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Odisha -Rejection of forest rights claims, poor coverage and missing data #WTFnews

CAG audit makes scathing criticism about the failure of local authorities in creating awareness on FRA provisions amongst forest dwellers

                    The state has not conducted any survey to ascertain total number of beneficiaries of Forest Rights Act. Credit: Vikas Choudhary / CSE
 The state has not conducted any survey to ascertain total number of beneficiaries of Forest Rights Act. Credit: Vikas Choudhary / CSE

A recently tabled audit report from CAG of India on the government of Odisha reveals the performance of implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 during the period 2011-16 in the state. The rules for carrying out the provisions of FRA were notified in 2008 and were subsequently amended in 2012.

The performance audit sampled five districts—Deogarh, Koraput, Sundargarh, Malkangiri and Sambalpur –and pronounced a shocking finding that “even after eight years of implementation of FRA only 46 per cent of villages were fully covered in four out of five sampled districts”. More shocking was the observation that “not a single village was fully covered in Deogarh district”.

Status of coverage of villages under FRA in sampled districts 

Name of the sampled district No. of Villages FRC Constituted Fully Covered Percentage of Villages Fully Covered
Deogarh 774 679 0 0
Sambalpur 1232 1208 743 60.71
Koraput 1890 1890 1188 62.86
Malkangiri 933 933 305 32.69
Total 4829 4710 2236 46.30

Source: CAG audit report on Govt of Odisha (General and Social Sector), Report 1 of 2017, page 84.

This audit exercise also brought to the fore a startling fact that “the Government had not conducted any survey to ascertain the number of forest dwellers for recognition of forest right for all eligible forest dwellers in the state”. The scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Caste Department, in its reply filed in November 2016 to this audit report, accepted non-conduct of beneficiary surveys and further stated that “the number of projected households for each districts was prepared based on a detailed assessment of forest fringe villages and ST households and were supplied to each Collector”.

When it comes to granting the claims, CAG audit scrutiny revealed that coverage was satisfactory in Malkangiri district (96 per cent of villages covered), while in Deogarh and Sundargarh only 34 per cent and 38 per cent villages were covered respectively. Audit also underlined that rejection rates were also very high in these two sampled districts (Deogarh and Sundargarh).

CAG auditors noticed 20,623 claims falling under ‘rejected’ category in the five sampled districts. While the Rule 12 A (10) stipulates that “all decisions of the SLDCs and DLCs that involve modification or rejection of a Gram Sabha resolution or recommendation of the SLDCs shall be accompanied by detailed reasons for such modifications or rejection”, the Audit found that only 13,398 rejected claims had recorded reasons. More shockingly, case records of rejected claims were not available in any of the sampled district except Deogarh. The statistical details on the rejected claims are as follows:

Reasons for rejection of Forest Rights claims at SDLC level

Districts Number of Claims Rejected at SDLC level Numbers of Rejected Claims for which
Reason for rejection is available Individual details available Case records available
Malkangiri 1584 1584 0 0
Koraput 452 452 452 0
Deogarh 5455 5455 5455 5455
Sambalpur 6223 5907 5907 0
Sundargarh 6909 0 0 0
Total 20623 13398 11814 5455

Source: CAG audit report on Govt of Odisha (General and Social Sector), Report 1 of 2017, page 87.

CAG audit also makes scathing criticism about the failure of District Level Committees (DLC) and Sub-Divisional Level Committees (SLDC) in creating awareness on FRA provisions amongst forest dwellers. During the audit exercise, in August 2016, representatives of SLDCs conducted interviews of 72 members of 23 Forest Rights Committees (FRC) from the five sampled districts. Following table shows details of these 72 interviews:

Responses of FRC members interviewed during audit to gauge awareness

Sl. No. Responses Percentage
01 Not aware of FRA 26.39
02 Not aware about other members of FRC 11.11
03 Not aware of Individual Right 20.83
04 Not aware of Community Right 79.17
05 Not aware of Community Forest Resources 80.56
06 Not provided with translated copy of the Act and Rules in Odiya 43.06
07 Not aware about evidences required 19.44
08 Not aware about verification process 26.39
09 Stated that Sub-Divisional Level Committees didn’t provide forest and revenue maps. 87.50
10 States that Sub-Divisional Level Committees didn’t provide electoral rolls 86.11
11 Stated that SLDCs didn’t provide information to Gram Sabha about duties of holder of forest rights and others towards protection of wildlife, forest and biodiversity which need to be conserved and protected. 81.94
12 Not aware about the ownership, access to collect, use and dispose of minor forest produce/ conserve or manage any community forest resource 81.94

Source: CAG audit report on Govt of Odisha (General and Social Sector), Report 1 of 2017, page 199.

CAG auditors were also shocked to observe “inter-district variation in application of eligibility criteria and norm for selection/ rejection”! This performance review flags off concern over the state of implementation of the Forest Rights Act, even after a decade of its promulgation. Organisations working on forest dwellers’ issues must take note of some very minute audit scrutiny and carry out the follow-up Social Audit exercise in these sampled districts, as well as other neighbouring districts.

