Dear Jairam Ramesh, Please Listen
By Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere
11 May, 2011
An open letter to India's Environment minister Jairam Ramesh regarding Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL) Public Hearing due to be held at Jadugoda, Jharkhand, on May 26, 2011
Dear Sri Jairam Ramesh,
I am sure you would like to know from the grassroots level as to what happens on the ground during a Public Hearing. Kindly do peruse the matter below (from the grassroots) at the end of my note, regarding the Uranium Corporation of India (UCIL) Public Hearing due to be held at Jadugoda, Jharkhand, on May 26, 2011. I admit that it is rather long but I am sure you know that the atrocities against tribal people do have a long history.
I have attended several public hearings and, barring the public hearings that you personally conducted on Bt-brinjal, in all of them, the project proponents bring in supporters in buses or trucks and crowd out the objectors and shout them down or manhandle them. I have been manhandled on at least one occasion and shouted down on all occasions when I have attended. All this, when the Public Hearing is meant to hear objections to the project and suggestions on how to reduce or mitigate pollution - project supporters have NO PLACE in the Public Hearing since the project proposer anyway makes a presentation of the proposed project, and in case the objectors do not make their case, the clearance for the project is accorded. However, the Deputy Commissioner or other authority conducting the Public Hearing usually takes sides in favour of the project proponent and does nothing to check the supporters when they heckle the people who are genuinely there at the call for the Public Hearing.
I earnestly request you to ensure that the UCIL officials, government servants all, do not use underhand means to force decisions or recommendations at the Public Hearing. I need not emphasize that it is the sacred responsibility of governments, both state and union, to serve the people and check and punish wrong-doing at any level by whomsoever.
With best wishes,
Maj Gen S.G.Vombatkere (Retd)
REPORT FROM THE GROUND
Johar from Jharkhand
You may be aware of the public hearing of UCIL in Jadugoda on 26th may 2011
The experiences of the past public hearings indicate that they have been sheer mockery of law. With the help of police and para-military forces, the local administration and Jharkhand state pollution control board seem to become a party to the entire process, though it is supposed that they act neutrally.
Now (23rd May) we are receiving strange but expected news--- that UCIL is conducting signature campaign amongst the non tribal business community in the four days prior to the public hearing, which is a clear violation of the law. This community thrives on trade carried out in the Jadugoda Market, which in turn flourishes as a result of UCIL.
On the other hand, UCIL had been continuously spreading false propaganda against the Jharkhandi Organisation Against Radiation ( JOAR).
After the Banduhurang Public hearing, in Feb. 2004, the company said “we would expose its reality within a year… we have asked the government to look into the funding of these organizations”.
Soon after the strong opposition in Mahuldih project, the Director Technical, UCIL Mr. D. Acharaya had said it in Hindi daily Uditwani 26.08.05, “it is due to the Dollar coming to these organizations…”
Further, on May 22, 2009 UCIL said “certain anti-national organizations want to weaken the country… be ware of them…” (Prabhat Khabar 22may 2009)
In yet another news paper (May 22, 09, Hindustan) the company as gone on record saying, “ some forces who do not want that the country becomes strong and prosperous, these traitor organizations are earning millions of rupees for this”.
Prabhat Khabar on the same date goes on to say, “local administration is on an alert and ready with extra armed police forces…”
On the contrary despite our efforts to bring the core issues including radiation –its impact on health / environment / life and culture of the indigenous people in the debate, UCIL has so far successfully diverted them completely to suit their interest. They made it as an issue of law and order or conspiracy of anti national forces.
Now after so many years of our struggle we have many books, posters and reports of three health and radiation studies but UCIL has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to these findings!
Prior to these public hearings, the villagers are all along being kept in the dark. Most of them are not even aware of the date of hearing, no documents related to the project have been made available to them. Just few days before the public hearing a 15-18 pages executive summary report is expected to be distributed to some people and it is through these couple of pages they are to understand the entire project that will changes their entire world.
Interestingly, these naïve villagers are not even aware of the basic concept or significance of public hearing. They feel it is more of an opportunity to settle their immediate issues as jobs, rates for their land, land disputes, road, electricity etc. As a result, the issues pertaining to complex environmental impact from the project, its assessment and its management never emerge the main issues of the debate and the company thus gets away very favorably. The issues that are meant to be addressed on such occasions get by-passed.
This was also the case in the previous hearing. The quorum was shown in paper, following which UCIL asked their expert to read out the summary (15 pages) of the report. Henceforth, announcements were made--- “now that you have heard about the project what do you have to say…”?
At the same time, some people slowly slip into the villages,coaxing the vilagers to simply put their signature on some paper, as if taking attendance for the hearing…
And then finally they will ask to raise hand as final decision …
But majority of the locals present there were poor and illiterate, who had never experienced this kind of situation before. So they simply happened to be mute spectators of the drama. However, in sharp contrast, the very purpose of public hearing, is to give an opportunity to the local populace to vent their views and grievances freely on proposed project.
UCIL is always seen to bring its own employees by buses who are made to occupy the seats in the tent or place of occurrence of the meeting. But the actual project affected people sit out side the tent as complete alien to entire drama.
For the first time in
(24th Feb 2004) For Banduhurag project, UCIL went ahead with heavy police presence.
