States Round Up Issue-01 July to September 2010 Index Page
Full version of the report

Orissa



I. Highlight:  Vedanta damned

During July-September 2010, Orissa ruled by the Biju Janata Dal was on the national and international spotlight after the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) of the Government of India rejected permission granted to the Vedanta Aluminum Limited for its USD 1.7 billion bauxite mining project in Niyamgiri Hills in Kalahandi district. [1] In fact, three mega projects - the Vedanta project, Posco project and Polavaram irrigation project – are all set to question the consistency of both the Central and State governments over the rights of the Adivasis.

The MoEF cancelled the Vendanta project based on the report of the Forest Advisory Committee headed by Mr NC Saxena. In its report, the Saxena Committee held that “The Vedanta Company has consistently violated the Forest Conservation Act [FCA], the Forest Rights Act [FRA], the Environment Protection Act [EPA] and the Orissa Forest Act in active collusion with the State officials”. The refinery had an annual capacity of one million tonnes and in October 2007 Vedanta sought environmental clearance for expanding the capacity six-fold. But before receiving approval, it started the construction activities for the expansion of the project. The clearance to Vedanta was granted in 2004 on the condition that the refinery would source bauxite only from mines which had already been given clearances as well. However, the N.C. Saxena Committee, set up to investigate the project, found that 11 out of 14 mines from where bauxite is currently being sourced for the Lanjigarh plant did not have the necessary environmental clearance. Most of these mines are in Jharkhand. Moreover, between 2006 and 2009, the refinery worked without adhering to pollution control norms. The refinery caused surface water and air pollution, besides contaminating ground water. The company further illegally grabbed 26.123 hectare acres of forest land. [2] The Saxena Committee found that even “The consent certificate of the gram sabha was fake”. [3] The report also noted the serious consequences the project will have on the region’s biodiversity and on the Dongria and Kutia Kondh tribal communities.

On 24 August 2010, the MoEF accepted the recommendations of the Saxena Committee. On 31 August 2010, the MoEF issued show cause notice to Vedanta asking why its refinery in Lanjigarh should not be shut down. [4] On 16 September 2010, the National Environment Appellate Authority which had earlier cleared Vedanta project on 28 April 2009 suspended the clearance. [5]

Whether the MoEF would uphold the same principles with regard to Posco project is a million dollar question. The Joint Committee (NC Saxena Committee) under the MoEF termed the Posco land acquisition process as “illegal” and direct violation of the Forest Rights Act. Of the originally identified 4,004 acres of land for the Posco steel plant, 2,958 acres came under the forest category. The state government claimed that there is no tribal in the project area either cultivating or residing on forest land and those affected victims had not filed any claim over the forest land under the Forest Rights Act. [6]

On 28 July 2010, the MoEF formed a four-member fact finding committee headed by former Environment Secretary Meena Gupta to probe the alleged violation of Forest Rights Act in the proposed Posco area in Kujanga block of Jagatsinghpur district. [7] On 7 August 2010, the Ministry of Environment and Forests directed the state government of Orissa to stop all works related to Posco steel project with immediate effect citing alleged violation of the Forest Rights Act and recommendations of the Joint Committee. [8] As this report goes to publication, the Committee had submitted the report confirming the violation of the Forest Rights Act, with Ms Gupta dissenting.

The Orissa government which has been crying foul over the Vedanta and POSCO projects moved the Supreme Court seeking an urgent stay on the final clearance granted on 28 July 2010 to the Polavaram irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh by the MoEF. The state of Orissa feared that after its implementation, parts of its territory would be submerged and people would be displaced from their homes. The MoEF had granted clearance for conversion of 3731.07 hectare of notified forest area and 258.07 hectare deemed forestland in Andhra Pradesh for the project. The Polavaram project is likely to submerge about 2,119.38 hectare of land in Naxalite-affected tribal areas of Malkangiri district in Orissa according to remote sensing data of April 2001. [9]

