We don't want development (Cover Story2)

Voices from the Adivasis of Sundargarh

Sundargarh district is a Scheduled district located in the north-west of the state of Orissa bordering Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh. The Adivasi population constitutes more than 50% of the total population in the District. The Adivasis are managing their villages according to their traditions, culture and customary mode of dispute resolution according to the PESA Act 1996 in peaceful manner.

The Sponge Iron Factories established by the Non-Adivasi industrialists with full co-operation from the district administrators have created havoc and unrest in the whole district. Since 1998, these Sponge Iron Factories were erected like mushrooms here and there. Not a single factory has been approved by the Pally Sabha / Gram Sasan and Gram Sabha as minimum requirement for social and economic development before such plans, programmes and projects are taken up for implementation as mentioned in “The Orissa Grama Panchayats (Amendment) Act 1997 (5). ”

There are 12 sponge iron factories in and around Kuarmunda Block. The Adivasis of this area have vehemently opposed the establishment of these sponge iron factories from its very inception. But the powerful and influential industrialists together with the district administrators, suppressed all the appeals, protests, agitations by means of police force, booking the agitators under different sections of the Cr. P.Cs and IPCs. The sponge iron factories have been established in the Adivasi villages.

In spite of several appeals and agitations, neither the Pollution Control Board nor the district administrators (Collector, A.D.M., Sub-collector, Tehsildar and B.D.Os) have taken any action. Under the able leadership of Mr. George Tirkey (Former M.L.A., Birmitrapur) there were several rounds of talks and discussions to have amicable solution to these problems, but these were ignored by the administration and industrialists.

In Kuarmunda, the agitation began again by the present M.L.A Mr. Nihar Surin in the month of July 2005. Mr. George Tirkey also worked hard to solve the problems. There were several agitations. On October 23rd 2005 there was a meeting to solve the long standing demands of the Adivasis on Sponge iron and Pollution at Municipality Hall, Birmitrapur, where the A.D.M, Sub- Collector, Tehsildars, B.D.Os, factory owners together with other volunteers and villagers were present. They had agreed upon to fulfil some of the demands. But as usual none of the demands were carried out.

Under the leadership of Mr. George Tirkey there were peaceful rallies, agitations, meetings. “Anchalik Surakya Committee” was formed and through this committee peaceful agitation was going on.

The Nepaz Factory Sponge

The Nepaz Sponge Factory has been opposed since its inception. The administrators have allowed the industrialist to construct the factory illegally and unlawfully and issued notice to hold a Gram Sabha meeting on 25-08-2004 just to eye wash the public (Meanwhile half of the construction was already over). The Collector Mr. Suresh Kumar Vashisth IAS presided over the Gram Sabha, though such officials are constitutionally not authorized to do so. In the meeting the Sabha did not approve the plan.

Several appeals and protest letters were being sent to different offices but no one would listen to the Adivasis. Police would secretly find out the leaders and book them under Cr.P.Cs stating that they were disturbing peace.

Enormous amount of thick black carbon deposits can easily be found in the water, air and land. Already many animals and plants have died, the crop yield has reduced below 50%, people are suffering from respiratory diseases, skin diseases are common. The rivers, ponds and wells are polluted. The administration is least bothered about these problems. The Pollution department is a mere spectator, doing absolutely nothing.

24th March, 2006: The Tussles between the Adivasis and the District Administrators

On 22nd March 2006 there was a meeting at Tehsildar office, Birmitrapur and the administrators had suggested holding of the agitation in a peaceful manner. Adivasis came together for their peaceful agitation as scheduled on 24th March 2006 at about 11.30 a.m. Their demands were:

To stop the Pollution from the factories and creation of a clear environment.

To employ local people / youth.

To remove employees who are from out side the state and disturbing the culture of local area.

To establish social security for the Adivasis.

For peripheral development of the areas.

There were about 5000 agitators near Chadri Hariharpur School. Some agitators also went to other factories for displaying banners. There was a speech by George Tirkey to march peacefully towards Nepaz factory and hold dharna in a peaceful manner and that no one would do any harm etc., thus all the agitators went and stood in front of the factory gate and were putting forward their demands. Mr. George Tirkey together with few leaders entered the factory to hand over their memorandum to the factory authorities. Incidentally, as the security personnel opened the factory gate, many of the agitators also got inside the factory premises. Till then whole situation was peaceful

Meanwhile as they were going inside the factory, the security personnel locked the gate and started attacking the leaders.

In the presence of S.P. and other district administrators (ADM, Sub-collector, Tehsilder, O.ICs etc of Panposh Division) the security personnel of the Nepaz Metalic (P) Ltd. fired 3 rounds at the gathering. Two men were injured, this created more tension and panic.

At about 2:30 pm near a road side hotel, outside the factory, an innocent Adivasi pregnant woman was beaten up brutally. At about 7:30 pm, a policeman removed the saree of a woman and outraged her modesty.

The police attacked the gathering, arrested them and jailed about 250 of them, which include about 50 minors.

Now the police is creating a terror and horror in the neighbouring villages of Kuarmunda.

The district administration is violating all constitutional provisions in the scheduled area, unnecessarily harassing / suppressing the Adivasis, disturbing peace, harmony and causing unrest among Adivasis. The administration and police is openly favouring the Industrialists. Adivasi land has been unlawfully and forcibly snatched away from Adivasis and they are forced to become landless and live a miserable life. Adivasis are at constant threat by the police and the district administration. On the other side Industrialists are looting our land by alluring our innocent Adivasi brothers with drinks and miniscule monetary gains.

Adivasis Do Not Want Factories

The Adivasis of Sundargarh do not want any factory in the district. In the name of development these factories are destroying our villages, culture, land, agriculture, plants and environment. The so called development has brought exploitative and suppressive system in the district.

If any agency wants development for Adivasis, they should develop on Agriculture, Otherwise let the Adivasis remain as they are. We do not want this type of industries.

We appeal all of you to support us and join us in our struggle for safeguarding our identity and survival.


…..Nicholas Barla, Advocate
Rajgangpur, Sundargargh Dist., Orissa
Mobile: 09437196752
Email: nickybarla@yahoo.co.uk


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