Article

Coal Auction and Its Impact

By Gladson Dungdung

coal-sectorThe Indian State seems to be in so hurry in exploiting its remaining natural resources especially the minerals. The exploitation of the mineral resources in the country had begun in 1925 with TISCO’s first iron-ore mining project in Saranda forest of Jharkhand under the tag of development. During the post-independence, it was accelerated with a new tag ‘economic growth’. In the recent development, the Indian government has initiated the process for auctioning 41 coal blocks[1] for commercialization. Interestingly, this time, a new tag ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) was added with a powerful narration. A billion-dollar question comes into my mind is whether a farmer be self-reliant after selling his paddy fields? The government’s move would have a drastically impact on the communities and environment.

However, the government claims that their decision to auction these coal blocks is a big step[2] towards making the country ‘Atmanirbhar’ in the energy sector. The government envisages an investment of 33,000 crores, which would create 2.8 lakh jobs including 70,000 direct and 2,10,000 indirect jobs. Of course, if you compare the denial of communities’ rights and environmental impact, the job promises seems to be a cumin in Camel’s mouth, which is purposely done to woo the opportunist middle class. Presently, India produces 60.40 million tons of coal per annum (2018-2019), and the new initiates would be adding 15 percent to it. Unfortunately, while manufacturing the growth story, the government has put aside the environmental and denial of communities’ rights.

Undoubtedly, the coal production is one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emission in the atmosphere. Therefore, many countries like Albania, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Sweden and Switzerland have stopped using coal based generation. Unfortunately, India has been accelerating its coal production, which would surely increase its contribution in the ongoing climate crisis. The clearance of coal mining projects means also the cleansing of the remaining forests in the coal block areas.  Presently, India has merely 21 percent forests, which is less than the required one third of the total geographical area to maintain the environment of the country. In these circumstances, can we dare to cut down the remaining trees and clean the forests? Can India become ‘Atmanirbhar’ with polluted environment? Has India surrendered in front of the corporate lobby?

The coal auction has opened the flood gate for the private sector. As of now, the public-sector undertaking companies have monopoly over the coal production in India. The ECL, BCCL, CCL, WCL, SECL and MCL are the major actors, who have played a crucial role in coal mining. But after the auctioning of 41 coal blocks, private entities like Adani, Tata and others private entities will emerge as the key players.

These coal blocks are located in different states within India and most of them fall under Fifth Schedule areas. Hence, the government’s decision has, unsurprisingly, generated insecurity among the Adivasis, who comprise the indigenous Peoples of India with the population of 104 million people. Their land and traditional habitations can be acquired at any point of time without their consent. The threat of losing livelihood resources has multiplied in those areas, where the Adivasis have been struggling to protect their forest rights.

The auction of 41 coal blocks without consent of the Governors of Fifth Schedule States, Tribe Advisory Councils and Gram Sabhas, is a gross violation of the provisions of the Fifth Schedule of Indian Constitution, PESA Act 1996, Forest Rights Act 2006 and the Supreme Court’s Samata Judgement and Niyamgiri Judgement, which legitimate the role of Gram Sabha in managing the natural resources of a village.

Indeed, the Indian State has suppressed its Constitution and laws for benefiting the private coal sectors companies, who play a crucial role during the Indian election by flooding money. Of course, the State-Corporate nexus has overthrown the rights of Adivasis. There has been onslaught on the Adivasis’ land, territory and natural resources, which needs to be check immediately for the protection of the Adivasis rights and environmental degradation. We cannot allow the government to sell our remaining natural resources.

[1] https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/pm-modi-launches-auction-process-for-41-coal-blocks-for-commercial-mining/article31857963.ece

[2] https://www.cnbctv18.com/india/atmanirbhar-bharat-pm-modi-launches-process-for-commercial-bidding-of-coal-mines-6158441.htm

Ground Report

Denial of Forest Rights for Coal Mining

By Gladson Dungdung

28423730_10215085753994716_1990727530848263365_oOn 18 June 2020, the Indian central government initiated the process for auctioning 41 coal blocks[1] for commercialisation. These coal blocks are located in different states within India and most of them fall under Fifth Schedule areas. The Indian government claims that their decision to auction these coal areas is a big step[2] towards making the country Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant) in the energy sector. The government envisages an investment of 33,000 crore, which would create 2.8 lakh jobs including 70,000 direct and 2,10,000 indirect jobs. Presently, India produces 60.40 million tons of coal per annum (2018-2019), and the new initiates would be adding 15 percent to it.

However, coal auction has opened the flood gate for the private sector, which will suppress the rights of the people mostly the Adivasis, who comprise the indigenous Peoples of India. As of now, the public-sector undertaking companies have monopoly over the coal production in India. The ECL, BCCL, CCL, WCL, SECL and MCL are the major actors, who have played a crucial role in coal mining. But after the auctioning of 41 coal blocks, private entities like Adani, Tata and others will be taking over. These actions of the government’s  has, unsurprisingly, generated  insecurity amongst the Adivasis. Their land and traditional habitations can be acquired at any point of time without their consent. The threat of losing livelihood resources has multiplied in those areas, where the Adivasis have been struggling to protect their forest rights. The case of Rinchi village is one such example to understand the threat of such a coal auction.

After hearing about the proposed auction, Birendra Oraon, village headman of Rinchi village in Latehar district of Jharkhand, is a much worried man. The Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers of his village may lose nearly 300 acres of forest land, which they have occupied and cultivated for generations. The District Level Committee (DLC) has rejected the claims of 72 Adivasi families, stating that a coal block  will be  in the region.[3] Another 27 claims are also in the process of rejection. Despite the fact that  the villagers have been running from pillar to post, no one is ready to hear their cries for justice.

Rinchi village is situated in the middle of two coal blocks ─ Rajbar and Banhardi. The government has leased out these coal blocks to Cooking Coal Limited and Tenughat Vidhyut Nigam. Both the companies were not able to, thus far,  realize their claims due to resistance of the people. Now, these very same coal blocks are ready to be auctioned to the private companies. If the coal block is opened up for mining, these villagers will lose their land without any compensation, as they do not have entitlement papers of the land. Indeed, the government will claim the land as its property and the villagers will be declared as encroachers of the forest land and they are likely to be forcefully evicted from their livelihood resources.

26962265_10214753855217454_6257211362810849635_oThe struggle of villagers for their forest rights entered a new phase after the Indian government passed the Forest Rights Act in 2006, even though its intention was to right the historic wrongs. They came to know about the FRA from the representatives of Adivasis organisations. 99 families, including 80 Adivasis (ST), 11 other backward communities (OBC) and 8 Scheduled Caste (SC) families of the village filed individual claims in the Gram Sabha (village council). After verification of the claims, the Gram Sabha with its recommendation for recognition of the forest rights, submitted the claims to the Sub-Division Level Committee (SDLC), Latehar. The SDLC after proper verification recommended 72 claims to the DLC, Latehar for recognition of the forest rights and sent back the other 27 claims to the Gram Sabha for re-verification as these claims lacked site maps, evidence or verification from the local authority.

The DLC in its meeting held on 23 April 2015 rejected all 72 claims, giving the coal blocks as the reason. As per the DLC meeting minutes, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) informed the DLC in the meeting that the land is proposed for the coal block. After hearing the concern of the DFO, the DLC rejected the FRA claims[4] of the Adivasis. The act of the DLC is a clear violation of section 4(1) and (5) of the FRA. It is clearly mentioned in section 4(5) that no member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dweller shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete.[5] The DLC has bypassed the recommendations of the SDLC and Gram Sabha.

The DLC rejected the claims of the 72 Adivasis, including that of the village headman Birendra Oraon, who had filed a claim for 4.77 acres of forest land. The SDLC had recommended recognition of his rights, but the DLC rejected it. Similarly, Sunita Devi had claimed her rights over 4.80 acres of land, which the SDLC had recommended, but DLC rejected her claim too. Another villager Mangal Minj had filed a claim for 9.83 acres of land, again recommended by the SDLC, but the DLC rejected it. The DLC clearly misused its power given under the Section 6(6) of FRA, which reads that the decision of the District Level Committee on the record of forest rights shall be final and binding.[6]

Interestingly, the DLC did not inform the Gram Sabha about the rejection of FRA claims. Since the DLC was not informing them about the status of their FRA claims, they decided to file a petition under the Right to Information Act 2005. They were shocked after receiving the information under the RTI. Their claims were rejected. The DLC is the ultimate authority to decide on an FRA claim, so they had no way to appeal against the injustice. However, they decided to protest. They have held a series of meetings and protests, but no one has been ready to hear them.

Interestingly, the DFO, whose prime duty is to protect the forests, is much interested in the coal block. He seems to be ready to allocate the forest land for coal mining but he is against giving rights to the Adivasis on the same land. The DLC rejected the recommendations of the SDLC and Gram Sabha, which clearly shows that the DLC has vested interests. The apprehension is that the coal mafias are behind the rejection of the FRA of the Adivasis. The rejection of FRA for the coal block is a clear violation of FRA section 4(5). In other words, this decision of the Latehar DLC is a continuation to the historic injustice meted out against Adivasis.

