May 20, 2010

Orissa backs Posco. Repression of the poor tribals continues in the name of 'development'

Continuous ranting and chanting on the TV channels goes on. In fact, the way electronic media is playing up the corporate agenda of bringing 'development' to the naxalite-affected tribal belt, and projecting as if the naxals are the main obstacle in this pious objective, I sometimes wonder why do we accuse Doordarshan of being the only government's mouthpiece.

Many private TV news channels have not only beaten Doordarshan in its tracks, but have in fact gone a step further. They have been crawling for quite sometime now (which Doordarshan mercifully does not do) when they were not even asked to bend.

No sensible person would support naxal violence.

At the same time each and every concerned citizen would agree that no sensible person could support repression and atrocities in the name of 'development'. However I find that none (barring one or two) of the regular faces on the TV channels have had the courage to express even slightest of anger and indignation at the continuous exploitation and displacement of the tribals in the name of 'development'. Big Business in India (and their brand of commentators and economists) I find are not at all sensible enough. With the government supporting crony capitalism, who cares?



Mass protest: Villagers participate in a rally organised by the Posco Pratirodh Sangam Samiti at Balitutha in Jagatsinghpur district of Orissa on Wednesday -- The Hindu photo

Big Business is merrily extracting its pound of flesh with impunity, and does not give a damn for the resulting human cost. 'Development' is actually an euphemism for 'commerce' [Read an excellent analysis Stand Up and Be Counted by Malvika Singh http://bit.ly/9nFyvs]. And the tragedy is that much of the elite in the country thrives on it. The middle-class is a beneficiary of this corrupt and exploitative system and therefore spares no effort to sing pangs of praise for 'development'.

At a time when the mainline media blacks out any news report which show the dirty ways of Big Business, I was pleasantly taken by surprise to read a six-column report (along with a six-column picture) in today's edition of The Hindu. The report under the headline "6 parties back stir against Posco project" (May 20, 2010) tells us about the massive protest organised by the Posco Pratirodh Sangam Samiti  in Jagatsinghpur district on Wednesday.

Only a few days back, on May 15, hundreds of armed policemen had resorted to lathicharge and firing to chase away agitators who were on a dharna. You didn't hear about it because the business-controlled media blacked it out. What you therefore see on the TV channels nowadays is what the Big Business wants you to see. This is perhaps the reason why reality shows have become popular in India. Knowing that news is manipulated, it is much better to watch Indian Idol for instance. That's what I do.

Here is The Hindu report:

6 parties back stir against Posco project
http://www.hindu.com/2010/05/20/stories/2010052063331600.htm

Prafulla Das

BALITUTHA (ORISSA): The agitation against the steel plant project of Posco-India got a shot in the arm with senior leaders of six Opposition parties joining hands with the villagers of three gram panchayats in Orissa's Jagatsinghpur district on Wednesday.

Addressing hundreds of men and women who gathered here under the banner of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti, Communist Party of India general secretary A.B. Bardhan condemned the May 15 police action against the agitators and demanded shifting of the project to some other location.

It was at Balitutha, the main entry point to the three gram panchayats of Dhinkia, Nuagaon and Gadakujang, the site selected for the proposed steel plant, that hundreds of armed policemen resorted to lathicharge and firing on May 15 to chase away agitators who were on a dharna.

“If the State government further uses force against the villagers who have been peacefully opposing the project for the past five years, the agitation will only grow stronger,” Mr. Bardhan said.

“If Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wants to set up the Posco steel plant at any cost, he should choose an alternative site,” Mr. Bardhan said, urging the villagers to continue their movement in a peaceful way.

Mr. Bardhan said the State government should hold a dialogue with the protesters to resolve the issue.

The CPI leader questioned a South Korean company's plan to set up a captive port near the proposed steel plant saying it would have an adverse impact on the existing Paradip Port. He opposed the State government recommendation to the Centre to grant the captive mining lease to Posco for sourcing iron ore.

Leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Forward Bloc, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha addressed the agitators.

The president of the Sangram Samiti, Abhay Sahoo, warned State government to stop using the police against the people who were facing displacement and loss of livelihood sources. “Posco can never establish the project in this area as people were determined to make any sacrifice to save their land and homes from being taken over by the company,” he said.

Mr. Sahoo alleged that the State government had furnished wrong information to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests on the forest land where hundreds of people had been living for generations together.

Of the 20,000-odd people living in the three gram panchayats, hundreds of families had been using the forest land for their livelihood.

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