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Whose Resources Are These?

Updated: October 6, 2012 11:17 am

Under the euphoria of market driven reforms and export-dependent growth trajectory, there is a flood of investment proposals. Eighty-six MoUs signed by Odisha government. as on May 6, 2010, with a total amount of Rs 4, 41,471.14 crore—49 steel industries, 3 alumina Industry, 3 cement projects, 27 power projects, 2 auto ancillary projects, 1 titanium complex, 1 crude oil processing unit, 1 stainless steel industrial park. Besides investment has also been proposed on ports, universities, hospitals, and many a SEZ. Currently 2754 industries—large, medium and small scale—are operating in the state. Most of the industries (65 per cent) in the state being engaged in primary manufacturing activities fall within the red category.

In fact, some researchers refer to the present state of affairs as “deindustrialisation”, since “the recent spurt in new investment proposals in industries in the state in the 1990s is mostly in the private sector, including multinationals, that, too, in processing industries creating the problems of displacement and environmental pollution”. This seems to corroborate the finding of other research during the pre-globalisation period that the “pace of industrialisation has increased during 1981-91 as compared to 1971-81, due to both the increase in the correlation between agricultural production and industrial production from 0.38 to 0.63 and increase in the growth of agricultural production from 1.71 per cent to 3.49 per cent”.


MINES: Odisha contributes 98.4 per cent of chromite, 56 per cent of bauxite, 28.7 per cent graphite, 28.5 per cent manganese, 34 per cent iron, 24.8 per cent coal and 91 per cent nickel to the total mineral and coal reserves of India. In addition to this, Odisha is the largest reserve of seven major minerals in India. All the mineral-rich districts of the state feature in the list of 150 most backward districts of the country, says the report of CSE. “Statistics indicate that the income from mineral extraction rarely benefits the regions from where these minerals come—in fact, poverty is increasing in many of these districts,”

Between 1950 and 1991, mining displaced about 2.6 million people— not even 25 per cent of these displaced have been rehabilitated. For every 1 per cent that mining contributes to India’s GDP, it displaces 3-4 times more people than all the development projects put together.

Forest land diversion for mining has been going up. So has water use and air pollution in the mining hotspots.

Mining of major minerals generated about 1.84 billion tonnes of waste in 2006—most of which has not been disposed of properly.

Mining-isation of Industry: Mining in Odisha

Overall, during 1993-94 and 2003-04, the rate of mineral exploitation in Odisha has increased—on an average per year—by 10.3 per cent, while its value has gone up by 12.8 per cent. Export of minerals in quantity terms has gone up by 15.7 per cent, higher than the increase in exploitation rate, implying that a smaller percentage of the exploited minerals is used now to meet domestic needs. The value of exports has also increased. Despite all this, this capital-intensive sector has been ruthless on employment, reducing the number of workers by an average 4 per cent annually. During the period 1993-94 to 2001-02, for NSDP at constant (1993-94) prices, mining shows the highest average annual increase of 11.66 per cent, while agriculture and unregistered manufacturing exhibit decreases of more than 1 per cent per year.

The average annual rates of exploitation of the most important minerals, namely, iron ore, chromites, coal, and bauxite (as a percentage of reserves at the beginning of the year) is quite high, from 7.3 per cent for bauxite to 15.9 per cent for iron ore. If this growth rate in exploitation is maintained, the state’s existing iron ore and chromate reserves would get exhausted in 20 years and coal and bauxite reserves in 50 years! As per Indian Minerals Yearbook 2005, published by the Indian Bureau of Mines, Odisha is one of two states (other is Jharkhand) that had leased area per mine in 2003-04 in excess of 150 hectares. It is not just the resource exhaustion and environmental degradation, but also the paltry price at which minerals are doled out to corporations.

The employment generation by mining remains an across-the-board fall in the number of workers. The sole exception is the number of workers engaged in bauxite mining, which has gone up by around 6 per cent per year. But that is no solace, since bauxite accounts only for 1 per cent of the total mineral workers employed, whereas coal, iron ore, and chromate, the big employers in the mining sector, employ anywhere between 13 per cent and 35 per cent each of the total mineral workers. The fall in the number of workers per lakh tonne employed highlights the increasing mechanisations in this sector.

Coming to mines specifically, we find that, between 1993-94 and 2003-04, the number of workers employed by them fell across all districts except the industrial districts, (Baleshwar, Bhadrak, Cuttack, Jagatsingpur, Khorda, Mayurbhanj, Sambalpur) which along with the non-industrial districts (Baudh, Debgarh, Gajapati, Ganjam, Kandhamal, Kendrapara, Nayagarh, Puri) showed a higher average annual increase in output than did the mining districts.

As far as the value of output is concerned, the average annual increase of 57.49 per cent for non industrial districts, which is far higher than those for mining and industrial districts, points its finger towards a possible mining-isation.

