Arrest Of This Anti-Bauxite Mining Activist Points Towards Flaws In Our ‘Development Model’

Posted on June 22, 2015 in Environment, Politics

By Rishvik Chanda:

It has been repeatedly pointed out by many that the ‘development model’ being pursued today places the economy at the center, with those paying the price for this ‘development’ with their lives, land and livelihood being subjugated and marginalized. The conflict between social development and economic growth is becoming a problem. It is claimed that economic growth of the country benefits only a certain section of the society, and that the popular ‘development model’ is not inclusive.

Image Credit:
Image Credit:

The recent arrest of an activist for speaking up against Bauxite mining hints at the intolerant stance of the government towards dissent. Bhagaban Majhi, a tribal activist from the Kucheipadar village in Odisha, was arrested by the Doraguda police on the 28th of May, 2015. Charged with criminal cases of dacoity, looting and carrying lethal weapons, he was arrested for resisting the setting up of Bauxite mines around his village. But his arrest has been claimed to be foul play and the police are accused of unfairly working in cahoots with the government officials who see his agitation as obstructing operations in the area. Bhagaban Majhi was released on bail on June 19th, 2015, but this is far from a solution for the broader issue.

Bauxite is required for aluminium production, and Odisha is rich in bauxite deposits which are estimated to be 55% of the country’s total. But mining operations greatly affects the land and the people. There are a number of environmental concerns, with water pollution being the main problem. The transportation of bauxite is feared to affect the subsistence of the tribals- their agricultural land. There is much social impact as well, with the people’s way of life and their independence being compromised. The National Commission of Scheduled Tribes identifies displacement of locals as a huge project. Because of projects such as this and the Narmada River dam construction, there will be mass displacement; uprooting the local tribal people who’ve lived there for generations. Developmental operations should follow extensive consultation with local people.

Unlawful land acquisition has led to an increase in the number of police-tribal conflict. As tension increases in Odisha, which is a part of the Maoist belt, even innocent adivasis are branded as terrorists and anti-national. However, if the tribal people’s welfare is not of interest to the nation, there will be agitation. As the local in the video asks, “What worth is development if it ends up in relocation of people?” There is a complete lack of dialogue between the government and the locals. Seeing that their questions aren’t going to be entertained by the government officials, the locals are agitating and in turn, the police are putting them behind bars.

There is a recent trend of intolerance by the government towards questioning the mainstream notion of development. The recent freeze over the bank accounts of Greenpeace India, has lead to fear among many activists that the government is neglecting the welfare of the environment. Many are questioning the narrow idea of development which does not favour certain sections of society.