Once a tiny village surrounded by forests, (Koira) had been taken over by the trucking economy. Lured by miners willing to pay high rates for every ton of ore transported down, truckers were flooding in from as far away as Uttar Pradesh. Miners were bribing them to take quicker routes, or paying bonuses to those who did multiple trips in a day. Walking down the main street at that time, visitors saw, through a fine, omnipresent red dust, the mushrooming of new businesses – rooms for truckers, shops selling truck spares, roadside repair shops, a new hotel with a liquor license.
In all, Koira had the air of a frontier town in the middle of a gold rush.
Ten years later, it is a very different place.
Two years ago, when the tribal people of Odisha’s thickly forested Niyamgiri hills unanimously rejected the plans of the London-based conglomerate Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in their lands, it appeared that a decade-long struggle to protect the hills and forests – and the tribal way of life – had finally succeeded.
Security camps of the Central Reserve Police Force have been mushrooming in this part of Kalahandi district. From one camp established five years ago, there are now three on the periphery of Niyamgiri. More are expected to come up.
Government officials cite rising Naxal activity as the reason for the security buildup. But among the tribal Kondhs, the increased paramilitary presence is leading to fears that the government is trying to force them off their land.
the previous story reported that the autonomous tribal councils of Mizoram are trying to cosy up to the BJP. the sequel looks at whether direct funding to the councils will improve the lives of people living there.
Last month, for the first time, the Bharatiya Janata Party won an election in Mizoram. The party contested 201 seats in 37 village councils in the autonomous tribal area for Chakmas, a Buddhist community that is an ethnic minority in the predominantly Christian state. It won 42 seats and a majority in seven councils.
“We are Buddhists, not Christians, and so they [the Mizos] want to keep us backward,” said Deepak Larma, a resident of Borapansuri, which lies along the Bangladesh border, as he explained the appeal of the BJP. “The way things are, we will not advance in Mizoram, and so we are thinking of partnering with Modiji. We have voted for the Congress and the MNF [Mizo National Front] and they did nothing. Can Modiji do something for us?”
But it’s not just the Chakmas who are turning to the BJP. Leaders of the Lais and the Maras – two minority tribes that follow Christianity and have with their own autonomous councils in south Mizoram – are also making overtures to the party.
and so starts a dangerous game.
for a while now, i have been trying to go on a cycle ride at the end of every year — have succeeded three out of four years. in 2014, biologist vidya athreya and i went to the andamans. and i came back and wrote this story about cycling up the islands.
The friend is a biologist curious to see what the forests in this archipelago are like — the Andaman & Nicobar Islands were connected to what is now Indonesia before rising sea levels cut them off. As such, not only are life forms on the isles closer in origin to Indonesian than Indian ones, their geographic isolation has resulted in the creation of several species unique to them. As for me, I am looking to get into shape. This is also my second trip to the islands — the first was a reporting assignment in 2004 just before the tsunami. The ride is a chance to see how the patterns I spotted then – water shortages, over-population, and decimation of the indigenous people – have unfolded since.
Last month, union tribal Minister Jual Oram told the Lok Sabha that India is making “satisfactory progress” implementing the “Forest Rights Act” (FRA). However, a closer look at the numbers he submitted in the house indicates otherwise.
my story on how the government’s claims about “satisfactory” implementation of the forest rights act are garbage. what is underway is a game with statistics.
The popular perception is that the ‘none of the above’ (NOTA) option – a measure of rejection of all candidates – did not make a difference in the recent assembly elections, being as low as 0.6% in Delhi. But the NOTA choice came third in terms of votes polled in as many as 148 of the 520 constituencies in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, suggesting widespread discontent with governance deep inside the country. Of these 148 constituencies, 63 are in MP, 51 in Rajasthan and 34 in Chhattisgarh. Most of these constituencies fall in Maoist-affected, tribal or rural areas. Take Bijapur, in Naxal-affected southern Chhattisgarh, where over 10.1% of voters chose the NOTA option.