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India – It is a Sham to Celeberate Jharkhand Foundation Day #BirsaJayanti

By – Farhan Rahman
The state of Jharkhand celebrates “Birsa Jayanti” as well as ‘Jharkhand Foundation Day’ today.
Crores being spent on celebration of this ‘auspicious’ day, with the President of India himself being present.
17 years ago, the state of Jharkhand was carved out from Bihar to address “tribal aspirations”.
Tribal Aspirations??
Well that was the said reason.
The tribals had for long struggled for separate statehood so that they can benefit from the vast natural resources that the state was endowed with, and their economic conditions could be bettered.
17 years have elapsed and the newspapers today are singing paeans for the government on achievements made so far.
Well give them money, and they’d even declare Jharkhand as Switzerland of India.
Let’s have a reality check on the situation, esp. of the tribals:
1. There are 32 Scheduled Tribes residing in Jharkhand, their population being 26% of the state.
2. Out of 24 districts of Jharkhand, 5 districts have more than 50% ST population while 8 districts have ST population b/w 25-50%.
3. 34% tribals don’t have access to drinking water.
4. 77% tribals don’t have drainage facilities.
5. Literacy rate among STs is 57%, 16% below national average.
6. About 80% of tribal students’ dropout from education system by the time they reach secondary level. This is highest among all categories and among all states.
7. The tribals today are living on social, economic and political periphery. It is ironical that the state that was created to address tribal aspirations, the tribals have got little out of it.
8. Majority tribals are living at a subsistence level, with most of them relying on minor forest produce (MFP) like collecting Tendu leaves, making ‘dona’ out of leaves and selling them in the market to get few rupees. Restrictions have been put even on that by the state, and thousands of innocent tribals are languishing in jails for crimes as petty as collecting ‘tendu’ leaves from jungles.
9. Anti-Naxal operations are being carried out in different parts of the state to get rid of Naxalism. Well that’s the stated reason. The reality is that, the state wants the lands of the tribals, so that they can be given to corporate and mining carried out. And for that to happen, you need to get rid of those tribals, since the tribals would die, but won’t give their land. They consider their land as their mother. So, the state frames up charges against innocent tribals, declares them as naxalites and puts them behind bars (if they’re lucky) or just shoots them (if they’re unlucky).
All the above is carried out in a very fine manner. Newspapers never show the reality, and the government gives full page ads, crediting itself with the “vikaas” being carried out in the state. The innocent citizens are unable to figure out the intricacies of dirty politics, and get good feelers through such advertisements.
Who would speak for the rights of tribals?
The general classes don’t have any idea of their sufferings,
While the tribal leaders are debauch and corrupt, often aligning themselves with the state, to get their share of cake.
In wake of such atrocities being committed by the state against its own people, it becomes a sham to celebrate its foundation day.
I, for one, would not like to be a part of it.

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Chhattisgarh Again: Church Vandalised, Women Molested, Men Beaten #WTFnews


RAIPUR(Editor’s Note: News of this incident was received by The CItizen a few days ago. However, locals in Bastar said that the authorities had advised against going to the media as communal tensions were high. The Citizen took an editorial decision not to report the violence. Now there is relative calm in the area but with the small Christian community terrified and fearing arrests as counter FIRs have been filed against them as well).

On October 15, Christian Adivasis were praying in their church in village Mokshpal in Bastar district. It was a normal day, with the tribals visiting the church every Sunday since 1995. Father Raju Sori who is also the Pastor was leading the prayers.

At the same time the village Sarpanch and other Panchayat members had started collecting local villagers at the Gram Samdayak bhawan. According to the Chhattisgarh Christian forum, the villagers were incited and provoked by the panchayat leaders to attack the Christians.

Word was sent to the church for the Christians to come to the Bhawan. The Forum maintained that they were told to give up Christianity, and become Hindus. The small tribal minority refused, and said that under the Indian Constitution they were free to practice any religion of their choice.

The Forum alleges (as shown in the video below) that the villagers were then directed to attack them. They allegedly assaulted the women, tore their clothes, beat the men who were left bleeding and with fractured bones.

The Forum stated that many were hospitalised.

The villagers also attacked the church, with the Forum maintaining that it was vandalised, musical instruments broken.

FIRs have been registered, against not just the alleged assailants but also against the Christian villagers.

“No one is listening, the authorities in Chhattisgarh are silent, for religious freedom we are being made to pay a price,” the state Christian Forum stated.

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Rajasthan: Half-buried farmers continue protest against land acquisition on Diwali #Hallofshame

The farmers of Nindar village, that is located on the outskirts of Jaipur, are protesting against the acquisition of over 1,300 bighas of land for a housing project claiming that the compensation offered was not enough.

 Rajasthan farmers, Jaipur farmers land acquisition, Jaipur Development Authority, Vasundhara Raje, Nindar village, Rajasthan farmers diwali, india news, indian expressJaipur: Farmers, who have been protesting by staying neck deep in pits against acquisition of lands, celebrated Diwali (Source: ANI)

About 650 women, who have buried themselves neck-deep in the ground to oppose the Jaipur Development Authority’s move to acquire land in their village, marked Diwali and performed puja at the demonstration site, continuing their protest against the Rajasthan government.