Meanwhile, the Gram Sabha actively communicated with the government authorities. After verifying the 27 rejected claims they sent the list back to the SDLC. The SDLC took up the matter in its meeting held on 4th August 2016, and found some lacuna in the claim documents, so the decision was taken to send it back to the Gram Sabha. As per the meeting minutes of the SDLC, Gram Sabha had submitted the claims forms with proper verification. However, the attached document was not attested by the Circle Officer. This is apparently why it was decided to send it back to the Gram Sabha for  the proper verification of documents.[7] After receiving the documents, the Gram Sabha conducted a meeting, and got the signature of the Circle Officer on them and submitted them to the SDLC on 16 March 2017.

26910703_10214753859097551_4247331694046678972_oHowever, the villagers were not informed about the status of their claims despite many efforts to extract the information. The villagers apprehend that their claim may also be rejected for the coal block. This is a clear example, which exposes that the State has been primarily batting to serve the corporate interests  by violating the people’s fundamental rights. The biggest threat is that once the 27 remaining claims are rejected, the State may throw out these villagers from the vicinity  in order to  mine  coal.

The auction of 41 coal blocks without consent of the Governors of Fifth Schedule States, Tribe Advisory Councils and Gram Sabhas, is a gross violation of the provisions of the Fifth Schedule of Indian Constitution, PESA Act 1996, Forest Rights Act 2006 and the Supreme Court’s Samata Judgement and Niyamgiri Judgement, which legitimate the role of Gram Sabha in managing the natural resources of a village. However, the Indian State has suppressed its Constitution and laws for benefiting the private coal sectors companies, who play a crucial role during the Indian election by flooding money. Indeed, the State-Corporate nexus has overthrown the rights of Adivasis. There has been onslaught on the Adivasis’ land, territory and natural resources, which needs to be check immediately for the protection of the Adivasis rights.

[1] https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/pm-modi-launches-auction-process-for-41-coal-blocks-for-commercial-mining/article31857963.ece

[2] https://www.cnbctv18.com/india/atmanirbhar-bharat-pm-modi-launches-process-for-commercial-bidding-of-coal-mines-6158441.htm

[3] Meeting Minutes of DLFRC held on 23 April 2015.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Forest Rights Act 2006, Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Govt. of India)

[6] Ibid.

[7] SDLC’s meeting minutes dated 4.8.2016

General

Mining, Adivasis and the Corona Pandemic

By Gladson Dungdung

IMG_3691 - Copy

30-year-old Raju Champia (name changed), resident of Chiria village located in the middle of Saranda forest in West Singhbhum district of Jharkhand, had migrated to Bangalore in search of a job. While working as a labourer in a construction site, he got infected with Covid-19, but wasn’t aware about it. When the countrywide lockdown was declared, he lost his job and was forced to return to his village.

At the outskirts of the village, however, he realized that the villagers had barricaded the village with bamboos. Forced, hence, to go to the quarantine centre, he was further shocked to be declared corona positive.

There are several migrant workers like Raju Champia in Saranda forest, who have been infected with virus and are now struggling to save their precious lives in the quarantines centres. The case of Chiria mines unmasks India’s development paradigm, which everyone must understand.

The Chiria iron-ore mines, named after the village called Chiria, is operated by the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), which is India’s largest Iron Ore producer/miner with reserves of 2,000 million tonnes. Chiria Mines is the most extensive iron ore mines in the Saranda forest, covering about 2376 hectares, which is 3 per cent of the entire Forest.[1] The SAIL has been carrying out mining activities at Chiria since 1938. The SAIL operates five integrated steel plants based at Bokaro, Bhilai, Rourkela, Durgapur and Burnpur, which fully depend on the iron-ore of Chiria mines[2].

119058_n-e1440823649131The SAIL produces 16.30 million metric tons of steel per annum and close to 69,808 are employed[3]. Ironically, the SAIL has failed to provide employment to the local Adivasis like Raju Champia, whose livelihood resources were destroyed by their mining activities and has forced many to migrate to cities for their livelihood. The government despite claiming that they would provide jobs to local communities through the mining and industrialisation has, thus far not lived up to any of these promises.

Although the SAIL is a government of India undertaking, in functioning, it is no different from that of a private mining company. SAIL, in fact, not only denies jobs to the Adivasis, it has also shamelessly gone about destroying their agricultural lands and throwing them behind the bars when they have protested. In 1990,  SAIL extended its mining activities in Chiria, and illegally sub-leased the excavation work to an Orissa based private mining company, ‘ORS India Ltd’, a unit of the Adhunik group, which was actively carrying out mining activities near Dubil village ─ located almost opposite to  Chiria village.

Children on barren land cause by miningInterestingly, ORS India Ltd, did not acquire the lands from the villagers. Instead, because the mining activities have been carried out at the top of the hill above the village, the mining waste descends directly onto their paddy fields during the rainy season. This has been happening for the last two decades. Consequently, 100 acres of fertile agricultural land has turned barren in the last two decades, without the villages receiving any compensation[4]. The company claims that since it did not acquire the land from the villagers, it has no obligation to compensate the land owners. This is how ORS India Ltd tries to disown responsibility. The villagers didn’t just lose 100 acres of fertile land; they also lost a stream which was their life line, Dolbati Jharna. The mining dust, red mud and red water have had hugely detrimental impacts on the health and livelihood system of these villagers.

Since they had lost their major source of livelihood, inhabitants of Dubil and neighbouring communities organised a meeting, and decided to fight for their rights. In June 2011, they went to the company’s office to demand jobs, and staged a protest there. As a result, the company’s General Manager, Guchait Iqubal, filed a case against six key villagers – Ramlal Champia, Sukhram Champia, Mohan Hansada, Ramkishan Tudu, Budhram Bading and Ram Hansada, alleging that they were holding the company to ransom. On the basis of this complaint, the police arrested many villagers, and locked them up in Jail for 13 days. It is also peculiar that stations are always proactive in Saranda whenever they are asked to take any legal or illegal action to protect the interests of mining companies.

DSCN6568Another interesting episode in the entire story is that 50 villagers from Dubil have been working in Chiria as casual mining labour since 1991, but none of them were regularised[5]. The Company’s unfair rules allow regularisation only after someone has worked as a casual labour for three year in a row, yet these villagers were not regularized even after working as casual labourer for a decade. Thus, villagers who lost their agricultural livelihoods are forced to become daily wage labourers. The agriculture land is covered by iron dust; the waters of the streams and river and other water bodies has turned red and the entire environment is polluted. The iron ore mining has destroyed the livelihood of the Adivasis. Consequently, the villagers of Dubil, Chiria and other neighbouring villages are forced to migrate to the cities.

IMG_2905Presently, the Adivasis are trapped from all corners. On the one hand, the mining activities have destroyed their livelihood resources, and on the other, they get infected with the Covid-19 virus when they migrate to the cities in search of jobs. A billion-dollar question is how will they survive?

The Corona pandemic has exposed the ugly face of the corporate model of development, which has looted the natural resources under the guise of growth and development, and brought tears and inflicted even hardship on the Adivasis.

[1] Forest Clearance for SAIL’s Chiria Iron ore mines, by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (Govt. of India), 2011.

[2]http://environmentclearance.nic.in/writereaddata/modification/Amendment/Attach_file/01122016IE32O62Wpfrandenvstudyreport.pdf

[3] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/indl-goods/svs/steel/sail-produced-16-15-million-tone-of-crude-steel-in-fy-2019-20/articleshow/75294120.cms?from=mdr

[4] Dungdung, Gladson. 2015. Mission Saranda: A War for Natural Resources in India. New Delhi: Prithivi Publications. Pp 60.

[5] Ibid.

General

Corona Pandemic and Adivasi Labourers

By Gladson Dungdung

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Corona Pandemic had hit India at the end of January 2020. The MBBS students studying in Wuhan city of China, carried the virus with them unknowingly while returning home to enjoy their summer vacation. Later, the international tourists, NRIs, Indian tourists, students and Tabhlighi Jamaties became Corona carriers, and carried it across the country. When the Covid-19 spread in India, the Prime Minister Modi declared the country wide lockdown without discussion and consent of the Chief Ministers of states. The lockdown hit mostly the workers/ labourers, who depend on medium and small size businesses, real-estate and small industries for their survival.