In the meanwhile, activists challenging the authorities continued to face the wrath of the State. On 9 August 2010, Lado Sikaka, a prominent tribal leader of Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS) was allegedly abducted at gunpoint by the police from Ijrupa near Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district along with another NSS leader Sana Sikaka. But the later escaped and managed to reach his village in an injured condition. When social activists raised a hue and cry about Mr. Sikaka’s abduction, the police claimed that Lado Sikaka was not arrested at all. [10] However, police released Lado Sikaka on 12 August 2010 after forcing him to sign a statement that said he would not damage public or private property any more and if he did so he would face legal action. Mr. Sikaka was left at Kalyansingpur town and had to walk 10 km to reach home. The activists alleged that the police had been trying to establish that Mr Sikaka had links with the Maoists in an attempt to weaken the agitation against Vedanta’s project to mine Niyamgiri hills. [11]

II. Violations of civil and political rights

During July – September 2010, ACHR documented a number of cases of violations of the civil and political rights.

On 20 July 2010, one Ladu Gouda of Chakundapalli village died in the custody of Forest Department in the Tiliki Reserve Forest in Ganjam district. He was picked up along with two others by the forest officials on the charge of smuggling of timber from Tiliki Reserve Forests. The forest officials claimed that the deceased died after he jumped from the vehicle while being taken from Tiliki forests to Bhanjanagar for production in the Court. However, the locals alleged that the deceased was killed by the forest officials in their custody. [12]

On 11 August 2010, one Mandangi Subarao (42 years) died under mysterious circumstances in the anti-Maoist cell of Orissa Police in Rayagada. The deceased, a resident of Kondabaredi village in Ramnaguda area in Rayagada district, was a former Maoist. He deserted the Maoists some years back and reportedly working as an informer for the police. The police claimed that the deceased committed suicide. [13]

On 2 September 2010, a tribal identified as Sanyasi Gamanga (about 60 years) of Dididrisingi village under Patrapur block in Gamjam district died allegedly due to torture in police lock up at Jarada police station in Ganjam district. Gamanga had surrendered to the police on the night of 1 September 2010 after allegedly killing a boy “accidentally” with his gun while he was hunting in a nearby jungle. The deceased after his surrender was kept in the police station but was found dead the next morning. There were reportedly injury marks on the body of the deceased including in the left leg suggesting that he was tortured in police custody. The post-mortem was conducted without informing the deceased’s family. [14]

There were also reports of disproportionate use of firearms. On 23 August 2010, the police opened indiscriminate fire killing a lawyer identified as Bishnu Das (35 years) and injuring more than a dozen people near Bagalpur village in Cuttack district. They were protesting against the death of a village youth. On 24 August 2010, Orissa government ordered a judicial probe into the incident. [15]

There have been allegations of torture of the prisoners in Orissa. The ACHR documented deaths of at least four prisoners during July-September 2010.

On 22 July 2010, a Dalit prisoner identified as Mangulu Jani (35 years) died due to alleged torture at the Kotpad Jail in Koraput district. The doctors at the hospital allegedly declared that the deceased died of hanging without conducting the post-mortem. [16]

On 3 August 2010, an undertrial prisoner identified as Madan Kulundi (35 years) died allegedly due to denial of medical care at Choudwar Circle Jail in Cuttack district. The deceased actively participated in the anti-displacement movement at Kalinga Nagar and was arrested on 14 September 2009 and was sent to Jajpur Sub-Jail. While in Jajpur Sub-Jail the deceased had on 26 July 2010 complained of body pain and requested the jail authorities for a medical check-up. But instead of taking the deceased to a hospital, he was transferred to Choudwar Circle Jail. Again on 2 August 2010, the deceased reportedly fell down in the toilet of the jail and sustained head injury. However, he was not taken to a hospital for about 18 hours. The jail authorities took the deceased to Sriram Chandra Bhanj Medical College& Hospital, Cuttack, only when his condition deteriorated. The doctors declared him brought dead. On 4 August 2010, the police took away the body after conducting post-mortem examination. [17]

On 24 August 2010, an under-trial prisoner identified as Suresh Nahak (45 years) died under mysterious circumstances in Asika Sub-Jail in Ganjam district. He was sent to the Sub-Jail in 2007. The deceased reportedly had several injury marks in his body including in the neck. [18]

On 1 September 2010, a tribal prisoner identified as Nandia Munda (40 years) died under mysterious circumstances in Kendujhar Jail. The jail authority claimed that he committed suicide. [19]

III. Abuses by the AOGs

The Maoists, who are also known as the Naxalites, were responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law.

