Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan
Date: 18th February, 2014
Chhattisgarh today is witnessing a massive, illegal loot of forest, agricultural, and mineral resources across the State. The state ranks second in the nation in terms of total forest land diverted for mining purposes—accounting for 15 percent! Now perhaps the biggest seizure of natural resources this region has witnessed, via 14 MTPA Rowghat Iron Ore Mines, on the border of Kanker and Narayanpur Districts, is happening in a grossly criminal manner. Anyone opposing Bhilai Steel Plant (BSP)/SAIL is being arrested, beaten, tortured or attacked by the police. Consider some facts
– None of the 35+ tribal villages surrounding the mine have given their consent, nor have had their rights settled under The Forest Rights Act – in direct violation of the law and the Supreme Court’s April 2013 judgment. This is a criminal offence and contempt of court.
– BSP’s own EIA report states that several villages (including Anjrel Village of Narayanpur District and Phulpar Village of Kanker District) will have to be entirely displaced for “blasting” or other “mining related activities”. But BSP just wants to drive these people out of their homes like animals – no legal process of land acquisition has taken place, and no plan for rehabilitation, resettlement, or compensation of these Scheduled villages exists in the project documents. In April 2013 members of Chhattisgarh PUCL found that the local police are threatening the people at gunpoint to “leave the village and settle in Narayanpur town”; the people are not even aware of the project.
– The Bhilai Steel Plant/SAIL has proposed to construct 22 BSF and CRPF camps to ring the area – for no reason except to terrorise the local people. Chattisgarh Bachao Andolan activists trying to hold meetings on tribal rights have been prevented and their mobile phones and ID cards seized. Schools are occupied by these forces, in violation of the Supreme Court’s orders.
– The BSP has produced a set of false and identical certificates saying the impact on people is “nil” and the area “no religious or cultural significance”. In reality, Rowghat is named after the tribal goddess, Rao Devi, and the Gond people of the area (who have a history in the area far older than ‘civilisation’) rely on these hills for their faith, culture and livelihoods. Yet, even after the historic April 2013 judgment on the Niyamgiri mining project, BSP is ramming this project through.
– While the project is being touted as a public sector enterprise, it is a well known fact that BSP is in the process of privatizing its highest quality ore mines. While Ari Dongri mines at Kucche (Kanker District) has been transferred to private company, Godawari Ispat Ltd, there are ongoing legal disputes between Jayaswal Neco Industries Ltd, Tata Steel, Essar Power, and Monnet Ispat & Energy over the allotment of various blocks of Rowghat.
Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan calls on the media and civil society at large to break the conspiracy of silence around the Rowghat iron ore mines and demand that the Chhattisgarh and Central government authorities who have colluded in the illegal seizure of tribal lands be prosecuted. The strict and rigorous implementation of the Forest Rights Act, PESA, the EIA notification and other laws required to safeguard people’s livelihoods and rights should immediately ensue.