The business entities, real-estate and industries were shut down. Consequently, approximately, 400 million workers/labourers[1] became jobless in one day. They were desperately waiting for reopening of the workplaces but the aggressive Covid-19 denied it. India was forced to extend the lockdown for four times. It was heartbreaking for the workers/labourers. They had nothing left to eat. Besides, the terror of Covid-19 overshadowed them. They lost their patience and decided to walk on the highways for thousand kilometers to reach their homes. A few of them died on the way caused by sunstroke, dehydration, scarcity of food and unavailability of healthcare facilities. Couple of pregnant women delivered their babies on the highways. Shockingly, after delivery, they walked for miles in the heat. Thousands of workers/labourers were also severely injured.

Who are these labourers? Why do they migrate to the cities? Why do they remain poor forever even after doing hard work every day? Why were they forced to walk on the highways? Who is responsible for the loss of many lives during the lockdown? These are some overwhelming questions one needs to answer. However, instead of finding answers, I would like to focus on the Adivasis, the Indigenous Peoples of India, who are 8 percent of the total population with approximately 104 million people. These people live in the natural resource rich regions of India, mostly the coal, iron-ore, Bauxite, etc. But the most interesting fact is that they don’t find jobs in the mining companies, which operate in their territories under the tag of development, economic growth and job opportunities. Hence, they are forced to migrate to the cities for their survival.

The state of Jharkhand is a crucial example to understand the dichotomy. The state has 40 percent of mineral resources[2] of India and 46 percent of its people are below poverty line[3]. However, 60% of Adivasis and Dalits (untouchables) are still below poverty line in the state. Presently, the state is producing about 160 million tonnes of various minerals annually, worth Rs. 15,000 crore[4]. So, it can also be called the rich state of poor masses.

The most shocking factor is that the Adivasis, who are presiding over the mineral wealth, are the poorest masses in the country, forced to migrate to the cities. The corona pandemic has fully exposed the corporate model of growth and development, which is bound to increase economic inequality. There are thousands of mining, Steel, power and other companies like Tata, Jindal, Asser, Vedanta, SAIL, etc. operating in the state for decades but they have miserably failed in providing jobs to the local Adivasis and other labourers. Instead, they have alienated them from their livelihood resources.

While monitoring Covid-19 cases, Chief Minister of Jharkhand, accepted that his government is batting hard for the safe return of 810,000 labourers to the state. Most of these labourers are either Adivasis or Dalits. A billion dollar question is why do these people are forced to migrate to the cities despite presiding over the mineral wealth?

The iron-ore rich Saranda forest of Jharkhand is an example to understand the main reason of Adivasis migrating to the cities. I’m bringing it here precisely because a few of Adivasis, who had migrated to the city of Bangalore and elsewhere, have returned to the forest after infected with Covid-19. ‘Saranda’ literally means a ‘land of seven hundred hills’[5] situated in the hilly tract of West Singhbhum district in the state of Jharkhand. The forest covers an area of approximately 847 square kilometers,[6] which is the abode of the Ho and Munda Adivasis. Approximately 25,000 Adivasi families, with a total population of about 1,25,000 people,[7] reside in the forest. Their economy is agro-forest-based. They used to agriculture practices, collection of minor forest products and rearing livestock.

Saranda Forest is estimated to contain 25% of the total iron ore of the country, which is itself a record. The exploitation of Saranda’s iron ore began in the early 20th century with the establishment of the Tata company,  whose principal mines at Noamundi were exploited since 1925[8] deprived the Adivasis from their livelihood resources. Their agricultural lands were acquired without respite, they were not given any job and collection of forest produces was also denied. They had no place to graze the livestock. They were forced to migrate from the region. As soon as mining activities multiplied, the miseries of Adivasis too multiplied.

Presently, 50 mining iron ore leases are operational, covering an area of 14,410.07 hectares. Besides, the Jharkhand government has sanctioned 22 new leases to several national and multinational companies, including Arcellor Mittal Company, Tata Steel, Jindal Steel & Power Ltd, JSW, Bhushan Steel & Power Ltd, Essar Steel Ltd, and Electro Steel Casting Ltd. Once these 22 new mining projects, which are in different stages of approval, are given the go ahead, an additional 9337.54 hectares, or more than one-seventh of Saranda Forest, will be opened up for mining,[9] which is indeed a severe threat to the continued existence of Adivasis and Saranda Forest itself, with all its outstanding wild life.

The mining activities have forced the Adivasis to migrate to the cities and elsewhere for earning. However, the covid-19 has forced them to return to their native, where they hardly have houses to live in. The major question is how would they survive? Who is responsible for making them resources less, landless and miserable? Can the State be held accountable?

[1] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/covid-19-crisis-can-push-40-crore-informal-sector-workers-in-india-deeper-into-poverty-ilo/articleshow/75032778.cms?from=mdr

[2] https://www.newsclick.in/Jharkhand-Polls-Mineral-Wealth-Going

[3] https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/45258/

[4] Jharkhand the Land of Mines and Minerals, 2011-12

[5] The Forest Resource Survey, Chaibasa, 2006.

[6] Ibid.

[7] ‘Saranda Myth Pictured,’ CRPF Newsletter, Vol.7, April 2012.

[8] Forest Resource Survey, Chaibasa South – 2006.

[9] Bera. Sayantan  2012. ‘Between Maoists and Mines’, Down to Earth, April 16-30.

General, Ground Report

Land Bank and Forest Rights

By Gladson Dungdung

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A village called ‘Perka’ is situated at Murhu development block in Khunti district of Jharkhand, which is approximately 55 kilometers from Ranchi, the capital city of Jharkhand. 113 families residing in the village. As per the Census 2011, the village has total population of 581 of which 300 are males while 281 are female. The village is dominated by the Munda Adivasis with the population of 550 including 285 males and 265 females. In 2011, literacy rate of Perka village was 66.46 % with Male literacy of 75.20 % and 56.96 % of female literacy.

However, the villagers are unaware about the tricks of the Jharkhand government for grabbing their community, religious and forest land. Here, I would like to focus on the forest land alone because the Forest Rights Act 2006 was said to be the historic legislation to right the historic wrongs done to the Adivasis and other traditional forest Dwellers. As per the land Bank data prepared by the Department of Revenue and Land Reform (Govt. of Jharkhand), three plots of the village forest with the area of 12.14 acres is enlisted in the Land Bank (See Table 1). Interestingly, in 1932 the villagers have been given the forest for their use. This has been officially recorded in the land record in the Khatiyan Part – II. As per the provisions of the forest rights Act 2006, the government authorities should have recognized the rights of the villagers on the village forest.

Table 1. Status of Forest of Perka in Land Bank

Sl. No. Register Number Plot No. Area in Acres
1. 44 1037 5.36
2. 44 392 3.17
3. 44 88 3.61
Total 01 03 12.14

Source: Land Bank, Department of Land Reform and Revenue (Govt. of Jharkhand)

The Adivasis of Perka are shocked to know that their forest is kept in the land Bank data with a clear intention to lease out to the private business entities. 55-year-old Petrus Tiru says, “I have land record papers of 1932, where we have been given right to use the forest. How can government keep our forest in the land Bank?” Another villager, 50-year-old Santosh Soy says, “We have been protecting the forest for more than 20 years. Two villagers keep watch on the forest every day. We also discuss about the protection and minimum use of the forest in our weekly Gram Sabha meetings. How can government take such step without our consent?” In the present circumstance, one needs to understand the history, concept and intention behind the formation of land Bank, which is paving the way to denial of the forest rights to the Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers.

The state of Jharkhand is popularly known as the land of Adivasis’ struggle. The Adivasis have been resisting to protect their identity, autonomy, culture, languages, land, territory and natural resources for more than 300 years. The creation of Jharkhand as a new state in the political map of India was one of the results of the struggle. After formation of the state, the Adivasi struggle was concentrated on anti-displacement Movement as 74 MoUs were signed by the successive governments one after another within a decade. Fortunately, none of the mega project was materialized. The Adivasis forced the Arcellar Mittal Company, Jindal Company and Tata Steel Ltd to desert the proposed land[1] for their dream steel projects.

However, learning from the past, the new BJP government, formed in 2014, changed the land acquisition strategy. On 31st December 2014, the government through its Department of Revenue and Land Reform issued a circular to the Deputy Commissioners of all 24 districts asking them to conduct survey and prepared a land data incorporating all kinds of land except the private land[2] for the land bank. After accumulation of the land data, the department of Revenue and Land Reform created a new website https://jharbhoomi.nic.in, where 2,097,003.81 acres of land was shown as government land in the land bank.

Finally, Jharkhand’s Chief Minister Rabhuvar Das launched the website of Land Bank on 5th January 2016, which was followed by the signing of 210 new MoUs with the Corporate Houses during the ‘Global Investors Summit’ held at Khelgoan, Ranchi on 16-17 February 2017. Now, the Government has been attempting to acquire the common land, sacred groves and forest land without (free, prior and informed) consent of the communities. For instance, the state government has given 42 acres of so-called government land to the Vedanta company at Dimbuli village near Saranda forest in West Sighbhum district of Jharkhand and the government has been attempting to acquire the private land of the Adivasis for the company against their consent. The government is ensuring the Corporate’s entry to the villages through the land Bank.

