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Blog: Bangla Vision
Description: Campaigns/updates/news stories/analysis. This forum is a place for debate on political as well as socio-economic ideologies in a rational manner. This group is for those people who believe that in order to live in a better world we must in the first place get rid of profit and greed,the two interlinked categories that formed the very basis of our societies as well as international relation. The position of this group is on the left to center that accepts all possible alternative solutions of problems for the common good of human race. We have specific interest for any revolutionary process that promises to bring about a categorical change of the societies by empowering commoners including marginalized comunities as well as campaigning against capitalist globalisation and racism.
Created by mohammad on Sat 24 of Feb, 2007 13:34 IST
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Environmental Public Hearings: A Critical Study

Posted by culture on Sat 02 of Jun, 2007 12:36 IST

Umesh Nazir

Today environmental public hearings have become a second Auschwitz . Like the earlier Auschwitz, its purpose is annihilation of opposition. The purpose of this environmental public hearing is the destruction of the constitutional and natural rights of the Adivasis and Dalits. In this demolition of their rights neither the Indian constitutional rights nor the international chapters instituted in this regard are being respected. However, this is a one-sided view. The other side of the coin is the fact that the public hearing instituted under pressure from the public for protection of industrial interest has today become a bone of contention under mass pressure. In such a situation it is neither able to adopt a totally public interest nor industrial attitude. Thus environmental public hearings have come to mean the battlefield of separate and clashing interests. The clash of interests has changed the character and culture of these public hearings. Against such a background the study of the present situation of environmental public hearings can prove to be a positive effort at establishing a healthly dialogue between the community and the industrial interests. The need for such a dialogue in these times is being felt greatly because as the Jharkhandi communities demolishing old and established notions of progress are trying to institute new ones, for the national and multi-national companies, Jharkhand has become the centre of attraction for its rich reservoir of natural resources.

Within the said contradictions one of the important concerns of the world on environment on which discussion is in its peak but in real environment is in a most negligible state. For the sake of the environment which has been kind of romanticized, the government and the NGOs show themselves to be very concerned about it, whereas the issues which cause havoc to the environment, i.e. the mines and industry being the main reason for environmental imbalance today are not being addressed in a proper and affective manner. What remains now is a process of legal tool which needs to be adopted as a corrective measure, but on the contrary the already existing tool ‘the public hearing’ is still lacking its proper meaning in its practice. It’s meaning and proper practice within the contradictions can enable a healthy dialogue which is needed the most.

The Present of Environmental Public Hearings

The present scenario of environmental public hearings in Jharkhand is different from that of the other states. For the masses here it has only one meaning — a strong weapon for the protection of its natural resources, social identity and livelihood. The masses do not perceive their identity and livelihood as a separate entity from environment. The people have played to the conspiracies of the State Pollution Control Board changing their strategies in accordance with its policies.

In the initial days of public hearings, the masses took it as a platform for voicing their grievances. For example, at the Banduhurang public hearing in February 2004, organized by Jharkhand state pollution control Borad for UCIL’s project, the local populace and their supporters tried to voice their concerns regarding the effects of the uranium project . However, the police and UCIL musclemen forcefully threw them out. Sunita Dube, an environmentalist who had come from Delhi to attend the public hearing later said, “UCIL did not follow the right public hearing procedure and despite many letters and requests, the complete EIA and EMP documents were not provided to the people. This is mandatory now as per the 13th June 2002 amendment and MoEF to the EIA notification. As this is a Schedule 5 area, no consent of the gram sabha has been sought and the same stands for the consent for forest clearance under FCA . Despite this, the pollution control board provided NOC to the company for the project. This was not an isolated case when the company and the State Pollution Control Board flouted the norms of the EIA.

In another public hearing, the video recordings of which are with us, the same happened. On September 25, 2004, a public hearing was held in Noamundi in West Singhbhum District for the expansion project of TISCO. In this hearing held in DAV School premises, the people to be affected by this expansion project were not allowed to participate at all! The hearing was held in the land owned by the TISCO in flagrant violation of the EIA-1997 rules and the main gate leading to the venue was locked with police standing guard. Angered by this, the public had blocked the main road of Noamundi to protest against this sham hearing. After two-three hours of blockade, the then chairman of the board Mr. Lal Mukand Nath Shadev came to meet the people and assured them that he would convey their grievances to the high-ups. How their demands were conveyed was proved soon when an NOC was provided to the company for the project and the work commenced.

