Industry trapped in Maoist minefield
Friday, July 6, 2007
NEW DELHI: India's multi-billion mining industry has become the latest victim of the naxalite terror machine. The remote location of mines provides a soft target to the naxalites to launch their attack without any fear of retaliatory action from the security forces. Inadequate security measures and poor corporate social responsibility initiatives in the violence-prone areas compound the problem.
In the past, there have been numerous instances where these elements have not only looted arms and ammunition used by security personnel guarding the facilities but also taken away huge quantities of explosives used for mining operations.
The threat perception has not only resulted in destruction of property worth several hundred crores of existing units but also created an atmosphere in which getting foreign investment in the sector is becoming difficult. The mines ministry has targeted a $2-billion foreign investment in the sector in the next couple of years.
The worst to be hit in this terror attack has been public sector mining major National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC). Its iron ore mines in Chhattisgarh have come under frequent attack from naxalites. There have also been reports that huge quantities of explosives are used by the mining companies for operational use. These are later used against the establishment for furthering the cause of the naxal movement.
"The naxalite movement has badly affected NMDC's operations in Chhattisgarh. Attacks and damage to property have not only resulted in losses to the tune of several hundred crore rupees, but what is dangerous is that the mining fields have become arms and ammunition centres for naxalites who have now started repeated attack in such installations," a NMDC official told ET.
In one instance, NMDC's explosive magazine at Hiroli in Dantewala district of Chhattisgarh was looted. The naxalites ran way with not only huge cache of arms including SLR, rifels, walkie talkie sets but also took four magazines of explosives containing 64 metric tonnes of explosives.
The latest attack took place on May 31, 2007, when naxals damaged three high tension electric towers in Ambujmad region near Narayanpur, which resulted in total power failure in entire Bastar region. The production and dispatch activities of NMDC's project came to a standstill as a result of this. Daily production loss estimated by NMDC on account of this is 60,000 tonnes of ore with a Rs 9 crore per day revenue loss. Last year, the conveyor of Bailadila mines of NMDC was also burnt affecting production for several days.
"We have sought assistance from Centre as well as the state to increase the deployment of security personnel at NMDC mines in Chhattisgarh but the requests have fallen on deaf ears. The state informs us that it has limited number of police force to man the mines. The Centre has suggested several measures to make our explosive magazine storage more secure. An action plan has also been made by CISF to improve security of NMDC mines but everything has remained on paper. The gravity of the situation should be understood at the earliest or else country's largest mining operations would die under naxal pressure," the official added.
The poor security situation has already started showing its impact on NMDC's physical performance parameters. Less than targeted levels of production from company's mines, Bailadila mines in Dantewala district, has often been reported as personnel required for the job were not available. "There is fear among employees working in NMDC mines in Chhattisgarh. The fear is getting aggravated with each passing day as government machinery has failed to move forward despite more than 20 attacks on NMDC facilities in less than one-and-a-half years," said a source.
NMDC's plight is not an isolated case of mining operations getting threatened from the naxal movement, especially those launched by CPI (Maoist) activists. Several other companies in public and private sector functioning in remote areas of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have also reported similar attacks.
Not that nothing is being done to contain the problem but often the Centre-state relations has taken its toll on the formulation of a national policy for protecting industrial installations located in the naxalite belt. In case of NMDC, the steel ministry has written several letters to the home ministry and Chhattisgarh government apprising them of the ground situation and an urgent need for remedial action.
However, the progress has been slow. And in the process the discomfort level of employees is rising. The fear is that country's richness in iron ore and other minerals may fall prey to a violent movement that professedly aims to economically empower the downtrodden. How this would be possible if the economic installations themselves are destroyed needs to be watched.
posted by Resistance 7/06/2007 09:47:00 AM,