Nov 11 2007

30,000 March Against Heavy Industry in India

To all those struggling against heavy industry in India, we at Saving Iceland wish you are solidarity and strength. To have 30,000 persons on a blockade must be an incredible feeling, and a product of incredible organisation and will.

Resisting Liberalisation, Privitisation & Globalisation

Biggest civil disobedience movement since Independence
7th Novemeber, Sambalpur

History was made yesterday when more than 30,000 (some say there were almost 50,000) people representing the farming community of western orissa descended upon Burla and marched on to Hirakud dam protesting against the sale of water to companies like Bhusan [Steel], Vedanta [Aluminium] and [Aditya Aluminum]. These farmers had come from villages in the districts of Bargarh, Sambalpur, Nuapada, Bolangir, Sonepur & Jharsuguda. They came in trains, trucks, and jeeps despite all attempts by the police to detain them en route to Burla on the pretext of violation of motor vehicles regulations, etc. The protestors sang songs, shouted slogans, laughed, danced and celeberated all along making it one of the most peaceful and unique protests ever. The police shuddered at the sight of this mammoth rally and every blockade they had put up vanished into thin air.

Ashok Pradhan, activist declared the Disobedience movement a success when the final barricade was decimated by the people. He declared that the SP had assured that people would be allowed to enter the prohibited areas and take a closer look of the very water the people were fighting for. Hearing this many people raced to the prohibited area where a violent & heidous shock was awaiting them. The police started herding back the people with force and lathi charged* at them without any reason or provocation. More than 30 people were injured in the lathi charge and the stampede that followed. Senior citizens, women, teenagers, none were spared as the police displayed an extremely insensitive demeanour in controlling the people. Some were seriously injured with bleeding temples and broken limbs. Broken police lathis were scattered all over the place. People were found moaning in pain without any medical help nearby. There was only ambulance present for the occassion and was parked a few kilometers away. It did not attend properly to those injured. This happened despite activist Lingaraj’s repeated statement on loudspeakers that the fight was not a personal one with the police or any govt. officer but rather the state & central govts. and its water policies. After the lathi charge the people were furious and the peaceful movement seemed to be taking a violent turn. The table turned on the police as thousands and thousands of people started pushing back the police demanding an explanation for the lathi charge. Many jawans seemed to be trembling at the sight and roar of more than 30,000 angry farmers who wanted to know why the police was anti-people and pro-company, & why they were not hesitant to raise their weapons on innocent civilians protesting peacefully. Some people picked up stones and sticks and shouted that they would not take police brutality lying down and challenged the police to raise their lathis again. At this point the timely intervention of Lingaraj and Ashok Pradhan pacified the angry people. The SP also succumbed to the anger of the people and apologised profusely to the people for the lathi charge. Clearly his face was wrinkled and shaded with shame for the shameful act of lathi charging at a peaceful civilian protest which compromised the safety of women, children & senior citizens. He also promised that those guilty of ordering the lathi charge would be suspended. After this the people decided to drop the stones, sticks & anger they had picked up. The biggest civil disobedience movement in post independent India is going to go down in history as a day when common people rised above uncommon situations to assert their rights over their resources.

Statesman

BHUBANESWAR, Nov. 7: The flood of trouble over use of Hirakud waters held centre stage for the second day today with agitated farmers asserting that they would impose restriction on industrial use of water from the reservoir.
The threat of the farmers in Sambalpur came at a time when chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik was on a damage control exercise at Bhubaneswar describing yesterdays lathi charge of farmers at Hirakud as ” unfortunate”. He also reiterated that not a single drop of water meant for agricultural purposes would be given to industries. Farmers are the top priority of the government, he stated. There will be no reduction of agricultural water supply, he said after holding a review meeting on use of Hirakud waters. It was also decided that water storage capacity of Hirakud reservoir will be raised and all the canals under Hirakud irrigation system will be revamped so that water will reach till the end of the canal.
Regular monitoring will be undertaken to ensure that water reaches all areas of the canal system. Besides it was also decided that command area programme will be carried by pani panchayat. The command area directorate will be set up for this purpose. All the industrial units, which are using Hirakud water, will be asked to store water inside their premises for at least one month keeping in view the dry season. The industry water cess will also be increased for strengthening of irrigation system. The meeting was attended by chief secretary Mr Ajit Tripathy and other senior officers. Earlier BJD and BJP leaders Ananda Acharya and Dharmendra Pradhan met the CM and discussed the issue. Acharya wanted a metering system to be put in place to regulate industrial water use while Pradhan raised matters relating to increasing the carrying capacity of Hirakud dam.

Naveen decries police action at Hirakud Special Correspondent,
The Hindu, 7 Nov, 2007
Orders probe into lathi-charge

State to increase the capacity of the reservoir
Farmers opposing diversion of Hirakud water

BHUBANESWAR: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday termed the police action against farmers at Hirakud ‘unfortunate’ and said water meant for irrigation would not be diverted for industries.”Not a single drop of water meant for irrigation will go to industries,” Mr. Patnaik said while responding to queries from presspersons at the State Secretariat here.
As regards the lathi-charge on farmers who were agitating against government’s move to provide water to industries at Hirakud on Tuesday, Mr. Patnaik said: “the incident was very unfortunate.””Anyone who has committed the excesses will be taken to task,” the Chief Minister said.Mr. Patnaik also ordered an inquiry into the lathi-charge incident. The probe would be conducted by the Revenue Divisional Commissioner (Northern Range).
High-level meeting
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister also held a high-level meeting to review the Hirakud reservoir water situation.The meeting decided that the government would take measures to increase the capacity of the reservoir. Measures would also be taken to renovate all the canals under the Hirakud irrigation.
Water reserve
The meeting further decided that the industries that were drawing water from Hirakud would be asked to have reserve of water to meet their requirement of a month during crisis period. During their agitation, over 30 farmers were injured when police resorted to lathi-charge to prevent them from entering the prohibited area of Hirakud dam.The farmers from as many as 10 neighbouring districts under the banner of Western Orissa Farmers’ Coordination Committee have been opposing the government’s decision to provide water from Hirakud reservoir to several new industries.
Congress support
In another development, Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Jayadev Jena visited Hirakud on Wednesday to take stock of the situation arising out of the situation.Supporting the farmers’ demand, Mr. Jena said the government should think of providing water for industries only after it allotted adequate water for irrigation purpose.
‘Stir will continue’
According to Lingaraj, convener of the Farmers’ Coordination Committee, the agitation against proposed diversion of Hirakud water to various industries would continue in the days to come.
Water shortage
The farmers in the region were already facing shortage of water from Hirakud during Rabi season and diversion of water to upcoming industries would prove disastrous for farmers, Mr. Lingaraj said.

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