The cost of rice has risen by 20% over the past year, maize by 50%, wheat by 100%(7). Biofuels aren’t entirely to blame - by taking land out of food production they exacerbate the effects of bad harvests and rising demand - but almost all the major agencies are now warning against expansion. And almost all the major governments are ignoring them.

They turn away because biofuels offer a means of avoiding hard political choices. They create the impression that governments can cut carbon emissions and - as Ruth Kelly, the British transport secretary, announced last week(8) - keep expanding the transport networks. New figures show that British drivers puttered past the 500 billion kilometre mark for the first time last year(9). But it doesn’t matter: we just have to change the fuel we use. No one has to be confronted. The demands of the motoring lobby and the business groups clamouring for new infrastructure can be met. The people being pushed off their land remain unheard.

In principle, burning biofuels merely releases the carbon they accumulated when they were growing. Even when you take into account the energy costs of harvesting, refining and transporting the fuel, they produce less net carbon than petroleum products. The law the British government passed a fortnight ago - by 2010, 5% of our road transport fuel must come from crops(10) - will, it claims, save between 700,000 and 800,000 tonnes of carbon a year(11). It derives this figure by framing the question carefully. If you count only the immediate carbon costs of planting and processing biofuels, they appear to reduce greenhouse gases. When you look at the total impacts, you find that they cause more warming than petroleum.

A recent study by the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen shows that the official estimates have ignored the contribution of nitrogen fertilisers. They generate a greenhouse gas - nitrous oxide - which is 296 times as powerful as CO2. These emissions alone ensure that ethanol from maize causes between 0.9 and 1.5 times as much warming as petrol, while rapeseed oil (the source of over 80% of the world’s biodiesel) generates 1-1.7 times the impact of diesel(12). This is before you account for the changes in land use.

A paper published in Science three months ago suggests that protecting uncultivated land saves, over 30 years, between two and nine times the carbon emissions you might avoid by ploughing it and planting biofuels(13). Last year the research group LMC International estimated that if the British and European target of a 5% contribution from biofuels were to be adopted by the rest of the world, the global acreage of cultivated land would expand by 15%(14). That means the end of most tropical forests. It might also cause runaway climate change.

The British government says it will strive to ensure that “only the most sustainable biofuels” will be used in the UK(15). It has no means of enforcing this aim - it admits that if it tried to impose a binding standard it would break world trade rules(16). But even if “sustainability” could be enforced, what exactly does it mean? You could, for example, ban palm oil from new plantations. This is the most destructive kind of biofuel, driving deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia. But the ban would change nothing. As Carl Bek-Nielsen, vice chairman of Malaysia’s United Plantations Bhd, remarked, “even if it is another oil that goes into biodiesel, that other oil then needs to be replaced. Either way, there’s going to be a vacuum and palm oil can fill that vacuum.”(17) The knock-on effects cause the destruction you are trying to avoid. The only sustainable biofuel is recycled waste oil, but the available volumes are tiny(18).

At this point the biofuels industry starts shouting “jatropha!” It is not yet a swear word, but it soon will be. Jatropha is a tough weed with oily seeds that grows in the tropics. This summer Bob Geldof, who never misses an opportunity to promote simplistic solutions to complex problems, arrived in Swaziland in the role of “special adviser” to a biofuels firm. Because it can grow on marginal land, jatropha, he claimed, is a “life-changing” plant, which will offer jobs, cash crops and economic power to African smallholders(19).

Yes, it can grow on poor land and be cultivated by smallholders. But it can also grow on fertile land and be cultivated by largeholders. If there is one blindingly obvious fact about biofuel it’s that it is not a smallholder crop. It is an internationally-traded commodity which travels well and can be stored indefinitely, with no premium for local or organic produce. Already the Indian government is planning 14m hectares of jatropha plantations(20). In August the first riots took place among the peasant farmers being driven off the land to make way for them(21).

If the governments promoting biofuels do not reverse their policies, the humanitarian impact will be greater than that of the Iraq war. Millions will be displaced, hundreds of millions more could go hungry. This crime against humanity is a complex one, but that neither lessens nor excuses it. If people starve because of biofuels, Ruth Kelly and her peers will have killed them. Like all such crimes it is perpetrated by cowards, attacking the weak to avoid confronting the strong.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009


‘I met my Indian mother
She was staggering through iron rain
She said The Earth turned into a monster
Eating everything we had all that’s left is pain
Now I believe that charity begins at home
And home in my case is Kent
But I was feeling generous so I took my week’s wages
And slipped her point five per cent.’

