Wednesday, July 14, 2010

‘Mining Project will bring development for Dongria Kondh People’ – Jitu Jakasika

Contributor: Kailash Tudu

Jitu Jakasika, Then (A Dongria Kondh before making into BBA)

Jitu Jakasika, Now (A Dongria Kondh after making into BBA)

“Dongria Kondh Community want development and mining from Niyamgiri will bring a lot socio-economic development opportunity for the tribals,” says Jitu Jakasika, one of the few English Speaking youths in the Kondh Community. However, few days before, He was well known for his hardcore and stiff opposition for Vedanta and its mining project.

He had visited almost all Dongria Kondh villages to organize people to oppose the mining plan. Continuous feeding of misleading facts and systematic brainwash made him to believe that industrialization and development would dilute the originality and culture of Dongria Kondh tribe. He left his education mid-way to join activists and vehemently opposed industrialization and associated development in the locality.

However, one incident opened eyes of Jitu. He was in Bada Denguni village to organize people against industrialization. The village has no motorable road. A pregnant lady suddenly became critical and was required to be taken to the hospital. However, in absence of any ambulance or vehicle, she was portered to the hospital. Jitu was also with her. On the way, she delivered a baby, who died just after birth. Jitu was shocked by the incident. At that time, the lady told Jitu that due to opposition to industrialization and development linked with it, her child died. If he would not have opposed industry and development work carried out by it, there would have been motorable road to the village and she could have gone to hospital in time. “This was a great learning for me. It forced me to think, whether I am doing the right things by blocking development,” said Jitu Jakasika.

He explored more on industry and development. He visited other industrial sites in the locality and mainly the ongoing bauxite mining sites. He saw for himself that neither Bauxite mining is ecologically hostile, nor it dries the spring and underground water. He also realized that ‘industrialization and development do not dilute tribal culture or lifestyle’.

“We did not want mining at Niyamgiri. We were misguided by different NGOs and groups,’ admits Jitu. He reveals that different NGOs from different countries and political parties, who are working only to fulfill their interests, were claiming that Vedanta’s mining at Niyamgiri would destroy the hill and would adversely affect the environment of the area and the lives of the tribals. Of late, he realized that all these were false claims which were intended to instigate the poor and ignorant tribals against Vedanta. They never want the development of the Dongria Kondhs.

Now, He has stopped to help the outsiders who campaign against industrialization and development of tribal children. After seeing the social development initiatives of Vedanta in periphery villages, he was convinced that development through industrialization can bring development for Dongria kondh people by providing them basic services like, health, education, infrastructure and sustainable livelihood. “I always wanted development of Dongria Kondh community and I believe industrialization can bring rapid development for tribal people,” says Jitu.

He also expressed his desired to resume his studies, so that he could know the mainstream world better and work for development of his community. Vedanta Aluminium Limited, under its Scholarship program provided support for his education. Jitu, a dongria kondh tribe, is now studying at a reputed management college at Bhubaneswar in Bachelor of Business Admission (BBA) program. In holidays, he comes to his villages and encourages fellow community members for education and other development initiatives. He is now playing a key role in facilitating education of tribal children from his villages in formal schooling and Colleges. To him “education alone can remove superstition, reduce vulnerability to contamination and can bring empowerment and in turn development”.

Vedanta’s venture into the aluminium sector of Orissa with signing MoU for an alumina refinery at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi and an aluminium smelter at Jharsuguda was an important event in the aluminium industry of the State. After 25 years, Vedanta set up the first Refinery in the state, which is having more than 55% of India’s Bauxite. And also, Vedanta is the only company that has rolled in its project in Orissa as per its agreement with the State Government and has already started its production partially from its Lanjigarh refinery. The company, which has placed itself in a significant position in the global aluminium industry, is very well concerned towards carrying out its Corporate Social Responsibility and has taken up several initiatives with the aim to bring qualitative improvement in the lives of the community surrounding its plant. VAL has expressed and reiterated its commitment towards socio-economic transformation has now reached ‘the society at large’. And fortunately, the particular society, to which it aimed to transform, has now realized the real intention and motive of Vedanta and has now accepted it. This is very much evident from the positive vibes coming from the statements of some tribal leaders including Jitu.

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