CPI(ML) in flood relief

ORISSA, ONE of the most backward states in our country, is once again reeling under the impact of nature’s fury. After the unparalleled Super Cyclone in 1999 and severe drought in 2000, this year floods have ravaged Orissa. As per official estimates, nearly 1,00,000 people, in 24 districts, have been affected by the floods. Crops in 75 lakh hectares of land have been damaged. More than 100 people have lost their lives.

Heavy rainfall in Chhattisgarh which constitutes the source of important rivers of Orissa, unexpected release of water in huge quantity into Mahanadi from the Hirakud dam, continuous rainfall in the coastal regions of Orissa for 15 days and the hightide in Bay of Bengal preventing drainage of flood water through the rivers etc. were the immediate factors for the flood havoc. But the incompetence and callousness of the BJD-BJP regime in Orissa aggravated the crisis. First of all, the Navin Patnaik regime utterly failed in flood control measures, especially embankment of canals, desilting of drainage channels, and normal repair and maintenance work to irrigation systems. Secondly, in the face of a grim flood situation the government miserably failed to organise any relief.

The government is also obstructing relief initiatives undertaken by political parties, social organisations and NGOs. To cite an example, when one of our youth leaders, who is also an elected member of the panchayat samiti in Delong block of Puri district, mobilised the people to protest against irregularities in the distribution of relief materials and forced the block officials to accept people’s supervision over distribution, the local MLA of BJD instigated the district officials to book a case against him.

The NDA government at the Centre, of which BJD is also a part, was also equally indifferent to the plight of the people of Orissa. Vajpayee, after his much-publicised aerial survey, released only Rs.100 crore as against an estimated loss of Rs.600 crore. How much of it would really reach the affected people is anybody’s guess. A CAG report has pointed out widespread irregularities in relief distribution in the wake of the Super Cyclone. The CPI(ML) activists have once again risen to the occasion and stood by the people during their agony. Their main thrust was to release popular initiative in relief and rehabilitation work and to check the official loot through people’s supervision.

Land struggles by tribals

IN SOUTH ORISSA, especially in Gajapati district, in the face of growing tribal unrest, the Orissa government appointed special task force for settling the land disputes of tribals. Barring a few superficial attempts, this committee could not make any meaningful breakthrough in solving these disputes. In this backdrop, the CPI(ML) and its kisan wing have launched land struggles in Rayagada and Gajapati districts. In Padampur block of Rayagada district, nearly 25 acres of ceiling-surplus land under the occupation of upper caste landlords in two places were seized. Tribal people were mobilised in these struggles and they could rebuff the attempts by the mafia and police to strike terror. In Gosani and Kashinagar blocks of Gajapati district, 30 acres of government land under the control of vested interests were seized by mobilising hundreds of rural poor.

In contrast to the anarchic activities based on dalams and the trend of tribal-dalit conflict over land, our organised land struggle on the basis of proper investigation and popular initiative has become a trendsetter in this region and has the potential of rapid expansion in the days to come.

The plight of the tribal people of South and West Orissa has been further aggravated by the decision of the Navin government to stop bamboo cutting which is an important forest produce and source of livelihood for the tribals in Orissa. The revenue loss to the state government would be Rs.16 crore. The tribals would lose 2 lakh mandays of employment. The CPI(ML) has launched a popular campaign to force the government to allow bamboo cutting again.