On 9 August 2010, suspected Maoists killed a tribal leader, Kendruka Arjun near Katulpeta village in Koraput district. The deceased was the Secretary of Bandhugaon unit of Chasi Muliya Adivasi Sangh. According to the police, a group of armed Maoists way laid the deceased near Katulpeta, shot at him from close range and then slit his throat. [20]

On 15 August 2010, the Maoists killed a teacher identified as Ghasi Kendruka (35 years) at Gotiguda village in Koraput district. The alleged Maoists took him to a nearby mango orchard and slit his throat, accusing him to be a police informer. [21]

On the night of 18 September 2010, Maoists killed Kapur Khora and his son Disho Khora, both traders, at Lacchmani village in Koraput district. Around 20 Maoists reached the village around 7.30 pm and called a meeting with the villagers. According to the police, the Maoists held a “praja court” (people’s court) where the victims were accused to be police informers and exploiting the villagers. At the end of the meeting the victims were kept hostage and later killed. [22]

The public buildings used by the security forces were specifically targeted. On 13 August 2010, the Maoists blew up a Panchayat building used for accommodating security forces during anti-Naxal operations at Malabaran village in Malkangiri district. [23] On 7 September 2010, the Maoists blew up the block office building at Padia under Kalimela police station in Malkangiri district. [24]

There have been allegations that the Maoists have been stalling the welfare schemes in the tribal areas by targeting the contractors and officials implementing the Scheduled Tribes and Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Rights) Act of 2006. [25] On 9 July 2010, Maoists abducted and killed Aravind Singh Chawla, a contractor involved in construction of Pradhan Mantri Gramya Sadak Yojana in Koraput district of Orissa. His body was recovered from Chikalmari of Lamtaput block in Koraput district. The Maoists also burnt down one tipper and an excavator of his company at the worksite. [26]

IV. Violations of the freedom of expression

The number of attacks against journalists increased in Orissa in 2010. They faced violence in the form of physical attacks, threats and initiation of legal proceedings against them. According to a special report by the Free Speech Hub, there were 12 physical attacks on reporters, stringers or camerapersons in 2010 and 6 cases of threat and intimidation, up from 3 attacks in 2009. [27]

On 16 September 2010, Bikash Swain, the printer and publisher of vernacular Oriya daily Suryaprava was arrested on cheating charges. However, Navin Das, the managing editor of Suryaprava said that charges were also added against Swain under the Arms Act, 1959, though no weapon was seized from him. [28] On 18 September 2010, the Media Unity for Freedom of Press condemned the “inhuman manner in which Suryaprava publisher Bikash Swain was arrested” and termed his arrest as an example of how media persons were being targeted by the police and implicated in false cases in a deliberate attempt to gag freedom of Press. [29]

V. Violations of the rights of indigenous peoples

Illegal mining led to violations of the rights of the tribals. The Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) found that 215 out of 341 working mines — or more than 60% — in Orissa are operating without statutory central government clearances. Fifteen of these mines have been operating without clearances for more than 20 years while 17 operators have done so for 15-20 years. Another 38 mines have existed illegally for 10-15 years and 65 mines for 5-10 years. The other “illegal” 80 mines have operated for 1-5 years without proper clearances. [30] The Orissa government admitted before the CEC that applications have remained pending for years because miners have not submitted statutory and other clearances under the Forest Conservation Act, Environment Protection Act, Air and Water Act and approved mining plans. [31] The Mining Companies have been mis-using the Rule 24A (1) of the Minerals Concession Rules 1960 which provides that if a mine operator applies for renewal for a lease within the prescribed time and if the application is not disposed of by the state government before the date of expiry of the lease, the period of the lease shall be “deemed to have been extended by a further period till the State Government passes order thereon” under Rule 24A(6). [32]