The farmers of Nindar village, that is located on the outskirts of Jaipur, are protesting against the acquisition of over 1,300 bighas of land for a housing project claiming that the compensation offered was not enough.

Their demonstration entered its 19th day on Friday as over 1,000 protesters celebrated Diwali and performed Govardhan puja at the protest site.

The protesting women performed Govardhan puja today at the protest site to show their solidarity against the government’s move to acquire farmers’ land against their will, Nagendra Singh Shekhawat, a leader of the Nindar Bachao Yuva Kisan Sangarsh Samiti, said.

Jaipur: Farmers, with bodies buried till neck in pits, stage ‘Satyagrah’ protest against forced acquisition of their land by Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) at Nindar Village in Jaipur on Sunday. (PTI Photo)He said that talks with the government have not been held in the last couple of days due to which more number of protesters have joined the movement and are on a fast.

The Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) has taken possession of 600 bighas of land so far and deposited Rs 60 crore in a local court as compensation for it after villagers refused to accept the amount, claiming it did not hold up to the prevailing market rates.

Around 10,000 houses will be built under the scheme announced in January 2011.

The opposition Congress had accused the government of failing to reach out to the farmers’ families protesting at the site for 19 days against the JDA’s decision to acquire their land.

State Congress Chief Sachin Pilot had said that at the time of festival season, men and women have buried themselves in pits as a mark of protest and the government was unable to resolve their problems. “The government should reach out to the protesters and amicably resolve their issues,” he had said.

Rajasthan: Half-buried farmers continue protest against land acquisition on Diwali

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India -POSCO Exit- Pyrrhic Victory for the People’s Movement

Image result for POSCO ODISHA

Ranjana Padhi

POSCO’s announcement of its withdrawal from Odisha is a major victory for the small farmers, forest dwellers and fisherfolk who have opposed the steel project since 2005. The victory celebrations of the local communities, however, have been muted because their struggle against corporate greed, and the destruction of land and habitats has left them with over 2,000 warrants for arrest, 400 police cases, lives lost, livelihoods disrupted, communities fractured, and the constant memory of violence and repression.

If the eastern coast of Odisha has not been marred by the construction of a mega steel plant, if the land and ecology have been preserved from further damage, if the coffers of global capital are a wee bit impoverished, and most significantly, if the local people continue to remain on the lands they belong to, it is largely due to the sustained resistance of the people’s movement in Jagatsinghpur district of Odisha.

In early 2015, an amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDRA), 1957 made it mandatory for the South Korean steel giant POSCO (formerly Pohang Iron and Steel Company) to participate in the auction for iron ore in the Kandahar mountains along with other bidders. POSCO thus forfeited the easy access to captive iron ore reserves it had been assured by the Odisha government until then. In addition, fluctuations in the demand for steel in the global market disrupted POSCO’s plans.

The exit of POSCO is a victory for the small farmers, forest dwellers and fisherfolk who have opposed the steel project since its inception in 2005. However, it has been a pyrrhic victory. Their battle over more than a decade has led to the economic ruin of local communities, fractures in community cohesion, incarceration, litigation, physical brutality by the state and hired goons and, above all, loss of life of their fellow activists. All this has left deep wounds that will take years to heal. Not surprisingly, then, when POSCO officially declared its withdrawal from the project in 2017, celebrations in the area were muted.

On 18 March 2017, Debi Prasad Mishra, Odisha’s Minister for Industry, announced the exit of POSCO at a press conference in Bhubaneswar:

The [state-owned] Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation had acquired 2,700 acres of land for the proposed POSCO project. The state government in a letter had asked POSCO to clear dues of ₹82 crore towards cess. In its reply, the company has said it is not interested in taking possession of the rest of the acquired land and paying the remaining amount. It has requested the government to take back the acquired land handed over to it.

However, the Odisha government has already hinted at fencing off the acquired area and keeping the land in a land bank. This is being proposed through a revision in the land acquisition policy in February 2015. In effect, the people who have suffered and shed their blood to keep POSCO off the land will not have access to it. Such a move by the government clearly indicates that land is no longer for the landless, but for corporate houses. The POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS), the organisation that spearheaded the anti-POSCO agitation, has already announced another movement to reclaim the land if it is not returned to the original cultivators in line with the Supreme Court’s verdict of 31 August 2016 on the Nano plant of Tata Motors in Singur, West Bengal.

The Great Steel Rush

Since the 1980s, and following on the Rourkela Steel Plant, there has been a strident demand from corporate Odisha for more steel plants in the state. In the 1990s, in keeping with an electoral promise, the late Biju Patnaik initiated several steel plants in the planned industrial township of Kalinganagar. With the deregulation of the Indian economy, many corporate giants were heading to the mineral-rich states of Odisha, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. Kalinganagar in Jajpur district of Odisha became the steel hub due to its proximity to iron ore mines in Sukinda–Keonjhar and Sundergarh, and connectivity to Paradip Port. With the advent of these mining corporations and the acquisition of land in the early 2000s, local Adivasis began to resist, and Kalinganagar became a virtual battleground. On 2 January 2006, 13 Adivasis were gunned down by Odisha police for opposing Tata Steel.