Mining and Forest

Odisha accounts for 7 per cent of India’s forests. Topping the list of states, Odisha saw 5,151 hectare of forest land being diverted since January 2007. Since 1980 till date more than 34,000 hectares of forest land has been already diverted for different non-forestry purpose and only mining contributes to a tune of 14,000 hectares. The industry has a share of 2000 hectares of forest land.

In fact, if we look at forest area diverted for non-forest use, it went up from 789 hectares at the end of 1993-94 to 28,769 hectares at the end of 2003-04, an average annual increase at the rate of 43 per cent! Mining accounted for one third, irrigation one-fourth, transmission lines one-ninth, and industries one-twelfth of diversion of the 28,769 hectares. On the other hand, the state government is on the verge of dropping the plan for the proposed Baitarani Elephant Reserve even after clearance from the central environment and forest ministry, just because, once this mineral-rich area is classified as a reserve, mining would not be possible there.

According to figures released in early 2010 by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Odisha has one of the highest rates of diversion of forest land. Of total forest land cleared for mining in India, Odisha accounts for 17 per cent. In fact, the state leads the nation in diversion of forest land for mining during the last three year.

Besides, out of the total land of 79,339 hectares allotted for mining leases as on December 31, 2005, more than 50 per cent is forest area. Fortunately, as per the Directorate of Mines, only a quarter of that forest had been officially allowed for diversion as of the end of 2005. The mining of iron ore accounts for the highest percentage of land allocated towards mining as of the end of 2005.

The reckless drive to sell off resources to corporate capital seems to be the onset of capitalism to denote, a) the use of state force to expropriate resources and facilitate accumulation of capital; b) the forcible incorporation of non-commodified resources in the capitalist economy, such as forest and wilderness, air in the form of carbon-trading, etc; c) the takeover of commons / public institutions/spaces /resources into private commodities.

The proposed investment in steel has been over Rs 1,98,149 crore for producing around 76 million tonnes per annum (MTPA); Power sector investments envisage producing just over 25,000 MW at an investment of around Rs 1 lakh crore. A Rs 3,812 crore investment in cement has been planned to produce roughly 5 MTPA. In aluminum, the proposed investment is almost Rs 30,000 crore for 3.0 to 4.0 MTPA. Besides, whereas around Rs 20,000 crore have been planned for creating a SEZ in 4,000-5,000 hectares, Rs 15,000 crore has been proposed for private universities. Even an auto park is being contemplated to be set up by Amtek, the leader in global automotive components, which also wants to set up a 2 MTPA steel plant and a 500 MW power plant.

All the planned power projects are, however, coal-based, save the one by Cala Casa of Spain, which has evinced interest in setting up a 20 MW multipurpose, generation-IV nuclear plant. In fact, the power plant proposed by the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) would be the world’s biggest coal-based one. It seems that Odisha would indeed become the “powerhouse” of India, as was claimed by the Prime Minister and also Odisha’s Chief Minister.

The Odisha government is vigorously pushing the “education industry” and has even set up a higher education task force, which is “managed” by a private educational foundation! Since it has also become a fashion with corporations to hang the carrot of setting up a university or institute, it is not surprising that ADAG plans to set up a Dhirubhai Ambani University in Bhubaneswar to “boost IT education in the state” (Telegraph 2006). But the plan for the Vedanta University in the state is the most grandiose of all. It has been promised 6,000 acres of land, which would make it one of the largest campuses in the world. Even our premier institutions are not that land-rich: Hyderabad University has 2,300 acres, IIT Kharagpur 2,100, and JNU 1,000; even world-class Harvard and MIT in the US have just 150-400 acres. One, therefore, wonders whether the land for the Vedanta University would be diverted in the future towards a SEZ.

Similarly, Tata Steel’s proposed SEZ, focusing on metal manufacturing and ancillary development, is planned to be on 3,000 acres of land in Gopalpur, where it is in possession of 3,200 acres of land acquired by it earlier for a proposed steel plant. Those ousted by steel plants in Bhilai, Bokaro, and Rourkela cite cases of surplus land, earlier acquired for peanuts by the steel plant authority in these three cities, being sold off by the acquirer “at exorbitant prices to many public and private corporate sector bodies”. In fact, “insider trading” in land is carried out by the influential people before a region gets industrialised.

There are 13 new locations of ports, notified by the GOO. Despite the objections raised by Defence Research and Development Organisation for setting up three proposed ports in Odisha’s Balasore district (at Ichudi, Chandipur and Bahabalpur) as well as objections raised by Paradip Port Trust regarding the proposed port at Jatadhari Muhan by POSCO, GOO is hell bent on implementing the projects—being unmindful to the colossal damages that would befall on the people and the environment in terms of destruction of marine ecology, displacement and devastation of livelihood resources of coastal people, increasing salinity and water logging (consequent destruction of agriculture).

By Sudarshan Chhotoray From Bhubaneswar

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