Yet, the CEC reportedly recommended to charge all illegal mines a one-time fine called penal Net Present Value of forest land based on a land cost valuation formula. The total fine is estimated to be up to Rs 2,000 crore. But the formula does not take into account unaccounted millions of tonnes of illegal ore and it is possible that the mining companies would be allowed to continue mining as long as they secure their clearances. The CEC also recommended that half the fine amount or around Rs 1,000 crore, be spent on tribal development. [33]

On 20 July 2010, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd, a subsidiary of Coal India Ltd which refused to pay compensation to the dispossessed tribals whose land the company had acquired in 1987 at Gopalpur village in Sundergarh district. Earlier on 13 November 2006, the Orissa High Court had directed Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd, a subsidiary of Coal India Ltd, and the central government to pay compensation within six months to the tribal villagers but the Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd challenged the decision in the Supreme Court. [34] In its judgement the apex court directed the Central government to decide the compensation package for the landowners of Gopalpur village in Sundergarh district. [35]

Earlier in January 2010, the Orissa government cleared 16 industrial projects involving a total investment of Rs 30,000 crore. Of these 16 proposed projects, 10 are new and the rest are expansion or relocated projects. [36] Some of the districts such as Keonjhar, Sundargarh, Jajpur (Kalinganagar) and Kalahandi where the projects will be set up have substantial tribal populations.

VI. Violations of the right to adequate housing

On 15 September 2010, the Orissa High Court directed the state government of Orissa to come up with a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate slum dwellers and evictees by providing them residential apartments. The High Court also directed the Centre to reallocate funds under different schemes to rehabilitate the slum dwellers of Orissa. The bench of Chief Justice V Gopalgowda and Justice Indrajit Mahanty gave the order while disposing off the petition filed by some slum dwellers of Jai Maa Mangala slum of the Cuttack who were evicted from their homes in July 2010. [37] A total of 149 families of slum-dwellers were evicted and they were provided temporary settlement by the district administration without access to adequate facilities. [38]

VII. Right to Education: Discrimination against the Dalits

The state of the educational institutions in Orissa was in shambles. On 24 June 2010, Women and Child Development Minister Pramila Mallick stated in the State Assembly that out of the 60,918 Anganwadi Centres in the State as many as 43,657 did not have their own buildings. [39] In South Orissa, 337 schools did not have any electricity connection and 560 schools did not have proper drinking water facility. As many as 6,011 schools in South Orissa did not have any toilets. [40]

The Dalits faced various caste based discrimination including the right to education.

In August 2010, about 30 dalit children were allegedly ill-treated by upper caste teachers at Biridi Upper Primary School at Biridi village in Jagatsinghpur district. In protest the dalit students refused to attend classes. The students are made to sit separately from other students in the classroom. On 11 August 2010, parents and guardians of the victimised children filed a petition to the Jagatsinghpur District Collector seeking disciplinary action against the erring teachers. [41]

In July 2010, upper caste children refused to take mid-day meal cooked by dalit women at Siddha Marichani Nodal Primary School in Sanamarichapalli village under Rajnagar block. There were 166 students in the school out of which 20-30 were Dalits. As the upper caste parents stopped their children not to eat the food at school only the Dalit children took the mid-day meal in the school and the food cooked for more than a hundred upper caste students was thrown away by the school authorities. Earlier, on 19 January 2010 the mid-day meal service was stopped in the school after Village Education Committee (VEC) member Niranjan Pradhan allegedly asked the two Dalit women not to cook in the school and asked them to quit their job. When they refused to quit, they were allegedly locked inside the kitchen room with the cooked food by the VEC members of the school. Police later arrested the VEC members but the tension between the upper castes and the Dalits intensified. [42]

In September 2010 similar caste conflict was also reported from Karandiapatana village under Marshaghai police station area in Kendrapara district since 18 February 2010. Dalit students in Surendra Vidyapitha, Rankala, in Kendrapara allegedly faced derogatory remarks from upper caste villagers. As a result, at least 18 traumatised Dalit children have left upper caste-dominated government-run Surendra Vidyapitha (primary school). [43]

