Monday, May 5, 2008

Using Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a tool of snatching resources

These days many methods are being used to trick tribals for snatching their remaining resources in Jharkhand. Recently, the village head Fula Marandi of Amgachi village of Dumka district in Jharkhand was offered Rs. 13 lakh cash, one vehicle and Rs. 20 thousand per month as honorarium by the Agriculture Minister of Jharkhand for convincing the villagers to surrender their land for the proposed Thermal Power Plant at Kathikund in Dumka, which the villagers are opposing from the beginning

The Minister knows that the only village-head can convince the people to surrender their land for the proposed plant as he is the highly respected person in the village. In another case, a tribal activist Dayamani Barla and villagers were threatened by the middle men for raising their voice against the global steel giant Arcelor Mittal in Torpa-Kamdara region in Jharkhand, where the company has proposed a steel plant with the production capacity of 12 million tones per annum, which is expected to be streamed by 2012. The company requires 12 thousand acres of land for the project but it is not able to acquire land due to people''s resistance against the steel plant.

In the recent development, the Arcelor Mittal has announced to spend about $300 million on rehabilitation, resettlement and corporate social responsibility in Jharkhand. The money will be spent for the improvement of health, education, development, economic activities, socio-culture aspects and women empowerment in the project areas. According to the media hype, it will change the fate of Jharkhand. But one surprises that how one R&R and CSR would change the fate of Jharkhand, which hundreds of corporate houses and the government of India could not do for last 60 years? The company is also in so hurry to execute its CSR plan in Torpa-Kamdara regions; therefore one must have to go back to the journey of Mittal in Jharkhand to understand about the reality of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), which seems to be the best method of "Conspiracy for Snatching Resources" from the tribals.

The journey of the Steel Giant “Arcelor Mittal” began in the mineral richest state Jharkhand on October 8, 2005 with the signing of a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Arjun Munda then the Chief Minister of Jharkhand for setting up a steel plant with the capacity of 12 million tones per annum at an estimated investment of Rs 40,000 crore. In addition to the steel and mining projects, Mittal Steel has also proposed to set up a 2,500 megawatts capacity of mega power plant in the state. The Chief Minister, Arjun Munda was delighted after signing the MoU and had said that the proposed project of Mittal Steel would provide a boost to the industrial development in Jharkhand.

After 8 month of signing MoU, the Mittal again visited India in July 2006 to explore more investment prospects, but he was quite upset with the progress of the project in Jharkhand and warned the state government of shifting the mega project to its neighbouring state of Orissa if the project continues in the same snail pace. Mittal said, "Though the Jharkhand government is co-operating us but we are not happy with the progress therefore we are weighing our options in Orissa". “We want to move fast," he added. He had also a chat with the Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnayak on the matter during his visit to Orissa on July 7.

But by the time, Arjun Munda the Chief Minister of Jharkhand had already created history in signing MoU with 43 companies therefore he dared to tell Mittal that as he is a global steelmaker and is free to go anywhere. Munda knew that the Orissa can never fulfill Mittal's requirements and he would come back to Jharkhand sooner of later even if he shift the project to Orissa for the moment. The major problem for Munda was the people's resistance against MoU was on high therefore the state government could not acquire land for companies. The Assar Steel, Bhushan Steel and Jindal Steel were forced to leave the areas from the Kolhan region of Jharkhand. The Mittal suddenly got an idea of luring people with CSR as he had never done in his life before; even he had not spent a single paisa for India.

The Mittal founded an international NGO named "Arcellor Mittal Foundation" in 2007 with the objectives of working in order to provide added focus to its diverse programme of social investment activities, and to promote Arcelor Mittal's commitment to society and sustainable development, focusing in particular on the communities where it operates. It is also said that the Foundation will seek to develop partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to drive the programme forward. But the real agenda of the foundation is to open the door for company to enter into the project areas through the CSR programmes with the help of local NGOs. Obviously, the foundation will pour huge fund on NGOs and use them in convincing people in favour of the steel plant.

