Fighting Injustice in Polepally SEZ

…more than courage it takes WILL to stand up against injustice !

Voices of people fighting displacement

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Our team visited different places in last three days. Our aim is to invite activists to come to a common agenda and platform to pressurize state. We thought of organising a big programme in Hyderabad in December with all the movements who are raising voice against this so called development and displacing their lives and villages. We visited Vizag Coastal corridor struggle groups, Gangavaram port Matsyakarula Ikya vedika, Girijana Sangam Araku, fighting against Jindal Bauxite mining, Rayavani Palem, Bauxite Vyatireka Porata Committee, Vizianagarm district.

First day we participated in Photo exhibition organised at VMCA, Vizag against coastal Corridor. Mr. Ratnam, who is working against Coastal Corridor organised the photo exhibition to educate children as part of ‘100 months awareness programme on environment protection’. Photographs with details of different projects in Coastal corridor, the destruction which is going to take place. Media covered the event and school children from different places came to see the exhibition. We met different people there from APCLC, POW, News papers, Sanjeevani Paryavarana parirakshana Samithi, who are fighting polluting pesticide plant in Srikakulam and other activists.

Next day we got invitation from Gangavaram port Fishermen Joint front to inaugurate their Dharna. Me and Madhu shared our experiences of Polepally SEZ and some strategies how we can strengthen the movement. In brief Gangavaram port is displacing 4350 people and displacing Dibbapalem, Gangavaram, Jaladi Palli Palem, Chinna Palli Palem, Pedda Palli Palem. The notification came in the month of January 2005 to vacate their places. We were amazed to see the heroic struggle they are waging against state and also felt depressed the way things went wrong to subside movement. The ironic phase is they already sacrificed 24,000 acres of land when Vizag steel plant was proposed. in 1981 when Indira Gandhi came to inaugurate the Steel plant promised that all these fishermen were given jobs in the plant. But the Plant denied jobs to these fishermen as they said all these people will get employment in the coming Gangavaram port. They believed and displaced again with Gangavaram Port, they are asked to move but nowhere they are showing alternative. The port is not even under Vizag Steel Plant, Some Raju garu holding it, why should he be interested in settling these lives. They ended up in fighting for jobs and R&R packages that too was not fulfilled. They had lost Nuka Raju, an activist in the Police firing and 160 people were injured including women and children.

Whenever the movement is raising the collector and local administration used to call them for discussions. Almost 30 times they sat with them but didnt not come to any conclusion. On 24th March, 2007 they asked to remove their boats, they did that but they realised it was just fraud to take them off from the sea. They called a bandh to stop the activities on that day, around 2000 police came to village some mischief person who are not part of the village threw stones on Police and there started a war. It went on from morning 7 O clock to afternoon 1 p.m, according to Nandu every person in the village took part in the war, we are with stones and sticks (which are used in boating) and police are with their sticks n guns.

Nandanna, the person who was leading the movement said that around 60 people were jailed and they are not allowed to work on sea. He was brutally beaten by Police and jailed for 24 days when they called for padayatra. Many men do not know any other work and they are largely depending on women, who had to leave the house early and go to another port get the fish and sell in the villages. The women told that they are already seeing the effect of job loss, crime rate is increasing, prostitution started and children stopped going to school. Many men were depressed and become alcoholics. Its very sad to see the village as they cannot see the sea, the huge wall is built between the village and the Sea. They never thought of any savings and property as they always thought the “Goddess, mother sea will give food every time whenever they want. We all go to get some fish and they fulfill our needs” told by elders of the village.

Its also interesting to see the involvement of one leader, ex Congress MLA Thippal Gurunath Reddy, who created a dummy village in his own 545 plot with 30 yards plots, who is not part of the village of course. He showed the Govt that place as an alternative, just empty match boxes, they said, it is called ‘nagireddy colony’, they named it as bogus colony. The notifications were issued to that place instead of these people. People protested this process, they gheroad, did dharnas. The leader also employed gundas and attacked activists on the road. The moment people came to know about it they all went with knives and mirchi powder, sticks and destroyed the leader’s village.

The end of the story was politicians manipulated the movement, they took signatures of 16 people that they are agreeing to the port and conditions, when all the true activists are in Jail. Dibbapalem people vacated the village few weeks back, the movement came down but again even in that repression Gangavaram villagers resumed their fight. They have few demands- some pension to the villagers, good rate for boats, jobs and alternative place for fishing activity. Port is now in the hands of private people but it should be handled by Govt. THEY ARE NOT AGAINST PORT EVEN AT LOSS OF THEIR DISPLACED LIVES!

