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            Two mine workers, Rabi Murmu and Abhimanyu Mahanta, of Sukinda Chromite mining area of Jajpur district of Odisha, while opposing their illegal suspension from their work, while they were uniting other workers to place their common demands before the management and while both of them were questioning the silence of existing trade unions on workers’ issue have been arrested on false charges of “sedition”, “riot”, “waging war against the State” and under various sections of Unlawful Activities of Prevention Act . Both of them were arrested on 12th June 2017. The Ganatantrik Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan, Odisha condemns their illegal arrest in strongest language.

A four-member fact finding team Ganatantrik Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan, Odisharecently went to Kamarda Chromite Mining area of Sukindaof Jajpur district and met family members of  the‘accused’ Rabi Murmu and his associates. The team also met trade union leaders, journalists, defense lawyers and also visited the Jajpur Sub-Jail. Here we want to bring before you that Rabi Murmu, a tribal youth of Balipada village under Kaliapani Police Station of Jajpur district, was working as a Labour Supervisor in B.C. Mohanty and Sons Private Limited, a chromite mining lease holder of Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC), a Public Sector Unit of Government of Odisha. Abhimanyu Mahanta of Ragada village under Kaliapani Police Station of Jajpur district was working as Loading Khatedar (Record Keeper) under South Kaliapani Chromite Mines, a lease holder of OMC.

Both Rabi Murmu and Abhimanyu Mahanta were members of “SukindaAnchala Chromite Khadan Majdoor Sangha”. The trade union, ‘Majdoor Sangha’, was supported by ruling Biju Janata Dal. The President of the Sangha is local MLA PritiranjanGhadei. Both were opposing exploitative activities of the management and were questioning the silence of their own trade union on different issues of workers. Those activities have invited both of them to be confined in Jajpur Sub-Jail since 12th June 2017 on charges of section 121 (waging war against the State), section 124 A (sedition), section 147 (Riot) of IPC, under various sections of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and section 25 and 27 of Arms Act.

There were regular complaints by different workers in form of filing cases before the labour court and in other ways against those lease holders, mining companies of the OMC, of irregular payment or not paying wages for months, not promoting workers from unskilled workers to semi-skilled and skilled workers though they have skill, making police clearances mandatory for making B-registration, not paying any attention towards safety of workers and ignoring pollution in mining area etc. If more complaints were coming from a particular contractor or sub-lessee holder, then the OMC would change its contractors. The older contractors would vanish from the scene without paying salary and wages of workers. In all these cases, “SukindaAnchala Chromite Khadan Majdoor Sangha”, the only trade union, was becoming silent. They Union was not raising any issue before the management.

According to workers that the team met, the Union was very much dissatisfied with the activities of Rabi Murmu and Abhimanyu Mahanta. The Union leadership was also vigilant of these two workers for their activities. Rabi Murmu’s job was not renewed when the older company left the area and the Coronation Company, a sub-lessee of B.C. Mohantyand Sons Private Limited, started extraction of chromite from the lease land of the OMC. It is alleged that Rabi Murmu’s entry inside the mining area was denied due to pressure from the Union and the B.C. Mohanty and Sons. Rather, he was advised to do B-registration and for that take clearance from Kaliapani Police Station.  Seeking clearances from local police station for B-registration, that too only for inhabitants of Jajpur district, is unconstitutional. The local police station was intentionally denying a clearance to Rabi Murmu for which he was moving here and there without work.

Abhimanyu Mahanta has been working under South Kaliapani Chromite Mines of the OMC since 2009. His B-registration number is OMC/L/GCm/576. His provident fund code number is OR/1759. His identity card was regularly renewed every year and the same was valid till 30th September 2017. Even after that the management denied his entry from 19th May 2017 without citing any reason. He wrote on 2nd June 2017 to the management of South Kaliapani Chromite Mines to cite reasons behind his suspension. Both these workers were opposing forceful displacement of the adivasis of Masesahi village due to expansion of mining areas of the OMC. They were forcing the management of the OMC to give compensation before doing displacement.

They had invited a few other workers to the gate area of the washing plant of Kamarda Chromite Mines of the OMC on 12th June 2017. When workers were signing their demands to place before the management, around 9.30am,a few police officers of Kaliapani Police Station reached the Mine’s gate and took Abhimanyu Mahantaand Rabi Murmufor questioning. The police also took Ramesh Majhi of Kunjabahal village of Keonjhar district. Ramesh is a relative of Rabi Murmuwho was present at the gate as an on-looker. Three of them have been now charged with ‘sedition’, ‘waging war against the state’, ‘riot’ and various sections of UAPA. The FIR filed by the police also carries the name of PareshMahanta, whose address is not mentioned, and others. This is the usual strategy of the police to spread fear among workers who are uniting both against the existing union and palcingdemandsbefore the management.

Monograph on Chromite, a publication of Indian Bureau of Mines (2013) writes that of the total chromite reserve in India, 98% exists in Odisha of which 95% is found in Sukinda area of Jajpur district. Chromite is essential for making steel and for that various agencies are exporting large Chromite to other countries like China and Japan what the report says. The companies involved in chromitemining in Sukinda are FACOR, IMGA, TATA, Jindal, OMC, Aditya Birla etc. There are 12 mining corporations involved with extraction of chromite ore from 13 mining sitesin this area. Now in this case of illegal arrest, it is proved that the OMC and its lessee companies are not looking after the interest of the Workers. The situations of workers in other mining companies are yet to be investigated.

In the monsoon season of 2016, child deaths in large numbers happened in Nagada villages of Chingudipala panchayat of Kaliapani Police Station of Jajpur district. Such deaths were due to continuous malnutrition. A six-member team of GASS had been to Nagada on 4th February 2017 and had highlighted negligence of agencies of the government involved in welfare activities of Nagada. During that time we had said that those mining companies were not giving attention to development of local area. Arrest of these three people in charges of Sedition and Waging war against the State etc is an example of harassment of workers, the local inhabitants, by the outside companies.

Here we demand,

  1. The government should repeal the UAPA and three of these persons should be released soon.
  2. Workers should get promotion from their skilled workers to semi-skilled and skilled worker position.
  3. All these corporations should give attention towards protection of environment of the area.

 

Dr. Golak Bihari Nath                                                        Kartik Chandra Sahu

President                                                                              Convenor, Jajpur Unit

 

Ganatantrik Adhikar Suraksha Sangathan, Odisha

gassbhubaneswara@gmail.com

 

 

 

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Many trade unions are stoges of mainstream parties and politicians. They are working for the betterment of management and not workers. When workers start questing injustice, the trade unions not only support management but also turn anti- workers. This is a pathetic situation. Independent trade unions with the goals of workers welfare must be formed