An open letter to home minister P. Chidambaram

Dear Shri Chidambaram

This is in response to your repeated taunts in your NDTV interview that “civil society” must respond to the wanton killing by the Naxals. It appears that the interview was tailor-made for getting the consent of the Union Cabinet for more firepower and airpower to combat the Maoists.

The diabolic support of Arun Jaitley, by describing you an “injured martyr”, was designed to achieve his ambition through the support of the mining barons of the BJP-ruled states.

As a member of society, I hope I am being civil in disagreeing with you on your hard line approach against the innocent tribals. I also hope you will not find it too shocking for being accused of being largely responsible for the rise and growth of naxalism, as the following happened on your watch as finance minister.

# Is it not true that naxalism grew exponentially in the last 10 years to become the present menace ? In fact you have yourself identified the time frame of the last 10 years in your interview with NDTV.

# Is it not true that the rise in popularity of naxalism is also coincidental with the rise in iron ore mining profits which increased from around Rs 50 per tonne to over Rs 5,000 per tonne in the last ten years?

# Is it not true that the map of naxalism is also the map of the Indian minerals. These minerals belong to the people of India but have been handed over to mining barons and corporate in a relationship of mutual benefit, more appropriately described as crony capitalism. It is for this reason that Arun Jaitley is your staunchest supporter because the fate of four State governments ruled by the BJP is dependent on the money from the mining mafia.

# Is it not true that during your watch as finance minister for four and a half years, corporates raked in profits of over Rs 2,00,000 crore through legal and illegal mining, mostly in the iron ore sector? How was this profit shared?

# Is it not true that during your entire tenure as FM, the royalty on iron ore was not revised and remained at a ridiculous Rs 7 to Rs 27 per tonne ( depending on the type and grade of iron ore) with the average of around Rs 15 per tonne. This royalty was neither made ad valorem nor was it revised from year 2000 onwards when the international price of iron ore rose to dizzying levels.

# Is it not true that the minerals are owned by the people of the State? Is a meagre 0.5 % royalty on iron ore profits adequate compensation to the owner of the resources? Would you sell your Rs one crore property for Rs 50,000?

Did your fulfill the oath that you took as a Minister to abide by the Constitution, in particular Article 39 (b) and (c) of the constitution which directs the government to use natural resources owned by the people of the country are used to subserve the common good?

Would the Naxal problem have been there if 25% of the mining profit was spent on the poor and the tribal living in the mining area and whose life was uprooted by the greedy corporate/mining mafia with active connivance of the law enforcers and policy makers ?

What prevented the government from nationalising the iron ore mine industry and handing it over to a PSU or the national mineral development corporation (NMDC) whose shares of one rupee were lapped up at a premium of Rs 300 (30000% premium) and using the profit for benefit of the people?

Are you aware that even a resource-rich and affluent country like Australia with a low population base is imposing an additional 40% windfall tax on mining profits?

Can a poor country like India afford to forgo these windfall profits?

Will you reveal as to how many times you have defended the public interest through a public interest litigation (PIL) and how many times you have defended corporate interest during your professional career as a lawyer? The question is relevant because of your empathy for the corporate sector is in apparent conflict with that towards the toiling masses.

Is it wrong for “civil society” to conclude that both as home minister and finance minister you have been protecting corporate profiteers (by first allowing them to loot the mineral wealth belonging to the people and now securing these mines for them) and not protecting the interest of the poor and tribal people who are victims of corporate greed and crony capitalism of the political parties?

You in particular should have known better having been a director of Vedanta Resources!

In your appearance on NDTV you talked about the two-pronged approach and one of them having been weakened. It is the prong of development which has been weakened and is non-existent. The royalty collected is not sufficient to pay for the various types of direct damages done by the mining industry (health, environment, water, roads, rehabilitation etc) let alone the cost of security forces.

Is it not true that the killing of innocent security forces and tribal is the direct result of the policy of securing the mineral wealth for the corporate profiteers and political parties who share the loot?

It was shocking to know that you were more concerned about your CV falling short by a few months of completing five years as finance minister when you met your maker (refer the NDTV interview) than about the blood of the innocents that has been spilled on both sides as a consequence of corporate profiteering.

It is not surprising that all the State governments which get reelected on the money of the mining mafia are interested in using air cover to make mining safe and profitable ever after. You should know better the role of money in elections after having managed to squeak past the post while the DMK MPs romped home with handsome margin. Mr A. Raja retained his portfolio!

What is at stake is the credibility of the State: that it is using force to benefit the mining mafia and that it has a vested interest in the profiteering of the mining mafia which is prospering because of crony capitalism.

To restore its credibility the government should resume all the mines which in any case belong to the people and give a solemn pledge that a minimum of 25% of the mining profits will be used for the benefit of the local people. The solution is not only just but one mandated by the Constitution. It is only after restoring its credibility that the State will have the right to act.

That one hopes, will not be necessary because honest development based on the resources belonging to the people is the best contraceptive against the Maoist ideology. (One is happy to note that according to newspaper report the mining minister has made a similar proposal and not surprisingly facing resistence.)