Such shameful public hearings have been happening in Jharkhand for a long time. Consequently, the public has started regarding these hearings as a fraud. Probably today there are no public hearings that pass unmarred by slogans of “Public hearing eik dhokha hai”. From the public point of view today, the failure of public hearings is the biggest weapon for protection of their identity and livelihood. And this has become the identity of Jharkhand. The biggest proof of this is the public hearing organized in the Kuarmunda block.

We can understand this when we move out of Jharkhand. At a public hearing organized at Kuarmunda block of the bordering Sunderghad district in Orissa, faced by the protests of the public an official of the state pollution control board remarked, “it seems people from Jharkhand are here and maybe it’ll end as in Jharkhand. It was being reported to a senior official. It seemed that Jharkhandis’ identity in other states is that of scuttling public hearings. This identity wasn’t built in a day. Nor does it have a precedent. It remains unanswered though as to who is responsible for this identity of Jharkhand. If we state the present condition of public hearings here, we have will have to say:

• The role of the State Polution Control Board is suspicious • Jharkhand’s masses have one way to stop public hearings: vociferous protests • In the masses understanding there is no difference between the project proposing company and the organizers of the hearings

Administration’s understanding of public hearings

Even the administration does not understand the difference between the project proposer and the organizer of public hearings or perhaps because of the overlapping interests it just refuses to do so. This not a wild guess but a conclusion arrived at after analysis.

In Hazaribagh district sadar police station a FIR has been registered accusing the workers of the Karnpura Bachav Sangharsh Samiti for disrupting NTPC public hearing. What is the purpose of terming it NTPC public hearing? We should think of it. Under the rules of EIA-1997, the state pollution control board notifies a public hearing upon receipt of a project proposal from the concerned party. However, the OC of the concerned police station has registered the FIR under section 353 of the IPC accusing the activists of disrupting NTPC public hearing!

Now the question arises here – Does the NTPC has the right to hold a public hearing for its own project. Secondly, it is a public sector company how can it do government work? And if it has organized a public hearing then why was an FIR not registered against it for doing government work? Is this not a storehouse of questions in itself?

The other big question is that though the public hearing was notified on January 6th, 2007, NTCP was clandestinely holding it at 10.30pm on January 5 night itself with the group of villagers (pimps) its officials had collected for the purpose. And the biggest proof of this is FIR No 12/2007 registered in the said police station. The project proposers are in a tearing hurry to prove the success of this public hearing is borne out by this FIR. But why this hurry, we’ll come to it later.

How the administration is supporting the companies

On an analysis of the said FIR, it would be apparent how the police is supporting the company in its bid to declare the public hearing successful. So much so that it is not even scared of putting its neck on the block.

Notably, the time of FIR is noted as 10.15pm, when the incident has been recorded as taking place at 10.30pm. It’s a puzzle in itself as to how the police comes to know about the incident even before it occurs. Bribery can be behind it. But the way the district court has released six of the accused after fine for this while retaining a few, proves that the Jharkhand administration as well as the judiciary are bent upon proving the public hearings organized under the MoU of the state government successful, whatever the cost. If this is contrary to the earlier decisions of the government or contravenes the rights granted to the citizens, so be it.

The public hearings have thus shortened the distance between the administration, the judiciary and the industrial world. So much so, that they are now interfering into each other’s work. Under such circumstances, the opportunities for voicing their feelings are shrinking for the masses. This is neither beneficial for the progress of the democracy nor industrial development when the increase in such opportunities can boost both on the path to progress. But in a rush for so-called development the state government has decided to prohibit all such opportunities. As such, the role of both the administration and the judiciary in the aforementioned case is unavoidable.

How were public hearings conceived?

Environmental Public Hearings have their genesis in the Environment Protection Act 1986. In this Act the definition of environment includes “water, air and land and the inter-relationship which exists among and between water, air and land, human beings, other living creatures, plants, micro organisms and property . The definition shows how theses public hearings were conceives and the role of the public in it.