From ‘Sweet Point Fiver Per Cent’ by Adrian Mitchell


In the Eastern Indian State of Orissa Iron ore, Chromite, Manganese, Coal and Aluminium mines have displaced tens of thousands of poor villagers over the last 20 years. Multinational mining companies have wiped out forests, poisoned rivers, siphoned-off spectacular waterfalls, destroyed and degraded the quality of life for the local population and left behind a trail of terrible environmental and human devastation. Vedanta Alumina Ltd, a subsidiary of M/S Sterlite Industries India Ltd, is one such mining company. Vedanta plans to exploit the Bauxite reserve located on top of the Niyamgiri hills in the drought prone Kalahandi district of Orissa. After signing a joint lease with Orissa Mining Corporation Ltd (OMC) in October 2004, Vedanta plans to set up an Alumina Complex, Refinery Plant and captive power plant on top of the Niyamgiri hills using up around 1445 hectares of land, most of which is prime ‘ Reserve Forest ’ land. In April 2009, the Indian government granted permission to Vedanta and OMC to mine bauxite in the Niyamgiri hills for the next 25 years.
This article aims to summarise Vedanta’s infamous track record in following environmental laws, insensitivity to the rights of indigenous communities and violation of basic Human Rights. Every crime has its benefits and a Cost-Benefit analysis is outlined below to help us decide whether Vedanta’s Aluminium mining activities will be beneficial or disastrous for the local population of the Niyamgiri hills, for the state of Orissa and for the Environment.

· Vedanta’s mining will have catastrophic effects on the fragile Ecological balance of the Niyamgiri hills and on the Ecosystem of the Kalahandi district of Orissa, one of the poorest districts of India . Evergreen forests, Grasslands and other priceless wildlife habitats will be lost forever.
· Hundreds of thousands of people fully depend on the mighty rivers, which originate from the Niyamgiri hills. Vedanta’s mining will lead to three vitally important rivers- Kolab, Nagabali and Vamsadhara- losing their water sources and being heavily polluted. Scores of perennial mountain-streams, on which the Dongria hill tribes are completely dependent, will be dried up.
· Bauxite, the mineral Vedanta is mining, is described as a “sponge” by Geologists because of its water-holding capacity. With the extraction of the Bauxite reserves in Niyamgiri the few poisoned rivers which remain will contain only a fraction of their current volumes of water.
· This loss and poisoning of these rivers and streams will be devastating in this extremely drought prone Indian district. The local hill population and hundreds of thousands of people downstream will lose their traditional livelihoods of farming, fishing, keeping livestock etc. For example the toxic waste dumped by Vedanta’s Lanjigarh Refinery into the mighty Vamshadhara River has evidently affected thousands of people who use this river water for household use, agriculture and for their domestic animals.
· Toxic Red Mud and Ash ponds have ruined fertile agricultural lands, contaminated drinking water sources and polluted the air around villages and forest hamlets. Toxic mud released into the Vamshadhara River has had severe health effects on the local people and wildlife. An alarming rise in skin diseases, asthma, gastro-enteritis, terminal illnesses, miscarriages and frequent nausea has been recorded in the region. Over 40 villages have been devastated by the ‘fly-ash’ pollution, which is causing lung-diseases, destroying crops and turning the once fertile agricultural land into a sterile waste-land.
· During Monsoon floods rivers are easily contaminated with the toxic red mud, which is created after the refining of Alumina and which contains a lethal cocktail of heavy metals and Caustic Soda. Even without a flood this red mud leaches into the ground and poisons the ground water or turns into dust and is easily spread around for hundreds of miles, rendering the land infertile and toxic and leading to horrible diseases including cancer.
· To put Vedanta’s water consumption in this drought prone region into context, 1 ton of Steel consumes 44 tons of water but 1 ton of Aluminium consumes 1378 tons of water!
· Endangered wildlife species will be affected. Vedanta’s activities along the Orissa coastline will disturb the precious Olive Ridley Turtles who lay their eggs on the shore. The Golden Gecko, an endangered lizard, lives in the Niyamgiri hills and may be lost forever. Rare varieties of deer, monkeys and hyenas will be made homeless.
