By Tarjei Leer-Salvesen
Mr Sh. D. S. Tewatia, a former judge at the Calcutta High Court, and human rights activist Mr Swami Agnivesh met India's president on January 13 to present the contents of their report on the shooting in Maikanch on December 16 (see NorWatch 13/2000). The president expressed great concern over development in this case, and promised to raise the issues with the Indian premier and government as soon as possible.
- Shot on the company's orders
The report accuses the Orissa State administration, the police in particular, of having bowed completely to the demands and wishes of Utkal Alumina International Limited, the mining company where Norsk Hydro is the main shareholder. The shooting incident is described as planned in advance. It is claimed that the incident was not provoked by the local people, and that the shooting was out of control in the sense that people were hit at random. In this regard, the report stresses the high number of injuries, as well as the fact that three cows and a buffalo were also hit by police bullets. The report goes as far as to claim that the massacre took place on the orders of Utkal Alumina. The report further states that Orissa's three largest political parties, BJD, BJP, and Congress, are acting as agents for powerful industry interests instead of as representatives of the people who elected them.
The report ends with a description of the local population's struggle against the mining company and a list of recommendations, namely that:
1. ex gratia compensation in the order of half a million rupis be paid to the families of the deceased, and 50,000 rupis to each of those injured in the shooting;
2. all mining projects and other large industrial projects in the Adivasis' areas must be subject to review with a view to the rights and wishes of the tribals affected;
3. the fundamental rights of the tribals be secured, and the fifth "Scheduled Area" (area that grants special rights to the Adivasis, which this part of Orissa belongs to - Ed.) be protected and upheld.
Construction start postponed again
A while after the Maikanch massacre, NorWatch discovered by coincidence that, on the Utkal Alumina presentation at Norsk Hydro's website, the year for construction start and the final investment decision had been changed. NorWatch contacted Thomas Knutzen, information manager at Hydro Aluminium Metal Products, which has been involved in the Utkal project for several years.
- I can confirm that we have adjusted the progress prognosis for Utkal Alumina, says Knutzen, though he will not admit that this is a postponement.
- You were originally going to start construction of this project in the summer of 1996. Now, you have readjusted the progress prognosis to the year 2002. So isn't that a postponement?
- We can at least agree that this project is taking more time than we expected a while ago. In Norsk Hydro, we will not start construction if we have to do it under police protection, Knutzen concludes.
Correction: In NorWatch 13/2000, we wrote in a fact box on Utkal Alumina that Indal is owned by Alcan. This is wrong. What is right is that the Indian company Hindalco bought Indal from Alcan in the year 2000. Today, Indal is an Indian company.
"The Maikanch firing was pre-meditated, preplanned and has been done at the behest of pro-mining lobby consisting of the company, local politician apparently with support from state leadership and local police and administration officials."
- D. S. Tewatia and Swami Agnivesh in the report on the Maikanch shooting.
Norwatch Newsletter 1/01