The social and ecological effects of industrialisation in a tribal region: The case of the Rourkela Steel Plant Rajkishor Meher Contributions to Indian Sociology 2003 37: 429 DOI: 10. 1177/006996670303700302 The online version of this article can be found at: http://cis. sagepub. com/content/37/3/429 Published by: http://www. sagepublications. com Additional services and information for Contributions to Indian Sociology can be found at: Email Alerts: http://cis. agepub. com/cgi/alerts Subscriptions: http://cis. sagepub. com/subscriptions Reprints: http://www. sagepub. com/journalsReprints. nav Permissions: http://www. sagepub. com/journalsPermissions. nav Citations: http://cis. sagepub. com/content/37/3/429. refs. html >> Version of Record – Oct 1, 2003 What is This? Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 The social and ecological effects of industrialisation in a tribal region: The case of the Rourkela Steel Plant Rajkishor Meher
Learningfrom the Western experience of economic development, the developing countries of the world, after their liberation from colonial rule in the 1940s and 1950s, pinned their hopes on industry and urbanisation to stimulate accelerated economic growth and the social transformation of backward regions. However, in many cases industrialisation of backward regions has generated unintended social and ecological consequences resulting in the involuntary displacement of human populations, the loss of traditional sustainable livelihoods, the marginalisation of the locals, specially the tribals, and the increasing environmental pollution of the region. As the process of development is usually designed at the top, it mostly serves the social and economic interests of the elite and privileged sections of society at the cost of the poor and downtrodden. The present article analyses the processes of industrialisation and economic development as causal factors in ecological degradation in Rourkela, the site of the India’s first public sector steel plant and a region which, in the past, was predominantly inhabited by indigenous peoples.
Rajkishor Meher is at the Nabakrushna Choudhury Centre for Development Studies, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, 751 013, India. Acknowledgements: This article is based on my Ph. D. thesis, ’Industrialisation and the urban social structure: A sociological study of interrelationships between industry, ecology and society in Rourkela’, submitted to the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in 1994, and on a recent survey of the peripheral villages of the Rourkela Steel Plant for a separate study, during September-October 1997. I am thankful to M. N.
Panini, my Ph. D. supervisor, N. R. Sheth, Amitabh Kundu, and the editors and anonymous referees of Contributions to Indian sociology for their constructive comments and suggestions on an early version of this article, though they are in no way responsible for any deficiencies or lacunae. Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 430 . I Introduction Industrialisation has historically been the royal road to economic development and has been associated with urbanisation both as a cause and as a consequence.
Learning from the experience of economic development in the West, the developing countries pinned their hopes on industrialisation and urbanisation to stimulate social and economic development. In labour surplus developing countries, Arthur Lewis’s two sector model consisting of (i) a traditional rural subsistence sector characterised by zero or very low productivity of surplus labour, and (ii) a high productivity modern urban industrial sector into which labour from the subsistence sector is gradually transferred, has been influential in evolving strategies of development (Lewis 1954).
One of the proponents of such a development strategy has lauded the role of the cities as growth poles in the regional economy; they act as the primary forces impelling rapid and high economic growth and as diffusion points of social change for developing countries (Breese 1969). However, there is evidence to suggest that in India, the urban hierarchy reflects an extremely inefficient organisation of space, which tends quite often to cling to the regional economy as a parasite.
The large urban agglomerations have expanded beyond the limits imposed by their economic base (Kundu 1980). Though the pace of industrialisation has increased after independence, mainly due to the strategy of planned economic development, the labour force of the cities is not being sufficiently absorbed in the organised sector of the urban economy. The urban centres do not have the capacity to assimilate the migrants, who are forced to rotate from one type f informal sector activity to another in order to eke out their living. Many large and medium sized cities in the backward regions are sliding from economic stagnation to positive retrogression. Slums continue to grow with the massive influx of poor people from the countryside, thereby exerting tremendous pressure on existing basic civic services supplied by the urban local bodies and causing urban environmental degradation.
The location and concentration of various industries in urban areas, coupled with the growth in size and density of urban settlements, have resulted not only in the ruthless exploitation of the natural resources of the region and the uprooting of people who derive their livelihood from subsistence agriculture and other traditional occupations, but also the destruction of the eco-system due to increasing environmental I Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 431 This further compounds the problem of poverty and affects the quality of life in the city.
