Between Corporate Loot, Political Power and the State’s War on People

Even as influential police officers talk of the Home Minister’s offensive to ‘eradicate Left-wing extremism’ lasting at least five years, a host of events are laying bare the intimate linkages between corporate loot, state terror, political power and political corruption – in the very areas that are the main theatres of the war.

Take the case of Madhu Koda – who served in every government in Jharkhand in influential ministerial positions, including as Minister for Mines and as Chief Minister. He is now being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate on charges of money laundering, and preliminary investigations indicate that he received commissions for mining contracts to the tune of Rs 4000 crore.

And Koda is no exception. In Karnataka, the Reddy brothers – BJP legislators of the powerful mining lobby – held the BJP-led State Government to ransom in protest against a cess imposed on transportation of iron ore towards flood relief. The BJP has in the past used the Reddy brothers’ enormous wealth towards wooing legislators from other parties; this time around, the same tactic has boomeranged on the BJP.

Events in both Jharkhand and Karnataka have offered a glimpse of the enormous power of mining corporations over politics, throwing some light on the shadowy and sordid linkages between corporate loot and political power. Indeed, illegal mining on a vast scale is a grim reality that all governments seem quite willing to overlook if the price is right. In Andhra Pradesh, too, Karnataka’s Reddy brothers have accumulated a vast illegal mining empire, evidently enjoying the patronage of the late Chief Minister YSR and his family. The illegal mining scam in Orissa is estimated to be to the tune of at least Rs 14,000 crore. Without doubt, illegal mining on this scale would not be possible without massive collusion and corruption in the corridors of power.

Recently, the possibility of political powers exerting pressure on prosecuting agencies to scuttle corruption cases against a mining MNC has also been raised - with the Enforcement Directorate’s decision to change its counsel midstream in a money laundering case against the Britain-based Vedanta/Sterlite mining MNC, appointing a new standing counsel who has been briefing counsel for Home Minister P Chidambaram when the latter was on Vedanta’s Board of Directors and also a lawyer for mining corporations. Another instance is the case of pilferage of superior grade coal to the tune of several thousands crore in the SECL-owned Dipika and Gevra mines in Korba district of Chhattisgarh, one of Asia’s largest coal mines. The CBI, which recently raided the premises of some of the companies involved, apparently gave these very companies clean chits on no less than three occasions in the last five years.

Is the judiciary immune to the immense wealth wielded by mining companies? It seems not. Witness the fate of the case against Vedanta in the Supreme Court, where the Justice, in the face of overwhelming evidence that Vedanta had perpetrated massive environmental damage, allowed permission to mine bauxite from the Niyamgiri forest in Orissa, merely making a cosmetic concession by ordering that Vedanta be replaced by its sister concern Sterlite. The Justice, on the point of passing this order, also admitted that he himself owned shares in Sterlite, but did not recuse himself from the case, arguing that the concerned parties consented to his continuation. The fact, however, was that the activists who were the original complainants had no power to deny consent according to the rules of the Supreme Court’s Forest Bench; the parties who ‘gave consent’ none but Vedanta itself, and its well-known promoters and friends – the Orissa Government and the Centre as represented by the Ministry of Environment!

It need hardly be reiterated that the cost of this massive, systematic loot of the country’s resources is borne largely by poor, mainly tribal populations – who pay for it with their land, livelihood, and lives. Almost as a rule, tribal populations in mineral-rich areas live on the brink of starvation, fighting an unequal battle to survive against the nexus arrayed before them.

The naked corruption of political leaders, parties and mining companies powerfully exposes the real agenda of the Centre’s ‘war on Maoism.’ At the same time, however, it must be noted that the Maoist record of offering any effective challenge to this plunder is rather poor. The structural compulsions of sophisticated arms and sensational actions, all invite a dependence on big money – and big money flows easily where corporate power plunders. It is well known that the Maoist network in Jharkhand has got thoroughly enmeshed in the megabuck industry of state-corporate loot and corruption triggering a chain of disintegration in the Maoist ranks.

Mass movements against corporate grab of land and resources, on the other hand, while rarely being able to boast of victory in the unequal battle, have nonetheless succeeded on many recent occasions in presenting governments with the possibility of a considerable political cost. The workings of the intricate machinery of loot – of mining big-money, political power, and state terror - become increasingly clearer every day. Every struggle against corruption in rations and welfare schemes, against corporate grab of land and resources, against the assaults on land, liberty and livelihood, strikes a hammer blow on that machinery.

Liberation Archive