While all these developments were taking place in Kalinganagar, on 22 June 2005, the Government of Odisha signed a memorandum of understanding with POSCO for setting up a 12-million-tonne-per annum (mtpa) integrated steel plant with an investment of ₹52,000 crore. The project was expected to have a captive port at the mouth of the Jatadhari river and to source iron ore from the Kandahar mountains straddling the two adjoining districts of Sundergarh and Keonjhar. POSCO was hailed as the biggest foreign direct investment in India at the time. The state government was gung-ho about the project, declaring that it would “bring prosperity and well being to its people.” The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) conjured up an estimated “8.7 lakh jobs for 30 years” as employment that the project would generate! However, the government’s ₹52,000-crore dream turned into a nightmare for nearly 22,000 people from the affected areas of Dhinkia, Gadakujanga and Nuagaon gram panchayats of Jagatsinghpur district when land acquisition for POSCO began. The land requirement of the project was 4,004 acres, of which 3,000 acres were classified as forestland. This rich alluvial land sustained the cultivation of paddy and all sorts of vegetables. People grew betel vines and cashew plants, collected firewood, mushrooms and saag (leafy vegetables) from the forested land. Thus, the land was integral to the economic life of the local people. They had depended on it for generations, whether or not they possessed any record of rights over the land. In addition, the Jatadhari river and its mouth sustained the livelihoods of fisherfolk from several affected villages, as well as 20,000–25,000 fisherfolk from neighbouring villages that fall outside the plant area. The battle was thus between the steel of POSCO and the dhaana, mina and paana(paddy, fish and betel) of the people.

Criminalising Peaceful Protests

The PPSS used peaceful means of protest such as dharnas, satyagrahas and padayatras, in which women, children and the elderly also participated. PPSS knocked on the doors of all those who mattered. They appealed to all the authorities to guarantee their constitutional rights and implement the laws of the land. They even requested the chief minister to visit their villages and talk to them directly. In short, they tried every avenue available to citizens of a democratic polity. Still, they were answered with the deployment of armed police, flag marches, lathi-charges, rubber pelets, criminal charges, arrests and jail terms.

One of the most brutal and bloody assaults on anti-POSCO agitators took place on 15 May 2010. An indefinite sit-in demanding the scrapping of the project had been ongoing for five months under a makeshift tent in Balithuta village, which guards the entry point to the area. Instead of entering into talks on their demands, the district administration sent in 40 platoons of police. On 14 May, the police conducted a flag march near the protest site to intimidate people. In defiance of the police, nearly 4,000 protestors collected at the site the next day. At around 2 pm, the police attacked them with lathis, rubber bullets and tear-gas shells. Over 200 people were injured. The tent of the protestors was burnt down. Small shops and nearby huts were also burnt and destroyed. With the village exits sealed by the police, no one could go out for medicine or treatment. People had rubber pellets stuck under their skin for days, with no idea how to remove them. Civic life was paralysed as the entire area remained under siege by the police.

In the summer of 2011, police platoons once again entered the area to occupy the land. Men, women and children lay prostrate on the burning sands to halt the police advance. Suddenly, everyone, from the government to media houses, became concerned about the rights of children, asserting that the protestors were using children as shields. Ironically, those concerned about child rights never bothered to enquire what compelled children to confront the gun-wielding police force, or what compelled parents to bring their children with them. In a swift move, the Odisha government ordered the minister for women and child development to conduct an inquiry into the fall in school attendance. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights that rushed to the spot to urge families to send children to school ended up urging the government to withdraw the police force from the schools as schools are for education, not to house the police.

Given the intense resistance, POSCO scaled down its production capacity from 12 mtpa to 8 mtpa in April 2013. The land requirement was also cut down to 2,700 acres, and tactically, Dhinkia gram panchayat was left out of the acquisition process. As Nuagaon had capitulated earlier, the people of Gobindpur village bore the brunt of the state repression alone. In early February 2013, 12 platoons of police descended upon Gobindpur for forcible land acquisition, and went around breaking betel vines. By June, the number of platoons had swelled to 29. With a police camp set up right in the middle of the village, there would be flag marches during the day and midnight raids to arrest protestors at night. On the record, however, people were shown voluntarily accepting compensation and dismantling their betel vines. The chief minister was parroting his pet line, “Our government believes in peaceful industrialisation.”