VIII. Violations of the right to food

On 27 July 2010, the Orissa government stated in the State Assembly that 49 farmers committed suicide in the last five years and 2,575 persons engaged in farming and agricultural activities have committed suicide in the last nine years. As per the 2001 census, Orissa has 11,13,599 small farmers, 6,45,641 marginal farmers and 22,94,540 poor farmers who depend on borrowed land to cultivate. [44]

The introduction of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) was of little help.
In July 2010, three village officials namely sarpanch (village head) Jogeshwar Rao, Gram Sevak NC Mishra, junior engineer OR Raman of Alada gram panchayat in Kashinagar block of Gajapati district were suspended in cases of corruption involving NREGS fund. They were accused of siphoning off Rs 22.27 lakh of NREGS funds. They were suspended and a case was lodged against them after investigation by the Kashinagar Block Development Officer, Babitarani Dalbehera. [45]

On 1 September 2010, a debt-ridden farmer Ratnakar Jena (40 years) committed suicide by consuming pesticide at Andara village under Pattamundai block in Kendrapada district. Ratnakar cultivated around three acres of land by taking lease from landlords. He had taken loan of about Rs 23,000, including Rs 15,000 from a local SHG and Rs 8,000 from a Service Cooperative Society. On 1 September 2010 he went to his field and found that his crop was drying up due to lack of rains and committed suicide. [46]

Further, the bonded labour system continues to be practiced in Orissa under the “Bartan” system under which upper caste landlords give a share of their paddy to a poor family every year and in return, a member (called “sewak”) of that family has to serve the landlord throughout the year without any pay. The service can continue for years. In September 2010, the NHRC asked the government of Orissa to submit a fresh report on alleged prevalence of bonded labour in the guise of the custom of ‘Bartan’ in Delang of Puri district. Earlier the NHRC had rejected the reports submitted by the District Collector and the Panchayati Raj department denying the existence of bonded labour. [47] In February 2010, the NHRC had directed the Orissa government to register an FIR and act against persons who illegally confined 17 persons in Puri district who were forced to work under the ‘Bartan’ system. The NHRC stated that “there can be no doubt that the practice of ‘Bartan’ is a manifestation of the bonded labour system as defined in the Section 2g of the Act” (Bonded Labour System Abolishing Act). [48]

IX. Access to justice: Victims of Khandamal communal riots

The victims of Kandhamal communal riots of August 2008 continue to be intimidated and “systematically” denied protection and access to justice. The victims cannot return to their villages unless they re-convert to Hinduism. [49] On 31 August 2010, the Judge of Fast Track Court 1 and 2 in Phulbani acquitted 54 accused persons and awarded imprisonment to six in different cases related to the Kandhamal riots in 2008. [50] Earlier on 29 June 2010, a sitting BJP MLA Manoj Pradhan was sentenced to seven years in jail by the fast-track court of Phulbani, in a case of murder during the 2008 communal riots in Kandhamal. This related to the murder of Parikhita Digal, a Christian on August 27, 2008 during the riots. [51] On 15 September 2010 he filed an appeal against the fast tract court’s verdict before the Orissa High Court. [52]