· Ignoring all these unimaginable, unmeasured costs, let us just value the forests, which will be wiped out. Based on the handbook of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Govt of India, the Environmental Net Present Value of 1 hectare of fully stocked forest is Rupees 126.74 lakhs over 50 years. Vedanta will be clearing 660 hectares of prime forest land. Even assuming an extremely low density of forest cover the Net Present Value is Rupees 417 crores. Add to this the forest-cover in non-“ Reserved Forest ” land and the total cost of forests lost is Rupees 448 crores.
· Based on UK Govt figures on the cost of Carbon-dioxide emissions 1 ton of Co2 emitted costs between $56 and $223. Even if we used the minimum rate of $56 per ton of Co2 emitted, Vedanta’s Co2 emission cost will be 63 crores annually. So the Net Present Value of Vedanta’s Co2 emission over 23 years is 653 crores.
· So the total financially quantifiable cost is about Rupees 1100 crores, just based on the deforestation and the Carbon-dioxide emission. Keep in mind that this quantification is considerably underestimated. Also keep in mind that this quantification DOES NOT take into account the emission of Sulphur Dioxide and other poisonous gases. Nor does it take into account the water and fly-ash pollution costs, the destruction of crops and arable land, infliction of diseases and illness, the damage caused to a variety of rare wildlife species and the absolute annihilation of the ancient tribal culture, which has survived for centuries in these densely forested hills. Most of the devastation, inflicted by Vedanta, is financially non-quantifiable.
· Vedanta’s Bauxite mine will rip through the sacred hills of the Dongria Kondhs, belonging to an ancient tribal civilization, who have lived fully self-sufficient, ecologically sustainable lives in the Niyamgiri hills for centuries, in complete harmony with the mountains, the forests, the rivers.
· Vedanta’s so called ‘ Greenfield ’ Alumina Refinery in Lanjigarh has displaced several tribal villages and threatens to displace more people. Not only will the bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills wreck the traditional Dongria Kondh way of life, it will also literally destroy their Gods. The Niyam Dongar is their sacred mountain, source of fertility and Lord of Law. Niyam Dongar’s destruction in Orissa will be as horrendous a cultural atrocity as the destruction of the Balmiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan .
· The Anthropological effects are cataclysmic. Tribal society will be violently split into those for and against the mining. Mutual trust and support among the villagers will be damaged with petty cash compensations, fraudulent business offers and false charges lodged by the police against those who are reluctant to be displaced. Villages will be bulldozed without basic rehabilitation facilities in place and the forcibly displaced population will be abandoned in inhumane conditions in shanty-town concentration camps, ironically called ‘Relief Centres’.
· The delicate social structure will be torn apart by displacement. Traditional economic systems and the Kinship system will collapse. Splits in long standing relationships will appear between those who accept the pittance paid as compensation and move on and those who resist. The Egalitarian power structure is fractured and religious values are irreversibly undermined with the pulverising of their sacred mountains and forests.
· Already the social costs of displacement and the invasion by an alien industry has led to a sharp increase in illegal liquor shops, domestic abuse, violence, drunkenness, wife beating and suicides. The Liquor mafias are proliferating even as the social structure is crumbling away and religious and cultural values are being desecrated.
· Construction of Vedanta’s smelter in Jharsaguda is displacing more villages. Vedanta’s “Gift to Orissa”- a Business School and University near Puri- will displace around 100,000 farmers from fertile farmland near the coast and create mass unemployment. Much of this arable land is owned by Puri’s famous Jagannath temple and much of its produce is currently used for the legendary Mahaprasad temple-manna.
· These social costs, like most of the environmental costs, CANNOT be financially quantifiable and so have NOT been included in the grossly underestimated figure of Rupees 1100 crores, which only represents the costs of deforestation and Carbon-dioxide emission!

