Democracy minus people

True face of governance in Orissa


Prasanna Mohanty | June 15, 2011

Can there be anything more telling about the insensitivity and brutality of a democratically elected government which sends cops to surround villages where young children and women are lying on the ground for days together to resist forcible eviction from their land by declaring their protest “unlawful”?

Photographs of people’s protest from Jagatsinghpur in Orissa, who are resisting acquisition of their land for South Korean steel major Posco, are shocking to say the least. But that has not moved anyone.

The high-handedness of the state is evident. It wants to acquire the land no matter what. Its MoU with Posco lapsed a year ago and hence acquiring land on its behalf is wholly illegal. A PIL challenging this was filed in the high court a fortnight ago, but the court has found no time to take it up. In contrast, Allahabad high court took suo motu cognizance of newspaper reports recently to quash land acquisition by the UP government in several places.

No political party of any worth in the state, save for marginal players like the CPI and CPM, has come forward to speak for the people. The ruling BJD and other players like BJP and Congress have been know-towing with Posco for the past six years. The bureaucracy too is completely on the side of the private company. Nobody stands up for the rule of law knowing well that the action violates the Forest Rights Act and sidesteps gram panchayats’ resolutions opposing the move.

Last Sunday, three days into the desperate attempt by two thousand villagers to protect their homes and land by lying down on the ground, the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), which granted forest clearance a month ago to make way for land acquisition, makes a ridiculous statement.

It says the state government can’t “use this clearance as a license for forcible acquisition of land”. What then the clearance was for?

The cops have been standing guard, surrounding the villages of Dhinkia pancyat for days now, waiting for the villagers to blink. Yesterday, the state government put off forcible eviction for five days in view of “raja” festival.

But how long the villagers can stand up to the state’s might is a moot question. For now, children and women are lying on the ground with men providing them food and water. The centre has provided a good example of using tear gas and police batons to forcibly throw away Baba Ramdev and his followers from the Ramlila grounds though they were holding a peaceful demonstration against corruption. They were sleeping at the time of police action.

How will the centre then stop Orissa if it were to use force in a similar fashion?



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