Indeed, the land Bank was created with a clear objective to ensure the land to the corporate houses. This was categorically expressed by the Jharkhand’s Chief Minister, Raghuvar Das while speaking to the media on July 27th, 2016. He said, “Land acquisition has never been a challenge for us as we have a land bank of 1,75,000 acres readily available for different industries to set up their businesses. Farmers are ready to give us land as we are paying a handsome price. We currently hold 40 per cent of India’s natural mineral wealth and we are on the way to becoming the power hub of the country by 2019[3] .”

Interestingly, under the tag of the government land, three categories of land data were incorporated in the land bank – 1) common land of the villages including grazing land, play grounds, village paths, etc. 2) sacred groves (Sarna, Deshavali and Jaherthan) and 3) forest land, which entitlements were supposed to be given to the Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers.

The most surprising aspect of the land bank is that out of 2,097,003.81 acres of land 1,016,680.48 acres of land is forest land, which is 48.4 percent of the total land of the land bank (see Table 2). If we analyze the data of land bank at the district level, Chatra district tops the list with 92.3 percent of the forest land reserved in the land bank. Bokaro secures second place with 90.8 percent and Giridih gets third berth with 72.8 percent of forest land kept in the land bank. However, in terms of area of forest land, Giridih gets the first place with 329,539.12 acres of forest land out of 452,074.26 acres of land of land bank. Simdega secures second position with 244,434.50 acres out of 358,450.52 acres and Gumla acquires third place with 87,082.74 acres of forest land out of 181,222.78 acres of land of the land bank.  

Table 2: Forest land in Land Bank

Sl. No. District Total Plot Area of land in Acre Forest Land
In Acre In %
1 Ranchi 10,327 1,07,677.69 78,256.44 72.68
2 Khunti 5,863 53,387.93 12,888.14 24.14
3 Lohardaga 3,951 14,372.30 9,742.95 67.79
4 Gumla 98,209 1,81,222.78 87,082.74 48.05
5 Simdega 1,10,766 3,58,450.52 2,44,434.50 68.19
6 East Singhbhum 22,151 31,607.71 8,159.21 25.81
7 West Singhbhum 27,041 3,75,662.09 49,922.02 13.29
8 Saraikela 5,609 24,467.66 5,008.71 20.47
9 Bokaro 2,624 21,827.03 19,823.80 90.82
10 Dhanbad 6,504 30,769.46 11,648.14 37.86
11 Ramgarh 574 4,284.94 2,795.72 65.25
12 Kodarma 278 4,128.11 73.38 1.78
13 Hazaribagh 1,973 25,190.21 15,801.12 62.73
14 Chatra 482 6,490.65 5,993.08 92.33
15 Palamu 0 3,005.20 1,668.50 55.52
16 Garhwa 31,319 33,546.72 7,536.10 22.46
17 Latehar 12,508 79,177.25 34,407.49 43.46
18 Dumka 17,308 77,762.05 16,629.96 21.39
19 Pakur 15,460 69,241.36 31,436.90 45.40
20 Deoghar 7,106 43,562.69 15,424.56 35.41
21 Giridih 16,642 4,52,074.26 3,29,539.12 72.89
22 Godda 4,956 23,417.28 5,929.15 25.32
23 Jamtara 9,607 36,086.36 5,803.17 16.08
24 Sahebganj 7,889 39,591.56 16,675.58 42.12
Total 4,19,147 20,97,003.81 10,16,680.48 48.48

Source: Land Bank, Department of Land Reform and Revenue (Govt. of Jharkhand)

This is a gross violation of the section 4(1) and (5) of the Forest Rights Act 2006, which recognizes the individual and community rights over the forest and forest land. It has been categorically mentioned in the section 4(5) that no member of a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe or other traditional forest dweller shall be evicted or removed from forest land under his occupation till the recognition and verification procedure is complete[4]. In fact, the forest rights are denied to the community by enlisting the forest land and community forests in the land Bank.

The land Bank also violates the Provisions of Panchayat (Extension) in Scheduled Area Act (PESA) 1996, which recognizes the self determination of the Adivasis and empowers the Gram Sabha (village council) to manage the natural resources. This is also the violation of the Supreme Court judgment in the case of ‘Odisha Mining Corporation vs Ministry of Forest and Environment and others (c) No. 180 of 2011, which clearly states that the Gram Sabha is the owner of the natural resources, therefore, the common land, sacred groves and forest & forest land of the villages cannot be acquired without the consent of the Gram Sabhas. The formation of the Land Bank is a clear denial of the forest rights to the Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers, which will also ensure the continuation of the historical injustice.

References: 

[1] Dungdung, Gladson. 2019. Ulgulan Ka Sauda. Ranchi: Adivasis Publications.

[2] Letter of the Department of Revenue and Land Reform, dated 31st December 2014.

[3] https://www.theweek.in/content/archival/news/biz-tech/jharkhand-government-creates-land-bank-for-industries.html

[4] Forest Rights Act 2006, Ministry of Tribal Affairs (Govt. of India)

Article

Proposed amendment to Indian Forest Act would deepen injustice

By Gladson Dungdung

singhbhum-singhbhum-jharkhand-village-saranda-crossing-villager_9cd2a066-43e2-11e9-bbe0-3816edd40ae7The amendments proposed in the colonial-era Indian Forest Act, 1927 reflect the Centre’s attempt to grab natural resources owned by the Adivasis for generations. As per the new draft, forest officials have been given the absolute authority to shoot Adivasis for “violation of laws”[1]. If a forest guard kills a so-called “offender”, the move will invite no prosecution by the state governments without first initiating an inquiry into the matter under an executive magistrate. Under the new amendment, forest departments can also declare any forest as reserved and alienate the Adivasis and other forest-dwelling communities from their ancestral lands.

This will have a terrible effect on the Adivasis, who are struggling for survival. As per the Census data 2011, Adivasis are 8.6% of the total population of India, which is 104 million people. Out of these merely 8.9% of them have shifted to small towns and the cities, and 91.1% of them still live in or near the forests, which clearly means that most of the Adivasi population will be affected if the amendments are enforced.

In India, forest governance has turned significantly democratic in the past few years. Back in 1976, the National Commission on Agriculture had advocated for commercialization of forests ‘at all costs and with disregard to the sustenance of Adivasis in the forests.’[2] The Commission completely denied the rights and privileges of the Adivasis and other forest dweller communities. The Commission also alleged that ‘free supply of forest produce to the rural population and the rights and privileges have brought destruction to the forests and so it is necessary to reverse the process. Based on that, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 came into being.

However, through the National Forest Policy of 1988, the Centre recognized the symbiotic relationship between Adivasis and forests for the first time. This was then consolidated with the passage of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, when the Centre agreed that historical injustice had been committed and tried to undo the wrong. But with the proposed amendment, the injustice will be deeper.

During the 1980s and 1990s, at least the Centre showed sympathy for the Adivasis, because of which important legislations like FRA and the Provisions of Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA), were enacted. But in the past five years, I have noticed that the Indian State has dishonoured these laws by being harsh with Adivasis. If the proposed amendment comes into force, Adivasis will be defenseless while the forest department will be powerful. Earlier, foresters used to allege that Adivasis are Maoists in disguise. After the amendment is passed, the forest bureaucracy will term them as “encroachers” and shoot. It will change the fundamentals of community-driven forest governance. The proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act will deepen the injustice against the Adivasis.

[1] Letter of the Inspector General of Forest Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (Govt. of India) dated 7th March 2019.

[2] Hiramath, S.R. Kaniwalli, Sadanand & Kulkarni, Sharad. pp xxiii.

 

Ground Report

Terror of Eviction from the Forest

By Gladson Dungdung

100_6129

On 13 February 2019, the Supreme Court of India while hearing on the Writ Petitions (c) No. 109/2008 Wildlife First & Ors Versus Ministry of Forest and Environment & Ors, passed an order for eviction of the Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers, whose claims have been rejected under the Forest Rights Act 2006. The Court directed that where the verification/ reverification/review process is pending, the concerned state shall do the needful within four months from today and report be submitted to this Court. Let Forest Survey of India (FSI) make a satellite survey and place on record the encroachment positions and state the positions after the eviction as far as possible[1]. However, on 28 March 2019, the Court stayed its controversial order after the intervention petition was filed by the Central government for modification of the order apprehending its consequences on the general election. The government in its plea said that the forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers are extremely poor and illiterate people and not well informed of their rights and procedure under the Act. They live in remote and inaccessible areas of the forest. It is difficult for them to substantiated their claimed before the competent authorities[2] therefore their claims were rejected.