‘...Overall the state (of Orissa) and the people will suffer the loss, only a small class of rich people will be created. Rich will become richer, poor poorer. Mining is a curse to the indigenous people and the environment’
Kishen Pattnayak

· Vedanta’s plans in Niyamgiri have been officially condemned. The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court of India has recommended that in their view “Use of forest land in an ecologically sensitive area like the Niyamgiri Hills should NOT be permitted.” The CEC point out that the land Vedanta is going to acquire is “an important wildlife habitat, part of elephant corridor, a proposed Wildlife Sanctuary, having dense virgin forest, residence of an endangered Dongaria Kandha tribe and source of many rivers and rivulets.”
· For years Vedanta and other mining multinationals have been lobbying and pressurising the Indian Government to NOT implement the Forest Rights Act. The Forest Rights Act favours the indigenous population of the forests who have been living on the land for millenniums in a civilization, which is more ancient than Hinduism and the Pharaohs. With this Act incapacitated priceless dense forest land has been seized for mining activities in the districts of Koraput, Kalahandi and Bolangir.
· Vedanta invested large sums of money in the election campaigns of certain politicians for the State Assembly and recent General Elections. Outrageous leniency has been shown by the Government and Courts in response to Vedanta’s shameless repeated violations of the law, for example their blatant disregard for the law in setting up and opening an Aluminium Smelter in Jharsuguda in spite of not receiving the statutory Environmental Clearance. A Supreme Court Judge went on record to say “Vedanta must be a good company. Why I myself have shares in Vedanta!”
· To date several hundred people have been killed in working accidents in Vedanta’s Lanjigarh Refinery because of Vedanta’s criminal negligence in Health & Safety precautions. The displaced local population, who have lost their traditional livelihoods, are made to beg for temporary contract jobs and in many cases contract labourers were paid after agonising delays or not paid the wages they were promised and on occasions they were not paid at all. Vedanta has brutally crushed any unrest among workers and in December 2000 the notorious Maikanch police firing killed 3 innocent villagers.
· Because the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) is a party to the lease Vedanta has managed to acquire and clear prime official ‘ Reserve Forest ’ land. They have also illegally occupied village land and have criminally built a wall in the ‘ Reserve Forest ’ demarcating the land they have captured. Rampant deforestation of this area continues despite valiant efforts by the villagers to protect their forest.
· Vedanta has violated a number of Pollution Guidelines as laid down by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Govt of India. The CEC committee of the Supreme Court had recommended that Vedanta stopped its illegal construction of a Refinery in Lanjigarh. In spite of not receiving the mandatory Environmental Clearance and being condemned by the CEC Vedanta has brazenly gone ahead with its construction and mining work.
· The Orissa State Pollution Control Board has issued more than 3 notices to Vedanta for violating pollution norms at its Lanjigarh Refinery. Inspection documents reveal leakages from the ‘Storage Pond’ into the Vamshadhara River , which is the lifeline for tens of thousands of people.
· Instead of trying to rectify these criminal failings Vedanta boasts of being a “Zero Discharge Refinery”. This is an obscene lie as the term ‘Zero Discharge’ implies that no pollutants are discharged and all the wastes are recycled. But there is indisputable documented proof that Vedanta is discharging some of the most toxic industrial wastes in the subcontinent, including sulphides, caustic soda and acids.
· Another absurd lie comes from Mukesh Kumar, head of Vedanta’s mining operations in Lanjigarh, who told the BBC that “Far from drying up streams, (removal of bauxite) will in fact lead to an increase in the ground water level.” This perversely illogical statement has been vehemently dismissed by geologists, farmers and just about anyone with any common sense.
· Vedanta’s parent company Sterlite has been charged with ‘Conscious Lack of Pollution Control’ in their Copper Smelter plant in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. The charges against them include illegal construction, Ash and Gypsum dumping and Air and Water pollution. Furthermore their factory complex had NO license to be constructed and they did NOT have ‘Consent to Establish’ under the ‘Water and Air Acts’.
· Vedanta’s subsidiary company Madras Aluminium Company (MALCO) was forced to suspend its illegal mining operations in the Kolli Hills of Tamil Nadu in November 2008 following a petition filed in Madras High Court, which presented evidence that its bauxite mines were NOT permitted under Environmental laws.

‘The mining that is taking place in the forest areas is threatening the livelihood and survival of many tribes...Let it not be said by future generations that the Indian Republic has been built on the destruction of the green earth and the innocent tribal people who have been living there for centuries.’
From President of India’s speech on Republic Day 2001

· Vedanta is an enthusiastic patron of Orissa Dance and Music festivals! It’s “gift to Orissa” includes a hospital, a University and a Business School . Many observers perceive these investments by Vedanta as a cunning Business Strategy while it seeks access to the Niyamgiri Bauxite reserves.
· Because of the crucial lease with the Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) Vedanta will be obtaining Bauxite at only 16% of the actual market value! This results in Vedanta receiving a subsidy from India , on the free market price of Bauxite, in the region of 6132 crores!
· Because of the ‘Purchase Clause’ in this lease with the OMC, Vedanta pays Orissa a ridiculously underpriced Royalty instead of the market price of Alumina. If the Niyamgiri Bauxite was sold in the open market it would have fetched an income of around 7300 crores but because of this appalling lease Orissa will be paid a Royalty and Cess with a Net Present Value of 193 crores only!
· Vedanta plans to employ 300 employees leading to salaries of 160 crores over 25 years. So the Total benefits for the local population and the state is around 353 crores.
· Of course Vedanta is very keen to portray itself as being very popular with the local community. Children of families displaced by the Lanjigarh Refinery are taught to sing propagandist songs whenever journalists or investigative teams visit. The lyrics of one such song goes- “This country, this earth, is our mother. We will sacrifice ourselves in service of it, And make our nation proud of us.”