However, even the ground situation was slightly favorable for company. A number of land losers from the earlier Turamdih mine project, (that had been closed down around 1985 due to very poor ore grade) had reasons to feel hopeful. They had been both landless and jobless for all these years. One such villager even said- “we will die of Alpha, Gamma radiations later, but we are dying of hunger each day …” UCIL clearly exploited the situation to its favour.
The second public hearing took place in Baghjanta, (Sept. 2004) which is 30 Kms East of Jadugoda, near the Tata - Musabani Road. The site of the hearing was 12 Kms off the Main Road, in the remote forested interiors.
This area is notorious as the battle field between the armed ultra left and the Government supported counter armed groups. It is here that the JMM MP from Jamshedhpur, Sunil Mahato was killed in broad day light. UCIL once again took advantage of this situation by managing to win over both the groups.
On the day of the hearing, suspicious groups were found placed at regular intervals along the 12 kms stretch leading to the site. They were enquiring from the people and trying to stop them from heading towards the site. However, even if we did manage to reach the place, we were not allowed to be present in the hearing. And, of course, the hearing was so called peaceful.
The situation during the public hearing in Mahuldih (august 2005) was little different. It is 28-30 Kms west of Jadugoda but adjacent to Tatanagar. For the first time UCIL got reply for what they have done in past years in the area. Officers and UCIL ran way from the places of hearing, at the face of severe protests from the locals.
Mahuldih villagers send official back (Hindustan Times August 30, 2005)
But later with the collaboration of local JMM MLA and criminal groups, UCIL conducted the so-called public hearing “peacefully” in the village of the MLA, two Kms, away from the affected village.
The announcements were made that none but the local residents would be allowed to speak. If other’s opened their mouth, they would have to face dire consequences-- all these happened under the heavy presence of police and paramilitary forces.
But it is not that our struggle went in vein. Initially, UCIL after the construction of the third tailing dam, which submerged half of Chaticocha village(1996), was saying that we will construct a fourth dam in the rest of the land in Chaitkocha and TilaiTand . But this time (2009) they are not in a position to expand their project in that direction. The EIA/EMP repot says that EIA is intended to renew lease of Jadugoda mines and receive forestry clearance of 6.37 hectares land for expansion of third tailing dam.
This time too, during the public hearing on May 26, we do not expect any less drama. We will resist with whatever capacity we can but it is beyond our ability to counter the DAE/BARC scientist’s technical and scientific arguments, this struggle is just not against UCIL as the real strength behind them is the mighty Department of Atomic Energy.
As the Indian middle class still busy with pro and cons of nuclear energy or bomb, even left parties are divided (here labour union is dominated by left but UCIL able to use them against the locals), no body seems to hear the voice of the indigenous people’s concern over their culture, life, land, environment, health or even their basic human rights.
We need your support (especially intellectual) solidarity for our movement and struggle for our common future.
Jharkhandi Organization Against Radiation
(Don’t destroy our land and culture for your greed and nuclear pride)
Attachment - news paper cutting
1. Dainik Hinduatan 22nd may 2009
2. Pioneer – 21st may 2009
Translation (Dainik Hindistan 22.05.09 Tatangar )
Public hearing- UCIL and JOAR face to face
*A slow but sure jolt from JOAR
*demand for change the place of hearing
Public hearing- UCIL and JOAR are face to face
A public hearing regarding the renewal of the lease for Jadugoda mine and the enhancement of ore processing capacity of plant will be held in the premises of the Campus colony. JOAR has protested to the Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board(JSPCB) to change the place of hearing. Writing a letter to the Member Secretary (Board), Ghanshyam Birulee, president (JOAR) has noted that the proper place for a public hearing is where majority of project affected people live. Biruli argued that only the employees and their families reside in the UCIL colony, and the affected people would be hesitant in entering the colony and would not feel free to express themselves freely. As a result of strong opposition to a public hearing in Muhaldih, the company organized the hearing in another place and filled the room with its own employees and criminal elements. In Baghjata, UCIL prevented most people from reaching the place of hearing by stopping them on the way. A similar conspiracy is being hatched by the company this time. Although they should have been distributed a month ago, documents relating to the public hearing have still not been distributed to the projected affected people. In spite of agreement with Dungridih and Chatikocha villages, affected people have not been rehabilited. The letter has been signed, among others, by Dumka Murmu secretary JOAR and Charan Murmu,Pargana Kalikapur.
Anti national forces behind opposition to the project: Acharya
People who do not wish to see a strong and prosperous India and do not want benefits of nuclear technology to accrue to India, are the ones opposing UCIL's extension project.
This statement was made by Mr D Acharya, UCIL's Technical Director, in the context of the upcoming 26th May public hearing for the renewal of mine lease, which is being organized by the State Pollution Control Board. He was addressing a press conference in the Narwa Pahar guesthouse on Wednesday. Mr. Acharaya said that where ever UCIL has opened uranium mines, it has catered to the basic needs of the villagers living in the proximity of the mines. On the other hand, these organizations which indulge in anti India activities are getting millions of rupees from foreign countries for disseminating malicious and false propaganda regarding deleterious effects of uranium mining. He then intimated that people's health is minimally impacted by Uranium and its mining. He added that the seven mines in East Singhbhum would generate Rs 12 crore in revenue for the Jharkhand Government, in contrast to the Rs 30 lakhs presently generated. He appealed to the villagers to support the project to enable UCIL to continue its work towards development of the area in future.
Comments are not moderated. Please be responsible and civil in your postings and stay within the topic discussed in the article too. If you find inappropriate comments, just Flag (Report) them and they will move into moderation que.