The Court ordered the Chief Secretaries of the state governments to file detailed affidavits covering all the aforesaid aspects and place on record the rejection orders and the details of the procedure followed for settlement of claims and what are the main ground on which the claims have been rejected[3]. The court said that it may also be stated that whether the tribals were given opportunity to adduce evidence and, if yes, to what extent and whether reasoned orders have been passed regarding rejection of the claims[4]. The Court also ordered the Forest Survey of India to make a satellite survey and place on record the encroachment positions as far as possible before the next hearing[5]. In this circumstance, there is an apprehension of eviction of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers from the forests if the Supreme Court orders to execute its earlier order in forthcoming hearings. There would be eviction of more than 2 million Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers from the forest land and forests. Therefore, we should analysis some cases to understand the impact of eviction. Kudagada is one such examples.

Kudagada is a revenue village comprised of 8 hamlets (Kudagara, Bardanda, Garurpiri, Heso, Fatehpur, Nimdih, Modotoli and Jogitoli) located in the Heso forest, falls under Namkum development block in Ranchi district of Jharkhand. There are 347 households with the population of approximately 1500[6].  The village is dominated by the Munda Adivasis, whose livelihood is based on agriculture and forest produce[7]. The most of the Adivasis own some patches of revenue land and some of them also cultivate on the forest land, which they have prepared for cultivation but don’t have entitlement papers.

When the villagers came to know about the Forest Rights Act 2006, which was enforced to recognize their rights on forest land and forest, they formed a ‘Forest Rights Committee (FRC)’ under the Kudagara Gram Sabha (village council). 36 villagers filed claim forms and submitted to the FRC[8]. The Kudagara Gram Sabha verified the claims and sent those with recommendations to Dr. Sweta, the Circle Officer of Namkum, where most of the claims were rejected and only 6 claims were converted into entitlements with small patches of land.

Interestingly, the claim of the chairperson of the FRC, Purandra Munda was rejected along with 29 others. Munda had filed claim of 1.5 acres of land. The 6 villagers, whose individual rights were recognized and given pattas (entitlement papers) are also upset because the area of land were decreased in the pattas though they have been cultivating and possessing the land for generations. For instance, Bando Munda, who had filed claim on 8 acres of land but given patta of merely 7 decimals of land[9]. Similarly, Somra Munda was given patta of 2 decimals for the claim of 2 acres and Budhram Munda also given patta of merely 2 decimals of land for 2 acres. Bando Munda is upset and angry for denying his rights. He says, “We have been cultivating on eight acres of forest land for three generations but I was given entitlement of merely seven decimals of land. How can my family survive with such small patch of land? This is injustice to me. I’m not going to leave my land.”

The villagers had also filed claim of 700 acres of forest under the community rights but their rights are not yet recognized. The circle officer had asked them to decrease the area of forest in the claim form from 700 acres to 100 acres but they refused to do so therefore, the claim file was deliberately misplaced in the office of CO and they had to file it again. Chairperson of the FRC, Purandra Munda says, “We depend on forest for our survival, therefore, we cannot even imagine our life without forest. We should be given the entitlement of 700 acres of forest, which we have been utilizing and protecting for generations.” In this case, if the SC’s eviction order is enforced, the genuine claimants of the forest rights will not only lose their cultivated land but they will also lose the community forest, which plays a vital role in their economy and entire life cycle. This is the biggest threat to their existence.

The eviction order of the Supreme Court will have adverse effect in the life of more than 2 million forest dwellers mostly the Adivasis of the country. According to the FRA status report as per 30th November 2018, 4,224,951 including 4,076,606 individuals and 148,345 community claims were filed. Out of these claims, 1,894,225 including 1,822,262 individuals and 72,064 community pattas were issued whereas 1,939,231 claims were rejected and 391,495 claims are in pending[10]. Therefore, if the SC’s order is enforced, 1,939,231 families will be chased out of the forests. A billion-dollar question is where will they go? Who will protect their fundamental right to life? The Indian constitution guarantees the right to life to everyone under the Article 21 and the State is duty bound to protect it. Unfortunately, the State has failed to protect the rights of the Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers primarily because it intends to grab the remaining natural resources (land, forest and minerals) from them and hand it over to the Corporate Sharks.

[1] Writ Petition (c) No. 109/2008 Wildlife First & Ors Versus Ministry of Forest and Environment & Ors.

[2] https://www.deccanherald.com/national/sc-stays-order-eviction-720787.html

[3] Writ Petition (c) No. 109/2008 Wildlife First & Ors Versus Ministry of Forest and Environment & Ors.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Dungdung, Gladson. 2016. Adivasi aur Vanadhikar. Ranchi: Adivasi Publications. Pp151

[7] Ibid. pp152

[8] Ibid. pp153

[9] Ibid. 153

[10] FRA implementation Status Report November 2018. Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

Research Paper

Adivasis on the March – Crisis and Cultural Genocide in Tribal India  

By Gladson Dungdung & Felix Padel

IMG_1216India’s tribal people are in ferment after a Supreme Court (SC) judgment in February 2019 ordered eviction of over a million tribal families from traditional lands where claims under the Forest Rights Act (2006)[1] have been rejected – as the majority have been, due to obstruction from forest officials and a multitude of murky vested interests.[2] Adivasis are on the march in many states,[3] despite a stay on the judgment asked for by the main political parties.[4]

The case at the SC was brought by several conservation groups. Yet evicting Adivasis is the last thing likely to save India’s surviving forests.[5] Despite hard work by hundreds of dedicated people in conjunction with thousands of tribal families battling mindless bureaucracy, government officials overall have failed outrageously to implement the Forest Rights Act, that was meant to start correcting the massive historic injustice towards Adivasis.[6]

The SC order and Adivasi reactions unfolded in February-March 2019, after vicious government repression of an Adivasi resurgence known as the Pathalgadi movement, in Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Pathalgadi (‘installation of stone slab’) represents a highly original attempt to assert Adivasi autonomy and control over land, territory and resources, which has been recognised through several laws, that have not been properly implemented by most state governments (See here).[7]

The context is one of vastly accelerating dispossession of hundreds of tribal communities in India;[8] and the (often admitted) overall failure to implement the PESA (Panchayat [Extension to Scheduled Areas]) Act of 1996, that was meant to decentralise control in tribal areas, giving tribal people the real autonomy supposedly guaranteed under Schedules V & VI of India’s Constitution. Similarly, the Forests Rights ACT (FRA) of 2006 was meant to correct a historic injustice by giving tribal people their due rights to the forests they have always lived in. The SC order appalled tribal rights activists already reeling from the scale of repression.[9] Government representatives failed even to appear in court to answer the highly distorted charges brought by the ‘anti-Adivasi’ conservation groups.[10]

IMG_1304Erecting megaliths is an ancient custom among many of India’s tribal peoples, for commemorating the dead among other purposes. The custom of erecting pathalgadi stones with quotations from the Constitution or PESA Act was initiated by B.D. Sharma along with senior police officer Bandi Oraon, after PESA was passed in 1996. The practice was revived in 2016-17, in Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, in the face of a rising tide of looming land grabs. One part of this was an unprecedented ‘Land Bank’ portal started by the Jharkhand (and other) governments in 2016, which involved listing Adivasi common or unregistered lands, including sacred groves, as available for investors to buy.[11] By January 2019 this Land Bank listed over two million acres of Adivasi lands in Jharkhand,[12] with a similar phenomenon in Odisha,[13] and other states.

Erecting these large, inscribed stones therefore responds to an urgent need to spread recognition of Adivasis’ legally recognised rights.[14] The stones are inscribed with words from India’s Constitution and PESA, that delegate authority to village councils (Gram Sabhas). By April 2018, the Pathalgadi movement was spreading fast,[15] with its epicentre in Khunti district.

IMG_1253Then an event occurred in June 2018 that led to a wave of extreme repression. Several women actors were reported to have been abducted and raped on 19th June after performing at a Catholic school near Kochang village in Khunti district, and the perpetrators were said to be leaders of the Pathalgadi movement. Many elements of the story did not add up however (See here, The Wire report),[16] and those arrested included the school principle, who was certainly innocent, and is still jailed.[17] Police kept the women under ‘protection’ for two months, with no media access, and on their release, they were reportedly told not so speak out, with death threats to them and their families if they did so. No-one who has investigated the incident closely believes that the rape really happened at all.