The Arcelor Mittal’s activities suddenly went high with the appointment of Sanak Mishra as the CEO of Indian project. The operational office was set up in Ranchi on April 8, 2008 and the announcements of CRS programmes started like what ruling parties do in the election year to convince people for getting their votes. The first move was to launch an ITI (Industrial Training Institute) in Khunti, which will operate from 2009. It was told that 50 percent of the total seats will be filled by the state government and the rest will go in the hand of the steel company. The 50 percent seats will go to tribal students and 50 scholarships would be awarded to deserving local students of the region on merit basis. The ITI was projected as a change maker for the tribal community.

Meanwhile, the Mittal was updated with the information about how much tribals love to play hockey and they can do anything for it, which can be one of the best entry points into the region by sponsoring the hockey matches. The ArcelorMittal immediately sponsored hockey tournament for girls and boys of Khunti and Gumla districts. The training for boys and girls started with the support of district and state hockey federations. But the question comes in mind is why does Mittal only concerned about the tribals of Torpa-Kamdara region of Khunti and Gumla district if the CSR is being implemented for the non-profit purposes?

The Mittals’s next step was to lure NGOs with huge fund. It is the known fact that the NGOs had played a crucial role in mobilizing people for the successful people's movement against the Koel-Karo thermal power project at Torpa. Similarly, the thousands of people have started resistance against the steel plant in Torpa-Kamdara region, which the Mittal wants to turn in his favour therefore a seminar on "Development initiative for better tomorrow" was conducted in Ranchi on April 17, 2008 in the banner of Arcelor Mittal Foundation. The hidden purpose of the seminar was to kill two birds with one stone. It mobilized the local NGOs in his favour and also came to know about the strategies of the people’s resistance, which will help the company to come out with the new strategy to combat it. 70 NGOs representatives of the areas participated in the seminar but the irony is neither the village-heads nor the organizations were invited who are really opposing the project. Leader of ‘Adivasi Astitwa Raksha Manch’ (tribal identity protection forum) Dayamani Barla questions that how can outsiders design the development plan for villages? Why local Parha Raja (head the tribal governance) and Gram Pradhan (village-heads) were not called for the seminar, she resisted? Now there is also a hunt of getting tribal professionals for the CSR programme so that the company can use them in convincing the villagers in their languages.

The final kick of the Mittal's illurement match was the announcement of huge fund of $300 million for Rehabilitation & Resettlement and CSR in the state. Remi Boyer the Vice-President of Arcelor Mittal justified it by saying that the company is very serious about welfare of the people, their ethnic needs and culture at the proposed site of the Greenfield project. "We are here to stay and for generations", he added. But he got upset when landholders ask for the share of the profit in annual basis. He says, "It’s ridiculous to give shares to people who would not know what to do with those". This is how the real business mindset comes out. Remi Boyer is also trying to convince Church as it has huge prevalence in the areas. All these activities clearly indicate that the Arcelor Mittal wants to acquire land at any cost and it is adopting the every possible method to convince people for the project.

A noted mining activist and the spokesperson of “Jharkhand Mines Area Coordination Committee” Xavier Dias says, "The Arcelor Mittal's CSR efforts in mining areas are a dubious attempt to hoodwink the local people and get a back door entry to grab their lands and resources. If they are really interested in CSR then let them implement it in areas and regions where they must pledge not to enter commercially". "If they are sincere about CSR then we ask them to acknowledge that the people's ownership rights to natural resources are paramount and they will not use the state or mafia power to capture them", he added.

According to Sanak Mishra the CEO of the Arcelor Mittal India Limited, the people of Jharkhand demand for industrialization therefore the rich minerals state should lead Indian in the Industrialization. He says, "Lakshmi Mittal has asked to do more social work in India under CSR and the Jharkhad project is the model project of the universe for us". But the questions raised are how can Sanak Mishra say that the Jharkhandis want industrialization when there is a huge people's resistance in Kolhand and Torpa-Kamdara regions? Does Mishra really know that Essar Steel, Bhushan Steel and Jindal Steel were thrown out from the Kolhan region last year? And who are those Jharkhandis, who need industry in Jharkhand except a few bigwigs? It's obvious that Sanak Mishra gives such dubious statements deliberately to create the public opinion in his favour.