In the wake of POSCO’s withdrawal, this “peaceful industrialisation” has left the local people with over 2,000 warrants for arrest and 400 police cases registered at the police station in Kujanga. These will haunt them for several years, as has been the case in other struggle areas of Odisha. For example, people in Baliapal (who were protesting against a missile test range) have cases pending against them since the late 1980s. In Chilika and Gopalpur, where local communities resisted an integrated shrimp cultivation project and a steel plant, respectively, by the Tatas, cases have been pending since the early 1990s. In Kashipur and Niyamgiri, where there has been sustained resistance to alumina plants and bauxite mining, cases have been pending since the early 2000s. The criminalisation of dissent followed by repression has come in handy for the ruling order everywhere. Despite this, ordinary people, with their sacrifice, courage and determination, have managed to halt the march of the mightiest corporate houses.

A Muted Victory

The ordinary people of Odisha, comprising small farmers, fisherfolk and the landless, may have succeeded in opposing the Tatas in Gopalpur and Chilika, Bharat Aluminium Company (BALCO) in Gandhamardhan, and the National Missile Test Range in Baliapal, while the struggle of the Dongria Kondhs in Niyamgiri is continuing. However, each success has had sad and bewildering fallouts: feuds between and within villages, rifts in the protest movement, and an atmosphere of doubt and distrust amongst comrades. Often initiated and exacerbated by the concerned corporations and district administrations, these rifts within seem to be assuming a clear pattern in Odisha. In the POSCO agitation, by 2010, Nuagaon had left the struggle and been labelled pro-POSCO. Nuagaon’s people chose to take the compensation, though this decision did not by itself make them pro-POSCO. However, the dynamics change overnight for those who are in the middle of the tumult. For perhaps the first time, the people of Dhinkia did not rise against the severe repression unleashed in Gobindpur, leaving it completely isolated when land acquisition began there. These fractures in the movement in 2013 have still not healed, as people from both Dhinkia and Gobindpur told us in February 2017. Perhaps, anti-POSCO activist Debendra Swain’s sweeping victory in the Dhinkia gram panchayat election in February 2017 is an indication, however, that people have begun to look forward to rebuilding their lives and communities.

Residents of Patana village in Dhinkia panchayat, who had been relocated to the transit colony set up by POSCO, have returned to their village after more than 10 years. These 40 families were projected as victims of the anti-POSCO movement by the administration and mainstream media. After moving to the transit colony, they continued to expect assistance from the company or district administration, but in vain. They repeatedly approached the banks for loans. Their demand for some land for sharecropping went unheeded by POSCO and the administration. Instead, the company put up a tall wire fence around the camp, which was located on fertile agricultural land. The company feared that people would take over that space for their own survival needs. However, they continued to be paraded before the media as supporters of the project. As news of POSCO’s withdrawal began trickling in, these 40 families returned to their village to resume betel vine production. Who will pay for the hardships and trauma caused to them in these 10 years, and the disruptions in their lives?

Several traumatic events linked to the struggle against POSCO will linger in people’s memories. On 2 March 2013, a high-impact bomb explosion killed three people on the spot in Patana—Narahari Sahu, Manas Jena and Tarun Mandal. Laxman Pramanik was critically injured and hospitalised in Cuttack. The police arrived on the spot after 15 hours. Within two hours, however, the district administration had made a public statement that the deceased were killed while making bombs. There has been no judicial inquiry to date. In June 2008, Tarun Mandal’s brother Tapan Mandal had been killed by hired goons while returning with other members of the anti-POSCO movement after desilting the mouth of the Jatadhari. The ageing father of the two slain brothers consoles himself that his sons were martyred in the battle against a corporation and a militarised state, just as Subhash Chandra Bose or Khudiram Bose gave up their lives fighting the British.

In Gobindpur in February 2017, we found the people picking up the pieces of their lives, restoring betel vine plots destroyed by the police during the land acquisition process, and taking bank loans to resume their livelihoods. Meanwhile, some people from Nuagaon and Gobindpur who had given up their land have been going to the betel vineyards of Dhinkia to work on daily wages. However, there is possibly not a single family that does not regret the disruptions of livelihood and education, the childhoods lost, and the psychological stress of the last decade. This has been the price they have paid for protecting the land.

In 2010, an elderly member of the anti-POSCO movement, Jemma Kotokia, had said that political resistance is hard work, but it would fetch them results just as their labour yielded betel, paddy and fish. Holding up her hands, she had said, “These are not ordinary hands. Our hands can do magic. Where nothing could ever grow, we grew paddy and vegetables. Anything that we touch bears fruit. Therefore, we are bound to see victory even in opposing POSCO.”

These communities know the price of resistance. Even as they welcome their victory with mixed emotions, they know that theirs was a fight not only for their own lands and livelihoods but for all those who stand against the rapacious greed of corporations and the destruction of lives, land and habitat.

([email protected]) is a writer and editor based in Bhubaneswar. Nigam ([email protected]) is a freelance writer and translator based in Bhubaneswar.

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He Sang


He sang. Or he sat. Or he slept. Or he danced. Or he sang and danced. When he sang the whole village would come out of their homes. When he danced too! Some called him Lal Singh, some called him Gan Singh. Some said that he was from Comilla and had been on his way to Calcutta, but changed his mind and settled down on this abandoned bench instead. Nobody really knew.