Just one week later, a police firing took place 50 kms away, after Ghagra village erected a Pathalgadi. Police were angry about the new stone, and threatened villagers with death if they erected more; supposedly, they were also searching for two of the leaders accused of the rape (Joseph Purty and John Junas Tidu, of Udburu village), as well as three Adivasi security guards, who had been abducted from an Adivasi MP’s house (that of Karia Munda in Charidih village), in a bid to insist on dialogue with the police after several Pathalgadi activists had been beaten up. The police firing took place on 26th June, when an estimated 2,000 villagers were opposing the entry of about 500 armed police into Ghagra. One man was killed, and several badly wounded. The slain Adivasi was named Birsa Munda, after the iconic leader who resisted British rule and died in jail in 1900.This young Birsa Munda was from Chamri village, one of the first to erect Pathalgadi stones in Khunti in 2016-17.[18]

Repression soon became very severe,[19] involving many arrests and charges brought by police against over 10,000 Pathalgadi activists. The movement has been branded ‘anti-national’, and Maoist-instigated,[20] with revered non-tribal supporters such as Stan Swamy targeted too.[21]

            This repression was compounded by the murder of Amit Topno in December 2018, a Hindi language journalist covering the Pathalgadi movement in Khunti and its suppression. There has been no proper investigation yet, let alone justice for Amit.[22]

Recently, a new spate of forced takeovers of Adivasi lands has occurred in several parts of Jharkhand, especially for a new coal-fired power plant by Adani in Godda district (in the state’s northeast, bordering Bihar and West Bengal). Villagers have been beaten up and their crops bulldozed, with widely circulated photos of a woman touching an Adani official’s feet, begging him not to do this. Adani’s plan is for a mega-power plant near Godda, for which coal would be brought from Adani’s controversial new mine in Australia, with electricity sold at a large profit to Bangladesh.[23] Similarly extreme repression has taken place against Adivasi protestors against a huge Adani coal project in Surguja district in north Chhattisgarh.[24] This follows years of mining takeovers in many tribal areas of central India, where open-cast coalmining has devastated hundreds of square kilometres of forest, displacing hundreds of  villages, despite strong Adivasi-led movements against this, for example in North Karampura valley in Hazaribagh district of Jharkhand.

As Virginius Xaxa has pointed out, one of India’s most respected sociology professors of tribal origin, depicting the Pathalgadi movement as ‘anti-national’ is deeply ironic, since its aim is to disseminate the established and neglected laws of the the Indian Government.[25]

Jharkhand’s Adivasis have been marching in large numbers.[26] It is well recognised that tribal communities have preserved India’s forests better than anyone,[27] and over 100 conservationists have joined calls for rescinding the Supreme Court order.[28]

There are too many vital struggles by tribal communities in India to summarise briefly, including uproar on several issues in Northeast India,[29] some involving mass displacement by big dams, oil and infrastructure projects.[30] Adivasis in north Odisha have vowed to boycott the upcoming elections, since the main parties are so apathetic towards their essential needs and rights.[31] Asurs, Birhors and other members of ‘Particularly Vulnerable Groups’ (PVTGs) are neglected and discriminated against outrageously (see here).[32]

Courageously, Sukhram Munda, the headman of Kochang village, near where the alleged gang-rape took place, has spoken out about how he was manipulated into signing land acquisition papers by police bringing a completely bogus case against him, while other villagers were tricked into signing land away through police gifts of sarees and dhotis. The school for which he donated land has been occupied by armed police, who are seeking more land to set up a permanent camp.[33]

To say that tribal people are being displaced by ‘development’ compounds the injustice.[34] What is forcing the displacement is financial investment, that is making a small number of people rich by sacrificing tens of thousands of those human beings living most sustainably in ecosystems they have lived in symbiosis with for centuries, that are now getting destroyed and turned into wastelands at an unprecedented speed – ecocide unfolding alongside cultural genocide.

The setting up and expansion of boarding schools for tribal children is making this cultural genocide much more intense,[35] promoting an unacknowledged policy of assimilation into the mainstream, that follows very closely the pattern of ‘stolen generation’ boarding schools into which indigenous children were forced throughout North America and Australia[36] – a deeply harmful policy for which the Prime Ministers of Canada and Australia have apologized to their indigenous citizens.[37] The first ‘industrial school’ was set up for native American children near Pittsburgh in 1878.

The policy of assimilation through boarding schools in north America and Australia ended in the 1970s-80s. In India, by contrast, boarding schools for tribal children are getting more numerous and bigger, and recent government directives are for more boarding schools and greater digitialisation of education, removing learning even further from community control.[38] In ‘Ashram schools’ for tribal children, which number several thousand and are now complemented by many more models of private and government tribal boarding schools (such as ‘Eklavya’ and Kasturba Gandhi residential schools), it is regular practice for children to have their hair cut short on enrolment, and to be given a new Hindu name – just as they were assigned Christian names in North America.[39] Traditional languages, ornaments and even religious practices are regularly banned. In many such schools, Sanskrit is taught – a wonderful, ancient language, but alien to tribal culture, while no less ancient languages such as Gondi and about 400 other tribal languages find no place in the curriculum. As a result of the humiliation and denigration associated with these languages, most show a sharp decline, even though Article 350A of India’s Constitution insists on every child’s right to be taught in their mother tongue. The result is a situation of linguistic genocide, and ‘miseducation’.[40]

The world’s biggest boarding school right now is called KISS (Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences) in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, which houses about 27,000 children from all 62 of Odisha’s Scheduled Tribes (STs), and increasing numbers of tribal children from other states too. Parents are enticed into sending their children to this distant school, even though the experience often alienates them from their families, communities and natural environment. This happens through recruitment agents throughout Odisha and beyond, with tribal development agencies, principals of local schools and even police officials persuading parents to send their children to KISS for a free education, with extravagant promises.

Children at KISS are allowed home only once a year. Special foods that their families send with them back to school are automatically thrown away in front of the children when they arrive in the school premises. Mobile phones through which they could keep in touch with their families are reportedly completely forbidden, and if found on children are confiscated or even broken in front of them. Since children can only go home once a year, this banning of mobiles, even to older children, who cannot phone home easily even when they fall ill, greatly accentuates childrens’ sense of isolation and incarceration at KISS.

The institution has won accolades from all sides for the free education on offer ‘from KG [kindergarten] to PG [post-graduate level]’, and its founder Achyuta Samanta’s claim to be doing a major social service to India’s tribal people has won him a recent award from the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.[41] This promotion is being done by government officials, some very senior,[42] even though the model is a private one. In effect, the government is abdicating its responsibility towards education, with day schools being closed in large numbers.[43]

In addition to the cultural genocide that boarding schools are contributing to, they are also directly damaging a huge number of individual children. Thousands have died in residential schools across India and sexual abuse has been reported repeatedly from tribal boarding schools in Odisha,[44] Chhattisgarh,[45] and elsewhere.

What is particularly sinister about this trend towards large boarding schools is that much of this industrial scale, regimented schooling is being funded by the very mining companies that are seeking to grab tribal lands. Adani is setting up a tribal boarding school called ‘Adani Vidya Mandir’ in Surguja district of Chhattisgarh, where it is grabbing tribal lands for coal mining, funded through its CSR (‘corporate social responsibility’);[46] with another project spreading computerised education in tribal schools in Godda district of Jharkhand where it is using force to acquire land for its power plant. The NMDC (National Mineral Development Corporation) that is expanding iron-ore mines and trying to set up a steel plant in south Chhattisgarh, has set up an ‘Education City’ in Dantewada district,[47] with several more under construction. As for KISS, it has MOU (memoranda of understanding) with Vedanta, Nalco, NMDC and Adani. The Vedanta MOU, for example, promises 20,000 rupees per year from the company for every Dongria Kondh child sent to KISS for education.[48] In other words, it looks as though tribal children are being brainwashed and alienated from their communities so as to facilitate massive further land grabs in the near future.

Other educational models exist! An expanding number of culturally sensitive, small-scale schools in different areas make learning fun,[49] and use tribal languages – a multilingual model that educational research shows produces far better results for improving literacy than imposing a mainstream language from the start. Nagaland has a model in which every village community exercises responsibility over local schools.[50] Is it possible that we can reverse the learning?[51] How can the cultural genocide be stopped? The mainstream world needs to start learning the values of sharing and sustainability from tribal communities, while education for Adivasi children has to become something that is fun and genuinely liberating, while serving their interests and under their own communities’ control.

