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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 26, June 18, 2011

Claim of Saving the Bhilai Steel Plant is Nothing but Trickery!

Ensuring the Plunder of Bastar’s Wealth by Multinationals is the Reality!

Monday 20 June 2011

DOCUMENT

THE VERY EXISTENCE OF BASTARIYA PEOPLE AT STAKE!

The following is a press release of the CPI (Maoist)’s Dandakarnya Special Zonal Committee (issued on June 7, 2011).

The moment when the process of deploying the Army in Bastar is just underway, the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), one of the biggest Public Sector Units of India, has declared that the Raoghat mines would be privatised. These two acts not just coincided, but there was a conspiratorial coordination between them. The Raoghat hills are located just 25 kilometres away from Narayanpur (in Maad region), a district headquarter town, where the Raman Singh Government of Chhattisgarh has given permission to the Army to acquire 750 square kilometres (that is, 185,250+ acres) of land. Now so many notorious MNCs will rush into this area to rob the iron ore which is known for its best quality. From one side, the Army, and from the other side, the corporate companies are trying to gulp down the whole Maad region which is the motherland of Maria and Gond adivasis, the primitive tribal communities of Bastar.

In 2006, before the Raoghat project commenced, some accusations were made against the management of the Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP) that it had illicitly leased out some of the deposits of Raoghat mines to the Tata and NECO companies. People believed strongly that the BSP manage-ment was acting as a paw in the hands of big business houses such as the Tata, Essar, Jindal, NECO etc. But then it had cleverly managed it and stated that there was no such thing. But lately the chairperson of the SAIL, Chandrashekhar Verma, himself has declared that they are going to privatise the Raoghat mines and global tenders would be invited for this. (Source: Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, May 24, 2011) With this, now the game of hide-and-seek is over! The intentions of the exploitative governments are very clear! With the neo-liberal policies dictated by the imperialist masters getting implemented so openly, the MNCs would capture not just the Raoghat mines; they would even buy the BSP or buy the SAIL itself. The recent examples of POSCO, Vedanta etc. of other states also clearly indicate this trend.

It’s believed that the Raoghat hills are having 7.4 billion tonnes of iron ore which is known for finest quality with 62 per cent Fe grade. The BSP is supposed to excavate 511 million tonnes of iron ore. Construction of the Dalli-Raoghat-Jagdalpur railway line is underway for this purpose. The government has already started grabbing the lands forcefully from the peasants between Dalli and Raoghat. But it’s facing stiff resistance from the local people.

This project in fact is an old one. In 1992, the government was forced to give up implementing this project due to massive protests of the people. In Antagarh, ten thousand adivasis had taken out a massive procession to register their strong opposition to the proposed mining project. But the state had responded with repressive methods as always happens. A police camp was set up on the top of these hills. That camp is still present there. Our Party has been actively supporting this just struggle.

The local people are opposing this project because 3278 hectares of forests would completely be destroyed. Apart from this, large portions of adjoining forests would also be destroyed. The river Mendhki and so many other streams flowing through the region would get polluted. The farming will be destroyed so much that it is difficult to quantify. The local people see these mountains as their cultural centres and ritual faith. After the opening up of the mines these will be buried for ever. Many environmentalists believe that from the pers-pective of environment and monsoon in the Bastar, the Raoghat mountains are extremely important. With the Raoghat mining project the existence of 23 villages will be immediately endangered. Further, 13 villages of adivasis might be uprooted in the Chargaon area, next to this mine proposed by a private company of the NECO, Jaiswaals. (And now if you add the proposed massive acquisition of land by the Army—bloated 750 square kilometres—you can’t imagine that the existence of how many villages is going to disappear!)

On the issue of where to set up the township for the proposed mines, an ugly tussle is going on amongst the business classes of Narayanpur and Antagarh. These selfish people do not worry at all about how many villages will be destroyed, how many thousands of tribals will be displaced, how much forest will be cut, how many rivers will be polluted and to what extent the tribal culture will be destroyed, when the mining work is started in this region. Overall, they don’t bother about the oncoming destruction in this region. They are supporting the government’s false claims of ‘Bastar development’ because they think that their own business will grow with this, whatever the price.

The government still makes the argument in support of the railway line and mine that the digging up of the Raoghat mines is necessary as the mines of Dalli Rajhara which are supplying the raw material to the Bhilai Steel Plant are going to end up. It’s making dubious propaganda that if the mining will not start in Raoghat, BSP could be stopped due to the scarcity of raw material, threatening the future of the thousands of BSP workers. Thus, such an environment is created that anybody dares to oppose the Raoghat mine will immediately be labelled as ‘anti-development’. In fact, in the guise of this promotion, the government and administration have put a veil over many realities.

Dalli town today is in a position of almost desolation only because of the wrong policies of the BSP, particularly of indiscriminate mechani-sation. All rivers and streams of this area have been badly polluted. In Dalli and several surrounding villages, as red dirt coming out of mines and roads turned on to the fields of farming, and the farming have been fully destroyed. In Dalli where 16 thousand workers used to work earlier, today the number has decreased drastically to 1200. Can the business-men of Narayanpur and Antagarh and the contractors sitting in Raipur and Jagdalpur give the guarantee that after 20-25 years this region will not become another Dalli?

If the government is really worried that the ‘BSP will be closed if it won’t get raw materials supply’, then why doesn’t it stop selling iron ore of the Bailadilla mines to the multinational companies of Japan, China and Korea? In fact, many sponge iron factories in Raipur and Bhilai have closed due to lack of iron ore supplies. They appealed to the government several times for supply of raw material from Bailadilla for them and to stop selling the iron ore to foreign companies. Doesn’t this prove that the interests of big and foreign capitalists are paramount for the spineless rulers of our country? Isn’t the government’s “concern” about the future of the BSP workers just a pose? Isn’t this just a ploy being adopted to deal with the opposition to the proposed Raoghat mine?

We urge all the workers, employees and other people who are concerned with the future of the BSP, that they should recognise who actually is a threat to the BSP. In 1960s, when the Bhilai Steel Plant was founded, the annual production was 1.5 million tonnes and the number of workers was 95 thousand. Today, the production has been increased to 4.5 million tonnes, but the number of workers is reduced to less than 37 thousand. Contracting, mechanisation and partial privati-sation process are in full swing in the BSP. Many facilities for workers have been taken back. New recruitment and compassionate appointment is closed. The BSP is planning to increase the production to 7.5 million tonnes by 2012-13, taking up further modernisation and expansion. This means even more layoffs and ‘retirements’ of workers will take place. And there is even talk of selling out the BSP to the Tatas, Mittals or Jindals! The BALCO experience is before us. Overall, the policies of imperialist globalisation which have been implemented by governments are responsible for this situation. So, you must fight against the anti-worker and pro-capitalist policies of the governments to protect the BSP. You should not fall prey to the designs of the ruling classes to inflict destruction to the Jal-Jungle-Zameen by opening mines in another area. You should fight against this too. The entire people of Dandakaranya will support your struggles.

The Special Zonal Committee of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) calls upon all the workers and farmers of Chhattisgarh and democratic and patriotic forces of our country to demand the closure of the Raoghat project; to register their protest to mechanisation, contracting and all other anti-worker policies being implemented in the Bhilai Steel Plant and other industries; to demand a stop to the selling of high quality iron ore to the foreign companies from Bailadilla; to lend support to the people of Dandakaranya who are fighting for the right over their Jal-Jungle-Zameen; and to oppose the Army deployment in Bastar to suppress their just struggles.

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