· From a purely financial perspective and just considering the grossly underestimated costs of deforestation and Carbon-dioxide emission the costs come to 1100 crores compared to the benefit of 353 crores, Vedanta is promising. So just these significantly underestimated quantifiable costs are more than 3 times higher than the optimistic benefits, which Vedanta has been boasting about.
· As explained above this comparison does NOT take into account the social costs, the loss of rare species and bio diversity, death of rivers and streams, pollution of soil and air, opportunity cost of destroying the Niyamgiri hills and not preserving these natural resources for future generations instead of monstrously exploiting them. For example the value of the 30,000 cum of water, which is lifted out of the Tel river each day for Vedanta’s Refinery, has NOT been financially measured. Also the actual Market Value of Bauxite has NOT been considered. What percentage of this 353 crores benefit will trickle through to the local population is highly questionable.
· In May 2007, Vedanta’s lawyers at the Indian Supreme Court began offering free meals and jobs to the displaced people as compensation. These legal promises were not honoured afterwards. Vedanta carefully publicises its ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ in 60 glossily illustrated pages in its Annual General Report 2006. However like in other parts of India (e.g. Chhatisgarh) the large population made unemployed by displacement and the devastation of the Ecosystem may lead to most tribal people being hired as contract workers with virtually no workers’ rights, inhumane working conditions and ridiculously low salaries. So the rhetorical benefits of falsely promised free meals and jobs need to be compared with the destitution and poverty of people who were fully self sufficient farmers before their traditional food security and way of life was destroyed.
· Since Aluminium is used in Defence for manufacturing Weapons, Bombs etc, we could mention “The National Interest” and the “Greater Common Good”. However Vedanta will be exporting most of its Aluminium to other countries and most of its major shareholders are multinationals outside India . Vedanta’s track record of returning profits to its mining enclaves is very poor.
· So will the quality of life for the local population really improve or are they being “sacrificed for the Greater Common Good”? If they are then is such a sacrifice really an acceptable cost? And is such a callous Environmental catastrophe acceptable for 20-25 years worth of royalties for the State Government? Should we try to figure out answers to these questions and ask other questions? Should we give a damn?

‘We are tribal farmers. We are earthworms. Like fishes that die when taken out of water, a cultivator dies when his land is taken away from him...Is it development to displace people? The people for whom development is meant, should reap benefits. After them, the succeeding generations should reap benefits. That is development. It should not be merely to cater to the greed of a few officials. To destroy the millions of year old mountains is not development.’
from Bhagavan Majhi’s interview in ‘Matiro Poko, Company Loko’ Documentary by Amarendra and Samarendra Das,2005.

· Vedanta is a Global Polluter and has been charged with ‘Environmental Negligence’ in its Copper Mines in Zambia .
· The sale of BALCO to Sterlite met stiff resistance from Workers’ Unions with allegations that BALCO’s assets had been sold for an illegally underpriced amount due to corruption and alleged payoffs into Swiss Bank Accounts. Workers would be losing their jobs and a police probe into the sale was demanded by Workers’ Union and by Members of Parliament.
· Vedanta’s mining in Korba in Chhatisgarh has violated similar environmental and human rights laws. In Koraput in Orissa, tribal villagers displaced and dispossessed by mining are in the middle of a violent battle for reclaiming their lands.
· Aluminium mining is an extremely polluting and damaging industry usually practiced in “Developing Countries” with bauxite reserves, cheap natural resources and corrupt Regulatory bodies. Mining enclaves in which the local community is struggling against Aluminium companies include places in Vietnam , Jamaica , Guinea , Ghana and Guyana .
· In Western Australia health hazards of ALCOA’s pollution have led to the famous Environment lawyer Erin Brockovich representing the local community in their legal suit against the company.
· Filmmaker Samarendra Das, Anthropologist Felix Padel and many other committed activists, Anti-mining organisations, intellectuals and professionals have been campaigning against Vedanta for many years now. Their work both within and outside India is resonant with the courageous grassroots struggle of the affected multitudes in Niyamgiri.
· On July 9, 2009 Amnesty International recommended that “The Indian Government should immediately withdraw the clearance granted to a massive mining project (Vedanta Aluminium Limited) that threatens the lives and livelihoods of a protected indigenous community living there.”
· Vedanta has been blacklisted by the ‘Ethics Council’ of the Norwegian Govt Pension Fund, with its pension fund investments divested in 2007 citing “serious malpractice and contraventions of environment norms and ethics by the Vedanta management in the past wherever they operate” and “human rights violation” and specifically cited procedural violations in procurement of environment and forest clearance for mining in the Niyamgiri hills.
· In July 2008, Martin Currie Scottish Trust Fund of Scotland also withdrew their £2.37m investment in Vedanta on grounds of “environmental and human rights violation” by Vedanta.
· The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of Supreme Court has submitted several reports highlighting irregularities and corruption of Vedanta and recommending that permission should NOT be give. These reports have been cited by the Norwegian Council of Ethics to explain why it recommended withdrawing its investments from Vedanta.
· Worldwide uproar followed Vedanta being awarded the ‘Golden Peacock Award’ by the World Environmental Foundation (WEF) in 2009. This same award was awarded to Satyam Computers in September 2008 before being withdrawn in January 2009 after senior management and the founder chairman were arrested for fraud. Coca Cola had also received this award despite severe protests on its over-extraction of ground water.
· Various concerned citizens wrote a letter to the jurors of this ‘Golden Peacock Award’ voicing their concerns and exposing Vedanta’s activities. In reply the jurors dissociated themselves from Vedanta and said that the prize decision was made beforehand by one Mr Mehra. Mr Mehra is a highly dubious London based corporate guru of whom ‘The Observer’ released an article in May 2003 called ‘The Contradictions of Madhav Mehra’!
· Over 150 organisations wrote to the jury of the ‘The Golden Peacock Award’ and demonstrations were held at the Award ceremony in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Such was the public anger that even the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh and other Government officials refused to participate in this Award ceremony.
· In early 2009, in a breathtakingly beautiful non-violent protest over 10,000 villagers and concerned citizens held hands to form a 17 kilometre human chain around the Niyamgiri hills!
· Thousands of indigenous people representing over 150 anti-displacement unions, solidarity groups and villages have been protesting non-violently against Vedanta. They have submitted petitions to the District Collector, demanded a fair implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006 and have been demanding the immediate cancellation of Vedanta’s mining lease.
· The famous Environmental activist Prafulla Samantara addressed a rally on World Environment Day in which villagers demanded an end to deforestation, the pollution of rivers and fertile land, the protection of the fertile top soil layer and the promotion of small scale food processing units in the region supporting the cultivation of fruits like pineapple, orange and lemon in the region.
· The indigenous population including people from so-called ‘Untouchable’ tribes have been protesting against the beggarly petty cash compensation they were paid before their villages were bulldozed. They have demanded to speak with the CEOs of the mining companies with no success. Agitation has stopped work in many instances for example in 2008 in the Utkal Aluminium plant in the Rayagada district work was stopped for 107 days due to protests.
· Families who helped Vedanta in the village-land acquisition are now opposing them and protests were launched, public hearings held and petitions submitted against Vedanta’s illegal construction of a smelter in Jharsuguda.
· Since 24 April 2009 villagers around Lanjigarh have been protesting in large numbers against Vedanta’s polluting refinery. Such were the emotions and anger against Vedanta that the public hearing was officially adjourned because of protests. Thousands of residents have submitted affidavits to the Indian Supreme Court opposing Vedanta’s Project.