[1]https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/what-is-forest-rights-act/article26419298.ece?fbclid=IwAR3X0cOo-Shgn7h4QihRLdSWrcX_gb4sXzU3JPI0hoqJ-mAIKMJ1WX4Kst4

[2]https://scroll.in/article/914404/five-reasons-why-claims-by-forest-dwellers-for-their-land-are-low-and-rejections-are-high?fbclid=IwAR2OThS-dFuzr5aR8BP4nigR4n8ZpyRk-3-hMqnZlxBtXUaSzzkjBCc5wyA

[3]https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/tribals-protest-against-their-eviction-from-forests/articleshow/68245292.cms?fbclid=IwAR089Xw794aU3U6R4Sx1mEBn1kRJPvTOq43dKrEA6A8I76mG7rtN-nzMu0w

[4]https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/bjp-congress-cms-to-appeal-scs-forest-order/articleshow/68160730.cms?fbclid=IwAR0_vJ7nsOf3XflQGpzRElnGTMhN5OAcBvVBtEdDasbnDlpI-KfyIM4bcls

[5]https://www.news18.com/news/opinion/opinion-dear-urban-activists-evicting-tribals-does-not-do-wildlife-conservation-any-favours-2056403.html?fbclid=IwAR1p4Dgjsadytt34Uh1WQWZ41pDRPaCEQUTxh2SyDd1eBRhmc5FBK8WMuH0

[6]https://scroll.in/article/914820/conservation-groups-should-be-helping-adivasis-save-forests-instead-they-are-working-to-evict-them?fbclid=IwAR1M_mek29uIT0qL6cjYSnadF448ENFIHTjeTg0lV_K5UVaFcZRbLUfB4SY

[7] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Pathalgarhis-long-shadow-Indias-tribal-heartland-wants-freedom-from-govt-control/articleshow/67673490.cms

[8] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/25/land-grab-tribal-people-india-adivasi?fbclid=IwAR3VUCNOmbrskFiJcSNYBjLeQcZ7ibl0B-FMTKP8YCIyYp9I2tMDRmE_jQI

[9] https://www.counterview.net/2019/02/pro-corporate-supreme-court-order-on.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR24z2Ad1TSKulOf0m3bGwPsVEQ-io7rY6LDt-OZkAcpXrbTnnDj2PrJZT0

[10] https://countercurrents.org/2019/02/23/corporate-conservationists-use-judicial-process-to-annihilate-indias-indigenous-people/?fbclid=IwAR2qiOBnZzAOmsy1acFYSCNK4jAOj4A1GHIXGZKRi58cdR75TbhrWaaXrB8

[11] Jharkhand Land Bank Portal inaugurated, Times of India 5 January 2016, at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/good-governance/jharkhand/Jharkhand-land-bank-portal-inaugurated/articleshow/50448318.cms

[12]https://adivasihunkar.com/2019/01/10/a-memorandum-to-the-governor-of-jharkhand-against-the-land-bank/

[13]https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/governance/odisha-govt-lures-industries-via-land-banks-alienates-people-from-commons-61496

[14] https://thewire.in/politics/jharkhand-religious-freedom-bill-tribes-cnt-spt

[15]https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/the-pathalgadi-rebellion/article23530998.ece

[16]https://thewire.in/rights/police-targeting-pathalgadi-supporters-in-the-jharkhand-gang-rape-case-report

[17] https://thewire.in/rights/jharkhand-pathalgadi-movement-abduction-violence

[18] https://thewire.in/rights/jharkhand-pathalgadi-movement-gang-rape-police-firing

[19] https://thewire.in/rights/jharkhand-pathalgadi-movement-abduction-violence

[20]https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/pathalgadi-a-naxal-act-to-spread-anarchy-jual-oram/articleshow/65047474.cms

[21] https://thewire.in/rights/pathalgadi-movement-adivasis-stan-swamy-sedition

[22]https://thewire.in/rights/amit-topno-journalist-jharkhand-pathalgadi

[23]https://www.indiaspend.com/taking-over-fertile-land-for-adani-group-from-protesting-farmers-jharkhand-government-manipulates-new-law-meant-to-protect-them/

[24]https://caravanmagazine.in/communities/coal-mining-hasdeo-forests-protests?fbclid=IwAR3zREf6lEKYixW0JyTLqFR8VcMRw_SuoJTeJUUsTBbj6k-6vUWKOdXKXsc

[25] https://adivasihunkar.com/2019/01/12/is-the-pathalgadi-movement-in-tribal-areas-anti-constitutional/

[26]https://www.sabrangindia.in/article/10000-jharkhand-tribals-protest-against-sc-order-evicting-forest-dwellers-ancestral-lands?fbclid=IwAR1bJtCAUunTZG9CSSC5yIKp2agz3Swdu3j4Rmc_V6ajop1qSuQPmhSpHOI

[27] https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/how-to-kill-a-forest-adivasis-forest-dwellers-evicted-conservationists-5603789/?fbclid=IwAR0wtLtosyCJ59xYX83pYGj1sbnuxDSbmgmAk9ib0fKLEhX9NVooqDiCHsw

[28] https://www.counterview.in/2019/02/100-indian-world-conservationists.html?fbclid=IwAR3daOkTb0tQi3toO3wFhfWVx-s3KotLPgY1NBa2vwjT4hBKUr3S847IUQo

[29] https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/fear-and-loathing-in-the-north-east-citizenship-bill-brings-region-to-boiling-point/article25986291.ece

[30] http://e-pao.net/epSubPageExtractor.asp?src=education.Human_Rights_Legal.Natural_Resources_Management_in_Manipur_By_Jiten_Yumnam

[31]http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/odisha/2019/mar/04/harried-tribals-of-chakidi-vow-to-boycott-upcoming-elections-1946467.html?fbclid=IwAR3OF7TphY0Ura_3Dd6_Amsoatbn5TA76Hj9OV2WMT4tDrSRia0nlf4iBjU

[32]https://adivasihunkar.com/2019/01/16/the-betrayed-asurs-of-jharkhand/

[33]https://adivasihunkar.com/2019/03/05/i-was-forced-to-sign-on-the-land-acquisition-papers-sukhram-munda/

[34]https://www.epw.in/node/153848/pdf?0=ip_login_no_cache%3Dae806304c296901be13ee691f89f03db

[35]https://www.anthro.ox.ac.uk/files/jaso10120182247pdf

[36]http://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/politics/aguide-to-australias-stolen-generations#toc0

[37] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/dec/15/justin-trudeau-pledges-reconciliation-canada-aboriginal-abuse

[38] https://www.indiatoday.in/union-budget-2018/story/budget-2018-eklavya-model-schools-in-tribal-majority-areas-by-2022-says-arun-jaitley-1158993-2018-02-01

[39] https://www.survivalinternational.org/articles/3524-residentialschools

[40]https://www.downtoearth.org.in/coverage/miseducation-in-bastar-13347

[41] https://kalingatv.com/state/kiss-conferred-with-ncst-leadership-award-for-exemplary-services-towards-st/

[42] https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/the-idea-of-kiss-2/

[43] https://scroll.in/article/738028/chhattisgarh-is-closing-down-schools-in-areas-where-it-should-expand-them

[44]http://zeenews.india.com/news/odisha/orissa-cm-ordersprobe-into-sexual-abuse-of-tribal-girls_612376.html

[45] https://www.indiatoday.in/india/east/story/dhanora-sexual-assault-case-neeta-naag-vinod-naag-kanya-ashram-tribal-school-superintendent-dhanora-village-chhattisgarh-184413-2014-03-11

[46] http://indiacsr.in/dr-priti-adani-fronts-adani-vidya-mandir-surguja-chhattisgarh-educate-underprivileged/

[47] https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/news/story/chattisgarh-dantewada-educationcity-109956-2012-07-17

[48] https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/national/vedanta-funds-education-of-100-underprivileged-tribal-children/article23080857.ece

[49] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSIaAIP-wwM

[50] https://www.outlookindia.com/newswire/story/success-story-of-nagalands-communitisation-programme/575565

[51] https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/economy/reverse-the-learning-57776

Interview

I was forced to sign on the land acquisition papers: Sukhram Munda

Sukhram of KochangSukhram Munda is the village headman of Kochang, located in Khunti district of Jharkhand (India). The village was widely known after the incident of gang-rape and it is still in the news for illegal and forceful land acquisition. Gladson Dungdung spoke to Sukhram Munda on the Issue. Excerpt from the interview.

Gladson: How did you join the Pathalgari Movement (Movement for installation of stone slab)?

Sukhram: We were not aware about the provisions of the Indian Constitution. When we heard about the Pathalgadi Movement, some members of the Gram Sabha (village council) participated in some meetings of the Pathalgari Movement, and found is as crucial for the village to protect our land, territory and resources because our area comes under the Fifth Scheduled of the Constitution, where land cannot be acquired without the consent of Gram Sabha. Soon, I conducted a Gram Sabha’s meeting to discuss on Pathalgadi, where all members participated and agreed to install a stone slab at the entrance of our village. Thereafter, we collected the money and bought a stone slab, where the constitutional provisions were curved and installed at the entrance of village on 25th February, 2018.

Gladson: The government authorities claim that Pathalgari Movement is unconstitutional. What is you respond to it?

Sukhram: I don’t think it is unconstitutional. In fact, we have curved the constitutional provision on the stone slab to educate and make aware our Adivasis. Pathalgari is our tradition. We install stone slabs in many social and cultural occasions.

Gladso: The Indian Media claimed that the Adivasis have put barricades at the entrance of the villages. The President of India, the Prime Minister, the Governor, the Chief Minister and other government authorities cannot enter in the village without permission of the Gram Sabha. They must pay tax to the Gram Sabha before entering to the village. Are these allegations true?

Sukhram: These are fake allegations. We have not stopped anyone from entering to our village. Everyone is freely moving here. There is no such barricade or tax system.

Gladson: Pathalgadi leaders Joseph Purty had given a call to boycott the government’s welfare schemes, health & education facilities and developmental activities. Do you agree with him?

