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Biggest Land Grab After Columbus

By Devinder Sharma

14 November, 2009
Devinder Sharma Blog

I think the eulogisation of Tata's has gone too far. Behind all the glamour, sobriety and humanitariasm that we read and hear about Tata's, there is a dark hidden side which is kept under wraps. It is time we look at the destructive role Tata's have played over the years in uprooting thousands of poor families, and the resulting destruction of livelihoods and the environment.

To overcome their guilt, and that too aimed at pacifying the liberal voices in the urban centres, I am sure Ratan Tata would be thinking of setting up schools and funding some NGO activities in the tribal lands as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

What a sophisticated way to cover your dark underbelly !

I was quite taken aback today to see a frontpage headline in The Hindustan Times: The biggest land grab after Columbus. As the blurb says: Government report criticises corporate exploitation of tribal lands; tribals turn to new friends: Maoist. And if you remember only a few days back, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had publicly accepted, and made a promise: "The systemic exploitation of our tribal communities can no longer be tolerated."

Do you think Manmohan Singh will do anything to stop this? You bet, he will simply push for more such projects that will eventually destroy the social fabric of these tribal lands. If you think I am wrong, let us take the land-grab in Bedanji, a remote rural expanse in Bastar in Chhatisgarh, as a test case. The Tata's plan to set up a Rs 19,500 crore steel plant for which ten villages have to be emtied.

Interestingly, a report of the PM-appointed Ministry of Rural Development committee on Land Reforms has succintly said: "This open declared war will go down as the biggest land grab ever, if it plays out as per the script." The Hindustan Times report quotes the just-released government report warning against the corporate takeover in the Bastar hinterland: "The biggest grab of tribal lands after Columbus."

You can read the full news report here:

I was reading another detailed field report from Pravin Patel, a human rights activist. It tells you how the State government is helping facilitate the process of the massive takeover of tribal lands. It tells you how the official machinery has actually been hand in glove with the industrial houses to ruthlessly exploit the tribals.

This is what he writes: In Chattisgarh the tribal district Batar, District administration has played in the hands of house of Tatas by way of stage managed public hearing bluntly violating the norms and set procedures as laid down in the Notification to grant Environmental Clearances.

By making mockey of the conditions of the Notification where Public Hearing is a mandatory requirement where consultation with the likely affected villagers are held. But to fulfill this mandatory requirements, public hearing was held at the campus of the district collector, which is at a distance of about 30 Kms from the project area. This was done with mischivious motives as it is known to all that the villagers are strongly opposing the setting up of any steel plant in their area.

The entire drama was enacted to show off that the mandatory public hearing is held. This has proved to be nothing less than a puppet show of the district administration where except the most of the tribals who are residents of the villages to be affected, all others were present whom the project proponent hired or managed with the help of District Administration to dance to the tunes of the project proponent house of Tatas.

You may like to read his full report. Please click on:

And finally, what does all this translate into. Well, you guessed it right. The tribals have no one else to seek solace and help from, except Maoists. What to talk of help, no one is willing to even listen to them except the Maoist. No wonder, Naxalism is growing.

As Gandhian Himanshu Kumar said the other day in an interview with the Times of India, (Nov 13, 2009) : Salwa Judum saw a 22-fold increase in Maoist numbers. Green Hunt will result in genocide of Adivasis. Those who survive will become Naxalites.
(Read the interview:

How true? But do you think anyone cares, least of all Manmohan Singh? Ha, he is more hinged to the GDP than the welfare of the human beings that he represents. With Tata's investing Rs 19,500-crore, which will add to the GDP, and that will be his government's report card.

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