PERSPECTIVE: NEW POLITICS – a way to bring parity & justice in India, so lets start by creating some example smaller states like Sikkim ?!!


August 31, 2010: If party politics does the tribal people some real good, that should be hailed as a welcome change.

The practice in Indian politics has been to either completely ignore the interests of these people or see them only as the so-called vote bank.

Rahul Gandhi’s support to the tribal people’s cause in Orissa may or may not help the Congress in the state. It is fair game in competitive politics for Naveen Patnaik to show that he cares for these people just as much or even more.

In a democracy, it is for the people to decide whom they trust. But to see a “political conspiracy” in the Union environment and forests ministry’s decision to veto the clearance for the Vedanta group’s bauxite mining project is to deliberately confuse the issues.

Mr Patnaik’s party, the Biju Janata Dal, has complained that the Centre’s veto on the Vedanta and the Posco projects reflects its allegedly discriminatory attitude to development projects in states ruled by Opposition parties. It has cried foul that the Centre did no such thing to the Polavaram dam project in Andhra Pradesh because the state is ruled by the Congress.

It is a bad argument that does not explain why the Orissa government failed to obey the laws relating to environment and the tribal people’s right to forest land.

The issues that the Centre’s directives on the two Orissa projects raise go far beyond party politics.

All these years, laws on environment and the protection of tribal people’s rights were merrily flouted both by the private and the public sector projects.

An antiquated land-acquisition law allowed the government to take over any land in the ‘public interest’. The affected people’s opinion did not matter either in the acquisition of their land or in the compensation the government unilaterally decided on.

What the Union ministry of environment and forests have done in the case of the two Orissa projects is not only true to the spirit of the new laws but also reflects a new concern for social justice.

Whether a party gains by it or a state loses a large source of revenue is secondary to the larger legal and moral issues. Forest rights activists have raised questions over the Polavaram project too. The Centre should look into them, irrespective of the BJD’s charges.

The issues are too important to be left to games of political one-upmanship. The two projects happen to be in Orissa, but the issues involve governments and entrepreneurs everywhere.


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