Volume 3, No. 11, November 2002


Nagarnar Steel Plant:

A Plan For Destruction

— Nirmala


The construction of the proposed Romellete Steel Plant at Hiranar was abandoned because of the opposition of the people in early 2000. Now the Chhattisgarh government has planned to shift it to the Nagarnar. It is pertinent to remind the public that the multinational Romelette belongs to Russia and the NMDC (National Mineral Development Corporation) had commenced the construction at Hiranar with modern technology provided by the Romellete. Now the people of Nagarnar too have started vigorously opposing it. Since the last one year, Nagarnar has been converted into a battleground. A vehement propaganda campaign is being carried on in the newspapers to convince the people that the Nagarnar Plant is for the ‘development’ of Bastar. They are leaving no stone unturned to prove that the people of the region and the other people, including the People’s War Party, who are opposing the construction of the plant, are ‘anti development’.

They must themselves first answer the question as to what good the plant will do to the people of the region. Only then can it be decided that who is anti-development and who is pro-people.

Will the People Benefit From This Plant?

First, we should go into some history about the Hiranar Plant. The plant was to be constructed with the most modern technology. Only 250 people were to get permanent jobs in it. The jobs required technical knowledge. That these jobs were to go to outsiders was a foregone conclusion, as most of the people of Bastar have no education. They can be employed only as casual labour. So it was a hollow assertion to say that the people there would get jobs and that would bring an end to the vast problem of unemployment in the Bastar area. The people who were supporting the project said that they would try their best to provide the local people with the employment. How was it possible to provide high technical education to the people who were peasants engaged in agriculture? How would they get those jobs? This only meant that the people who ‘would try their best’ to provide jobs could not have provided anything other than daily labour. This work is always casual and not guaranteed. Even the supporters of the plant agreed that the amount of compensation which was being offered for taking away their lands was far below the sum that was required to purchase new lands somewhere else. The people in the area usually grow paddy and also vegetables on the banks of the river Indravati. The cultivation of both rice and vegetables is a part of their lives. Leaving these lands only meant that they would have to break their centuries old relationship with the land and river, which now had become one with their lives and leave for the cities like Jagdalpur to seek jobs like rickshaw pulling or some other casual work. This scene is everywhere to be encountered from the Bailladilla mines to the Narmada dam. Not only the people would have to leave their lands they would also be forced to sell their cattle to the butchers at very low prices.

Besides, the poisonous gasses like carbon mono oxide, sulphur dioxide that would be emitted from the plant would pollute and affect dozens of villages around. The river Indravati would get grimy and push the people of hundreds of villages situated on its banks into deprivation. Everyone in Bastar knows that how much the rivers like Shankhani and Dankani have been polluted by the Bailladilla mines. From Nagarnar to Bhopalpatnam hundreds of villages would be deprived of drinking water for which the Indravati is the only source. Agriculture, fishery, cattle rearing etc. would all be affected awfully. In this way, that plant was not beneficial to the people of Bastar in any way. It would only bring destruction and not development.

Why the Plant Was Shifted From Hiranar to Nagarnar?

The people of Hiranar had from the very beginning opposed the plant due to its prospective destructive effects. The government failed to control the people through appeasement, threats and intimidation. Many democratic individuals and organisations came to the help of the people in stopping the construction of the plant. Another problem for the government was that Hiranar was close to the area where the revolutionary movement has influence. Right from the beginning of the construction of the plant the People’s War Party appealed to the people through press statements and pamphlets to build a strong movement against it. It also tried to lead the people’s movement through establishing contact with them. So, the government was forced to retreat. Then the government chose Nagarnar which is only 14 Km. away from Jagdalpur. The other factor is that the revolutionary organisations have no presence in this area. The government had the impression that the people would hand over their lands to the NMDC without much ado after taking the compensation. They had even thought that if the people refuse to hand over their lands the government can intimidate or buy off the people with the help of the nearby present district headquarters. Therefore, they chose Nagarnar.

Goebbellion Propaganda, Fascist Actions

After the selection of Nagarnar as the venue for the plant, all the political parties of the ruling classes started a Goebbellion propaganda campaign to build mass opinion in favour of the plant. Repeat a lie hundred times and the people will start taking it as a truth, they followed this Goebbellion theory and intensified their campaign along with their lackeys and the officialdom. For this, they used the columns of newspapers in a well-organised way. They began branding those who opposed the plant as "anti-development" and "wanting to keep Bastar in the Stone Age." They did not restrict themselves to oral propaganda only, but resorted to demonstrations by bringing their activists in vehicles to show that a great force is in support of the construction of the plant. Those who were spearheading this movement belonged primarily to Youth Congress and Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha. They stopped the people from democratically registering their protest against the plant. They were not ready to tell the people reality behind the plant and were bent upon convincing the people through terror tactics. How the people will benefit from this plant? What steps were being taken to prevent the pollution of the environment? What would guarantee employment to the people? These and other such questions were not being answered properly while they were interested more in using brute force to suppress the people.

The People of Nagarnar Step Up Their Resistance

The champions of "development" have received another slap after they reached Nagarnar from Hiranar. The day the officials of the NMDC entered the area for the first time for a survey the people started the path of resistance. In the third week of October 2001, when NMDC officials reached Nagarnar the people of several villages tried to encircle them which resulted in the flight of the officials towards Bailladilla. On 24th October when the officials tried to scare the people they picketed the police station in protest in a peaceful way. When police resorted to force the people resisted. As a result, the government decided to remove the police station from there and the families of the policemen had packed up their luggage. This police station was established during British rule to quell the Bhoomkal rebellion of 1910 of the tribal people. The police station has since continued to be here. But then the government changed its decision and reinforced it with another platoon of the State Armed Force. They wanted to suppress the resistance of the people through the power of the gun so that the plant is constructed at any cost.