Endnotes:
1. Govt rejects environment clearance to Vedanta bauxite project, Mid-Day, 24 August 2010
2. Centre turns guns on Lanjigarh refinery, The Deccan Herald, 5 September 2010 
3. Don’t clear Vedanta’s mining project: panel, The Hindu, 17 August 2010 
4. Vedanta gets show-cause notice, The Hindu, 1 September 2010 
5. Green clearance for Vedanta suspended, The Times of India, 20 September 2010
6. Delhi to verify state claims over Posco forest land, The Times of India, 21 July 2010 
7. MOEF forms panel on Forest Rights violation in Posco area, The Pioneer, 30 July 2010 
8. Halt Posco work, Jairam’s Ministry to Orissa; Naveen sends SOS to PM, The Indian Express, 7 August 2010
9. Orissa knocks court for Polavaram stay, The Telegraph, 5 September 2010 
10. Tribal leader missing, The Hindu, 12 August 2010 
11.‘Abducted’ tribal leader released, The Hindu, 14 August 2010 
12. ACHR’s complaint to the NHRC dated  5 August 2010, ACHR Ref No. OR/24/2010 
13. ACHR’s complaint to the NHRC dated 13 August 2010, ACHR Ref No. OR/26/2010
14. ACHR’s complaint to the NHRC dated 3rd September 2010, ACHR Ref No. OR/28/2010 
15. Judicial probe ordered into Orissa police firing, The Hindustan Times, 25 August 2010
16. ACHR’s complaint to the NHRC dated 24 July 2010, ACHR Ref No. OR/23/2010
17. ACHR’s complaint to the NHRC dated 5 August 2010, ACHR Ref No:OR/25/2010
18. ACHR’s complaint to NHRC dated 25 August 2010, ACHR Ref No. OR/27/2010
19. ACHR’s complaint to NHRC dated 2 September 2010, ACHR Ref No. OR/28/2010
20. Available at http://expressbuzz.com/states/orissa/maoists-kill-tribal-leader-in-orissa/196757.html
21. Maoists hack teacher to death, The Hindustan Times, 17 August 2010 
22. Maoists kill father, son in Koraput, The Telegraph, 20 September 2010
23. Maoists blow up panchayat building in Orissa, The Hindustan Times, 13 August 2010 
24. Maoists blow up block office in Malkangiri, The Pioneer, 8 September 2010
25. Maoists stall flagship welfare schemes for tribals, The Pioneer, 19 July 2010
26. Contractor killed by Maoists, The Hindu, 10 July 2010
27. “Orissa: attacks on media rise, state remains spectator”, The Free Speech Hub, 25 July 2010
28. Publisher held on cheating charges, The Telegraph, Kolkata, 17 September 2010
29. Orissa media body MUFP Condemns Rash Prosecution against Suryaprava Publisher, Orissa Diary, 18 September 2010 
30. Over 60% Orissa mines don’t have clearances, The Times of India, 14 June 2010 
31. Amnesty formula for illegal Orissa mines, The Times of India, 14 June 2010
32. MINERAL CONCESSION RULES, 1960 (As Amended upto 18.01.2000) is available at http://mines.nic.in/mcr.html
33. Amnesty formula for illegal Orissa mines, The Times of India, 14 June 2010 
34. SC bats for Sundergarh land orphans, The Telegraph, 21 July 2010 
35. SC slams Centre on land acquisition row, The Pioneer, 21 July 2010 
37. State told to prepare comprehensive plan for slum dwellers, The Hindu, 17 September 2010 
38. Two more days for slum rehab, The Telegraph, 28 July 2010
39. 43,657 Anganwadi Centres have no own buildings, The Pioneer, 26 June 2010
40. Lack of amenities in residential schools in South Orissa, The Hindu, 9 May 2010 
41. Caste blot on primary school, The Telegraph, Kolkata, 11 August 2010
42. Upper caste students shun mid-day meal cooked by Dalits, The Pioneer, 14 July 2010
43. Children lose school in caste war, The Telegraph, 11 September 2010
44. Farmer suicide poser to minister, The Telegraph, 28 July 2010 
45. Three suspended for embezzling MGNREGS funds in Gajapati, The Pioneer, 21 July 2010
46. Debt-ridden farmer commits suicide in Kendrapada, The Pioneer, 2 September 2010 
47. ‘Bartan’ under NHRC scanner, The Telegraph, 13 September 2010 
48. NHRC directs Orissa to act against perpetrators of ‘bartan’ system, The Hindu, 18 February 2010
49. “Kandhamal victims still face intimidation”, The Hindu, 25 August 2010 
50. Court acquits 54, convicts 6 in K’mal riot cases, The Pioneer, 2 September 2010 
51. Kandhamal riots: BJP MLA sentenced to 7 years in jail, The Times of India, 30 June 2010 
52. HC admits plea of Kandhamal accused, The Telegraph, 16 September 2010
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