When I was a toddler I would crawl up to him to listen to these amazing melodies. As I grew older I began to understand his songs, the message of hope and joy, of the wonder, beauty and goodness of all things. A small school had come up in the vicinity which I was forced to attend. I learnt to count and to my little eyes he lookeda hundred years old.

One day I heard a commotion that was raucous and appalling to my ears. I hid behind a tree and watched a man hit Lal Singh. There were others shouting and pointing fingers at him. “Our wome’n are being kidnapped and raped and you are singing these stupid, happy songs? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? All of us are mourning, only you are laughing! Lal Singh continued to sing. He hit him again and again until Lal Singh fell off the bench. This did not stop Lal Singh from singing. The man who was hitting Lal Singh was known as Dada Singh. I remember shrieking loudly when he touched me harshly and inappropriately a few years ago.

A few days later they returned to beat him again. Our men are dying in the war but you carry on with your happy singing and dancing as though nothing has happened? How dare you! We are poor and jobless and exploited but you continue to dance as if this is paradise. Will you stop! Pull his tongue out, screamed Dada Singh, infuriated.

That was the last we heard of him. He soon disappeared.

Today, I am in Gondiya, near Nagpur making a documentary on the Gond tribals, their caves, Darekasa and Kachargadh; their culture, religion and dress code. It is after midnight and I am listening to an old man singing songs that make the most creative use of cuss words. Amazing and funny at the same time! He is just making them up on the spot, like this one –
Gangu ga…………….
Moreet ka mutli……


I walked up to him with some money in my hand. Lal Singh!



Words (Fiction): Jyotee

Edits: Shweta Swaminathan

Photograph: Mayank Austen Soofi

Jyotee is an artist and a writer living in Mumbai.

He Sang

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When Newton’s Adivasis went to the movies

After-shoot revelry: Tribal actors singing and dancing after the completion of the shoot.   | Photo Credit: Pranhita Sen

For most of the film’s Adivasi actors, it was their first time in a cinema hall

Israr Ahmed, a TV journalist in south Chhattisgarh’s Kondgaon district, was a sad but busy man on Friday evening. He was busy making arrangements for a special screening of Newton, India’s entry at the Oscar’s this year.

He was sad because Baisakho and Gandoram, two of the 25 Adivasi actors in the film, had passed away recently. “It’s a pity they could not attend the screening. But their family members did, and they were sad,” said Ahmed. The rest of the Adivasi actors, all from the villages of Kongera and Kiyevalenda in Narayanpur and Kondagaon districts respectively, were “super happy” to see the film, Ahmed said.

“Firstly, they had all acted in a Bollywood film. Second, most of them were watching a film in a cinema hall for the first time. For them, it was one hell of a party,” said Ahmed, who himself played the role of a cameraperson in the film.

Newton has picked most of its actors, other than those playing the major roles, from Chhattisgarh. And Mangal Kunjam, 26, is one of them. Kunjam, a fearless journalist in real life, plays himself in the film. He had received death threats in real life. “I was told I would be bumped off,” he said, for having raised uncomfortable questions in his work. In Newton, he does exactly the same thing: ask an uncomfortable question.

“The director told me I could ask any question to the actor playing the police chief,” recalls Kunjam. “I couldn’t stop myself from asking a genuine question that was bothering me.”

In the film, Kunjam asks the police chief why Adivasi youth “were made to surrender, and then forced to pick up the gun again,” a reference to the Salwa Judum, a militia of Adivasis mobilised by the state for anti-insurgency operations.

Pranhita Sen, daughter of Binayak Sen, the eminent activist who had worked for many years among the Adivasis in Chhattisgarh, plays the District Collector.

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Adani: Thousands turn out across Australia to protest against Carmichael coal mine




A national day of action to oppose the proposed Carmichael coal mine has seen thousands of protesters turn out in locations across Australia.

Rallies in locations including Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Port Douglas in North Queensland heard messages against Indian company Adani’s proposed mine in the Galilee Basin.

Adani has promised thousands of local jobs but opponents say the project will fuel global warming and destroy the Great Barrier Reef.

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About two thousand people rally in Melbourne against Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Queensland.  @abcnewsMelb

The ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday revealed alleged cases of bribery, corruption and environmentally destructive behaviour by the Adani Group in India.

Adani is seeking a $900-million loan from taxpayers so it can build the railway line from the proposed mine site in the Galilee Basin to the Abbot Point coal port.

“If this mine does go ahead it drives us into a dirty future and Australia is a country that’s smarter than that,” said Simon Fosterling, a Bondi surf life saver at the Sydney protest, which attracted about 2,000 people.

“I have a two-year-old daughter and I don’t want to have a conversation with her in 10 years time and the mine’s gone ahead and she says to me, ‘dad, why didn’t you do something?'”

Protesters spelled out ‘#STOP ADANI’ by standing in formation on the sand.

Both state and federal governments have defended the approval process, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk maintaining the project will bring much-needed jobs and the company will be held to account.

“You only have to travel to regional Queensland to understand what this project means to thousands of families out there that will be employed through this project,” she said.

