On the basis of available information today, around 7000 people work at the Jaduguda mining complex. Hundred percent of the contract workers are tribal1. Ninety five percent of them are underground miners. In the top management or first grade posts of UCIL no tribal people are employed. A study conducted by Anumukti, (Liberation from the Atom), a journal started in 1987) is the leading anti-nuclear journal in India, in its January 2004 issue (Volume 13, Number 1), points out that as high as 55.3% of the household in the villages have at least one person in regular employment with the UCIL. In addition Sadans, dalits and other backward castes work in the UCIL mills and mines.
Most of them work dressed in cotton uniforms and leather gloves are directly exposed to high levels of radon gas, dust and highest radiation. Once a week, these workers carry their uniforms home to be hand washed by their wives and children, exposing the entire family.
In the absence of any independent study, anecdotal evidence suggests that the mineworkers are suffering an epidemic of lung cancer, skin disease and other chronic ailments. Nobody knows how many of have died.
Guria born crippled "No standards have been met in the tailing ponds construction and no measures instituted to control the radon emissions from it. As a result, they continually pose a constant threat to Dungridih, Chatijkocha, Telaitand, Mecchua, Matigora and other surrounding villages within 10-15 Kms. Even Jamshedpur, just 20 kms is not free from it. It is on the dried up tailing ponds that Dr. Arjun Soren, who is the first doctor from Jaduguda's Santhal adivasi community, once played football as a child unaware of the dangers. Today, he is fighting cancer undergoing treatment in Mumbai for 'acute myeloid leukaemia' His family cannot afford a possible life saving bone-marrow transplant. During his medical studies he continued to visit Bhatin throughout his medical studies, assuring us and other Santhals that he would return to work with us," said Ghanshyam Biruli, President, Jharkhandis' Organisation Against Radiation (JOAR) "While working in uranium mines I handled the ore during drilling operation. Mostly I was in survey work. The geologist, whom I accompanied, used to tell us at what depth the uranium would be available after inspection. All this affected my health and I developed gastric trouble, as we could never take our meals in time. The doctors kept on telling me that I had Tuberculosis (TB). Then I consulted a private doctor in Jamshedpur who told me that I did not have TB. But by then the UCIL doctors had already administered 90 injections and gave some medicine, as a consequence of which my eyes and ears have been damaged. I got my eyes treated by Dr. Mustafa of Bistupur, I now feel as if some insect is moving in my ear. I still feel sick because of drinking uranium-contaminated water; I am taking medicines for the last 15 years. They took my blood, stool, urine and even semen samples but the result was never shown to me. They kept telling me I have TB, "said Mangal Majhi of Matigora village Further, he said, "No one told us that we became sick by drinking uranium – contaminated water. We have witnessed of it on plants and animal here. There used to be 'kendu' fruits grown in the vicinity of UCIL and the tailing ponds, have turned seedless. The fish in the stream have developed all kinds of diseases and started dying. Cows and goats have also died. The buffaloes have shortened tail. Still, I am a sick person and one-fourth of my body is useless, even after taking medicines for 15 years." Radiation affected Father and Son This is in contravention of the Guidelines of the International Committee of Radiological Protection (ICRP). M M Bhagat, former Working President, UCIL Kamgar Union, said, "Gloves and masks are not provided to staff that pack the yellow cakes in drums. Nothing special is being done for uranium miners who are exposed to grave dangers. In addition, their families are exposed to slow poisoning on account of UCIL's unsafe waste management practices."
Jaduguda uranium mining has adversely affected more than 30,000 people in 15 villages within the 5km radius of the mining complex. These villages are in the radiation zone. Prominent among them are Telaitand, Matigora, Mechhua, Bhatin, Rohimbeda, Chatijkocha, Surda, Narua, Dumridih, Dungridih, Sosoghutu, Sitadanga and Bhusabani. People in these and other villages suffer from physical deformities and a variety of illnesses such as lung cancer, skin disease and other chronic ailments. However, UCIL claims that it has not seen any effects of radiation on its workforce; notwithstanding the record of death toll- 17 workers died in 1994, 14 in 1995, 19 in 1996 and 21 in 1997. Mangal Majhi from village Matigora, just half kilometre from Jaduguda mines remembers how all this began- "Officials from Delhi used to come to Santhali villages to give training and employment. We adivasis were not interested. Persistent in their effort, the Englishmen continued to come to our houses to take us to work drop us back home in the evening. Some of us went to Rajasthan and other parts of the country with the same company. The non-tribals working with us became big shots in the company but our adivasis status remained the same. After working in different parts of the country I was sent back to Jaduguda where I worked for UCIL. In the beginning we did not know what was being mined and our Santhal community was never informed about it. When we joined the company, we had to take an oath of secrecy". The Majhi continued, "These mines the government built forcibly over our 'Jaher' (holy places). We did not like this. We did not want them to defile our sacred places. We people were not considered human being. There was no one to protect us."
"At that point in time", the Majhi said, "Jaduguda was a grove of the castor oil tree. That what the term means. It was dense forest situated on the indigenous Santhal and Ho tribal lands in the Singhbhum East district of Jharkhand. Now it is man-made hell." All of the uranium for India's ten Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) comes from single uranium mining and processing plant at Jaduguda, started by Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) in 1967.
