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Rediff.com  » News » 'The state should give justice to the poor'

'The state should give justice to the poor'

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Last updated on: January 23, 2006 20:08 IST

Jaydev Jena, president of the Congress Pradesh Committee in Orissa, makes it a point to cite the names of all the Congress leaders who have visited the site of the Kalinga Nagar tragedy, where 12 tribals were killed in a police firing on January 2.

He begins with Congress party President Sonia Gandhi, talks about the disbursement of Rs 100,000 to the families of the deceased from the Congress fund and attacks Chief Minister Navin Patnaik's ministers for their failure to prevent the incident.

Jena spoke to Assistant Managing Editor Archana Masih about the reasons for tribal anger in Orissa.

Continuing our series of interviews with politicians from the ruling Biju Janata Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party, Opposition parties and tribal activists in Orissa, to highlight the larger problem of resettlement and livelihood in the face of development in India.

The Kalinga Nagar incident is not something that has happened for the first time. What incidents have occurred in the state before?

In 2000 there was a similar incident in Raigarh about land where tribals and Dalits had settled for 100 years. The land was not in their name but they were occupants of that land and did not want to be displaced.

In the police firing in 2000, four people died.

In 2002 there was one incident and two tribals were shot dead. This (Kalina Nagar) is the third incident.

In Kalinga Nagar in May 2005 there was a protest. After the police lathicharge 24 tribal women and children were taken into custody. People were beaten brutally.

In the series so far: 'You can't silence people for all time'

We, along with other Opposition parties, assured them (the tribals) that no company will begin work here unless they received proper compensation. When the Tatas started constructing their boundary wall (on January 2, 2006), the government came with full police arrangement to give protection to the contractor.

When the firing started an 18-year-old girl was shot in the back as she was running. The tribals had their bows and arrows. Seeing that the police ran away. If not, many more (tribals) would have died.

The government acquired the land over 15 years ago and paid the tribals compensation at that time. Since the government now owns the land, does that mean the tribals have no right over the land?

In the series so far: 'People are playing politics with the tragedy'

The tribals are the occupants of that land. They continue to grow their paddy on it. They consider it their land. They are the real owners of the land. The government only gave them Rs 35,000 at that time and since it (the government) had no use of that land then, tribals continued to cultivate it and live there.

Now since the government is giving it to the company (Tatas) for Rs 335,000, the tribals think it is their money, not the government's money. Because they have continued to live there and have not left the land.

If the tribals had left the land then it would not have created a problem?

Yes, and they think because we are still living here, whatever money the government gets, is ours. They want the Rs 335,000. Because they are being displaced they even want free schooling, roads, houses. They want proper rehabilitation.

What is the basic infrastructure like in the area?

There is nothing. The tribals don't know where they will go. The government has not taken any serious measures for their resettlement. There's no package, no plan.

In the series so far: 'Kalinga Nagar was a shock to everybody'

What happens to the Tata project now, since there is no settlement policy?

No settlement has been done. Till today. Neither our government nor this government. If there was settlement, they would have a record of the right and they would make a proper claim as per records. Some people are claiming even without records because they have been living there.

There was talk of Bharatiya Janata Party tribal politicians withdrawing support to the Navin Patnaik government.

Their high command at the Centre has told them to be with the BJD (Biju Janata Dal).

Your party was also in power, you also did not do much for tribal resettlement and rehabilitation.

In our state there are only steel industries. With steel industries coming, the question of displacement is coming up. Before signing MoUs (Memoranda of Understanding) we should decide how people will be settled.

We demanded two policies.

I am asking about when you, the Congress party, were in power.

When we were in power, I think there was no major industry.

Are you saying that no MoUs were signed when the Congress was in power?

MoUs for industry wasn't there. Small industries -– spinning mills, sugar mills -– the companies purchased private land and set up their industries, there was no question of rehabilitation. When there was an irrigation project, there was a policy of rehabilitation.

As far as industry is concerned, they (tribals) came to know that the government -- IIDCO (Orissa Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation)-- is getting money (from the Tatas) which is ten times more than what they got earlier, so they are reacting.

We demanded two policies -– mining policy and industrial policy -– in the assembly. As per schedule, there should have been 60 days of the assembly session but 15 days ahead of time without informing the Opposition the speaker adjourned the house sine die.

At that time the government was in no position to face the Opposition on the floor of the house.

Development has to continue. What in your opinion is the solution for this confrontation between tribal aspirations and development?

We are not against development. Today they (the Biju Janata Dal) are there, tomorrow we (the Congress) will be there. We are not against foreign investment.

Money should come to Orissa and we should have big industries but we have to solve the problems of the poor. The state should give the poor justice.

So what is the solution?

Policy. We should have an all party meeting, sit together and decide a policy considering all aspects.

There has been silence from the chief minister

The chief minister does not have the courage to go to the spot. In Raigarh, 8 Adivasis were killed by Naxalites (Maoists). Any chief minister should have gone there to give moral courage to the tribe -– within a month eight people were killed there. It has been eight months and the chief minister has not visited that place. After the 2000 firing he didn't go either.

But he is said to be a tribal friendly chief minister.

How can he be? He doesn't understand our mother tongue (Oriya) till today. There is no chief minister in the country or in the world cannot understand his own language after being in politics for eight years in this state.

Still he has served two terms in office.

We are unfortunate. Everybody at that time had said we (the Congress) would come to power but unfortunately because of leg pulling and other things we could succeed.

What is the reason the tribals are so angry?

The tribals understand what the problem is, what money is. They have knowledge about what the government is doing, what the Tata company will do, how rehabilitation will take place, employment. They have this knowledge.

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