The Department of Sociology, School of Social Sciences under the auspices of UGC-SAP, organised a lecture by the University of Turin (Italy) scholar, Dr. Matilde Adduci, on November 2, 2015 at the School of Social Sciences. Dr.Adduci, who has been researching the capitalist economy in Odisha since 2007, spoke on the topic of ‘The Political Economy of Mining Privatisation in the Indian State of Odisha’. The field work for which she has been conductingsince 2012 in the coastal and mining districts of Odisha.
Dr.Adduci began her talk by stating that in the post-liberalisation period, the state of Odisha has emerged as the leading exporter of mineral ores, not only to the processing industries in India but also globally. However, the special emphasis on mining industry is not new for Odisha. Since Independence, Odisha government concentrated on mineral production and export with very little concernfor agriculture, where more than 70 % of the work force eke a livelihood. This gave rise to a caste-class nexus, wherein top bureaucrats and politicians belonging to Brahmin-Karan castes have appropriated and used their control over the management of mineral resources of the state to extract a continuous flow of rent. Dr.Adduci calls this nexus as the ‘neo-rentier class’. The socio-political domination of these two caste groups in Odisha, since the colonial period, has ensured that their positions remain unchallenged.As Shah Commission Report on illegal mining activities indicates, the loss to state exchequer is to the tune of Rs. 50,000 crores, because of the manipulations of this class.
As a number of memorandum of understandings (MOUs) signed by the Odisha government with private players, in the post 1993 period, indicate, of all mineral resources, iron ore has emerged as a dominant export commodity. Most of the new mines that are coming up in Odisha, particularly the district of Kendujhar which contains almost 80% of the iron ore mines, are open cast in nature. So, mining activities have led to large-scale dispossession of people, coming particularly from Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, and a massive impact on the area under forest cover.
Apart from diversion ofland of diverse nature to exclusive private property, Dr.Adduci argued, the neo-liberal turn in India has dramatically shifted the labour relations in these mines to greater informalisation. This means that unlike in the state owned mines in the pre-1993 period, which provided permanent, relatively high paying jobs to the workers, the current nature of job contracts, both in private as well as public sector mines, the workers are hired on casual basis with no security of jobs or livelihood. As many of the mines in Odisha are operating illegally, so they do not even maintain a muster roll. So, this makes it extremely difficult to quantify the number of people dispossessed owing to open cast mining and whether these dispossessed groups are getting jobs in these mines. Moreover, there is chain of hierarchy, which connects the top management of these mines with the labour contractors at different levels (both villages and towns), so that the casual labourers can be effectively managed and no dissent tolerated. Violence in the form of mafia gangs is also not uncommon in these mines.
Dr.Adduci concluded her lecture by asserting that there is a greater need for class based unionisation of these workers, as without such unions the social nature of domination and control is working against the interests of these labour force in the mines.