Tailing Pond It is fed on the one hand by three underground uranium mines at Jaduguda, Narwapahar and Bhatin all within a 5 km radius, and on the other hand by the by-product from three nearby copper mines uranium recovery plants at Rakha, Surda and Musabani. This enterprise brings to the surface, from a depth of 1600-2000 feet, a low-grade ore (0.06%), not worth recovering in other countries.
Outside Jharkhand UCIL controls Domiasiat mill and mine project (West Khasi Hills district, Meghalaya); Lambapur-Peddagattu project (Nalgonda district, Andhra Pradesh). It plans to start new open cast mining at Turamdih and Bhanduhurung, just 20 kms from Jaduguda. Uranium ore is brought to the Jaduguda mill in open trucks along narrow roads linking the mines from Bhatin four kms and Narwapahar twelve kms west of Jaduguda. These trucks are sometimes partly covered by tarpaulins and occasionally carry workers perched on top of the ore load. These dusty roads run through villages littered with loose rock fallen from these overloaded trucks. Seeing children and livestock picking through piles of uranium ore2 is enough to give the casual visitor a glimpse of safety standards being observed.
This ore is crushed to a fine powder in the Jaduguda mill and is then chemically treated (an acid leach process) to extract the uranium. Jaduguda produces around 200 tonnes of uranium in the form of yellow cake (uranium concentrate) a year. It has a processing capacity of around 1000 tonnes of ore per day. By rough calculation, this means that UCIL is mining, crushing and then dumping around 330,000 – 360,000 tonnes of rock every year. The 'yellow cake' manufactured at plant is transported to the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) in Hyderabad, where they used to fabricate fuel rods.
Uranium is not the only radioactive element found in the ore. There are a dozen or so others known as uranium decay products; among them, thorium-230, radium-226, and radon-222. Each of these presents a unique hazard to people and other living creatures coming into contact with them. These wastes are radioactive for around 250,000 years; in human terms this might as well be forever. In addition to the radiological hazard, uranium ores commonly contain varying concentrations of zinc, lead, manganese, cadmium and arsenic. None of these other elements are removed during processing; all remain in the tailings along with residues of the process chemicals used to extract the uranium.
What is left are eighty five percent other radioactive products. These are made into slurry and pumped into 'tailing' ponds. The waste, known as tailings, is treated with lime to neutralise the acidity, and then separated into coarse and fine particles. The coarse tailings, making up about 50% of the volume of the waste, are backfilled into the mine cavities. The remaining fine tailings are mixed with water and pumped through a pipeline over the rooftops of Jaduguda village into the tailings dam, their final resting place. There are now three large tailing ponds at Jaduguda, impounding tens of millions of tonnes of radioactive waste and covering more than 100 acres. They are unlined and uncovered; liquids, gases and fine dust particles are rapidly cycled into the environment. During the dry season, ponds run dry, the wind picks up the loose tailings and blows them around; in the monsoon rains, the dams overflow into the river.
People have also used the ponds to graze livestock and play soccer. They regularly cross them on their way from one place to another. The ponds are constructed on traditional routes to the forest and beyond, connecting people with their relatives. Tailings have been used for landfill and construction materials. The complex has gradually encroached peoples agricultural land and their living space. They continue to live within 30 metres of the tailings structures, and without any source for livelihood. Jaduguda is also 'India's radioactive dump yard'. Xavier Dias pointed out "Wastes from the Nuclear Fuel Complex in Hyderabad and the BARC Rare Materials Plant in Mumbai, Mysore, Gopalpur on sea, as well as medical radio wastes from an unknown number of sources are being returned to Jaduguda. This came to light when local people began to find syringes, bags and IV pipes from hospital wastes buried in the tailings3. It is now widely understood that the company still imports this waste, and is feeding it through the mill, crushing it before discharging it into the ponds. It is likely that some of these materials are gamma radiation emitters, adding to the radiation hazard suffered by everyone in the area".
The first intervention was in 1979 when Indian Federation of Trade Union (IFTU), a labour wing of Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) called for a strike in Rakha Copper Mines. In this strike, IFTU demanded only 'radiation allowances' for the workers exposed to radioactive rays. No political party or a trade union raised the these issue confronting the mining community and those living in the vicinity of the mining site, " said Shamit Carr, now a researcher and member, Bharatiya Shramik Sabha. Earlier he worked with IFTU.
At this point in time Singhbhumi Ekta (Singhbhum's Unity), a Trade Union engaged in AJSU activities, developed a special relation with IFTU. Xavier Dias who at this point in time member of AJSU-Singhbhumi Ekta front got involved with this labour struggles in Jaduguda. According to Xavier Dias "The 1979 strike, was unsuccessful but it brought the issue of radiation to the fore. It inspired and partially politicised several educated tribal youth, who were until then unconcerned with radiation and its adverse impact on the adivasis living in Jaduguda".
In 1980s All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) led an upsurge on the identity question. Militant bandhs for two-three days were staged by urban youth. AJSU called for elections boycott. However, its associate, Jharkhand Peoples' Party jumped into electoral politics. The result was unrecoverable disaster. Disenchanted, most of the front ranking AJSU functionaries from the Ghatshila and Potka blocks in East Singhbhum district broke away from the organization in 1989 and launched an independent struggle against displacement and unemployment in Jaduguda. They formed Jharkhand Adivasi Berojgar Visthapit Sangh (JABVS) or the Jharkhand Tribal Unemployed Displaced Committee.
