Looting our Future: Iron Ore Exports from Orissa
Prafulla Das of Hindu brought out an article in Hindu which says that in the last year (2004-2005) over 15.68 million tonnes of high quality iron ore was exported from Orissa to other countries. This is incredibly stupid, given that India's iron ore deposits are limited, and the national demand is growing by leaps and bounds. Even for those who believe in "India Shining", this should be anathema. As Aditi Ghatak wrote in another article in Hindu, India has just 18 billion tonnes of iron ore deposits, as compared to 46 billion tonnes for China. Yet China imports iron ore and doesn't allow export of iron ore, whereas, India, like a third world country, exports this strategic raw material to all and sundry. Even if we reach the present per capita consumption level of steel by China (200 kgs/capita) in another ten years, we would be needing almost 300 million tonnes of steel per annum. At that rate, our iron ore reserves would be exhausted in just 30 years. What shall we do then?
So what explains the current exports of Iron ore from Orissa? Pure and simple - it is the "loot" economy. The mining leases have been given to cronies and relatives by politicians, or to the company which is able to provide the highest amount of "contribution" to the decision makers. The royalty remains at a paltry RS. 26/tonne - around 5% of the actual value of the iron ore. Everyone involved in the unholy nexus gains - the top level politicians and bureaucrats gain "contributions", the mining companies gain windfall profits, the local goons and elites buy trucks to transport the iron ore, and the petty officials responsible for regulation sing their way to prosperity. Does this sound familiar - well imagine Nigeria or Bolivia or Sierra Leone or the Banana Republics.
Who loses in this game - the citizens of India, whose future is being exported , both in form of the iron ore and in form of the environmental and social costs of mining. And the local people, specially the tribals and dalits and other marginalised groups, who see their livelihood support system stripped away in front of their eyes, their forests cutdown, their land and water poisone, their air polluted and their homes bulldozed. They are turned into environmental refugees in their own ancestral lands, their future bartered away by the powerful for a few pieces of silver.
So we felt that we should have a hall of infamy of the exporters of iron ore from Orissa on basis of the amounts exported. Here is the list for 2004-2005:
Rungta Mines - 2,354,568 tonnes
Jindal Steel - 1,147,876 tonnes
Essel Mines - 833,839 tonnes
MMTC - 1191807 tonnes
S K Sarawagi - 970632 tonnes
OMC - 500469 tonnes
Sesa Goa - 810742 tonnes
TISCO - 225606 tonnes
There are many other smaller players. Interestingly TISCO also figures in the list.