Cheap Maneuvering

The repression on the resisting people by the police has completely torn away the ‘democratic’ mask face of the government. The government adopted the so-called democratic measures as maneuvers to convince the people that its oppressive tactics were ‘legitimate’ and it still believed in ‘democracy’. To show this, it convened a "people’s court" of different sections, traders, capitalists and officials of Jagdalpur under the leadership of the collector. This was a mere drama. It was announced there that all were allowed to air their complaints and the officials would put their own position. That the decisions will be taken on the basis of minority and majority. The "people’s court" that was held in the month of November, was attended by many mass democratic organisations, people of the Nagarnar area and some environmentalists. But there was a great crowd of the supporters of the plant, including the NMDC officials, traders, bourgeois political leaders, and MLAs from Jagdalpur. Whatever the people may argue but only the numbers were to decide about the majority opinion. The question was: who gave them the right to take a decision on the fate of the people of Nagarnar? Who gave them the right to play with the lives of the people of hundreds of villages? And they gave their meeting the name of a "people’s court"! But they did not dare to organise this "people’s court" in Nagarnar and instead chose Jagdalpur. The lamb is to be sacrificed in Nagarnar and the "people’s court" is organised in Jagdalpur!

The Drama Behind the Curtains

Let us for a while forget about the claims about jobs to be generated by the proposed plant in Nagarnar. Let us talk about the policies that are being followed in Bastar or Chhattisgarh or in the whole of the country. Lakhs of people have been rendered jobless due to economic reforms and globalisation started in the decade of the 1990s. Many public service undertakings have been closed down and many other companies have been privatized. Yesterday it was the story of Balco. The pro-imperialist policies of the government are responsible for the closure of countless factories and industrial units. In Bastar only, many wood cutting mills, rice mills, cement companies etc. are out of business since a long time. The government has not taken a single step to restart these units. On the other hand, companies like the Bhilai Steel Plant, the NMDC are rendering a large number of people jobless by adopting new technologies. Today these rulers are trying to unsuccessfully convince us that the Romellette Steel Plant will solve the unemployment problem and the migration of people will be checked. In fact the government is out to make way for the imperialists to plunder away the wealth of Bastar through such plants. Their claim that it will lead to development is a lie. The example of Bailladilla is clear testimony. Here all the jobs have gone to outsiders while the local people have gotten only the insecure job of manual labour. The high quality iron ore from Bailladilla goes to Japan. The people here live in abject poverty. What the people have lost in cultural and social terms is very difficult to evaluate. Flesh trade, stealing, drunkard ness, gambling etc. are the many evils that are taking a toll of the people. All the rivers and streams in the area have become polluted. The merchants of ‘development’ don’t bother about all these evils. The sufferings of the people never worry them.

What Is ‘Bastar Development’

The forces that are supporting ‘Bastar Development’ in all their frenzy compel us to elaborate on what is "Bastar Development" and how this can be achieved. The development of Bastar means the development of the majority of the peasants living in the area. The main profession of the people in Bastar is agriculture. The wretchedness of the peasants of Bastar is clear from the fact that only a meagre 3% of the land is irrigated here. Therefore, without taking up any concrete planning for the peasants any talk of Bastar development is sheer nonsense. Without providing the people educational and health services the talk of doing away with unemployment through industrial development is a mockery. On the one hand, by providing these facilities, by developing agriculture, and by making farm and jungle produce as the basis for industrialization can be the only method to develop the peasants in a real manner. This industrialization, in turn, must augment agricultural development. The development of educational facilities will develop the human resources needed for the development of industry. In this way, these will in unison help the overall development of the people. The majority of the people of Bastar are demanding this kind of development for them. But what the rulers want to bring through the construction of the Nagarnar plant is nothing different from the Bodhghat project, of the Mukund Steel Plant and Dye Chem Company in the past. This is not the development the people want. The ‘development’ being sought by the rulers will only uproot and displace the people on a massive scale.

One has to understand the nature and interests of forces like "the Bastar Development Council," "the Bastar Development Struggle Forum" that have taken up the cause of Nagarnar Plant. Many among them hope to develop their trades and professions that will come in the wake of the construction of the plant and will be able to earn millions through real estate business. They hope to get many small and big contracts and will exploit the labour of the people of Bastar at dirt-cheap rates. When brokers like Arvind Netam, Mahender Karma, and Manukaram Sodhi talk of the development of Bastar it is nothing more than ridiculous. These ‘adivasi’ leaders who are known for their scams and have earned notoriety are in support of the construction of the plant. The state "communists" like the CPI (M) and CPI are playing a double game. At times they pretend that they are concerned with the damages that will be done to the interests of the people and at other times they don’t strongly oppose the exploitation that the multinationals resort to. The people of Bastar well understand their duplicity. Obviously, all these leaders are supporting the construction of the plant, as they will get a few crumbs through it. The rulers have only decided to make way for the plunder of the area’s rich natural resources by the imperialists.

There is No Alternative Than To Struggle

The people of Nagarnar have been left with no alternative than to struggle vigorously against the construction of the plant. The people must beware of the conspiracies of the vested political leaders and officials to disrupt their unity. The people belonging to all sections of society, the people who love democracy and the democratic mass organisation must support this struggle. People must build a vast movement against the ‘development’ that brings in destruction instead of progress. The People’s War Party has strongly supported the just struggle of the people of Nagarnar. The revolutionary movement that is going on in Bastar is supporting this struggle wholeheartedly. There is no doubt that the people of Nagarnar area will intensify their struggle against the Romellette Steel Plant and make them flee as the people of Hiranar have done and strive to increase the sphere of struggle to bring it in step with the overall revolutionary struggle going on in Dandakarnya.




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