In mineral-rich lands, adivasis still find it hard to make ends meet. Violence between the state and Naxals threatens to divide and disenfranchise them further. Freny Manecksha reports.
The Bailadilla range is one of the world’s richest and largest sources of iron ore. At Kirandul, where the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) has been operating two mines since 1961, the ore is extracted and then loaded on to railway trucks bound for Visakhapatnam. The iron dust which remains is taken by Essar through a 267-km long pipeline to its Visakhapatnam factory where it is converted into pellets and exported. Profits to the tune of hundreds of crores annually flow through the pipeline – or more correctly, they did until last year, when Maoists breached it near Visakhapatnam.
Adjoining these projects is the Kuakonda Block but in its mineral-rich lands the adivasis there still find it a huge challenge to earn enough to provide for their families. Like everywhere in India, they inhabit a land that is full of economic potential, but their own lot is filled with misery. In Kuakonda, despite the mines, the adivasis’ mainstay is agriculture, and their livelihood is only occasionally augmented by “coolie work” allotted by contractors who throng Kirandul.