"At that time we knew nothing about radiation. We knew there was radiation but we didn't take it as a serious issue" recollected Xavier. Over a period of time Ghanshyam Biruli, now the President of JOAR, points out that 'people slowly started to notice rashes, deformities on fellow beings, cows were being born without tails, fish with unknown skin diseases were being discovered, small animals, including mice, monkeys and rabbits were disappearance from the area, Kendu fruits had become seedless… "In 1991 when the preparations for the World Uranium Hearings had started, we read literature on the consequences of uranium mining- we were shocked", recollected Xavier Dias. We decided to set up an organization to take this struggle forward. Xavier set up the Jharkhandis Organisation Against Radiation (JOAR) in 1991/92 to pressurise UCIL management to reform its operations. This organisation worked together with the All- Jharkhand Students Union that had started an organisation of displaced and unemployed tribal people.
At the World Uranium Hearing4, 400 delegates and observers from across the world participated. Xavier Dias represented JOAR at the hearing. Along with him there were other three delegates and an observer from India. The deliberations and interactive sessions in the Hearing helped Xavier to understand the politics behind the uranium production. "In the World Uranium Hearing, I was astounded by the fact that eighty percent of uranium in the world was being dug out from indigenous lands. The indigenous people are worst victims on the altar of world's nuclear weapons development programme. Not only in India, even in Canada, USA, Latin America, Australia and in Africa. In India Jaduguda and Domisiat in Meghalaya, were tribal area, where rich deposit of uranium was found", said Xavier Dias Participation in the World Uranium Hearing made it clear, pointed out Xavier, that the State by design was smothering tribal identity. This was genocide an integral part of India's nuclear development programme. The deployment of CRPF, CISF and other paramilitary forces at Jaduguda ensured secrecy keeping tribals from knowing what happens in the process of mining uranium and transporting it to other places Truck with uranium without any cover In the absence of any official initiative to find out the health of the people living around the mine, in 1993, Bindrai Institute for Research Study and Action (BIRSA) in collaboration with JAVBS (now JOAR) conducted a survey in seven villages within 1km of the mining site (specifically tailings dams, described later). [BIRSA was started in 1989 It was planned as a research, training and documentation centre by a group of intellectuals and activists connected with the various People's movements of Jharkhand BIRSA set its goal to nurture its own leadership from amongst the Jharkhandi activists and in the ten years of its history is has achieved this to a good extent.] Dr. Imrana Qadir of Centre for Social Medicines, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi trained midwives, who were also village level health workers, for field investigation. The survey was designed to find out instances of stillborns, deformed children and other new aliments and explain to the people the harmful effects of radiation. It took two years to complete the survey.
"The report revealed that 47% of women suffered disruptions in their menstrual cycle, 18% said they had suffered miscarriages or given birth to stillborn babies in the last 5 years. 30% suffered fertility problem. Nearly all women complained of fatigue, weakness and depression. Further, the survey found a high incidence of chronic skin disease, cancers, TB, bone, brain kidney damage, nervous system disorders, congenital deformities, nausea, blood disorders and other chronic diseases. Children were the most affected-born with skeletal distortions, partially formed skulls, blood disorders and a broad variety of physical deformities. Most common is missing eyes or toes, fused fingers or limbs incapable of supporting them. Brain damage often compounds these physical disabilities." In addition, the researchers found that 30,000 people within 5 km of the mining area were being exposed to abnormally high levels of radiation." said Ajitha George of BIRSA, who was co-ordinating the BIRSA/JOAR study.
These damages from low-level radiation slowly degrade the DNA material destroying the inheritance upon which the whole human race depends. Once the genes have been damaged there is no hope of repair.
It is impossible to gauge how much radioactive material is circulating within the environment and how it is being taken into the food chain. The little that is known is frightening.
For nine years after UCIL served notice in 1985 to the villagers of Chatijkocha that their land would be acquired for construction of the third tailings pond, nothing happened. Then suddenly in 1994 the villagers were directed to appear at the UCIL offices to collect their compensation for their land that had been acquired. Crude concrete markers about the size and shape of gravestones appeared in the area where the new waste dump was about to appear.
Most families were deeply offended by the pitiful compensation offered by UCIL and refused to accept. Instead they made a set of demands, which were ignored. On January 27, 1996 UCIL, backed by district police and paramilitary units, entered the village and began the process of bulldozing their houses. Thirty houses were destroyed, fields were flattened, sacred 'sarnas' (groves of worship) and graveyards were levelled out.
The demands were as follows:
1. Bringing radioactive wastes into their area and dumping them in their villages should stop forthwith. 2. International norms and standards for storing radioactive waste that has already been dumped should be meticulously observed 3. All the villages around the already existing tailings ponds should be resettled at a safe distance and complete rehabilitation should be undertaken. 4. All the families whose active working members have either died or been incapacitated and the families which have children with serious physical and/or mental disabilities should be adequately compensated and the company should take the responsibility for their treatment. 5. The company should set up a public dispensary manned by medical personnel qualified to treat radiation related diseases, and its functioning should be under the direction of the traditional tribal leadership of the Majhi/Pargana. In response, within three days Santhal people mobilised a large number of people from nearby villages in support of the people of Chatijkocha. Women lay down in front of bulldozers; the local press broadcast the action to national and international human rights groups. As a result the demolition was temporarily suspended. The villagers demanded that they be realistically compensated for their lands and rehabilitated to a habitable area.
