Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Time must come after a decade or two, when India will have to develop her own industries to manufacture aircrafts for civilian as well as military purpose and then she would need enough bauxite ore to get the required metal for the purpose. But by then she might have been denuded of her bauxite deposits if the Vedanta type of extraction is encouraged, fears eminent economist Prof. Nilakanth Rath in a mail to Sachi Satpathy, a known facilitator of conversations on Orissa’s development.
“I have read the Vedanta Committee report. It is well drafted”, says Prof. Rath. To him, “it is sad” that the government of Orissa “quite clearly” has “failed to carry out its statutory duties and the company and the government have given false reports to the centre”.
“What surprised me is that all this falsehood was indulged in to ensure the supply of ore from the Niyamgiri hills, which will supply seven per cent of the total ore to the mill from Orissa, and with the illegally expanded production capacity of the mill to 6 mt of aluminium, i.e., 18 mt of ore, the Niyamgiri hills will be exhausted in just four years.”
He wonders, “It is difficult to understand why the company and the state government had to indulge in so much of falsehood and court cases for so little.”
Prof. Rath, presently Hon. Fellow, Indian Institute of Political Economy, Pune, leads us into “a different and wider question” that needs deep cogitation.
Taking into accounts the international data on bauxite ore deposits, he notes that the biggest deposit of bauxite at places like Australia and Niger, which are much larger than India’s, are marked for quite low exploitation. “I guess …..India’s comparatively smaller deposits will be exhausted in about a couple of decades if the proposed expansion by Vedanta and some others is added to the current rate of exploitation……..If my rough impression from some data I had seen is correct, such rapid exploitation of our very limited ore will leave the country at the mercy of the MNCs that will control the large resources in Australia and Niger, by the time India will begin to develop industries, like aircraft manufacture for civilian as well as military purpose in the next couple of decades” says Prof. Rath.
He suggests that India’s known bauxite deposits should be studied in the context of the current rate of extraction of the ore and Vedanta type of added extraction plans and handled with foresightedness if long-term national interest is to be prioritized over instant private interest.