Sandeep Sahu

Within minutes of Mohan Majhi being chosen as the leader of the BJP legislature party, I got a call from a politician, who left the BJP and joined the Congress just weeks before the election. "Ambani and Adani have won," she announced triumphantly in an apparent reference to the stakes of the two business tycoons in Odisha in general and the enormous iron ore deposits in Keonjhar, Majhi's home district, in particular. In the time since then, variations of the same verdict have been played on social media ad nauseam with apologists of the ancient regime taking the lead. The insinuation: Majhi was chosen because he is an adivasi from Keonjhar and thus can be made to 'toe the line' and facilitate the easy handover of the iron ore mines to the two rapacious businessmen from Gujarat who have been allegedly propped up by the Narendra Modi regime right through its two terms.

That the new Chief Minister has vowed to end 'mafia Raj' in Keonjhar hasn't made the slightest difference to those engaged in the vilification campaign against him. They will brook no questions on their verdict nor wait to see how the new CM acts. As far as they are concerned, the verdict is final, not subject to any review or appeal in a 'higher court'.

In running a full-fledged motivated campaign against the new CM even before he has settled on his chair properly, these people are being unfair to him on two counts. First, they are trying to create an impression that had someone from outside Keonjhar been chosen as the CM, the mines in the district would be safe. This suggestion defies logic. If the Modi-Shah combination is determined to give Ambani and Adani a free run of the iron ore mines in Keonjhar, who in the state BJP has the guts to defy their orders as CM? What difference would it have made if the new CM belonged to say Sambalpur or Koraput district? Would s/he not do the same - facilitate the loot by the Ambani-Adani duo - assuming that Modi-Shah indeed want to hand over the rich iron ore mines in Keonjhar on a platter to their 'Gujju Bhais'? On the one hand, these people claim that the reins of the BJP government would be with the Big Two in Delhi, who would control everything with a remote. On the other, the same set of people say Majhi was chosen because he would be a pushover. How can one reconcile the two arguments that seem to be at loggerheads with each other?

Second, Majhi's tribal origins should not be mocked by insinuating that tribals are lesser mortals and can be pushed around to do one's bidding more easily than others. This, in my view, amounts to a casteist - and even racist - slur that deserves unqualified condemnation by one and all.

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Ironically, the same set of people who are now crying themselves hoarse - even before the new government has settled down and the anticipated loot has begun - never uttered a word against the rampant and uninhibited loot of iron ore from the mines in Keonjhar that continued unabated from 2000 to 2009. Their silence on the report of the MC Shah Commission of inquiry, which strongly recommended a CBI inquiry into the mega mining scam in the state, has been deafening. It is not as if the loot stopped after 2009. Mining companies still mine far more than their prescribed limit. They still foray into areas outside their leased area. And they still deny the exchequer what it should get by way of mining revenue. But no one has ever heard these people utter a word against it at any point in time. It seems they suddenly woke up to the loot only after the change of regime in the state. 

If we are serious about checking the loot of our mineral wealth, we should collectively work for a proper, fair and transparent probe into the mega mining scam of 2000-2009 and bring those responsible for it to book. And keep a vigilant eye on and monitor the operation of all mining activities in the state - not just in the iron-rich mines of Keonjhar, but also our enviable bauxite reserves in the southern districts of Rayagada, Korpaut and Kalahandi. If the Mohan Majhi government facilitates the loot of mines, with or without the Centre's behest, we should oppose it tooth and nail. 

But crucifying the new government just days after it is sworn in is something that can only be called an act of putting the cart before the horse.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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