People approached the Ranchi Bench of the Bihar High Court in mid-1996 seeking to stop UCIL from destroying their villages. The court suggested the villagers' dialogue with the mining management. The negotiations was fruitless, the tribal people ended up walking out.
Work to construct tailings dam was quietly recommenced in February 1997. On 25th February, tribal people blocked the construction work. In response, UCIL deployed police and the arrests began. Repressive measures were adopted to silence the tribal people. "In 1997, my brother Jairam also raised his voice along with other Santhals. He was brutally beaten by the police with rifle butts on the buttocks. There was bleeding and since then he has been suffering," said Dumka Murmu, General Secretary, JOAR Broader support from surrounding villages and other Jharkhandis struggling group started pouring in. On March 9, a Parganas5 of all the Santhal Tribal people arrived in support and UCIL were again forced into negotiations. UCIL made lot of promises, including improved radiation monitoring, realistic cash payments, employment for the displaced males and improved healthcare for radiation-affected people.
JOAR's movement forced negotiations and achieved compensation from the powerful and secretive nuclear operation. The movement swelled since 1997 and became known around the country.
'The most mobile element in the tailings is Radon-222, a heavy radioactive gas with a half-life of 3.8 days. (With a steady 10km per hour wind, the gas could travel nearly 1000 km before half has decayed.) This gas presents a major threat to mine workers and nearby residents alike; it emits alpha radiation as it decays into radioactive bismuth, polonium and lead. Inhaling or ingesting radon (it is water soluble) poses a unique health hazard as the body becomes exposed to the chemical properties of the various decay products as well as their radioactivity, according to the paper titled ' Radiological pollution from uranium mines at Jaduguda' submitted by Xavier Dias at a 'Conference on Health & Environment' organised by Centre for Science & Environment in New Delhi 6th-9th July 1998.
As part of protests against the construction of the third tailings dam, JOAR demanded that the State of Bihar conduct its own survey on the health impacts of the mine. The environment committee of the Bihar Vidhan Parishad (Legislative Council) spent two years on the study, and filed its last report in December 1998. A medical team sampled water around the tailings dams and examined 54 people suspected of suffering from radiation-related illness.
The report confirmed what the people already knew; that UCIL was dumping nuclear waste from other sites into the tailings dams, that uranium was leaching into the river, and that people were living too close to the mine. The team expressed concern at the fact that the tails dams were unfenced, that waste water was returning to the treatment plant in open drains, and that there were no warning signs around the plant. But overall the findings were ambivalent. KK Beri, then UCIL Technical Director, had written to the deputy commissioner's office informing him that the 54 people identified by the medical team were not suffering from diseases caused by uranium radioactivity, and they are dismissed in the final report: "As regards the cause-effect relationship of these diseases with radioactivity, we can neither establish nor exclude the same at this stage." The committee recommended a complete health survey to be undertaken. A medical team dominated by doctors from BARC and the UCIL chief medical officer duly carried this out. It found, perhaps not surprisingly, that the diseases found in Jaduguda were not related to radiation, blaming instead poor nutrition, malaria, alcoholism and genetic abnormalities.
Contrary to these findings "There is no radiation or any related health problems in Jaduguda and its surrounding areas", says J.L Bhasin, former chairperson and Managing Director of UCIL. The 'no radiation' argument, when pushed, becomes 'no radiation beyond permitted international limits''. Mine management also denies dumping nuclear waste at Jaduguda, other than "a small amount of raffinate cake" from Hyderabad. It denies any health effects from elevated levels of radiation and insists it holds that its workforce is healthy.
The environment committee however made a recommendation that echoed one of the key demands of JOAR: that people be evacuated to a distance of 5 km from the mines and tailing ponds. UCIL and the government alike ignored this recommendation, like much of the bulk of the report.
This is the standard practice for the nuclear industry worldwide. The Indian nuclear industry is able to hide behind an oppressive 'Official Secrets Act' and is not directly accountable to the people for its actions. All nuclear research including health physics and health test of affected populations are hidden by this Act.
All this workers gradually got to know. This led them to protest. On account of unrest and discontent among the workforce UCIL looked towards private labour companies to hire contract labourers, who were dismissed as soon as they showed any signs of illness. Regular employees started to wear radiation-measuring devices inside the plant and underground, but they are never told what doses are recorded, and if they fell sick they were treated at the plant hospital. Their medical records were kept a closely guarded secret.
JOAR continued to be busy with court proceedings; building up the campaign, labour unrest and the movement became stronger than ever. However, Xavier Dias in an interview to Scott Ludlam in November 1999, said, "From here I think, UCIL is either going to sabotage or break the movement by buying up the leadership, or have some clandestine operation like what normal governments do. These are the only two options available."