Ms Palaszczuk said on Saturday that although people were entitled to protest, her Government was ensuring environmental conditions were met.

“That’s a matter for people, they’re allowed to protest, we live in a democracy,” she said.

“At the end of the day we have the toughest environmental conditions attached to that mine.”

Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Anthony Lynham said the mine would be subject to “strict monitoring” throughout the construction process.

Sydney Stop Adani campaigner Isaac Astill called the construction of the mine an international issue.

“It’s going to be the biggest coal mine in the southern hemisphere at a time when our climate is crumbling,” Mr Astill said.

It’s an international issue and that’s why we’re seeing people around the world and in Australia coming out in their thousands to say no to Adani.”

About 2,000 people rallied in Melbourne’s Princes Park carrying placards reading ‘Coal=CO2!!!’ and ‘Protect Our Future’.

Over 200 Gold Coasters voice their concerns over proposed mega coal mine in North Queensland. @abcgoldcoast 

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said she hoped the “big day of action” would send a strong message that taxpayers did not want their money subsidising the project.

“It will affect every single living thing on Earth, that’s why people in Melbourne and Sydney and Canberra and Adelaide and Cairns all care about this mine not going ahead.” Ms O’Shanassy said.

At Miami on the Gold Coast around 200 people turned out to oppose the mine.

“We know how important this is and we know there’s a growing movement and more and more people are realising how desperately we need this to stop,” said Shane Primrose of the Stop Adani Gold Coast group.

Between 200-300 people turned out at Perth’s Cottesloe Beach and more than 250 people rallied in Hobart, where speakers included former Greens leader Bob Brown.

Adani has promised thousands of local jobs for Townsville and Rockhampton residents to work on the massive mine in the Galilee Basin, splitting its fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) workforce between the two cities, and has promised to pay each council a rebate if it hires a non-local.

The protests were organised by the Stop Adani Alliance, which is made up of 31 organisations.

Thousands of people gather at 40 locations across the country on Saturday as part of the Stop Adani Alliance

Most Australians oppose Adani mine, poll shows, amid national protests

New polling shows the majority of Australians oppose Adani’s proposed Carmichael coalmine going ahead, and an even bigger number are against Queensland allowing the company to receive a $1bn federal loan.

The polling, commissioned by the Stop Adani Alliance, was released on Saturday as thousands of people are expected to attend rallies at dozens of locations around the country, expressing their opposition to the project.

The ReachTel survey of almost 2,200 people across Australia found 55.6% of respondents opposed the mine going ahead. That was more than twice the number who supported the mine, with 18.4% of respondents saying they were “undecided”.

Question: “Indian mining company Adani wants to build a new coal mine in Queensland, which it argues will create local employment opportunities, but concerns have been raised about the company’s corporate track record and the impact of the mine on the environment. Do you support or oppose the Adani coal mine going ahead?”

When told that the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, had made an election commitment not to spend public funds on Adani’s project, 65.8% of those polled said she should use her power to veto the possible $1bn loan the federal government might give the project through the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility (Naif).

That view was unanimous across voters of all persuasions – respondents who said they voted Liberal, National, Labor, Green, One Nation, Australian Conservatives, as well as those who were undecided, were all more likely to think Palaszczuk should veto the loan.

Question: “The Queensland Premier made an election commitment that her Labor government would not spend public funds on Adani’s private rail line for their coal mine. Should the Queensland government keep its promise and use the power is has to veto the federal government loan of $1 billion to Adani for the rail line?”

Support for the mine to go ahead was extremely divided among backers of different political parties.

Australian Conservative voters were the only group with clear support for the mine, with 57% saying they backed it.

Liberal voters were almost split down the middle – 39.3% backed the mine and 34.1% opposed it, while 25.7% were undecided.

A clear majority of most other voters opposed the mine proceeding – 69% of Labor, 58% of National and 90% of Greens voters. Among the One Nation voters, more opposed the mine going ahead (44.9%) than supported it (37.7%).

The polling follows earlier surveys showing similar numbers, including one commissioned by GetUp in January, finding that three-quarters of respondents believed a loan to Adani was not a good use of public money. And polling by The Australia Institute in May found 59% of Queensland voters were opposed to any state or federal assistance for the mine.

Federal Labor has had some divisions over the question of whether to support the mine and the Greens have sought to push them to say they will review any commonwealth funding for it.

The Greens are launching their Queensland state election campaign today, which will focus on opposition to the Adani mine, and place the heat on Queensland Labor for its strong support to the mine.

Protesters wearing masks depicting Malcolm Turnbull and Gautam Adani at Sydney’s Bondi beach
 Protesters wearing masks depicting Malcolm Turnbull and Gautam Adani at Sydney’s Bondi beach. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Members of the Stop Adani Alliance – which comprises more than 30 environment groups – began to gather at 40 protests around the country on Saturday.

They plan to spell out “Stop Adani” in “human signs” at beaches and other prominent locations around the country.

“While the Queensland and federal governments remain staunch supporters of this dirty mine, new polling shows the Australian community is angry that $1bn of public money could be handed to Adani for a mine which will wreck the climate and the Reef,” said Blair Palese, chief executive of Australia.

