On 8 January, 2010, the media (forth realm of the democracy) reported us that the global steel giant Arcelor Mittal Company is all set to desert the state of Jharkhand and Orissa, where the company is not yet able to acquire land for its proposed mega steel plants because of the Adivasis’ protest against the land acquisition. On the next day, a leading daily of Jharkhand came up with a ‘special page’ on Mittal company apart from the auspicious front page story, which concludes with the final verdict “the God is ready to desert Jharkhand”. Of course, the story is not new as the Jharkhandi media carry out this kind of biased reports for the corporate houses regularly.
In fact, when there is any kind of news in favor of the corporate houses, it always gets space in the front page but when the news is against of the corporate interest; it is either reported in unnoticeable manners or did not carried out at all. Ironically, it has been repeatedly done by the forth pillar of democracy, which is expected to be unbiased for the sake of democracy. As far as the Mittal Company is concerned, the media have always played a biased role. In July 2006, when L.N. Mittal the owner of the Arcelor Mittal Company had announced for its departure to the state of Orissa and played a dirty game for pressurizing the state government, the media told us the same thing that the ‘God is leaving the state’. The relevance questions are – Is Mittal our God? Are we incomplete without him and does Mittal really care about us?
The media houses have been attempting to coin L.N. Mittal as our (Jharkhandi people) god since the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) was signed between the company and the Jharkhand government on October 8, 2005. The company has proposed for setting up a mega steel plant with the capacity of 12 million tones per annum at an estimated investment of Rs 40,000 crore. In addition to the steel plant, it has also proposed to set up a 2500 megawatt mega power plant and mining projects in the state. The company requires 25,000 acres of land and 20,000 unit water per hour for the mega steel plant and a township in Torpa-Kamdara region of Khunti and Gumla district. According to the original plan, the steel plant was to come up by the end of 2009 and the production would begin from 2012. Consequently, there would be a mass displacement as 256 villages would be affected therefore the Adivasis are protesting against it.
However right from the beginning the media houses are playing a dubious role. The newspapers regularly reported that the company requires only 12 thousand acres of land and would provide job to 1 lack people in the state. The same newspapers are now reporting that the company requires 25 thousand acres of land for the plant, where 50 thousand people will get the jobs. The newspapers never report us that how the Mittal company has suppressed its own employees and thrown them out of the jobs when the company was in loss. A question comes to my mind is how can L.N. Mittal become our God who did not even spend a pie for India (which he claims as his own country) without self interest in his lifetime?
The Arcelor Mittal Company operates in 60 countries across the world and it has plants in 20 countries. In 2009, the company deserted thousands of its own employees across the globe. The demand of company’s steel had gone down to10 percent and its share fell down by 7 percent. The company had to cut production in Canada by 45 percent and axed 9,000 employees. It also cut the job of 1000 employees in lowest cost plant in Poland and shut down one out of its two blast furnaces in west Belgium. The Company was in the process to idle a plant in East Chicago and lay off another 400 workers. The company had total workforces of 3,26,000 which was cut down to 3,15,867 consequently, 10,133 people lost their jobs in the company by the end of October, 2009. Hence, the company has failed in protecting the rights of its own employees. In these circumstances, how can it give us the guarantee of jobs security in India and why our media do not bother to inform us about it? Do media run on coverage package of Mittal?
Obviously, the Mittal Company has either purchased the media or influence in some other ways, which is of course resulting in the media's exaggeration, manufacturing the consent and convincing people in favour of the company. The media exaggerated Mittal’s entry as a great achievement for the state and when the company threatened repeatedly to leave the state, the media coined it as the sky is going to fall in Jharkhad. The announcement of ITI was also projected as it would change the fate of the Adivasis. It was coined in such a manner that without Mittal, Adivasis of the region are beasts, uncivilized and sub-human. Finally, the CSR was propagated as it will change the fate of Jharkhand in over night. All these were done in complete planned manner to get the land by projecting Mittal as Messiah of Jharkhand therefore now when he has announced of shifting the project to the state of Karnataka, the media keep telling us that the God is about to desert us therefore we should go to him, plead for not to leave us and surrender our ancestral lands for his steel plant.
Indeed, the Indian democracy is run by the corporate houses and the media is part of it. As far as the people especially the marginalized are concerned, they have only right to vote, which is also snatched by the threat of money, muscle and manipulation power. Of course, the corporate houses were not our god, they are not our god and they will never be our god. If they leave the state, we have nothing to lose but the politicians, who get huge money to buy the votes. However, the recent breaking news on ‘coverage package’ is the best example of how the forth realm of democracy is also on sale and betrays its own people. Should we still believe on the Media? If the media go on like this, we would have only choice to tell is ‘the media is of the corporate, for the corporate and by the corporate. Meanwhile, we are hopping that the Mittal also comes up with his own media house to manipulate the Adivasis’ lands but even after that he will never be our god.
Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org