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Home > News > Interview

The Rediff Interview/Dharmendra Pradhan, BJP MP

'We need industry, growth, investment'

February 07, 2006

In the concluding interview of the series on Development and Displacement in Orissa, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Dharmendra Pradhan takes responsibility for the state government's failure to avert the Kalinga Nagar incident, where 12 tribals were killed in police firing on January 2. The BJP and Biju Janata Dal are allies in the state.

In a detailed conversation with Assistant Managing Editor Archana Masih, Pradhan says successive state governments have ignored the plight of the displaced and the central government itself drew up a rehabilitation policy only in 2004.

As a member of the ruling BJD-BJP combine in Orissa, what is your party's stance to the killing of tribals in Kalinga Nagar?

This was very unfortunate. In any democracy people have the right to protest. For a state to respond to a protest with bullets is not desirable. Our party's stance is that this incident should never be repeated in the future.

There is a division in the state with regard to the rehabilitation policy. One -- regarding industries that have been brought in by the state, and the other - brought in by the central government, PSUs (Public Sector Units) like Rourkela Steel Plant, Mahanadi Coal Company, NALCO etc.

'The poor should get justice'

Whether it is the state or the central government, rehabilitation should not be neglected. The administration could not anticipate the Kalinga Nagar incident.

I visited the site and observed that there was a communication between the affected people and the local administration for the past 7,8 months. There was a crisis of administration which was not anticipated by officials in Bhubaneswar.

It is not as if Kalinga Nagar is very far from the state capital Bhubaneswar.

What if even it was far? There is a system of reporting - there are divisional secretaries, chief secretaries. Nodal agencies have a role in any administration. It's not about geographical distance, all this situation could have been avoided.

I am a MP from a constituency which has two major irrigation projects. One is the Hirakund Dam, established just after Independence, from where Orissa's rehabilitation and resettlement issue began.

All major PSUs (public sector units) that have come in, the administration has not been as sensitive as it should be. I have raised this in the Lok Sabha. An industry has two aspects -- economic and social. In the name of industry, I feel we give greater stress on the economic aspect and ignore the human aspect. This is a result of that.

This is not the case in Orissa alone but throughout the country. Industry and rehabilitation are part of the same coin.

We need industry, growth, investment. We can't exist in isolation but how can we forget the human aspect? This is not done.

You are saying they are part of the same coin but the reality is that in all these years there has been no effective solution to rehabilitation.

The policymakers of this country, including myself - the Executive and the Legislature -- we talk about sustainable development, balanced development. There is no meaning of development if we ignore the Adivasis.

After Independence along the way, we have lost sight of this. If we do not pay attention to this, people will become aggressive and more extremist.

Your state has a large tribal population, so displacement remains a constant issue before Orissa as compared to many other states.

The issue is not only about the tribals. Today the incident has occurred with the tribals but the displaced have no tribe or caste.

What makes them a single tribe or unit is a common economic background. Development should not be at the cost of displaced people.

'You cannot silence people for all time'

In certain situations, displacement becomes mandatory because of the national interest or local interest, but how can they continue with their sustainable economy? Let me explain.

Tell me what could have been done in Kalinga Nagar that could have averted the killing?

When the government acquired the land in 1992-1993, the people were given Rs 37,000 per acre as compensation. There was no land acquisition after that. After that Neelanchal Ispat set up a project there and people were given Rs 100,000 per acre.

Now IIDCO ( Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation ) is getting (Rs 350,000 from the next industrial project to be set up on the land), they people feel they should get some part of that money.

In Kalinga Nagar, there are many Adivasis who don't have land rights to the land they live on. These people also should have been brought -- as tenants or landholders -- within the rehabilitation scheme.

Thirdly, if an ideal rehabilitation colony had been built for those who were displaced to make way for the four industries that came into that area before, this would have been averted.

When the land was taken over in 1992-1993 there was a steel boom which later died. I have heard at that time the land compensation was Rs 16,000 per acre but then chief minister Biju Patnaik gave them more than double - Rs 36,000.

In 1995, Neelanchal Ispat Nigam came and Rs 100,000 was given as compensation. When again the land was acquired (for the next project) -- because technically the land had been acquired and compensation paid in 1992 -- the people had no rights (to the Rs 100,000) but it doesn't work that way. So when the actual acquisition was made a proposal of giving Rs 100,000 was there but this was not done.

