Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Progress Report On The Dongria Kondh Story

In a tragic fait accompli, the Indian Supreme Court has approved mining by Vedanta and Posco (a South Korean company) in the hills of Niyamgiri in Orissa. There were many strenuous campaigns against mining in this eco-system by the indigenous dwellers of Niyamgiri, forestry officials and farmers to name a few. The Norwegian government went so far as to divest itself of Vedanta stock in order not to be tainted by a project that has and would continue to adversely affect human rights and the environment. (You may read the whole story in a previous blog I wrote.)

The Supreme Court has mandated that a certain sum be spent on tribal development and welfare. But this sum is a pittance and not something desired by the tribals. And leaving the welfare of Indian citizens in the hands of some multi-national seems a very shoddy road-plan for human rights and economic development.

The rush to development claims new victims. The gap between those who are benefiting from the economic development and those who are not continues to grow. India continues to feel the pressure to be counted as one of the two emerging economic giants even as China has left it far behind in developing infrastructure and education. Indian corruption continues to siphon off funds directed towards the poorest and the most disadvantaged. Indian politicians need to consider new ways of achieving goals as the old ones never worked. We need to be smart and develop in such a way that we don't spend decades recovering from the damage done by the rush to develop. And we certainly shouldn't victimize the citizens of India in order to meet development goals. Otherwise, how can we claim the democratic high ground?

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