Will Bastar tribals ever see the end of tunnel?

December 31st, 2007 - 8:20 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Sandeep Datta
New Delhi, Dec.31 (ANI): Though known for its rich natural resources like iron ore and thick forests, Bastar region in Chattisgarh has invariably remained deprived of development and benefits from various government schemes due to Naxalite campaigns.
Hopefully, the situation is going to change, if one goes by the assurances made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, while addressing a conference of Chief Minister in New Delhi.
Dr.Manmohan Singh stated that in the last few years, the activities of naxal groups had revealed new aspects: targeting vital economic establishments and eliminating important political leaders. He said: “…We cannot rest in peace till we have eliminated this virus. We need to cripple Naxalite forces with all the means at our command.”
Asking the States to set up specialised and dedicated forces to combat extremism, Singh said: “We also need to ensure that essential economic infrastructure is protected and the tempo of development activities is increased.
Present condition can be empathised from the fact that people have paid a heavy price all these years due to inaccessibility of basic healthcare facilities. Even diseases like malaria turns an epidemic and affects thousands of people because of poor healthcare.
Both–the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR)–are much above the national average. People migrate to far off places in search of bread and butter.
If National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) could do a lot of good this region, if implemented effectively. People, especially youth will then stop migrating and taking up employment locally.
The major production is agriculture. But the expanded families have led to small share of land-holdings for individuals on an average in ones family. Today, it doesnt surprise, if one is told that a majority of these residents live under the poverty-line and survive on BPL (below-poverty-line) benefits .
The land is non-irrigated and alkaline. It does give good yield for the sustenance of the farmers and agriculture labour.
The attention of the State government is being drawn to the plight of the people. Some industrialists too are keen to improve their lot.
The establishment of a steel plant will help. Iron ore is available in abundance locally.
Local residents have always demanded that their area should be developed through the establishment of industries. It will provide employment to the local people and the steel plant and mining activity will also help in developing subsidiary enterprises. There will be more opportunities for self-employment.
People are looking forward to the early establishment of the steel plant,, proposed by the Tatas.
Peoples keenness for the establishment of a steel plant is demonstrated at the Gram Sabhas meetings (village meets), workshops, seminars conducted in the town of Jagdalpur and surrounding areas.
Over 65 per cent of the people have already taken compensation for their land and homesteads while a big number of people are in the process of receiving compensation and other benefits.
But some individuals, led by vested interests who have links with mining corporates, are interested in exporting iron ore to other countries and are working against the establishment of a steel plant.
They are trying to brain-wash people and are being induced to oppose the steel plant. The movement is being supported by some political leaders for their own benefit. False sense of insecurity and arguments against the government and industry are being propagated.
The vested interests are trying to start a Nandigram like movement in Bastar.
Their activities needs to be exposed. The situation calls for a support of the intelligentia and all concerned people who believe that tribals of the area should be given an opportunity to have access to a better life. (ANI)

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