In 2002, JOAR membership had touched 3000 but after that it took a downward trend. It had formed village committees under the leadership Manjis (headman). JOAR had also roped in Haripada Pargana as one of its front ranking members. Since its inception JOAR had collaborated with other organisations such as BIRSA, Anumukti etc. to undertake health surveys, legal action, awareness building programmes, political lobbying and direct action in defence of the tribals.
"JOAR's struggle had definitely inspired the movement at Banduhurung 6 against UCIL's open cast mining. The UCIL plans to start a uranium processing and power plant at Turamdih, close to Banduhurung. JOAR and media, especially national newspapers and magazines played an exemplary role in making people aware about uranium mines and its radioactive effect. Rana S Gautam, of the Times of India's wrote series of stories on Jaduguda. It had been successful in making people aware about radiation though at a quite slower pace," said Shamit Carr.
Two years later the UCIL succeeded in dividing the movement. JOAR split on 24th February 2004, when UCIL organised a 'Jan Sunwayi' (Public Hearing) at Banduhurung to garner support of the people in favour of open cast mining in Banduhurung "JOAR supported UCIL and BIRSA opposed UCIL" said Shamit Carr. Prior to this public hearing a leader of JOAR went around the villages telling the villagers that they should support UCIL, which would get them the jobs. Paradoxically, JOAR is a major partner in the MUAP (Movement Against Uranium Project) raising voice against UCIL projects in Nalgonda (Andhra Pradesh) and Domiasiat (Meghalaya).
"Seventeen tribal organisations have formed a co-ordination committee to oppose uranium open cast mining in Banduhurung. The co-ordination committee had distanced itself from JOAR, as it had supported Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to begin its operations in Banduhurung." Alleged, "Rich dividends were paid by UCIL to Ghanshyam Biruli, President, JOAR for total 'sell out'. UCIL gave him money to get his house refurbished in Jaduguda. UCIL also paid him money to get a pond dug nearby his house. The president is a full time activist. But where does he get money for leading a lavish lifestyle" said Surai Hansda7, Chief Functionary, Adivasi Moolvasi Bhumi Suraksha Samiti (AMBSS) Surai Hansda decided to launch AMBSS when they saw JOAR work in support of open cast mining in Banduhurung. AMBSS upholds tribal exclusive rights to their traditional lands and their resources. It emphasizes that where the lands and resources of the tribals have been taken away by UCIL without their free and informed consent, it should provide jobs. It objects to and protests against UCIL not keeping its promise8. AMBSS has 700 members. Most of them are men; they plan to induct women in their struggle. Surai thinks, "Women had been at the forefront of the tribal struggles. Without their participation, it's quite difficult to organise the movement." The organisation generates its own resources. Whenever there are programmes, people donate generously. During their mobilisation drive against globalisation, they saw that youths wanted to dispose off the land but elders oppose. They are not interested in any reunion with JOAR. Their potential allies in the struggle are the affected community, villagers and BIRSA. BIRSA has supported and assisted the movement through legal advice, arranging for documents, dissemination of information and financial support. UCIL tried to divide this organisation, but in vain. Sukumar Murmu, Chairperson, Talsa village Assembly said, "Ghanshyam Biruli is acting like a broker of UCIL. Suresh Purti of village Barahata paid Ghanshyam Biruli Rs. 75,000 for getting him a job. But till date he has not got a job and Rs. 23,000 was returned back to him. Manki Gunduwara of Barahata village also paid Rs.75, 000 and Dusrath Jojo gave Ghanshyam Biruli Rs. 50.000 for job in UCIL."
As UCIL is going on a faster pace for operationalising open cast mining in Banduhurung so 17- organisation co-ordination committee is intensifying its struggle. They are less dependent on external facilitator. They encourage participation and transparency and make an effort to generate their own resources. Growing intensity and broader base of the struggle in Banduhurung, will force UCIL to soften its stand. UCIL has been assiduously trying to brand the struggle as anti-national and anti- development by roping in JOAR but the people affected by the project see it as a genuine struggle and therefore take it seriously. Some of the senior functionaries of JOAR are silent and slowly distancing from its activities. Of all the mining in Jharkhand nuclear mining at Jaduguda is the most lethal.
It is difficult to say how this conflict will unfold and what will be its consequences for the people. The problem is difficult-should one accept the Nuclear programme and then struggle over implementation of appropriate employment policy and safety measures or should the struggle focus on questioning nuclearisation as such?
On the one hand, India is the first Asian country to develop a nuclear programme. The process of becoming nuclear began before the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and inspite of the chill of the Cold War. As early as 1944, Dr Homi J Bhabha played a decisive role in Indian nuclear affairs. He wrote to the government asking for money to set up an institute for studying the subject, so that "when nuclear energy has been successfully applied for power production in, say a couple of decades from now, India will not have to look abroad for its experts, but will find them ready at hand". India's first pacifist Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to his defence minister shortly after independence that not only did the "future belong to those who produce atomic energy", but "Defence (was) intimately connected with this."
