By Sanjaya Jena
The gory incident, in which 12 Vanvasis died in police firing at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur district of Orissa on January 2, has brought to focus the age-old conflict between development and Vanvasis.
Apart from ordering a judicial probe by a sitting judge of Orissa High Court to bring the guilty to book, the Orissa government has appointed a ministerial committee to go into the whole gamut of issues concerning rehabilitation and resettlement of Vanvasis.
The ministerial committee, headed by Industry Minister Biswa Bhusan Harichandan, comprises Revenue Minister Manmohan Samal, SC/ST Development Minister Kalandi Behera, his deputy Balabhadra Majhi and Minister for Woman and Child Development Pramila Mallick. The committee held its first meeting recently and also talked to government officials. The chairman of the committee Shri Harichandan said that his team would interact with all the stake-holders to ?make the rehabilitation policy one of the most progressive? in the country.
To recommend its suggestions for formulation of rehabilitation and resettlement, the committee would interact with representatives of all political parties, important Vanvasi leaders, activists and the people who are to be displaced, the Minister said.
Displacement?poor track record of resettlement
According to a study, more than one lakh families have so far been displaced by different irrigation and hydro-power projects in Orissa. Besides, more than 20 lakh other families too have been affected in varying degrees. Richard Mohapatra, a scholar of Prem Bhatia Memorial Trust, says the number of dams in Orissa since 1901 stands at 149 and 18 more are under construction. He claimed the Machhkund hydro-project on the Duduma river in Koraput district had displaced around 3,000 families?half of them Vanvasis. Only 600 families had been rehabilitated. Similarly, displaced people are still fighting for their rights in areas affected by other irrigation projects, dams, and hydro-irrigation projects, he said.
Even projects like Hirakud Dam, Rengali Irrigation Project, Rourkela Steel Plant and Mahanadi Coal Fields have displaced thousands of people, who even today are struggling to get their due on the resettlement front. Added to that, judging from the ongoing development projects in the state, five lakh more people are expected to be affected during the first decade of this century. And most of them are Vanvasis.
Say activists, when the status of the affected and the displaced people of the completed projects is assessed, it is seen that majority of them have failed to regain their pre-displaced living standard. On the contrary, most of them have become impoverished and marginalised. Anticipating similar fate, the local people might be increasingly opposing industrial projects, they argued.
The cause of all displacement-related problems in Orissa is that there is no comprehensive resettlement and rehabilitation policy and most of these schemes are project-specific, says Pradip Jena, the project head of UNDP. The UNDP, in association with Department for International Development (DFID), UK has worked out a comprehensive resettlement and rehabilitation package for Orissa.
The draft policy, apart from suggesting payment of full compensation for all losses to the affected people at replacement cost and their proper settlement through allotment of land and jobs, seeks to elevate the position of project-affected people by asking the industrial and mining companies to earmark five per cent equity for them as preferential shares.
The mining and industries projects should set apart five per cent of their net annual profit for local development schemes within a radius of 50 kilometres designed to improve living conditions of the displaced people in their new surroundings, such as health, education, communication, agriculture and irrigation, it said.
Though the draft was submitted to the government in June last year, the latter is yet to take a decision, mainly because the industry is unwilling to part with five per cent equity in favour of the local community, sources said. Many feel that after Kalinga Nagar killings, the new policy is expected to favour the potentially project-affected people.