‘All people are like my children, take care of their well being, especially people living in the remote areas, the tribal people.’

Rock edict of Emperor Ashoka, 273-236 B.C.

·GET IN TOUCH WITH US AT sdasorisa@hotmail.co.uk, whatculture@yahoo.co.uk, sdasorisa@rediffmail.com, felixorisa@yahoo.com, welliebird7@hotmail.co.uk,

We won’t leave our land
So many police my friend
Taking us to jails
Better to mingle with our Mother Earth
Who will speak for us?
They are coming
With marching legs and arms!
They are coming to take our mountain
And use it all up in 25 years
Very clever, dear friend
Oh dear frogs and fishes of my river
Will we ever be able to blink at each other again?
We are tired of this struggle

song of a Dongria Kondh blind folk singer

Thursday, June 18, 2009

International Land grab in the name of food security

In the era of Food insecurity and crisis and more importantly, the growing pressure on farmland the corporate world and extortionist economic barons have found a new solution, grabbing lands of poorer and unsecured countries. Governments of some of the over spending countries are also in the race. Another crisis of much higher magnitude and impact is in offing for the poor and unsecured countries.
Following are the links for detailed reading.
‘Land grabbing’ must be disciplined: UN expert on food
@ http://abbaymedia.com/News/?p=2581

Seized: The 2008 landgrab for food and financial security
@ http://www.grain.org/briefings_files/landgrab-2008-en.pdf

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Oppose approval of Marketing of GM Corn

Monsanto's Bt Cotton has failed in India and it failed the cotton growing farmers as well. The evergrowing production costs and indebtness caused by these GM seeds have pushed the farmers in such a condition that they are left with no other option but to kill themselves. Now the company (Monsanto) has applied for an approval for marketing its GM Corn in India. This will further hit the agrarian economy of the country which is already in a very bad shape.

Read the following articles
1. Bt cotton has failed in Vidarbha: study + YouTube video | Science/Nature |Axisoflogic.com
Source: axisoflogic.com
2. Monsanto India seeks approval to sell genetically modified corn - Economy and Politics - livemint.co

We should oppose such approvals to save our food security and sovereignty with our full strength.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


By Ishteyaque Ahmad

It’s around 10 – 10.30 at night in Saharsa Railway Station. The place is teaming with more than 2000 young people - youth without youthfulness- jostling for space, rushing to stock up Moorhi (rice puff) and dalmoth for the long journey. This has been the regular phenomenon since the 2008 Bihar floods receded. Every month more than 100000 youth leave their homes from districts such as Supaul, Saharsa and Madhepura of Bihar in search of livelihood.

