Whenever there are “development projects” in various parts of the world, the ostensible reason given is almost always that they are good for the economy in some way– i.e., they “provide jobs” for the community where a project is being sited. This rationale is usually the only one cited to tip the scale in favor of a project irrespective of the costs to the community. It leaves me a bit “dazed and confused” (to quote Led Zeppelin– see video below) even as an economist because there is more than just jobs that play into whether a development project is good for the community. Things like whether the project will affect drinking water supplies, whether a project will result in soil contamination and also whether a project’s sponsors will treat the community in line with human rights law.
In Orissa, we seen over and over again that a company moving into a community for a “development project” means water and soil contamination and other human rights violations. Protesters are beaten or killed, property is confiscated and communities are left seething over their land and people being abused.
For the last two months, Kalinganagar has been witnessing recurrent clashes between the state police and about 250 well-armed private civil militia supporting land acquisition on the one hand and the adivasis protesting against government acquisition of their lands and habitats for setting up a six million ton capacity Tata Steel plant and a common road corridor. On March 28, 30 adivasi protesters sustained bullet injuries as police and the civil militiamen fired upon a 250 strong group of protesters who pelted stones at them in a bid to prevent them from taking over the land meant for the common road corridor.
Laxman Jamuda, a 50-year-old adivasi leader was killed and ten protestors including a few women were injured in police firing and nine others sustained injuries during clashes in Kalinganagar, on May 12. Eyewitnesses informed Amnesty International that the action involved more than 1,000 police officials against about 300 adivasi protestors, some of whom armed with traditional weapons.
Eyewitnesses said a 200-strong civil militia supporting the takeover of the lands for the proposed Tata Steel plant forced its way into Chandia village where the protestors had gathered; the police went along with the civil militia allegedly backed by the ruling Biju Janata Dal in Orissa demolished some of the adivasi houses.
During the resultant clash, the police fired on the protestors, killing Laxman Jamuda and several others sustained injuries. Relatives of Laxman Jamuda have alleged that the Police have secretly cremated his body. A nephew of the deceased, taken by the police for the cremation, said that he was not shown the body.