In 1948, a year after independence the Indian Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was set up. It would work under the direct control of the prime minister. This was the beginning of the Nuclear Industry. It began with meagre resources. An early geological survey of India had revealed a vast thorium resource but few uranium deposits. The earliest resource estimate amounted to only 15,000 tonnes. For an independent nuclear program to be 'sustainable' with this meagre resource, an ambitious it was decided that the first generation of reactors would be Canadian-designed CANDU reactors, which run on natural (i.e. non-enriched) uranium and use 'heavy' water as the moderator. The plutonium thus generated would provide fuel for a second generation of fast-breeder reactors, which would provide yet more plutonium to mix with the abundant thorium resource and theoretically supply free energy forever.
In August 1954, six years later the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was set up. The prime minister operates though this Commission and the Department. The AEC has overall control of all activities relating to commercial use of nuclear energy. It formulates policies for the DAE, prepares its budget, and ensures the policies are implemented. It also has the ultimate responsibility for safety. For insuring this it works through the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB). [The President of India constituted the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on November 15, 1983 by exercising the powers conferred by Section 27 of the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 (33 of 1962) to carry out certain regulatory and safety functions under the Act. The regulatory authority of AERB is derived from the rules and notifications promulgated under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 and the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986.]
The mission of the Board is to ensure that the use of ionising radiation and nuclear energy in India does not cause undue risk to health and the environment. Currently, the Board consists of a full-time Chairman, an ex-officio Member, three part-time Members and a Secretary.
The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) was and has full executive powers to implement the policies of the AEC. It supports and regulates the activities of two main research centres and the other research institutions; the Nuclear Power Corporation; the heavy water projects; and fuel-chain undertakings.
The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which is responsible to the AEC, formulates safety standards and regulations. It approves the commissioning of nuclear stations on the basis of its own safety assessments and on information provided by the Safety Review Committee of the DAE. The AERB, which in an ideal world would perhaps be an independent body reporting directly to parliament, has no power to truly regulate the industry and reports to the AEC behind closed doors. The DAE maintains a monopoly on research, suppressing heretical views as efficiently as any medieval inquisition.
Uranium mines in Jaduguda are the foundation of the Indian nuclear fuel chain. It is wholly State monopoly. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) owns UCIL and its operations are covered under Atomic Energy Act, which makes accurate information about the mine somewhat tortuous to obtain. There is no requirement for public participation at any stage of the process of sighting, designing or building nuclear facilities. In an article for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (1999), T.S. Gopi Rethinaraj writes: "The department [of atomic energy] has happily exploited the ignorance of India's judiciary and political establishment on nuclear issues. In the past, it has even used the Atomic Energy Act to prevent nuclear plant workers from accessing their own health records. While nuclear establishments everywhere have been notorious for suppressing information, nowhere is there an equivalent of India's Atomic Energy Act in operation. Over the years, in the comfort of secrecy, India's nuclear establishment has grown into a monolithic and autocratic entity that sets the nuclear agenda of the country and yet remains virtually unaccountable for its actions."
On the other hand the struggles in the Jharkhand have protested against expropriation of Natural Resources9 for over three hundred years. The modern composition of Jharkhand was developed in reaction against British colonialism despite the fact that conducive integrated economic structure based on geographic features, backward agriculture and forests, and integral cultural heritage, unique inter-tribal relations etc., were present for this. Tensions were sparked off in the society due to new polarisations caused by the growing pressures on land by the state at the time of colonial subjugation and the consequent transfer of the land constantly into the hands of usurers as well as due to other external pressures. As a result, revolts in this region took the form of tradition and culture developed under resistance. In the initial period these revolts were of religious and retrograde form, which is a special feature of peasant revolts. But progressively the development of these struggles took place in the form of looking for a new system against the colonial fetters, zamindari and usury. The Munda resistance from 1789 to 1820, the Kol revolt of 1830-31, the Bhumij revolt of 1834, the Santhal revolt of 1855-56, the Sepoy Mutiny of 1856-57, the upsurge under the leadership of Birsa Munda during 1895-1901 etc., kept the entire region agitated with a series of revolts spanning over more than a century. If the people faced the repression together, they also enjoyed the fruits of victory together. The laws that were made under compulsion were the achievements of these struggles. The Chotanagpur-Santhal Parganas Tenants Act (1872, 1886, 1903, 1908) that put a check on land sales in Chotanagpur and Santhal Parganas etc., were enacted under the pressure of these struggles. The spontaneous struggles in Jharkhand have laid the foundation for a tradition of resistance.
In Conclusion IFTU, which called for a strike in Rakha Copper mines in 1979, demanded only 'radiation allowances' for the workers exposed to it. But neither any political party nor mass organisations raised the issue of 'uranium radiation' affecting the mining community or those living in the vicinity of the tailing ponds. However, radiation is a serious issue which cannot be a part of any social organisation or project-driven NGOs. It was a serious political issue. Uranium, which had been used for manufacturing had killed thousands in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In Jaduguda it is daily killing people those living near the mines.
In 1989, when Jharkhandis' Organisation Against Radiation (JOAR) was taking its roots, the organisations which came to forward to take up the issue, followed principles of democratic centralism. The democratic centralism has two parts — ideological centralism and organisational centralism. The ideological centralism grows out of the struggle to develop one process of thinking, uniformity of thinking, oneness in approach and singleness of purpose. Organisational centralism is built up on the basis of the ideological centralism, which gives the real structural shape to the principle of democratic centralism In the movement against radiation in the post-1989 era, there was convergence of political movements such as AJSU, trade union struggles like Singhbhumi Ekta, traditional Manji Pargana System, NGOs, professionals like journalists, academicians, legal practitioners, scientists, film-makers etc. The convergence took place at the time when there was a paradigm shift in the movement, as it started drifting away from the principles of democratic centralism.