What happened, Mr Chidambaram, you used to be a nice guy? You resigned over the Fairgrowth affair when you were not even guilty.

Life is not about arguing a brief in court for money. It is about arguing for what is right. You have wrongly accused us of being “neither clever nor being devious “ (refer interview with NDTV), because we are not capable of it. We cannot argue the way you do.

Your arguments in Parliament over the oil for food programme while shielding Reliance from being referred to the Pathak Committee were indeed “brilliant.” Were you being clever or devious in your arguments? ( Refer the book Reliance the Real Natwar written by the undersigned for deciding the issue).

Please do not use “civil society” as an excuse for your omissions and commissions. We have no vested interest except that what belongs to the people should go to the people and that innocents, whether the security forces or the people forced to join the Maoist, should not die for corporate profits.

We are not powerful to tie the State governments with legal cases on police excesses. Those trying to uphold human right violations do so at considerable risk to their life and liberty and deserve our respect and not condemnation as misguided romantics.

On a personal note, Sir, will you resign and argue my PIL before the high court involving Rs 3,00,000 crore of iron ore being gifted by the State to Posco and Arcelor-Mittal (as Nani Palkhivala did to argue the Minerva Mill case) . It will be difficult to lose the case because law, facts and most important you will be on the same side.

If you agree to do so, Sir, I am sure He will give you far more credit than He would for the extra six months that you missed out as Finance Minister!

In case you are interested I will send you a copy of the petition.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

For far too long you have been shifting the blame on “civil society”. We too need answers.

With warm regards

A.K. Agrawal, Bangalore

***

Also read: ‘Either you are with us or you are with them?’

One question I’m dying to ask P. Chidambaram

CHURUMURI POLL: Will the State beat Naxals?

Arundhati Roy: ‘What Muslims were to BJP, Maoists are to Congress’

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Reddy brothers quit?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Mittal Steel get the land?

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23 Responses to “An open letter to home minister P. Chidambaram”

  1. Ravi Says:

    Simply superb !

    Liked this the most – On a personal note, Sir, will you resign and argue my PIL before the high court involving Rs 3,00,000 crore of iron ore being gifted by the State to Posco and Arcelor-Mittal (as Nani Palkhivala did to argue the Minerva Mill case) . It will be difficult to lose the case because law, facts and most important you will be on the same side.

  2. poli hudga Says:

    100% agree ….. my heart goes out to tribals and non-violent naxals.

  3. karihaida Says:

    Typical lefty Maoist apologiser. One or two valid points mixed with absolute drivel.
    BTW the original ‘maoists’ are buying these very minerals that the authors argues has caused these ‘maoists’ … Mao is %^&*ing Mao ;)

  4. Doddi Buddi Says:

    Agrawal.

    You make some valid points. But innocent tribals don’t go around killing the police and the local people. What have you got to say to that?

  5. Dr Kiran Acharya Says:

    NOTHING i repeat nothing justifies killing of innocent civilians, destruction of public property/infrastructure, massacre of our police/ soldiers!

  6. Goldstar Says:

    Well-written and well-argued compared to the sentimental, non-factual, and illogical drivel dished out by the previous writer in the post “An open letter to Chetan of Chikkabasavanahalli” (May 6th) or by the likes of Arundhati Roy.

  7. Ashwini Says:

    I am touched by the arguments made ; deeply hurt that we – as a nation – have consistently let down our poor and tribal brethen.

  8. babuds Says:

    One among the best article I have read so far in Churumuri. This article shows that;

    1. Thambi ministers are injurious to the health of the nation, more so if they are lawyers.

    2. Lawyer politicians whether in BJP or Congress or any other party are prone to develop a criminal bent of mind, which condition can be ascribed to their long professional association with corporate and non-corporate crooks and scamsters.

    Well done Mr. A K Agarwal

  9. Ramesh Says:

    Nice… Agree with almost everything that you wrote to Chidambaram… I read something similar written by Prem Shankar Jha some days back: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main44.asp?filename=Op010510opinion.asp

  10. chanakya Says:

    PC is doing what Nehru did when he was the first proud’ PM of Independent India. Clad in white cloths with red rose pinned near chest, he was flying the ‘peace parrots’ while our military sleuths were killed at Himalaya by Chinese People’s Liberation Army in the year 1962. Its only because of Vedanta company brother duo’s interest to spread their mining activity to add penny to already overflowing cash chest. It was same PC who defended the Vedanta when the company was alleged of cheating government with tax to the tune of crores of rupees. Now how can he ask them to pull back their idea? shame on you PC, and your government who till now has not hanged Parliamentary attack prime convict years after the verdict.

  11. Khan Says:

    I always wonder, how Quickgun Murgan won by recounting in EVM, c’mon what error could it be that recounting let him win? remeber how manishanker aiyer wished, if he could also be little close, he could also have won by recounting(outlook interview). If these are the stunts they pull with co-operation of BJP, am sure they can sell tribals wholsale to whoever bid higher.

