- Mining and Land Acquisition:An Analysis of Mineral Rich Tribal Regions in Odisha
Minerals constitute the backbone of economic growth in India, a country generously endowed with these natural resources. Unfortunately, to a great degree, minerals, forests, and tribal tracts are concentrated in the same geographic areas. Odisha is such an area. In recent times, large-scale industrialization, marked by the development of mining projects, has emerged as the biggest threat to the survival of tribal communities. The present paper will explore the magnitude and impact of land acquisition for such projects on the tribal inhabitants in the mining districts of Odisha.
Since the inception of the current epoch of Economic Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization (LPG), the areas inhabited by indigenous people have been subject to constant social unrest and protests. The large-scale exploitation of the natural resources of these regions through the development of mines and other types of industries has adversely affected the indigenous people, who are systematically and methodically dispossessed of their ownership of the means of production, products, and the very ways of their existence. They have also been deprived of their political autonomy, as their communities have been broken up in the name of “development” in the “national interest.”1
In the process of modernizing less developed regions and “enlightening the less civilized” indigenous peoples in these areas, the current form of LPG development is creating wealth for the leaders at the cost of the livelihood and security of the local population.2 Arguably the new liberalization policy of the government and the opening of the mining [End Page 153] sector to private concerns and multi-national corporations will lead to further destruction of the area by these vested interests. The leaders believe that investment by multinational companies (MNCs) in mineral-based industries in the tribal regions that are rich in mineral resources will increase export earnings and accelerate economic growth, which in turn will develop basic infrastructure and bring about socio-economic transformation of the indigenous population.3
Mineral extraction is one of the most environmentally-destructive processes and very little attention is paid to the people who have been over the ages subsisting on these environmental resources. The tribal people have paid the highest price for national development precisely because their regions are resource rich.
Many have been displaced without proper rehabilitation from 1990 onwards due to the so-called economic liberalization policies of the Center. One of the major causes of land alienation and displacement in the area is the mining industry. For every 1 per cent that mining contributes to India’s GDP, it displaces 3-4 times more people than all other development projects put together.4 To promote development, many public sector mining companies started extraction of mineral resources, which are found mostly in the tribal areas of the country. Local communities in mining areas have consequently lost their symbiotic relationship with nature. The market has interfered with their lives and destroyed communities. Those who owned land have become wage laborers due to these mining activities.5
Over the years, the tribals have witnessed continued dispossession of both individual and community control over their resources. The industrial acquisition has not only intensified their poverty, but also seriously threatened their identity in their own homeland.6 According to the India Rural Development Report of 1992, nearly half of the country’s rural population was absolutely or nearly landless. The rate of landlessness has been steadily rising among the Schedule Castes (SC) and Schedule Tribes (ST). SC & ST are two groups of historically–disadvantaged people who are recognized in the Constitution of India. Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution define members of SC and ST with respect to any state/union territory. According to the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) data (2003-04), about 41.63% of tribal households did not own land other than their homestead.7 A number of mega-projects are coming up in tribal areas, mainly in mines, steel plants and the power sector. Special attention needs to be paid to the [End Page 154] acquisition of tribal areas because it has a severe impact on the tribal way of life...