“Voters are clear. They believe the Queensland government should stick to its promise and block the $1bn loan to billionaire Adani for his private rail line.”

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India – Shirdi village has no bus service, but gets airport

Prasad Joshi| TNN | 


  • Kakdi village, located around 15km from Shirdi, was identified for an airport for the benefit of pilgrims to the temple town.
  • With a huge tract of land in Kakdi having been used for constructing the airport and related facilities, the villagers are now demanding basic amenities in return.

The first flight to Mumbai waits for takeoff at the new airport in Kakdi village near Shirdi.The first flight to Mumbai waits for takeoff at the new airport in Kakdi village near Shirdi.

AURANGABAD: An airport may have come to Kakdi near the temple town of Shirdi but villager Madhukar Gunjal is nowhere near elated. Far from it, he is fuming that a basic need like a state transport bus service for the village has been ignored and air connectivity instead has been bestowed upon them.

“Villagers, especially schooland college-going students, have to shell out of a lot of money daily on private transport to travel to nearby towns for education and other work. While we have been waiting like fools for state transport bus services to start, the airport comes as a tight slap on our faces,” he said.

Kakdi village, located around 15km from Shirdi, was identified for an airport for the benefit of pilgrims to the temple town. The village has a population of around 4,500. Rahata and Kopargaon towns in Ahmednagar district are located around 12km and 30km from the village. With a huge tract of land in Kakdi having been used for constructing the airport and related facilities, the villagers are now demanding basic amenities in return.

On Sunday , the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation started special airconditioned buses between Kakdi and Shirdi to coincide with the airport inauguration.However, the villagers termed the arrangement as of no use.

“The buses have high fares and are basically for outstation devotees. How will our students who come from a humble background use these buses? Also, the schedule of these buses has been decided in keeping with flights arriving at the Shirdi airport,” a villager said. He sought the intervention of the state government as well as the Shirdi temple trust to end their commuting woes.

Shirdi temple trustee Rubal Agrawal could not be reached for comment. Temple spokesperson Mohan Yadav said the airport facility for Shirdi has become a reality due to government funding. “We only offered Rs 50 crore as a token of our commitment towards the devotees. The remaining expenditure has been borne by the government. The MSRTC is expected to take a call on starting a bus service in the village,” he said. When contacted, MSRTC authorities said they have proposed bus connectivity for Kakdi.

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Gujarat: Tribal woman dies, four critical after ‘torture for witchcraft’

The five were branded with a hot iron rod on their hands and other body parts and made to walk on burning charcoal, after which they collapsed and were taken home by their family members.

| Surat |

witchcraft, Gujarat tribal areas, Gujarat, Tribal woman killed, Tribal woman killed for witchcraft, violence against women, Gujarat witch case, Tribal woman beaten up, woman brutality, Indian expressIt all started few days ago when some villagers complained of fever, which was blamed on witchcraft. Some of the villagers then called an exorcist to “identify people involved in witchcraft”.

The condition of the four, who are admitted at Valsad Civil Hospital, is said to be critical.

Meanwhile, village sarpanch Vanitaben Chaudhary’s husband was attacked by locals after police, acting on her complaint, arrested five villagers for summoning the exorcist.

“The exorcist with the help of some villagers had tortured the people who they claim were carrying out witchcraft activities. We have arrested five people in this connection… We are also trying to identify the exorcist involved in the death of a woman,” said Sub-Inspector R C Vasava of Subir police station.

According to sources, it all started few days ago when some villagers complained of fever, which was blamed on witchcraft. Some of the villagers then called an exorcist to “identify people involved in witchcraft”.

Police sources said that on Friday night, five villagers — Paruben Janabhai Pawar (50), her husband Janabhai Pawar (55), Anaben Pawar (45), Nachjibhai Bhisara (50), Rajyuben Bhisara (51) — all suspected to be practising witchcraft were brought to the village temple where the exorcist performed certain “rituals” and physically tortured them, while rest of the villagers watched.

The five were branded with a hot iron rod on their hands and other body parts and made to walk on burning charcoal, after which they collapsed and were taken home by their family members.

As their condition deteriorated, they were taken to Ahwa civil hospital where Paruben Pawar died. With the condition of the other four being critical, they were shifted to Valsad Civil Hospital.

After coming to know about Paruben’s death, sarpanch Vanitaben, accompanied by her husband Gulab Chaudhary and Paruben’s son Nanabhai, reached Subir police station on Friday night and filed a complaint against five villagers — Vanu Pawar, Dinesh Budhekar, Suresh Bhoye, Chhagan Jhamar and Jayram Gavit — for calling the exorcist.

After the police arrested those five men, a group of 20 people, mostly women, reached the sarpanch’s house on Saturday morning and beat up Vanitaben’s husband. He was rushed to Ahwa hospital where his condition is reported to be out of danger

The sarpanch has filed another complaint against the villagers for attacking them. “We have registered a complaint on rioting and have started looking for the accused,” Vasava added.

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