We must reflect on the environment related works of the industries if we are to understand the importance of the public hearings. After independence, the makers of our industries and its projects had for their models the development measures of Britain and other developed nations. As a result, industries became the main development criterion for India and perforce the government had to even ignore their lackadaisical attitude towards environmental issues. As a result, environmental imbalance emerged as the biggest challenge before the nation. In the UN Conference on the Human Environment-1972 in Scotland, the Indian Government’s attitude towards the issue was very serious. Its concern was not merely the product of imagination but was the result of the long years of environmental neglect by the big industrial houses in the country.

This attitude was the inspiration behind the Environment Protection Act 1986. The definition lists all those affected by the activities of the industries. Along with it, the wide ambit of environment proves that the government is not capable of protecting the environment alone. This is the reason for the emergence of environmental public hearings. The importance of the public hearings is proved by the rules regarding the holding of one under the provisions of the EIA 1997: • The notification regarding a public hearing has to be published at least 30 days in advance • One of the notices must be in the local dialect of the region • The venue of the public hearing must be in the affected region or near the block headquarters

The writer has got these facts from the BIRSA MMC folder on public hearings. The reason behind the 30 day prior notice is to enable the maximum numbers of the affected people to attend the public hearing and the same to be ascertained by the organizers. The mandatory publication of the notification in the regional language is because the local public is unlettered in the official Hindi and English languages but it is essential to reach them for their attendance is a must. The selection of the venue in the affected region or near the block headquarters proves that this is was done by the makers of the Act keeping in view the previous nefarious activities of the industrial houses regarding environment. They knew it well that the corporate houses are concerned only with profit and instituting a dialogue for public good was essential for only masses themselves could pressurize them to take into account the general good while drafting their project proposals. And this must take place under the administration’s protective umbrella that is responsible for protecting the rights of the citizens.

The following can be listed with regard to public hearings:

• The act cannot trust corporate houses regarding environment protection • The government believes that the masses have a role to play in it • Environment cannot be seen in isolation from those closely associated with it

If seen from this angle, it would be found that the Environment Protection Act 1986 also accepts the public as the protector of environment. Corporate houses cannot be seen as the friends of the environment and hence the need for public pressure.

Conclusion

Today, the new concept of public hearings is bent upon destroying the original ideas behind the very conception of the public hearings. However, we can understand the reasons behind this negative change bring about the right attitudinal changes to restore the original value and importance of these hearings. In the recent years there has been a marked change in the attitude of the government and the public both. To understand this change we must first understand the material and real issues that have cropped up in society that were earlier not there. Let us first see the specialties of the new era and how they have affected the public hearings. The new elements in the current era can be listed as below. • Governments are weaker now than earlier and there is greater pressure of capitalism • Capital power has weakened the borders of the nation • Better communication facilities has made the public more aware of their rights and issues, but the market is influencing its behaviour too • Environment related internal disputes are now more apparent

The new face of public hearings is not in accordance with act. There have been major changes in it. These are not superficial changes but deeper changes that have changed the very character of the public hearings.

Before trying to understand the new character of the public hearings, it is essential to understand who are to benefit from its success or failure. If the public hearings are successful then the proposer of the project will definitely benefit but also the class that has been ruling in one way or the other will emerge as more powerful in Jharkhand. For example we can see the changes in the demographic profile in areas where the proposals have been implemented. With this in the public hearing in Jharkhand one such category has emerged who can be called as dalals / pimps / brokers. Though at present the interest of the ‘pimps’ or brokers lie with the capitalist but in the days to come it is surely going to change. This is because in the globalization process the small investors who are today acting as brokers in support of the big investors will be engulfed into it, as proletariats. The corporate sector and their agents would never want the public hearings to be unsuccessful. However, the affected local populace with a stake in the whole process whose participation has not yet been made successful and hence are unable see a positive relation between industrial interests and local interests are the ones trying scuttle public hearings.

In this context instead of establishing a dialogue, Public hearings have given rise to silences. This in turn has separated the indigenous communities of Jharkhand from the whole process of development, when after the creation of the state it was the responsibility of these communities to demolish the old concepts of development and to create a new aesthetic of progress to replace it. It’s a conspiracy to nip in the bud any attempts at creation of a new concept of social development to protect the interests of the deprived and exploited communities and Dalits. Jharkhandi communities have been pushed on a blind path which can never lead to progress in accordance with the basic tenets and needs of its communities and which would stop the assimilation of wealth that would help in the expansion of its colonies.