Sukhram: Kochang Gram Sabha is very clear about the Pathalgadi, which is good for our village to protect our natural resources but we are against of boycotting welfare schemes, health & education facilities and developmental activities. I have given my land for school in free of cost, health sub-center is being run in my house for last couple of decades and Aanganbadi center was also in my house. Therefore, how can someone blame me of boycotting government’s schemes?

Gladson: You claim that Pathalgadi Movement is to protect land and other natural resources, can you tell me what kind of threat is on the village’s natural resources?

Sukhram: After Kochang gang-rape incident, a police camp was setup in school of my village. I have given land for school in free of cost but another 14 decimals of my land were grabbed for construction of toilet for Jawans(constables) without my consent and compensation.

Gladson: Do you want compensation for your land?

Sukhram: No. I want my land back. How can the government acquire anybody’s land without his/her consent? I know that Adivasis will not survive with compensation. We need land for our existence.

Gladso: Did government take your consent for using school as the security camp?

Sukhram: No. It was done in the night. The para-military forces landed in the night and school was vacated. The teachers were told that their school is merged with the Middle school of Ruguddih village, which is four kilometers far from here.

Gladson: How many children were studying in school? Where are they now? have they shifted to the Middle School, Ruguddih?

Sukhram: 35-36 children of Kochang were studying in the school. Now, they have stopped going to school. The school is far so they don’t want to go. How will I convince them to go to school? This is denial of right to education of our children.

Gladson: Is there any other case of land grabbing in Kochang?

Sukhram: Yes. There is a major case of land grab. The government authorities are violating the power of Gram Sabha for grabbing land of the village. The government intends to setup a permanent police camp in the village but we are against of it. We don’t need a security camp. We are safe without the police.

Gladson: Can you tell me how the government authorities are violating the laws to grab the land in Kochang.

Sukhram: The Circle Officer (CO) of Arki block issued a notice to conduct the Gram Sabha’s meeting for acquisition of 2.47 acre of land for the construction of a community hall. We objected it because how can the CO issues such notice? Only the Gram Sabha has the power to call such meeting. We already have a community hall in the village therefor we don’t need one more community hall. We wanted to know that what kind of community hall the government is going to build in such a huge patch of land? We were surprised to know that government wants to acquire our land for the security camp under the guise of a community hall to avoid the protest, and when we started objecting, the government authorizes are suppressing our voices.

Gladson: Can you explain me how your voices were suppressed and what kind of power is being used to acquire the land?

Sukhram: I was harassed by the police. I’m under their surveillance. On 29th October, 2018, I had gone to Ranchi to attend a seminar. While returning home, the police caught me in Khunti and I was taken to Khunti police station where the Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Arki police station was also present. The OCs of Khunti and Arki forced me to sign on the land acquisition paper. They threatened me to imprison in the false charges of participating in Pathalgari Movement if I disobey them. They said that once I were imprisoned, I would never get out of the Jail. I’m already facing four false cases therefor I was afraid of them so signed on the land acquisition papers. They released me at 11 PM after signing the papers.

Gladson: What kind of cases you are facing?

Sukhram: All four cases are regarding the Pathalgari Movement. I was falsely accused of participating in some events of the Pathalgari Movement, where I was not part of but I was in Ranchi during those events. I have proof too. For instance, I was charged in a case of Kanki, where police personnel were hostage by the Gram Sabha but I was not present in Kanki that day. I was in Ranchi for treatment of my eyes.

Gladson: What happened after you were released from Khunti police station?

Sukhram:  After going back to village. I called for the Gram Sabha’s meeting on 30th October 2018, obeying the CO’s order for land acquisition but the government officers did not turn up. Our time was wasted. On the next day, the OC of Arki police station arrived at Kochang’s village market with three Vehicles. Two vehicles are loaded with Sarees and Dhotis (cloths for Men and Women) and another vehicle was full of police personnel. They distributed the cloths among men and women who were present in the village market and got their signature and thumb impression on blank papers. When some villagers asked them the reason for clothe distribution, they said that they are distributing clothes for ‘Sohrai’ festival. Later, we came to know that the document was converted as the Gram Sabha’s resolution for land acquisition. Immediately, we had a meeting in the village and sent a protest letter to the District Land Acquisition Officer, Khunti. I also met the DLAO, who told me that the Gram Sabha has given its consent for the land acquisition. He showed me the papers which I had signed in the police station and the villagers had singed and impressed their thumbs for receiving clothes. This is how we were cheated and betrayed.

Gladson: Now what will you do to protect the land?

Sukhram: We will fight till our last breath. We have no choice. We will also approach to the Jharkhand High Court.

Gladson: Are you not afraid of the government? The police camp is near your house are you safe? Is there any incident of police atrocity in the village?

Sukhram: Do we have any choice rather than fight for our survival? We have not yet faced any such atrocity in the village but it will not remain the same forever.

Gladson: The Pathalgari Movement is blamed for opium cultivation. While coming to Kochang, I saw opium plants both side of the road. What you have to say?

Sukhram : The Pathalgari Movement has nothing do with the opium cultivation. You have seen how opium is being cultivated in the region openly. The police camp is in Kochang and Jawans go for patrolling everyday but they don’t destroy the opium plants. I’m surprised! I have told the police officers several times about it but they don’t bother for it. I don’t know why?

Gladson: Kochang village was defamed worldwide for gang rape. Can you tell me about it?

Sukhram: I don’t know much about it. The victims also did not meet me. I came to know about the unfortunate incident through newspaper only. But I can say that Fr. Alphonse is innocent but he was falsely accused because he creates awareness among the Adivasis.

Intervention

A Memorandum to the Governor of Jharkhand against brutal Killing of two Adivasi Boys

Ref: JHRM/GOR/01                                                                                    04/02/2019

To,

Her Excellency,

Smt. Droupadi Murmu,

Governor of Jharkhand,

Raj Bhawan,

Ranchi – 834001.

Subject: Requesting for a high-level investigation and action on a case of alleged encounter between the security forces and the Naxals in Longkata forest of Arki in Khunti district of Jharkhand on January 29, 2019, resulted in brutal killing of two minor Adivasi (tribal) Boys.

Dear Madam,

This is to bring your kind attention on a case of alleged encounter occurred between the security forces and the Naxals of People’s Liberation Front of India (PLFI) in Longkata forest, comes under the jurisdiction of Arki police station in Khunti district of Jharkhand on January 29, 2019, where five Naxals said to be killed in the alleged encounter. After the encounter, the Superintendent of Police, Khunti, Mr. Aloke, claimed that those killed in the encounter were the Naxals and all of them were adults.

However, the ground realities seem to be different. Two out of five deceased persons were minor boys belonging to the Adivasi (Scheduled Tribe) community. 11-year-old boy Sant Thomas Soy S/o – Mr. Saban Soy & Mrs. Paulina Soy resident of Narang village comes under Arki police station in Khunti District of Jharkhand was studying in class IV in St. John’s School, Murhu (Khunti). The principal of school, Mr. Ishrail Mundu and class teacher Mr. Manjul Prabhat Barla have confirmed that Sant Thomas Soy was their student. Sant Thomas Soy’s mother Mrs. Paulina Soy claims that her son had gone to watch a hockey match in Muchiya village on January 21, 2019 but he didn’t return home in the evening. They were searching for him in their relatives’ villages but shocked to see his dead body later.

The villagers claim that another victim 16-year-old Sanjay Odeya was working as SPO (Special Police Officer) under the guidance of the Superintendent of Police, Khunti, who had promised him to pay Rs. 6,000 per month as salary. He was assigned the work to track the Naxals. The police had given him GPS. He was tracking the Naxals and informing the police. It seems that Sanjay Odeya had informed the police about the presence of Naxals in the forest and the police used his GPS to track them, which perhaps, resulted in encounter, where Sanjay Odeya was also killed.

Indeed, it is the fact that most of the ex-Naxals/Maoists have been deployed as the SPOs in Khunti district, and when they lose their lives, the police deny of using their services. It has been going for years. Unfortunately, the police have put the lives of minors in danger and playing with it. This is unacceptable. The minor Adivasi boys are sandwiched in the district and they have been losing their precious lives.

As per the Article 244(1) of Indian Constitution, you are the custodian of the Fifth Schedule areas of Jharkhand, and the para 5(2) of the Fifth Schedule, assigns you to ensure peace and good governance in the Fifth Schedule area. Therefore, you are constitutionally obelized to ensure peace and good governance in the state. Hence, I request you for the following actions:

  1. To order for a high-level investigation in the case of encounter and brutal killing of two minor Adivasi boys.
  2. To order the police for lodging an FIR under the section – 302 of the IPC and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
  3. To provide the composition of Rs.25,00,000 to each family of both the deceased persons.

I shall be highly obliged to you for the same.

Thanking You.

Yours Sincerely

Gladson Dungdung

General Secretary

JHRM, Ranchi.