Next day we moved to Araku to see the Jindal ‘DEVELOPMENT’ and tribal development. We met Kille Surendra, ZPTC, Araku. Andhra Pradesh Mining Develoment Corporation (APMDC) and Jindal group signed agreement without any survey done Zindal group is planning to get Bauxite out of Three Mountains named Chittamgudi Konda, Rakta Konda, Gali Konda. Araku Valley, 70 villages and Anantagiri mandals, 70 villages, 14 Panchayats are going to be affected Tribes like valmiki, Bagata, Khutia, Gadaba, Nuka Dora, Konda Dora etc. He is working from Girijana Sangam. He gave us details on how the Jindal company is going to destroy the lives of several tribes. Here the situation is worst, tribals are asked to just leave their places as Govt claims its their lands.

Actual bauxite deposits are in Gudem Kottha Veedhhi (GK Veedhi), Chintapalli, Anantagiri, Araku Mandals and Govt didnt do any survey. People Gheroad Collectorate, did padayatras and many memorandums. They are also questioning the reduction of forest lands. What about forest rights act 2006? According to this act Govt should sanction pattas to all the lands belonging to adivasis. Till date not even one tribe got one patta in the state. Visaka has 2,27,000 acres forest lands. They declared 60,000 pattas but nothing is materialised till date. Forest department went to court with Retired forest officers. What is forest department? Who gave this right to Govt? What happens to community economies like grazing lands, collection firewood, grave yards, fishing lakes?

Deceiving patterns! Jindal Foundation entered in to the villages and doing some welfare programmes to divert the struggle spirit. Some political party leaders take money from Political parties, here it is TDP. Jindal identified some tribals and sent to training to Cudappa, they divide people with these small sections. Govt itself gave a statement that they cant provide more than 130 jobs, told by Surendra. There will be one Jindal bus stop, ambulance and tailoring training. Good equations to end up one great culture, historical place and race.

Recently they had a ‘public hearing’, people are calling it ‘police hearing’ with 3000 Police around and all the adivasis are stopped to attend it last month. When 96% said no to one hearing how Govt can continue with this project. Only Rajaseker Reddy will be able to tell the answer.

From there we move to Kaki Devudamma, belongs to Gadaba tribe, who is fighting against Jindal refinery, leading person in Bauxite Vyatireka Porata committee. This movement is taking place in Srungavrapukota (S.Kota), Vijianagaram district. 35 villages are going to be affected with this project. Kilthaipalem, Bodavara, Mushidipalli Panchayat are under threat. When the adivasis refused the proposal, the people who left lands for ages were identified and cheques were sent on their names. After three four generations those people came into the picture as landlords. Even the current farmer do not know whether he is the owner but they are claiming that the lands belong to them. Govt is ready to pay one lakh per acre, with the protest they raised the land price upto 2.5 lakhs. Around 30 binami land patta holders took lands but majority of them are against it. On 2007 March 6th they had public hearing and more than 90% people opposed it. When Govt came with the boards of vacating lands on the 2nd October, Gandhi Jayanthi, innocent Devudamma questioned them why did you come on this day. She was arrested for asking that sovereignty question. Later they removed the boards and wrote again that “if any strangers enter into their lands they will be punished”. It’s been a great experience talking to that brave woman. The villagers also caught and locked up the Jindal employees on November, they released them after taking it in written paper that they will not enter into their village again. The struggle is on.

Very interesting thing Devudamma shared with us was, suddenly insurance companies are after these tribals, those who get compensation, they will deposit either with Agri Gold or any other insurance as they do not have any place to keep that money. The farmer who is losing land do not even enjoy the money, it will fixed for 15 years. Suddenly all these agents are earning so much of money she says. What a country? We dont leave even dead bodies..Rabandula lokam.

They said that many people are under depression, crimes are increasing, alcoholism increased too much and violence also increased in the villages.

Simple question they are asking why the Govt is suddenly bothering them? They do not have any expectations on govt. Where do they go suddenly, non of the promises are fulfilled all are fake.

What these Jindal Bauxite will do? Will be destroying beautiful valley, a piece of heaven. Destroy many original tribals from the hills, it will destroy the harmony and peace. Those villages that are not in the map of Jindal will be affected as the main water springs are coming from these bauxite areas. It will displace huge tribal folk without any alternative livelihoods!

We do not have any words except sharing our experiences and encouraging them with our future plans.

Who will save them? Is the big question now?

Let live all the movements till they get justice.

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Written by Sujatha Surepally

November 25, 2008 at 12:43 am

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