Caterpillar and the Mahua Flower: Tremors in India's Mining Fields


The essays in this book seek to unravel the labyrinth of mining in which both the state and the markets are implicated.

In the preface, Rakesh Kalshian says that from 1997-2007 steel and mining giants like the Tatas, Jindals and Birlas as well as global mining corporations such as Arcelor Mittal, POSCO, Vedanta Resources, Phelps Dodge, Rio Tinto, CRA, De Beers, Anglo American, BHP Minerals, ProAm, Alcan, Norsk Hydro and Ashton Mining grabbed approvals to explore and mine iron, coal, diamond, gold, bauxite, copper, silver and associated minerals in Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The Foreign Investment Promotion Board gave approvals to 73 joint venture companies as of July 31, 2005.

While rich mineral pits were opened up, they were on lands occupied by Adivasis and in forests with rich flora and fauna. As the nation and the states claimed sovereign rights over the resources in these territories, Adivasis pushed off their lands were fighting a battle for justice and survival.    


  1. Since 1940, over 25.5 lakh people have been  displaced by mining projects across India, but only 6.30 lakhs had been rehabilitated. Among those displaced are 13.3 lakh Adivasis.    

  2. The Bailadila mountain range in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh had 14 deposits with a total of 3,000 million tons of iron ore. About 1,200 million tons of these were classified as ‘high-grade’.

  3. In 2005, the Chhattisgarh government signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with Tata Steel and the Essar group and allowed them to choose land anywhere in Bastar to set up steel plants. It overlooked a central government rule mandating a public hearing before a plant was set up and an environmental clearance.

  4. Acquiring a mining lease for a major mineral like iron ore or coal was simplified between 1997 and 2007, with the liberalisation of the mining sector. Leases were granted on a ‘first come first serve’ basis, and the foreign direct investment guidelines of 1999 permitted up to 100 per cent FDI in the mining and processing of minerals other than diamonds, precious stones and atomic minerals.

  5. A 2005 document of the Directorate of Mines states that 52 out of 119 mines in Odisha’s Keonjhar district, covering 52 per cent of the area leased for mining, were operating illegally on expired licenses. Of these 10 mines covering one-fifth of the total land under mining in the district were operated by the state-owned Orissa Mining Corporation.

  6. The state government signed agreements with several companies for setting up industrial training institutes (ITI), aimed at training that will enable a larger number of workers from the unskilled and low-paying work categories to move on to higher-paying skilled jobs. But a 2003 study by the International Labour Organisation showed that only 2.8 per cent of the total workforce (permanent and contractual) in Odisha’s steel processing sector had graduated from an ITI. In the ferro-plant sector and in general manufacturing, the percentage was 10.3 and 3.5, respectively.

  7. According to Adivasi elders in Kalinga Nagar, Odisha, almost 3,000 hectares of the land that for long had belonged to Adivasis was now with the non-Adivasi population in Sukinda block or with non-residents. Very few Adivasis had managed to acquire land titles.

  8. The Uranium Corporation of India’s dumping of radioactive waste in Jadugora (more commonly called Jaduguda), Jharkhand, had directly affected over 30,000 people in 15 village clusters, 2 towns and other nearby areas. Several cases of severe birth deformities and unexplained miscarriages had been recorded in these areas. (See also The ore that breaks bodies in Bango.)

  9. By setting up steel plants in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, Tata and Essar would bring in investments of Rs. 10,000 crores and Rs. 7,000 crores, respectively. Essar’s proposed 3.2 million ton plant would require at least 80,000 metres cubed of water per day – or the water needs of 80,000 people.

  10. A study commissioned by the World Bank observed that Odisha was not equipped to handle the industrial and mining rush of 1997 to 2007. Over 95 per cent of the industries and mines hadn’t submitted environmental statements; the Orissa Pollution Control Board didn’t have jurisdiction over 50 per cent of the mines; and 30 per cent had not applied for permit renewals.

  11. Displaced Adivasis in Chhattisgarh have said that the Sterlite group started excavating bauxite in January 2004, after acquiring 300 hectares from farmers and 100  from Baiga tribals. A resident of Semersanta village said that the government and Sterlite had relocated only half of the Baigas to other villages in 2004, but they were not given any farm land and didn’t have facilities such as healthcare, schools and roads.

  12. In 2006, 12 Adivasis were killed in a police firing during an agitation against the Tatas in Odisha’s Kalinga Nagar, but their families rejected the government’s compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs.  These families kept up an economic blockade of National Highway 200 for over a year.
    Factoids compiled by Ragini Rao Munjuluri and Tanuj Raut.


Contributors: Roger Moody, Felix Padel and Samarendra Das, Alok Prakash Putul, Aman Sethi, Roder Moody, Neeraj Agarwal, Ranjan K. Panda, Ashly Hinmon, Xavier Dias, Amit Raja (translation by Rahul Rajesh), Umesh Nazir (translation by Rahul Rajesh), Bhigneswar Sahu and Kedar Mishra. 

Editor: Rakesh Kalshian    


Panos South Asia 


Jun, 2007