However on the initiative of mass revolution attempts are being made to find new ways. The masses by declaring their natural rights on the natural resources are ruining the assimilation of wealth that would boost the attempts at colonization. The revolution has made the people more conscious of their development related rights. In several places schools being run by tribal communities point to the fact that the communities are waking up to the need to institute development policies as per their needs. That is why in the last two years seven public hearings were disrupted in Karnpura region with the people raising the demand for declaration of their area as agricultural zone on various platforms. Seen in this context, it is obvious that amid internal disputes the culture carved out of the new face of public hearings on the one hand is working to create the ground for the national and multinational companies, on the other, it has made the communities more aware of the need to protect its rights from the conspiracies of the government and the companies. Along with it, their worries about the future and their awareness of their historical past have created a new hope in Jharkhand that will work at keeping the interests of the masses alive and fulfill its responsibility of rebuilding a new state.


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Maoist meet after 36 yrs, Kashmir to Manipur on agenda

Posted by mohammad on Sat 24 of Feb, 2007 14:00 IST

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Shafi Rehman

Support pardon for Afzal Guru; fight by “nationalities” across India for self-determination; demand Telangana, Vidarbha

NEW DELHI, February 21:Giving the Union Home Ministry a rude jolt, the banned Maoists, who fight a low-intensity war with the Indian state along the “Red Corridor” down a swathe of central India from the border with Nepal in the north to Karnataka in the south, have concluded their ninth party congress somewhere in the “liberated zones” along the Jharkhand-Bihar? border with a call to extend support for secessionist struggles ranging from Kashmir to Manipur.

The month-long Unity Congress, held after a period of 36 years since the eighth congress in 1970 and the first to be held after merger of the Maoist Communist Centre of India (MCC) with the People’s War Group in 2004, was attended by 100 delegates from 16 states, including activists of the fraternal Maoist parties from Nepal, Philippines and Bangladesh. It concluded on February 3.

While vowing to fight the SEZs coming up in different parts of the country, the CPI (Maoist) Congress also supported the demand for pardon of Afzal Guru, convicted in the Parliament attack case, as well as for formation of separate states of Telangana and Vidarbha. The Unity Congress also exhorted its cadre to use every possible means to free its detained activists, even it meant organising jailbreaks.

We should support ‘just struggles’ of nationalities and sub-nationalities that demand a separate state for their development. Kashmiris and various nationalities of the North-East?, such as the Assamese, Nagas, Manipuris and Tripuris, have been long waging an armed struggle against the Indian Government for their right to self-determination, including the right to secede from the so-called Union of India,” Muppala Lakshman Rao alias Ganapathi, who was re-elected general secretary, told the delegates.

Focusing on the Kashmir problem, he said: “The conflict between the Indian forces and Kashmiris has generated fresh mass resentment in the wake of the Centre’s designs to hang Afzal Guru. The Kashmiri people, along with the enlightened democratic sections all over India, have raised the just demand to desist from hanging the innocent Afzal Guru.”

The congress decided to form organisations such as ‘Committee to Release Prisoners’, comprising intellectuals, democracy-lovers and members of the families of imprisoned comrades. “Efforts are already underway,” the general secretary said.

According to the Credential Committee report of the Unity Congress, top six activists in Andhra Pradesh and 26 in Tamil Nadu are detained under POTA, while 16 in Karnataka and about 25 in north Chhattisgarh have been languishing in jails.

Upbeat about its “success” in organising Dalit protests and demonstrations against SEZs, the Congress also resolved to further strengthen people’s army, and deepen the mass base of the party.

Recognising the role of caste in class revolution, the congress made significant additions to party documents by pin-pointing the specific character of Indian feudalism /semi-feudalism as being “deeply interwoven with the caste system and Brahminical ideology”.

The Congress reaffirmed the general line of the new democratic revolution with agrarian revolution as its axis and protracted people’s war as the path of Indian revolution.

Labels: CPI (Maoist), NEWS text


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