Chhattisgarh, carved out of Madhya Pradesh as the 26th state is largely a forested area dominated by tribals and blessed with rich mineral resources.
The Ministry of Finance, Government of India, the state government has decided to set up four 'Star Industrial Areas in the districts of Bilaspur, Raigarh, Rajnandgaon and Raipur.
Chhattisgarh is rich in minerals. It is endowed with rich deposits of coal, iron ore and bauxite. No wonder Chhattisgarh has integrated steel and aluminium factories. The state also has deposits of copper-ore, manganese ore, rock phosphate and limestone. Most of the mining activity is concentrated in the areas of Raipur (cement), Korba (coal), Durg (iron ore and dolomite) and Bastar (tin and corundum). Though mining holds a bright future for the state, a substantial portion of the regions identified with mineral resources are covered by forest areas and/or occupied by tribal communities, thereby making their extraction impossible.
Anyone reading the above mentioned facts would feel that the state is poised on the cusp of development.
Let’s do a reality check.
I came across a document on the web that labeled Chhattisgarh as “a rich state inhabited by poor people.” It boasts of a Per Capita Income of $ 264 which works out to 72 cents per day. The tribals’ eke out a living by selling forest products. However, even this occupation has been endangered as the government seeks to rehabilitate tribals away from the forests with an eye on the rich mineral deposits. The government has been acquiring land for industrial activities, saying that the ‘industrialization’ would benefit the tribals. I wonder how?
On the other hand, the tribals also have to contend with naxals on one side and the Salwa Judum on the other. They are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Reports of Naxals massacring the tribals are plenty and so are the reports that the state government backed civilian militia, the Salwa Judum who loot, murder, rape the tribals regularly with impunity. Ultimately, it works to the government’s advantage as the tribals flee their birthplaces to the neighboring states, thereby posing no threat to the land acquisitions.
The ordeal does not end there. The tribals who have flown the coop to other states are suspiciously looked upon as supporters of naxalites and are being denied basic amenities.
This is the real face of India. The government prefers to cater to mining and industrial lobby rather than the welfare of these dirt poor tribals in Chhattisgarh.
Ramachandra Guha portrays a more vivid picture in his article “A War in the Heart of India.”