The poor and marginalized tribals in the newly industrializing states of Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand, are growing increasingly restless over the industrial policies being followed by the state governments. Tribal population in these states claim that they have been caught in a triangle of violence (Naxalities, Corporates and Government), according to Ekta Parishad leader and noted Gandhian P.V.Rajagopal tribals groups have expressed serious concern about the model of development which is systematically displacing them from their land and livelihood resources. According to them mining companies and industries are introducing violence into their lives by taking away their livelihood.”
Travelling across 20 states, with a team of 20 volunteers, covering over 70,000 kilometers he said that two well attended consultations were held with tribal leaders in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Rajagopal pointed out that several tribal leaders expressed concern over the fact that armed groups are moving into their areas and forcing them to take up arms. They were also concerned over the fact that an increasing number of paramilitary forces were being injected into their areas. These leaders said it was becoming increasingly difficult for them to survive and remain non violent in this vicious circle of growing violence.
In a note addressed to The Corporate Sector: A Document for Reflection and Dialogue, the team has pointed out that there is a growing perception among the people, both tribals and non tribals, that ‘corporate houses are providing protection money to armed groups.’ The note says that most of the illegal activities, including illegal mining, carried out by corporate were receiving protection from Corporates in lieu to finance for procuring arms and ammunition.
The team was critical of the role of the bureaucracy and said that district authorities seemed to be working hand in glove with corporate against the interest of the people. The note says that in a number of places the team was told that the District Collectors were organizing Gram Sabha meetings and forcing villagers to sign documents favouring Corporates. “The public perception is that Corporate Houses were influencing the district administration to become corrupt and anti people.”
During its tour the team learned how employees of corporate houses were using anti social methods to displace people. It was pointed out that corporate houses were violating the various acts in the process of acquiring land. The note points out that once the MOU with the government had been signed corporate houses showed scant regard for the interests of the people living in the area impacted by the industrial unit.
The team felt that business was ignoring the need for consultation with the people impacted. It was pointed out that local people were seldom taken into confidence nor was there serious concern about their rehabilitation. Farmers pointed out that they were deeply connected with their land which was not only their livelihood but also their identity. They were against acquisition and that the propaganda unleashed by Corporates that they were only interested in higher compensation was not correct. Rajagopal pointed out that a serious situation was developing in all areas where industrialization was taking place. He said industry was not employing local people for fear of unionization but was importing labour on contract basis from outside the state. This was leading to resentment against the management and a growing hatred for the outsiders. “This is not a very healthy situation and could lead to widespread unrest,” says the Gandhian leader.
Expressing deep concern, Rajagopal pointed out that industrialization was necessary if the country is to process. However, he said “Industrialization and growth cannot progress if implemented in a ruthless manner ignoring the rights of the poor and the marginalized. Communities have to be treated as critical stakeholders instead of being treated as obstacles to corporate plans. The culture of industrialization should be one that will take the country forward rather than destroy its values and its most vulnerable people, who are the tribals, minorities and the poor and marginalized.”
Drawing attention to be dreams of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, Rajagopal said Corporate houses need to revisit the idea of Trusteeship proposed by him. He said “industry needs to find ways toundertake their activities without causing much damage to society and the environment.
He said “Practices that force migration to cities and slums and earn profits for a few are unethical practice. Responsibility towards the people and the planet is the first requirement if profits earned are to be legit. Forced and involuntary displacement, cornering common resources, destroying or polluting the environment, dumping wastes, violating human and environmental rights as well as the law of the land do not make for sustainability.”
To talk of Corporate Social Responsibility and the Voluntary Guidelines issued by the government for its implementation has no meaning when laws are flouted with impunity to maximize profits at the cost of the people and society. Rajagopal pointed out that industry needs very seriously to think about the growing anger of the people against business. There is he said an urgent need to give industrialization a human face which will ensure that business attain and retains a sustainable rate of development.
Rajagopal stressed on the fact that the tour and the note produced was not done with the intention of maligning business but an attempt to present the feelings of large sections of the population. It is an attempt to invite the corporate to rethink their present strategies and adopt more people friendly methods. Ultimately it is in the interest of the country that industry survives and grows as it is to ensure that people all over the country enjoy the fruits of economic development and do not feel exploited or deprived.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of INDIACSR.
(Suresh Kr Pramar, Trainer, Writer, CSR Consultant and the Executive Director, Centre for Training & Research in Responsible Business is a veteran journalist presently actively involved in promoting CSR through his publication CRBiz and by conducting workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile No: 09213133042/9899305950)