However, in the struggle there were networking among different players, who cut out their role. To take ahead the movement, the activities were research, lobbying, mobilisation, discussion, strategy planning, awareness building, information dissemination, finance etc. The support groups had convergence of interests but had no uniformity in approach. Majority of those forming the support group came from middle class background whose desire was to strengthen the movement but had not declassed them. An amateurish videographer turned filmmaker whose documentary had been successful in bringing the 'radiation issue 'at the fore in national and international arena. Though he was politically aware but had no ideological grounding. Quite overenthusiastic, he started interfering in the day-to-day activities of JOAR. JOAR leadership had pinned their hopes on support group, for resources and skills too. But it was not quite competent enough to tackle those who mobilised resources and used their skills for building the struggle.
Fissures in the network starting taking place and the sharp contradictions came to the fore. JOAR, like post-1989 phenomena, started functioning like an NGO, without being ideologically driven to cause. Like an NGO it was run in an ad-hoc and anarchic manner. In 2002, BIRSA withdrew from the support group, and then the crisis deepened. In February 2004, it reached its zenith and there was a split in JOAR. The split in the movement is also an example to understanding the contradictions and the dynamics in the movement. A new open- cast mining started in Banduhurung. In Jan Sunwayi, JOAR did not have a clear policy to oppose open cast mining. Prior to Jan Sunwayi, JOAR leader went around the villages telling the villagers that we cannot oppose the Government. So, the contradiction widened and there was split in JOAR.
1 Socially, Jaduguda and nearby villages, which is inside the radiation zone may be divided into two broad swaths as the dominant being the Santhals, the largest tribe in Jharkhand: · The Austro-Asiatic tribes, especially Santhal and Ho live in Jaduguda and nearby villages. Most of these tribals are peasants but some of them work as miners in UCIL mills and plants. 95% of underground miners are tribals. In the top management or first grade posts of UCIL no tribals are employed, while 100% of the contract workers are tribals. The major occupation of the villagers is agriculture and animal husbandry. In a study conducted by Anumukti, a journal devoted to non-nuclear, it is stated that, as high as 55.3% of the household in the villages have at least having regular employment with the UCIL either as casual mill workers. · The Mixed category [Comprises a broader category, mostly Sadans, dalits and other castes work in the UCIL mills and mines as workers and wage labourers]. The Santhals, a dominant tribe in Jaduguda and nearby villages have a century old, traditional system of local self-governance known as Manjhi-Pargana System (MPS) at the village and intermediate level responsible for the overall development of the Santhal communities.
2 Uranium is not the only radioactive element found in the ore. There are a dozen or so others known as uranium decay products; among them are, thorium-230, radium-226, and radon-222. Each of these presents a unique hazard to people and other living creatures coming into contact with them. These wastes are radioactive for around 250,000 years; in human terms this might as well be forever. In addition to the radiological hazard, uranium ores commonly contain varying concentrations of zinc, lead, manganese, cadmium and arsenic. None of these other elements are removed during processing; all remain in the tailings along with residues of the process chemicals used to extract the uranium.
3 It was an early demand of theirs that this practice be stopped, which UCIL eventually agreed to.
4 The World Uranium Hearing (WUH) took place from 13-19 September 1992 in Salzburg, Austria. Founded by Claus Biegert in December and it is registered as a non-profit organisation in Munich, Germany. It was an unprecedented gathering of indigenous people affected by the nuclear industry, with focus on uranium mining. In the Hearing, about 80 indigenous and 30 non-Indigenous people, representing 25 indigenous nations and 27 countries, made testimonies. All continents were represented. It was a massive indictment against the nuclear industry for contaminating water and land and for disregard of human rights.
The World Uranium was q Based on testimonies and experiences from around the world, q Based on the evidence of damage to indigenous people, culture, economy, land, water, and air, q Based on indigenous people's respect for spiritual values, beliefs, and practices, and their opposition to the destruction of their existence. The 'Council of Jurists' consisted of scholars with commitment and expertise in human rights and environ-mental law at the international and national levels, as well as lawyers who have worked to promote sustainable development to protect the interest of Indigenous peoples, and to protect the public from nuclear risks. A six-page leaflet suitable for mailings was available in German. Also helping to promote the WUH was a video, "The Death that Creeps from the Earth" (in English, German and Russian), and the first European Group Show of he Atomic Photographers Guild. This photo exhibition remained in Europe until the end of 1993. In the Hearing there were testimonies from around the world by the peoples of the mountains, the forests, the deserts and the oceans, who suffer daily from uranium mining, nuclear weapons testing, nuclear power generation and radioactive waste. These testimonies showed the peoples' intimate relationship with the Earth and the destruction of the natural environment they depended upon, culturally, spiritually and materially. It became clear that each phase of the nuclear process - civilian or military - has a deadly impact on all forms of life Delegates heard testimonies from around the world by the peoples of the mountains, the forests, the deserts and the oceans, who suffer daily from uranium mining, nuclear weapons testing, nuclear power generation and radioactive waste.. These testimonies showed the peoples' intimate relationship with the Earth and the destruction of the natural environment they depend upon, culturally, spiritually and materially. It became clear that each phase of the nuclear process - civilian or military - has a deadly impact on all forms of life. It was realised that the inhabitants of this planet, responsible for the generations to come, have to live with consequences of our radioactive heritage from now on. Together, the delegates stood and said: q No more exploitation of lands and peoples by uranium mining, nuclear power generation, nuclear testing, and radioactive waste dumping; q Clean up and restore all homelands; q End the secrecy and fully disclose all information about the nuclear industry and its dangers; q Provide full and fair compensation for damage to: peoples, families and communities, cultures and economies, homelands, water, air, and all living things; q Provide independent and objective monitoring of human health and the well being of all living things affected by the nuclear chain. In view of the unity of humanity and the world, they made an appeal on behalf of future generations to use sustainable, renewable, and lifeenhancing energy alternatives.