The young men travel to all corners in the country. Punjab and Haryana are the favored destinations where they find work in the farms for 2 – 3 months during the Rabi season. They work for 12 to 16 hours a day and are paid about Rs. 150 / day. During this period they manage to save about Rs. 6000 -8000, to come back for Kharif cultivations.

But this year their story is very different. The young migrants are not sure of coming back. The raging flood-waters of the Kosi in 2008 swallowed and destroyed the agricultural fields in Supaul and Madhepura Districts. They are are now covered with dunes of sand which are as deep as 3 – 5 ft and stretch for miles over the fields, at times rising as high as 10 – 12 ft above the ground.

The floods due to the breach in the afflux bund of Kosi Barrage at Kushaha in Nepal on 18th August 2008 have ravaged the houses, roads, the sources of life and livelihoods. More than 50 lakh people were effected by the floods. The younger ones opted to move to safer places along with children and valuables. The elders remained there for looking after the assets and houses. Around 30-35 lakh affected families were compelled to leave their homes to take shelter in relief camps situated far away from their original dwellings. The majority of humanitarian agencies wound up their relief and rehabilitation programmes after serving the flood victims for 3 to 4 months after the floods.

The laxity of the government in conducting relief and rehabilitation work is revealed by its own data and reports. In its press note dated 6th November 2008, the government declared that flood victims have started to return to their respective villages. This was a completely false claim. We met a large number of people from flood effected areas of Supaul and Saharsa district and all of them said that they had no option but to return because the relief camps being run by government were closed. But the state government decided that the people no longer needed its support and it closed down its flagship relief programme “Mega Camps”. Twenty two such camps were run by the government for not more than a thirty days for a population of at least 35 lakh ( Give the figure higher up) in the four of the flood-affected districts such as Supaul, Saharsa, Madhepura and Araria. ( give this important information higher up in the article). This is when the government had itself announced that the most of the flood-affected areas remained submerged under water for more than five months which means till the end of January in 2009. On 3rd November there were only 49 relief camps operational including two Mega Camps. Just two months earlier in September there were 290 camps functional in the four flood ravaged districts.

During his election campaign Nitish Kumar proudly claims that people will vote for him because of the excellent work his government did for the flood victims. The truth however is reflected in the data published by his own government. The government statistics clearly indicate that out of over 35 lakh flood victims, looking out for shelter, only around 3.5 lakh found shelters in the government-run camps. It means that government was able to take the responsibility of providing relief to only 10% of the population. There have been numerous reports that government relief did not reach those who could not attend to the government-run camps. So, we can say that 90% of flood effected people were not on the government's priority list. ( evidence?) However, during the same period state government generously distributed money for celebrating Chhath Puja to gain cheap political mileage amongst one section of the population. ( not essential para)

In its guidelines for relief works, the government has given strict instructions that 'anyone wanting to donate money should do so through cheque/ demand draft drawn in favour of the Chief Minister's Relief Fund.' On its website (http://www.disastermgmt.bih.nic.in/) the state government has published that Rs 5.14 crore were distributed till 28th November 2008 under Chief Minister Relief Fund. But there is no mention about how much money this fund received. The central government sanctioned Rs 1010 crore after declaring the floods as 'National Disaster'. The state government again asked for Rs 14808 crore for reconstruction and rehabilitation. A civil society group Humlog Trust asked the government through RTI about the rationale of asking Rs 14808 crore and demanded the details of the budget.

The Trust also asked for the district-wise data of the damages caused by the floods to the private and public property like houses, schools, panchayat buildings and hospitals. The head of the organisation Parveen Amanullah got the reply in January 2009 which gave no information that was demanded in the RTI. The reply stated that her request is being forwarded to the districts and concerned departments. It clearly means that the state government did not have any concrete information and data about the devastation. In absence of concrete details of the damages and requirements, how did the government arrive at the figure of Rs 14808 crores? The same organisation filed another RTI asking for the total amount the Chief Minister Relief Fund received and how they spent Rs 1010 crores given by the central government. The response was that since CMRF is a trust, RTI cannot be used in the case. This shows that government does not want to be accountable and transparent about the funds its has received. This then begs the question, why should people donate their hard earned money to such trusts which grossly fail to share their accounts with their donors?

Now the humanitarian agencies have wound up their work, the government has closed down its relief camps and people have been forced to return to their villages but without any infrastructure or support systems in place. The political barons have echoed their concerns by declaring the floods as the National Calamity, exchanging unworthy words, making policies for rehabilitation and resettlement. And that is all. Till now no compensation has reached to any of the family in lieu with the Calamity Relief Fund (CRF) and National Calamity Contingency Funds (NCCF) norms.