The Arcelor Mittal has done media advocacy extremely well, which resulted in the media's propaganda in manufacturing the consent and convincing people in favour of the company. The media exaggerated the Mital’s entry as a great achievement of the state government and when Mittal threatened to leave the state, the media coined it as the sky is going to fall in Jharkhad. The announcement of ITI was also projected as it would change the fate of the tribals of Torpa-Kamdara regions. It was coined in such a manner that without the Mittal, tribals of the regions are living like the beasts. Finally, the CSR was exaggerated as it will change the fate of Jharkhand in over night. All these were done in complete planned manner to get land by projecting Arcellor Mittal as the Massiha of Jharkhand.

The state government also put all the efforts to convince people for the purposes but got nothing. The Deputy Chief Minister Sudhir Mahto, who is also in-charge of the industries department, is extremely busy in incorporating suggestions of the corporate houses in Rehabilitation & Resettlement Policy. The final draft of the R&R policy is ready. The government has been working on the R&R policy for last five years. The state government has also constituted a 14-member committee under leadership of another Deputy Chief Minister Stephen Marandi for finalization of R&R policy because the state government has signed 65 MoU with an estimated investment of Rs. 2,00,000 crore in steel, mining and power sectors and the government has to sort out the land acquisition problems to translate these agreements into reality, which seems to be very difficult in near future.

But the fundamental question is why people do not want to give their land for the development projects? The most important thing is that the 60 years of independence has taught horrible lessons to the displaced people about the politics of development, rehabilitation and CSR programmes. The data of Jharkhand shows that 24,15,698 acres of land were acquired in the name of development, where 17,10,787 people were displaced. In every project approximately 80 to 90 percent tribals and local inhabitants were displaced. But what did they get in the so-called corporate development processes. Merely 25 percent of them were halfway rehabilitated but they are also in the miserable conditions and no one has any idea about the rest of 75 percent. The benefits of all these development projects were enjoyed only by the bigwigs - Project Officers, Engineers, Contractors, Beaurocrats, Politicians and the outsiders.

Another important thing is that there are numerous laws like the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act 1908, Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act 1949 and PESA Act 1996, which provide protection to tribals lands despite their limitations but these laws were never enacted with the true spirit in the tribal regions. At the same time, the anti people policy like SEZ (special economic zone) came up within a year but policy makers failed to introduce the rehabilitation policy even after the 60 years of independence. Similarly, the Industrial Policy was introduced soon after the creation of Jharkhand but the state rehabilitation policy is still hanging in the minister’s chamber for last 5 years. The people were displaced from one place to another in the name of development but they were not rehabilitated. That’s why the people have strong feelings of betrayal in the name of "development" and resisting against the development projects.

The main problem lies in the mindset of the corporate houses, who are not ready to understand the tribal society, which is based on agro-forest based subsistence economy, did not develop the habit of savings or taking up business entrepreneurship. The communities depend on agriculture and forest for their sustenance. They mostly practice agriculture and collect so-called minor forest produces to meet their everyday needs. They do not only depend on the natural resources for their livelihood, but their identity, dignity, autonomy and culture are based on it. 90 percent of them still live in or in close proximity to the forests therefore the community will not survive if they are alienated from the natural resources, which the people of so-called mainstream of the society are not ready to accept and consider while designing the development projects. Rehabilitation, Resettlement and CSR programmes will not address the real issues of the tribal communities because all these are based on the profit making, which is against of the tribal culture, principles and ethos.

Obviously, the corporate houses do the social work to avoid the people's resistance while acquiring land, to get the support of public in opinion building and for the benefit of huge tax exemption in the name of corporate social responsibility, and the Arcelor Mittal is not different from it. Why do the companies like Arcelor Mittal, Tata Steel and Jindal Steel want to establish such huge plants if they want to do social work in the true sense as they already own huge resource? The major reason is that the people are fade up with the rehabilitation packages, which created a huge people's resistance against the government and the corporate houses across the country therefore the corporate houses came up with the new glamorous term 'Corporate Social Responsibility' to lure people. This is why the CSR should be called as a "Conspiracy to Snatch Resource" instead of "Corporate Social Responsibility. The CSR is defined as "the business contribution to sustainable development" therefore one must has to be aware about it because the business is all about profit and no one does business for social services. The CSR is nothing than a slow poison to people, which Arcelor Mittal has adopted therefore tribals and local inhabitants must fight against the proposed neo-imperialism of Arcelor Mittal and also beware of the tribal politicians who are real wolfs in lamb's faces

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