5 Historically, the Manjhi Pargana system started losing its authority with the advent of the British colonial power. Even in Jaduguda and its villages, the Manjhi Pargana System became redundant. This process continued after the independence. Various legislations made the system ineffective and dysfunctional. The 'Movement for Tribal self-rule' launched in 1996 resulted in the enactment of Provisions of Panchayat (extended to the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 (PESA-96) by the Parliament. Manjhi Pargana System, which had become redundant in Jaduguda, he said, "When we were dispossessed from our land by UCIL, the Pargana did not even stand against it and unite his tribal brethren against it. He miserably failed in performing his duty. In Santhal history, you would see that Parganas have stood along with his tribal brethren like an unfaltering rock whenever the 'intruders' attempted to dispossess of their land. Jaduguda, Bhatin and Narwapahar were built on Santhali land. Bihar Government leased this land to UCIL. But, according to SNT, Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, Fifth Schedule Area Act and Traditional Self-rule system, the land belongs to Santhal community. Bihar Government violated all the acts and flouted all the norms in the air. In the name of 'national development' adivasis dispossessed of their land did not receive any compensation. As a Pargana, Haripada failed to perform, as he was not aware of the acts and his role. First, the land was acquired by Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), directly under Prime Minister, and later on transferred it to UCIL. Traditional self-ruling system was non-operational due to direct intervention of the Government."
The fundamental and the basic tenet of the Act empowered the traditional village councils under Manjhi Pargana System to govern themselves on their own in accordance with their traditions and customs in all matters pertaining to their own socio-political, economic and cultural development. The Jharkhand Government ratified this Act in 2001. The PESA-96 provides adivasis for self-governance and now they have legal and Constitutional power to organise themselves, plan, implement, review and monitor their own programmes of development. In Jaduguda and nearby villages, as Dumka Murmu, General Secretary, Jharkhandis Organisation Against Radiation (JOAR) said, "Being a part of the 'Movement for tribal self-rule', it was our historical obligation to revive the Manjhi Pargana System in our areas of operation. Manjhi were headman of the village and Pargana had control over them. A Pargana has a control over 60 villages. Identity cards were issued by JOAR to the Manjhis and Parganas. It was by strengthening of Manjhi Pargana System, that the advantage regarding mass consciousness on radiation issues surfaced and spread."
6 Banduhurung is 25 kms from Jaduguda and 10 Kms from Jamshedpur.
7 He mobilised people in support of JOAR's direct action at Chatijkocha, in 1996 and 1997, when third tailing pond was constructed, said, "
8 In 1984, when mining started in Turamdih, the houses of 375 families were demolished and land acquired by UCIL but they have not got any job. UCIL's compensation followed the 1970 package. According to 1970 package, if an acre is acquired the UCIL pays a compensation of Rs. 12,000, Rs.15,000 and Rs.18,000 based on the fertility of the land. 9 Of 45 major minerals such as coal, iron ore, magnetite, manganese, bauxite, graphite, limestone, dolomite, uranium etc are found in tribal areas contributing some 56% of the national total mineral earnings in terms of value. Of the 4,175 working mines reported by the Indian Bureau of Mines in 1991-92, approximately 3500 could be assumed to be in the tribal areas. Income to the government from forests rose from Rs.5.6 million in 1969-70 to more than Rs.13 billions in the 1970s. The bulk of the nation's productive wealth lay in the tribal territories. Yet the tribals have been driven out, marginalised and robbed of dignity by the very process of 'national development'.
Jharkhand is estimated to have more than a third of India's total mineral wealth. It has more than a third of the coal deposits in the country and the only region for the mining of coking coal. The state has half of the country's reserves of mica, 23 percent of iron ore and 34 percent of copper reserves. Fireclay, manganese ore, uranium, bauxite, kyanite, china clay etc. are also abundantly found in Jharkhand. Large-scale mining of major minerals started in Jharkhand as early as 1890. Coal mining in Jharia began its operations in 1886, iron ore mining started at Gurumahisini in 1911, Badampahar and Sulaipet in 1923, Noamundi in 1926, bauxite mining in Palamau and Lohardaga in 1940, mica mines in Hazaribagh and Koderma in 1930. Presently there are about 398 working mines in the state.
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