Violations of right to livelihood, human rights and constitutional rights of the indigenous people of Orissa, India sign now

Orissa is a land blessed with many natural resources - forests, rivers,
land and minerals. It is not a coincidence that it also happens to be the
home of large number of indigenous people from time immemorial. The lives
of these people are intimately tied to their land and forests. The Fifth
Schedule of the Indian constitution provides a guarantee to these
indigenous people on the right over the land they live in. The Kashipur
belt of Raigada district in southwest Orissa, home of the adivasi
("original inhabitants") population of Paroja-Kondha, is protected by the
above law.

The Kashipur-Koraput area of southern Orissa holds one of the richest
deposits of bauxite in India. In the new economic climate of globalization
and deregulation, these rich deposits have attracted multinational
corporations, with the sole aim of exploiting these resources for profit. In
1993, the state government of Orissa entered into a contract with a
private company Utkal Alumina International Ltd. (UAIL) by handing over
some of the most precious lands in Orissa in return for taxes and
royalties without any form of consent from the people living there. UAIL
is a multi-national bauxite mining consortium, originally of Norsk Hydro
of Norway, ALCAN of Canada and Hindalco of India. The venture is 100\%
export oriented. This action by the Orissa government is clearly an
attempt to subvert the constitutional guarantees given to the indigenous

In a collective show of defiance, the affected villages in Orissa have
been resisting this mining project which threatens to displace them and
completely ruin their livelihood. The anti-mining movement is lead by an
organization of the local people known as "Prakrutika Sampada Suraksha
Parishad". People have organized themselves to participate in rallies,
road blockades and demonstrations in front of local government offices. To
discourage such attempts, the state has come down hard on them resorting
to violence instead of dialogue. The conflict between the people and the
pro-company forces culminated in the firing at Maikanch village on 16
December 2000. Around 4000 people were in a meeting to discuss their next
road blockade when armed police descended upon them and opened fire. The
local police killed three unarmed innocent adivasis and wounded several
more. Almost a year before this incident, on 30th December 1999, eight
innocent adivasis, including one woman, were also killed by the police in
a nearby village. These killings have further antagonized the locals who
see the use of force as a violation of their basic human rights. Local
resistance to the mining project has only solidified after the violence.

There has been a clear and persistent bias of the state favourable to
corporate entities at the cost of its own people. The Orissa
government continues this despite the protests of its people; a
protest that has mostly been peaceful and led by some of its most
marginalized communities. The state has not given any consideration to
the affected people. Chronic negligence, forced displacement, lack of
compensation and marginalization of resources have pushed people to
starvation and extreme poverty. More than 2100 families in two dozen
villages stand to lose some land, including 370 families who would
lose all their lands. The negative impacts of this project go well
beyond just the human toll. The local environment will be seriously
affected. Hills will be flattened and rains can sweep silt into a huge
reservoir that provides water for the region. Several streams that
feed the Indravati river would be destroyed. The most visible impact
of bauxite mining on the environment is effluent discharge.
Dumping discharge into the streams and rivers would raise the pH level
causing severe contamination. Several perennial sources of water would
dry up and thousands of people will lose their land and livelihood to
displacement. Agricultural land will no longer be cultivable. When
confronted by the people on questions of environmental impacts of the
mines and the refineries, UAIL claims to have conducted several
studies. However, even after several requests, these documents have
not been made public. Thus the overall impact of the project is not

In October 2001, Corpwatch exposed Norsk
Hydro's contribution to human rights abuses in Kashipur by naming it a UN
global compact violator. As a partial victory to the anti-mining movement,
Norsk Hydro decided to exit the consortium in December 2001. Lack of
progress in the project was cited as the official reason for
withdrawal. This is merely a minor victory, because the Birla group has
expressed interest in assuming control of the UAIL project. In fact, the
Kashipur struggle is just the beginning. As per some reports, the Orissa
government is planning on entering into many Memoranda of
Understanding with different multinational corporations to bring in
large-scale mining in the area. One of these is with the French
conglomerate Pechiney SA for setting up of a greenfield bauxite mining and
alumina refinery complex in the state (March 8th, Business
Standard). These are clear indications that the government of Orissa is
determined to proceed with various mining projects despite clear legal and
human rights violations.

There is an urgent need for all of us to act. The plan of the Orissa
government to start large-scale mining operations in the state will cause
severe destruction of the environment and human livelihood. Please show
your support to uphold the basic rights of indigenous peoples in Orissa by
sending email to the Chief Minister of Orissa, or preferably, by writing
personal letters. We would really appreciate it if you also contact us at
[email protected] with your questions or comments.


Shri Navin Patnaik,
Chief Minister, Orissa Secretariat

Subject: Violations of right to livelihood, human rights and
constitutional rights of the indigenous people of Orissa

Dear Shri Patnaik,

Over the last few years, we have witnessed a continued use of force and
suppression of the rights of the adivasis and dalits from the poorest
communities in Orissa. We are horrified and appalled by these
incidents. We are particularly concerned at the frequent use of force
including firing by the police on these poor sections of your state. So
far none of the police officers incriminated in the firing have been
brought to justice. We want you to intervene and ensure that justice is
served to those who have been constantly ignored.

The state of Orissa seems to be expanding and signing away some of its
most valuable land to multi-national companies at the cost of the
livelihood of its indigenous people. The benefits from mining will not
reach any of the people who are being asked to sacrifice their lives for
others to benefit. This unfair development paradigm will not help the
state itself in the long run. The long term economic and environmental
damage that will be caused by large scale mining will only be detrimental
to the development of your state. More and more people already struggling in
poverty are being pushed to the very edge of existence. We request you to
stop now before it is too late and implement a development policy that will
benefit the poorest sections of the state. Please stop the abuse of right
to livelihood, basic human rights and constitutional rights of the people of

The central issue behind the protests of the adivasis and dalits is
related to the land where they have lived for many
generations. Whether it be land for mining projects or refugees, their
land has been forcibly taken away from them. The livelihood of these
people is intimately tied with their land and forests. Displacement of the
adivasis and dalits will not only deprive them of a decent living, but
also destroy their cultural identity. We have seen numerous instances
of forced displacement of indigenous people with disastrous
consequences all over the world. So, it is no wonder that they are
protesting these designs of the government. Not only do they have a
moral case, but also a legal right afforded by India's constitution
(Fifth Schedule). It is an obligation of your office to protect the
rights of these people and not resort to violence and thuggery to
suppress their voices.

We request you to take the following steps in Orissa.

Look into the cases of police violence personally and ensure that they
are brought to justice. Also see to it that such incidents do not
happen in the future.

Enter into meaningful dialogue with the dalit and adivasi groups
fighting for their livelihood and resources in all areas of Orissa and
seek their participation in all local development projects.

Conduct independent cost-benefit analysis of all existing and proposed
bauxite mining projects in Orissa taking into account the
environmental and human costs involved.

Ensure that the affected communities have a say in the overall
development of their region. They should not have to be forced out of
their lands without their consent.

We hope that you will recognize that all sections of the population in
your state have a right to live with dignity and listen to our appeal.

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Petition target:
Chief Minister of Orissa, India


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