Also, some don't have land titles - some of them have been living there since the 1860s -- and if proper arrangements had been made for people who have already been displaced, this mistrust wouldn't have been there.

The Congress criticises your party -- and it is not as if any party is not to blame. But at least under Congress governments the police did not turn their guns at people in Orissa, the way they did in Kalinga Nagar.

It has happened several times in Orissa before.

Against the tribals?

Why segregate the tribals? Nobody fired because they were tribals.

But those who died were tribals.

Unfortunately. I am taking responsibility. As part of the system and present government I am taking responsibility, I am guilty because of that. That is why whatever was possible on my behalf I have done.

A judicial inquiry has been set up, when it was alleged that their (tribals') organs were mutilated, we sent it to the human rights organisation.

I don't see it as a tribal issue. Unfortunately, it happened to tribals.

Whenever there has been industrialisation, at the time of the Congress, people have been fired upon - on students, women, Harijans. Do not segregate tribals.

As part of the state government I am saying I am responsible. My district and executive administration is responsible. I cannot get away, I cannot be absolved of that.

What has been the BJP's response to the BJD?

It is not a question of BJP or BJD. It is about the government and I am part of the government.

'People are playing politics with the tragedy'

But you are indiividual political parties and have your own voice.

But the government is one. There are two parties right, but one government. I am part of the government and I am taking responsibility. From the party side I have asked my chief minister and ministers that this should not be repeated and the needful should be done.

What is the government going to do?

They accepted all our demands. We asked them to raise compensation from one lakh (Rs 100,000) to five lakhs (Rs 500,000), a judicial inquiry, all affected families should be provided with employment for at least one member, transfer of district magistrate and superintendent -- which the government agreed to.

Later when allegations were made that body parts of the deceased were mutilated we asked the human rights commission to look into it. The guilty are guilty, there is nothing to hide in this.

Mutilation is a very grave allegation.

I have given the inquiry to the highest forum of the country. There are basic two differences - if I did it knowingly then I am worthy of hatred, I am inhuman and have no stand in democracy. But accepting that this happened in our tenure, it's our responsibility to make a rectification. Whatever the Opposition, alliance partner and the society asked -- we have done that.

What did people say to you when you went there?

People are very emotionally charged. It will take some time to make them understand.

There is an instance I can give you. Mahanagar Coal Ltd - in the last 25, 35 years, 10,000 families have been displaced. The dispute claim of 4,000 families is still pending.

There are three stakeholders in any rehabilitation policy - people whom we represent, the company and the state. Development and investment should come in but we will have to decide what the demarcation line is. To uproot people and not give them a minimum standard of livelihood is not fair and there should be a debate about that.

You feel that passions are running high among the tribals and they will take things into their own hands.

I am not segregating it to tribals. It involved all those who have been affected. Affected people form a community of the displaced.

In Karnataka, a dam was built on the Upper Krishna river in 1962. In 1995 the Karnataka government established a rehabilitation authority. Now all those initial problems are on the road to being solved. Under his chairmanship of an official, S M Jamdar, a committee was created. So a turnaround has been made after over 40 years. If a sensitive government gives direction, this problem can be solved.

The development of Orissa in a way is directly linked with the displacement of people, is it not?

In my neighbouring constituency a coal mining company came in. The district administration told them to give permanent employment to the 140 affected people. They didn't do that and instead employed a contractor.

In December there was a strike, the mines were shut for 4, 5 days. The collector issued the company a closure notice. They came running back, gave cash compensation to 50 of the 140 affected, and provided jobs for the rest.

There is a policy and the administration has to be strict. In one district, the administration intervened and jobs were given, in another district where it couldn't be visualised, guns were fired.

But it is not possible for upcoming projects to provide jobs to all affected.

In place of that they should give a good cash package. You have to attend to the aspirations of the people.

The country has never had a uniform rehabilitation policy. The ministry of rural development had a resettlement and rehabilitation policy for the first time in February 2004. This also has a lot of lacunae.

The UPA government has circulated a draft policy -- the National Development Displacement and Rehabilitation Policy. Debate is still going on and it has not been finalised yet.

The Orissa government had told the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) to draw up a displaced policy. That is also ready in the pipeline and this tragedy happened. For Orissa's mining sector there is a 1998 policy, so there are partial and piecemeal policies.

There is no uniform guideline in the country. This is a reality that the country has not thought that there should be a uniform policy. They only thought about this in 2004.

Photograph: Jewella C Miranda


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