Some of the families have earned, after hectic efforts at block development offices and officers, some pieces of paper resembling Bank Cheques with some numbers in the amount section. This is supposed to be the compensation for the loss of their crops at the rate of Rs.100 per Kattha or Rs. 2000 per Bigha. However people are unable to cash these cheques without bribing the bank officers. The cheques that are above the amount of Rs. 2500 are crossed and can be deposited in the bank accounts only. The bank officials demand a cut of 20-25 per cent from victims to deposit the compensation amount in bank. The application form for opening a bank account are being sold for Rs. 100 per form. The government officials employs canes and throws abuses to manage crowds of people outside the banks.

The experts of Planning Commission at the Centre had a point when they said that NREGA could be creatively used for rebuilding the lives and infrastructure of the flood effected region. These words did not make any sense to the flood affected people. Till now the administration has completely failed in engaging the people in NREGS works. And there is no possibility in the near future as well, at least till May 15th due to the general elections and the model code of conduct. This means that works under NREGS can be implemented only for a month between 15th May and 15th June. After that the works will again be officially closed till October 15th. In January-February it will be the turn of the rich farmer's and landowner lobbies to subvert the NREGS works so that the labours can work on their fields. (NOT CLEAR)

The model code of conduct is unable to correct Varun Gandhi's or Advani's or Lalu-Rabri's words, neither it could stop several dozens of chargesheeters from getting tickets from all the major parties and contesting election. I was in Jehanabad when the sitting MLA from Ghosi, Jagdeesh Sharma was going to file his nomination with more than 500 Jeeps and cars. Interestingly, I was in Supaul when some other candidates were filing their nomination papers, again with hundreds of big vehicles. But the election commission was blind and silent enough to ignore all that. But if a work got sanctioned under NREGS, ensuring a few days work for unemployed youth during the election period, the democracy and the democratic processes will be disturbed and devastated. ( Delete para,)

(VERY POWERFUL QUOTE. Bring it up front) An old farmer at Balbhadrapur village of Basantpur Block of Supaul District says, “Wait for few more months and there will be nobody to claim the compensations. The farmers are about to commit suicides in a big way, youth and landless farmers have started shifting to other places, young girls are being sold off for all purposes. So, who will remain there to collect the compensations and what for?” One can ignore Montek Singh Ahuluwallia or Nitish or Lalu's words, but ignoring this old man's words will be leading to a society with no civilisational evidences or footprints.

The relief materials distributed by NGOs, corporate houses and religious institutions have been utilised long back. A quintal of grains and Rs 4250 distributed from the block offices among those who were present in the relief camps and some cash for crop destruction received by a very few number of people are evaporating with the increasing temperatures. Nobody knows what the future holds for them. Young men have an option of migrating in search of livlihood, but what about the women, elders, children and disabled, where can they escape from the desert-like situations and with no food, shelter and any hope?

We were in Sitapur village, near Balua, the home village of former CM of Bihar Jagannath Mishra and veteran Congress leader Late Lalit Narayan Mishra. One of the farmers took us to his farm. The PUSA vice chancellor had promised him and his 70-plus father that they will be able to grow pumpkins, cucumbers and watermelon. And they delivered their promises, providing hybrid seeds. The Brahmin farmer invested around Rs 3600 from his pocket and planted those seeds which never germinated. When the farmer gave another look to the packets of the seed, he found that the expiry date has lapsed long back. The PUSA experts positively took back the seeds and supplied new set of seeds with a stronger promises that these will make the required change. Another Rs 4200 were spent by the farmer's family. And fortunately plants came out, but the speed of growth is so slow that till 10th April, when the market is flooded with cucumber and water melon, the farmer has not seen any flower in his farm. The farmer was not complaining when he was sharing that he has spent all the money his family had and there are very bleak chances that he will be able to harvest anything. The PUSA experts should be congratulated that they thought of helping out the farmers from siltation problem and reached them and helped them experimenting with their luck. But the experiment did cost dearly to the already impoverished farmer. ( delete para)

It was the election season and all the tea stalls and public places were full of discussions about the elections, which was scheduled to be held on 30th April ( give past tense, since article will be coming out after the elections) . People were talking about caste equations in the constituency, the rise of the Yadav power during the Lalu era and Nitish's 'sushasan' (good administration) but not a single word was heard about the failure in the disbursal of compensation to the flood victims, the present economic condition of the region and large number of men migrating from this region. These are not in the peoples' agenda who themselves are the victims of apathy and negligence of the governments. This clearly shows the success of the political parties and their leaders in diverting and subverting the issues which directly impact the lives of several million people. It also substantiates Einstein's statement that the oppressive system convinces the oppressed to imbibe the symbols of oppressions as their own and start believing the norms set by the system are correct.

The author is working with Aman Public Charitable Trust, New Delhi