ORISSA IN SEVERE PREDICAMENT: ARCELOR MITTAL BLACKMAILS HER CM TO RENDER THE FARMERS INSTANTLY LANDLESS

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa is a land of farmers. Proud farmers that are self-employed communities of autonomous social forces for whom, in Ashoka’s confession in the 2nd Kalinga Rock Edict, Orissa had remained “Abijita” (Unbeatable) and as observed by the area Magistrate of the British regime, in the matter of India’s first war of independence called the Paik Vidroh of Orissa, she and her people were such that they were beyond being subdued either by the British Military or by the Police. (Magistrate W.Forrester, Khurda to Commissioner Robert Ker, at Para 18 of his Report Dated 9.9.1818).

All the fellows considered Orissa’s top level bureaucrats or technocrats, professionals or politicians, residential or non-residential, who assert or are viewed as Oriya elites, come either from the community of farmers or from the strata that have prospered by cheating the farmers in the name of religion or under the cover of trade in crops or crop connected commodities or crop loan. Hence whosoever has ascended to upper echelons in Orissa, owes his or her elite status only to the farmers of Orissa.

Chief Minister Navin Patnaik has been injuring these proud farmers by forcing them to part with their soil so that industrialists would rule the roost.

Farmers of Orissa are self-employed. They supplement each other in clusters of self-employed autonomous social forces. Navin’s POSCO love threatens them with displacement and consequential destruction of their self–dependence that eventually would force them to live as servants for survival in an environment where labour department is so pro-management that availability of service with fair pay is impossible.

When the farmers of Orissa are reluctant to part with their lands, POSCO, hand-in-glove with the miscreants in power, has cultivated dogs in the kennels of the elite that are not only barking at those farmers but also have started pouncing upon their leaders.

This is the scenario everywhere in Orissa.

When dogs of the industries fail to frighten the farmers, two specific strategies are adopted.

The Government arbitrarily allots thousands of Acres of land reserved by the ancestors for use of future generations of the Oriyas to industries basically belonging to non-Oriyas, thereby bestowing upon them the unholy rights they need to operate from the soil of Orissa against the people of Orissa. Like scheming prostitutes side with shrewd pimps, media bigwigs stand with the ad-givers and pleasure-providers and use their misguiding might to highlight how land allocation to these industries would usher in the bright future for people of Orissa when its farmers know that their future would be doomed forever under shifting of administrative priority from agriculture to industry.

When grabbing of the land belonging to future generation of Oriyas fails to fully satisfy their avarice, they use the second strategy.

They start blackmailing Navin Patnaik, whose spree of signing of MOUs has, they know, kept his sail afloat in Orissa’s turbulent political seas. They start threatening to nullify the MOUs and to roll back their proposed ventures if the several thousand of Acres of consolidated land they want is not readily handed over to them. POSCO had played the tricks a few weeks ago and now has Arcelor Mittal.

Arcelor Mittal’s unilateral declaration to roll back his proposed steel industry from Orissa if obstacles to land acquisition in its favour are not stilled by Navin Government is being read as blackmail used by Mittal against Navin to force him to immediately render Orissa farmers landless by force.

Mittal has not gained over Orissa government to go away the way he asserts. It is not for serving the people of Orissa but for exploiting them for his own profit, Mittal has been trying to grab land in Orissa.

The Orissa Secretary in the Department of Mines had in October 2007 informed the Central Government that Arcelor Mittal “have made a formal application for allocation of land in Keonjhar district and the State Government is looking into the matter”. But three months prior to that, in July 2007, the Company’s Chairman L.N.Mittal, had declared at New Delhi that they “have already placed an order of $50 million to purchase equipment for the two steel units (one each in Orissa and Jharkhand of 12 MT capacity)”. This makes it clear that even before initiation of steps for acquisition of lands, Mittal was so very sure of getting ownership thereof that he had invested so massive money “to purchase equipments”. In other words, Mittal had decided to grab the Orissa land and had made Navin Patnaik support his design. This is a nefarious mischief in play against the people of Orissa.

The proud farmers of Orissa, by obstructing transfer of their beloved land to Mittal, have frustrated the evil design so far. Hence Mittal’s new drama of declaring a roll back can be termed as deliberate design to provide Navin with new arsenals to proceed swiftly against farmers that are opposing to be rendered landless.

When the State Government is not for the people of the State but for the land grabbers from outside the State, the contradiction seems too sharp for the people to tolerate.

Orissa is really in a severe predicament.

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