  12. Complex Says:

    This is a very nicely argued case by Mr A.K. Agrawal .

    Contrast this with Arundhati Roy in her Outlook article “It’s hard not to see that the Indian State is an essentially upper-caste Hindu State (regardless of the party in power)”

    When will Arundhati Roy stop seeing this through a religious prism and start seeing it in terms of “Crony Capitalism”, or rather the Indian capitalism “Privatisation of profits, nationalisation of losses”

    As the writer has argued, why should we not nationalise these mines? Or auction them without any cartels taking advantage.

  13. DailyBread Says:

    “my PIL before the high court involving Rs 3,00,000 crore of iron ore being gifted by the State to Posco and Arcelor-Mittal ”

    For us hale ganadana padane gati. It looks like we will never allow processing/value addition and forever cursed to export our mineral wealth to Mao’s country.
    Path to hell, well intentions and all that….

  14. Aruna Says:

    Agarwal saheb,
    with all due respect, just give me backing for numbers that you throw around…like Rs 2,00,000 crores.
    Failure of governance does not mean condoning naxalism.

  15. shankar Says:

    This is not a ‘war’ for the Indian state against naxalites as mr PC (police constable) claims but a war for the mining companies (sterlite, posco) fought by their cronies , pc, bania jain party – yediyuurappa & raman singh. The state machinery is used to clear & sanitize the areas , to line up their pockets & also to mobilise funds for their reelection.
    They would like the tribals , the original inhabitants of the ‘Indian’ state to voluntarily displace themselves from the forests for a few hundred rupees and move to the cities of modern india to starve.

  16. Chishty Says:

    Shri Agarwal, can you please put online a copy of the PIL you have filed for public consumption?

  17. karihaida Says:

    A good insight into the ‘maoists’ …
    http://greatbong.net/2010/05/20/the-invisible-war-continues/#comment-833408
    Rs 2,00,000 crores in four and half years Mr.Agarwal? Even BHP has not made that much profit in that time :)

    @Dailybread,
    Exactly !
    Posco plant is not allowed to come up and the naxal loonies complain about lack of jobs, development and people like Mr.Agarwal keep filing PILs.

  18. kabir mustafi Says:

    A constant in the harshness of realities, is the ease with which we fall from rhetoric to rhetoric, rendering ourselves irrelevant. Why, during an answer to a personal question, should I think about, or mention, the blood of innocents? Where’s the connection?

    The educated/ erudite Indian’s arrogance is second to none. Not the accuser’s; not the prolific PIL petitioner’s; not the commentator’s. Very sad. But easy to understand once recognised.

    kkm

  19. Sudhir Kadam Says:

    I agree with you almost fully except that menace of naxals to kill anybody(innocent people,police…) is a consequence of minings. I feel that these organisations are also part of mining mafia working more like a corporate style

  20. twistleton Says:

    What is a political statement without rhetoric? A.K., I fully appreciate this effort.

    There are a few things we would do well to remember:

    Naxals are not angels fighting for a cause, so expectations of good behaviour from them is a bit unreasonable.

    Naxals have filled up a vacuum created by a lack of proper governance, so I agree completely with Arundhati Roy who says the Government is entirely to blame.

    When a tribal is goaded into picking up a gun, we might pause and consider the desperation that drove him/her to take such an extreme step to simply, simply make himself/herself heard. The escalation of conflict and its different stages have to be understood, and it does not help that most mediapersons love making one-off, sweeping comments that undermine the gravity and complexity of the entire issue.

    To the ignoramuses who think POSCO will bring development and jobs, then, I’m afraid you have not understood the issue at all. It is like saying the Commonwealth Games will bring peace and prosperity to the many labourers toiling to save the face of an incompetent administration and end poverty, atleast in the capital.

    Naxals are not protesting lack of development, they are addressing a much deeper and complex issue that is difficult to define in black and white terms. Suffice to say it is not merely an administrative issue, but one that questions the very sytem of resource distribution in our country.
    And that is something, you will agree, which is highly debatable.

  21. pravin Says:

    as if nationalizing will provide the tribals with the wealth they are supposed to have.thats sheer nonsense.we have 72 companies in the public secor losing over 100000 crores per year of tax payer money.why indeed nationalize.
    the problem is clearly one caused by destroying the fundamental right to property. if the tribals arent allowed to own their lands,you can expect the state to work on behalf of the big businessmen as their middleman.
    the big businessmen is no angel,but he would have no power over the minerals if the tribals werent forced off their land by the govt.
    this is a property rights theft issue.and the state is the thief

  22. ajay Says:

    I fully agree with the comments given in the letter. But the same time I would like to say that killing innocent poor police personnel and civilians is not solution to the issue. Killing a poor civilian or police member means killing several other family members who are depend on the person.

  23. Diwakar Says:

    I fully agree with the proposition placed before P.Chidambaram by Sri.A.K.Agrawal. If at all the present Government is interested, it should ponder over each of the observations and act swiftly with the solutions.

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