Tata’s use of an industrial site has been welcomed in Birmingham – but its occupation of fertile land in India is deplored

Tata’s British Jaguar Land Rover sites – already developed for industrial use – are offering much needed work to local people.

However, reading the Birmingham Post, Ratan Tata: We saved a British icon but Jaguar Land Rover won’t stop there, brought to mind the shadow side of this corporate star and prompted a search to see if its record in India had improved.

Problems have arisen, tarnishing the Tata conglomerate’s image since the 90s, many because of a determination to site factories on fertile land, instead of industrial sites, and displaced people have protested at losing their homes and livelihoods. See the Birmingham Post 2008: Misery is the price farmers must pay for the ‘People’s Car’

2006 – their darkest hour

The magazine Tehelka reports that when people congregated and marched towards the site acquired by Tata Iron and Steel Company which was surrounded by armed police:

“They were protesting against the forcible displacement of local people from their indigenous habitat, the brazen destruction of their ecology and habitat, and the outrageously bad deal in terms of rehabilitation and compensation. The police reportedly went berserk and opened fire, while the people ran to save their lives. When the spiral of violence ended, 12 tribals were dead, several more were seriously injured, one policeman was killed and others injured.”

Relatives of the 13 victims of the police firing against adivasi protestors on 2 January 2006 are still awaiting justice. A judicial inquiry ordered by the Orissa government into the deaths in the 2006 police firing remains inconclusive.

And further violence in 2010 prompted an Amnesty International investigation

AI’s measured recommendation is to “halt unnecessary and excessive use of force by police and private civil militias on Adivasis (indigenous communities) and peasants protesting against the acquisition of their lands and habitats for steel projects respectively in Kalinganagar and Jagatsingpur.

“Laxman Jamuda, a 50-year-old adivasi leader, was killed and ten protestors – including a few women – were injured in police firing and nine others sustained injuries during clashes in Kalinganagar, on 12 May. Eyewitnesses informed Amnesty International that the action involved more than 1,000 police officials against about 300 tribal protestors, some of whom armed with traditional weapons.

In August 2011, the Business Standard reported the protest against upcoming power projects of Tata Group and a subsidiary of Britain’s OPG Power. Over 3,000 villagers including fishermen, salt pan workers and farmers from about 10 villages held a 50 km rally from Bhadreshwar in Kutch to the district headquarter in Bhuj. According to the protesting fishermen, the two power plants have severely curtained the former’s access to sea as well as destroyed their fish yield as a consequence of outlet channels from the plant sites.

In April 2012, The Telegraph reported that the entrances of Tata Bluescope, Timken and Tata Steel Processing and Distribution Limited, formerly known as Tata Ryerson, were blockaded in an attempt to restrict movement of raw materials and finished products in and out of the companies. Trucks, trailers and dumpers could not enter or leave the premises. People were seeking a promise of improvement to roads, water and electricity provision in slums located within 5km radius, where many Tata employees live.

The Indian government is now taking a stronger stand

12 July 2012 the Times of India reported that Central Government has ‘disapproved’ the allocation of 1,808 hectare area of iron ore to Tata Steel in a sector of reserved Saranda forests.

*

The world must preserve all its fertile land – food is essential to life. As Bibhuti Pathi says, in every country the question must be asked:

“Is it a peoples’ government or a government of the industrial houses?”

 

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