Today, India's Home Minister, P Chidambaram made a statement to the media: "We are willing to suspend all memorandums of understanding [with mining companies] until we talk to the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and review them".
This is a significant statement, since as I had once mentioned in one of the earlier blogposts that there is a huge overlap among the "poverty map of India", the "maoist-infected map of India" and the "mineral map of India" - reproducing the 3 maps below:
The Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) are strange documents, which are signed between the government and the corporate entities, with no representation from the people whose life will finally get affected - mostly for the worse - by them (economists - of the Milton Friedman kind - call these "externalities").
I first realised this when I read the bookCatterpillarand the Mahua Flower: Tremors in India's Mining Fields (click to download pdf), which is collection of case-studies. Here is an excerpt (once again quoted in an earlier blogpost):
"...That companies are coming by the dozen to Chhattisgarh to mine its mineral wealth is hardly surprising. The state is rich in natural resources, with abundant deposits of iron, gold, tin, diamonds, coal, uranium, bauxite, corundum, dolomite, copper, limestone and other minerals. It’s estimated that the state has 35,000 million tonnes of coal, 2,336 million tonnes of iron ore, 3,580 million tonnes of limestone, 606 million tonnes of dolomite, 96 million tonnes of bauxite, and 29 million tonnes of cassiterite. With such bounty, Chhattisgarh accounts for over 13 percent of India’s total mineral production, worth around Rs 4,000 crores a year. Most importantly, 23 percent of the country’s iron-ore deposits are located here. The deposits in Bailadila in Bastar are considered to be among the best in the world....
....While the government cheered about the MoUs with Tata and Essar, the locals were curious about the agreements’ terms. How much land had been given to these two steel giants? Whose land was it? Would tribal land be confiscated? Would there be compensation, rehabilitation, or employment for the locals at these units? But no replies were forthcoming from the government on these issues.
MoUs have always been considered as public documents but a veil of secrecy hung over the government’s agreements with Tata and Essar. When the people demanded a copy of the MoUs under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the answer they obtained was both shocking and surprising: it was stated that a condition in the MoU prevented the government from revealing it to a third party! ..."