31 July, 2009
Gladson Dungdung, a Human Rights Activist and writer from Jharkhand, poses a question as old as language itself… a question that presses on the very heart of indigenous struggle today: Can Lion and Lamb live in peace?
The tide has turned. The lamb is not ready to become the prey of the lion anymore. The lamb has challenged the very authority of the lion by saying “enough is enough.” The lamb tells to the lion, “You have eaten my ancestors, betrayed my community and captured our territory in the name of the law of the forest therefore I’ll fight against it till the last breath.” The lamb is determined to fight back against the lion’s unfair acts therefore he is not allowing the lion to enter into its territory even after many attempts made by the lion. Consequently, the lion is in anxiety, worried and uncertain about its future. He knows that he would not have a bright future without the cooperation of the lamb.
Suddenly, he gets an excellent idea to deal with the situation therefore he designed a plan to have a dialogue with the lamb. He attempts to convince the lamb that he is not the real enemy of the lamb but he is much concerned about the betterment of the lamb. He wants that the lamb should eat imported grass instead of the wild grass and behave like a civilized animal. He suggests that since it is the era of the globalization therefore the lamb also should change his mind. He tells to the lamb, “Let’s be a good friend, I’ll not eat you but you just have to do me a favour is to make sure that I don’t go hungry.”
In the present context, the story is very much suitable to the ongoing struggle between the corporate houses and the indigenous people across the globe. Since the indigenous people have decided not to surrender their ancestors land for the so-called development projects and fight against it, the business houses are much worried about their future. Consequently, they are in unrest for finding out the way to resolve the problems. Now they are even ready to hear the community. They have also started talking about the human rights in business. This is what exactly happened in the international roundtable conference on ‘land and human rights’ organized by the UK based Institute for Human Rights and Business in Delhi last month. The giants of steel, power and cement like Arcelor Mittal, Tata, Jindal, NTPC and Lafarge Cement shared the table with the social activists.
But the important question is do really the business houses bother about the human rights? The instant answer surely would be “No”. Precisely, because a lion can not survive without the flesh of a lamb though it may be a friend of a lamb till he does not feel hungry. Secondly, the past experiences suggest that the corporate houses have zero percent contribution in the promotion and protection of Human Rights. Thirdly, the corporate houses have also committed gross violation of human rights in the name of development. The most interesting part is though well educated people work in the corporate but they are not aware about the human rights as they see through only one lance in the business that is profit. The corporate houses including Tata, Jindal, Mittal, Lafarge Cement and PSU NTPC accept that they have not done anything for the promotion and protection of human rights especially for the indigenous people.
The questions come in one’s mind is why are the corporate houses attempting to jump from the CSR (corporate social responsibility) to human rights? Does it mean the CSR became useless at this moment? Is the CSR not helping them in land acquisition? The term CSR came into public domain in the early 1970s and became very common in 21st century in India. Ideally, the CSR policy would function as a built-in self-regulating mechanism whereby business would monitor and ensure their adherence to law, ethical standards and international norms. The business would embrace responsibility for the impact of their activities on environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and other members of the public sphere.
In practice, the community was completely left out in the CSR programme and the whole benefit went to the employees, consumers and other stakeholders. For instance, the Tate steel claims of spending 66 percent of its annual income on CSR programmes but the whole benefit goes to its employees, consumes and other stakeholders and the affected community get nothing out of it that’s why the indigenous people are not ready to give 24,500 acres of land to the Tata steel for its proposed green field project at Tontoposi of Saraikela-Kharsawan district in Jharkhand. According to a noted activist Xavier Dias, the CSR was used as a weapon for snatching land from the indigenous community. He says, “The mining has been under taken for more than hundred years in the state of Jharkhand, the livelihood resources of the indigenous people were destroyed and forest was cut, what responsibility corporate houses have played?”
It is obvious that the CSR programmes failed to ensure land for the corporate houses therefore now they suddenly want to jump into the arena of human right though they are the violators of the rights of the community especially the indigenous people till they operate in the areas. The violation of the rights begins from the signing of MoU, goes on during the land acquisition and continues till the plant operates in the areas. The corporate houses do not involve community during the signing of MoU and land acquisition though the law of the land clearly says that the consent must the taken from the community and traditional self governance. There is also a huge environmental effect on the community, the freedom is seized and the livelihood resources of the people are taken away due to the industries.
The corporate houses also violate the rights of its employees and when the company faces economic crisis they do not hesitate to throw out the employees without delay. The latest report suggests that 1.3 million Indian lost their jobs in ongoing economic slowdown. In these circumstances, do the business houses have any moral right to talk about the human rights? Interestingly, now they are ready to have a dialogue with the community, address the issues of human rights and promote business but the interesting question to answer would be can the lion and the lamb live together? The time has changed. Now it’s not the question of lamb’s survival but the lion’s survival as the lamb is accustomed to struggle for survival.
Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer based in Ranchi, Jharkhand. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org