Two schools of thought dominate the current debate on the ecological crisis arising from large-scale industrialisation and urbanisation. The Marxist school seeks to explain the current ecological crisis as arising from the capitalist system of production and the market-governed utilisation of natural resources and distribution of finished goods and services. The expanding consumerist culture results in the reckless exploitation of both renewable and nonrenewable resources, regardless of long-run ecological effects (see, e. g. Enzenberger 1974; Fyodorov and Novik 1977; Gorizontov 1985; Kolbasov 1983; Salgo 1973; Ursul 1983). In contrast, the liberal, non-Marxist school, which propagates the culture of the free market economy, holds the view that the current ecological crisis is the outcome of the intensive use of wrong technologies, and the increasing population growth which puts pressure on finite resources. According to this school, the emerging eco-crisis is mainly due to the use of obsolete technology, which is incapable of controlling the level of environmental pollution and ensuring the economic utilisation of he scarce resources (see, e. g. , Caldwell 1970; Commoner 1971; Ehrlich and Ehrlich 1972; Ridgeway 1971). The proponents of this view believe that the current eco-crisis could be averted by devising appropriate and alternative technologies to prevent pollution by controlling the rate of effluents and non-degradable bio-chemical wastes discharged into the biosphere. However, there is a need to recognise that the present ecological crisis is not merely the product of economic and population factors.
The crisis is equally rooted in sociological factors-for instance, a value system that promotes socio-structural differentiation, free market economy, overaggressive individualism and uncritical economic expansion at the cost of the depletion of scarce resources, pollution of the biosphere and ecological imbalances. Hence, an adequate understanding of the ecological crisis demands a different approach altogether that addresses the interplay of social, cultural, political and economic factors with the natural environment.
The modem city, with its reliance on energy- and resource-intensive technology, affects the wider ecological system within which it is located. Its mode of use of resources and their distribution across different segments of the urban and peripheral population are determined by a range of social, cultural, political and economic factors. In this article, I attempt to explore the sociological and ecological effects of India’s first public sector steel plant on the Rourkela region, once home to many primitive pollution.
Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 432 tribes such as Oraons, Mundas, Kharias, Kisans, etc. (Senapati 1975). The study starts with the premise that the growth of industries, and a modem urban economy and the concentration of a large human population in a limited space put severe pressure on the ecology and carrying capacity of the region. Further, when this type of urban-industrial development is accomplished at the cost of the underdevelopment of the periphery and rural interland, the dichotomy leads to the swelling of the urban centre through the large-scale migration of poor and low-skilled people from the countryside, thereby leading to the growth of the informal sector economy, squatter settlements and the breakdown of existing basic civic services and amenities. Thus, so long as adequate steps are not taken to prevent the massive environmental pollution exceeding the waste-absorbing and resource-regenerating capacity of the region, the very ecology or ecosystem which provides for the growth of a modem industrial economy and society ultimately becomes sick and collapses.
The article concentrates on the backward and forward linkages that connect the city with the region of which it is a part. Needless to say, industry, ecology or the eco-system and human society are closely interrelated with one another. Human settlement patterns and economic and social systems usually evolve in accordance with the natural surroundings and resource endowments of the region, and also by the interplay of political factors. II The ’steel city’ of Rourkela Rourkela is the site of India’s first public sector plant, located in the industrially backward state of Orissa.
It is a fairly large industrial town with a population at present of around 500,000. Soon after liberation from British colonial rule, the Government of India took recourse to planned development to accelerate economic growth, promote balanced development, and remove socio-economic inequalities between regions and peoples. Thus, in the early 1950s, the country’s first public sector steel plant came up in the mineral rich, backward region of Sundargarh district of Orissa, a region which forms a part of the Chota Nagpur plateau and is predominantly inhabited by the aboriginal population.
Before the setting up of the public sector steel plant, the present industrial city of Rourkela was an obscure village. In December 1953, the Government of India signed a collaborative agreement with M/s Fried Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 433 Krupp Essen and M/s Demag AG, Duisberg, of the then West Germany to set up the first public sector steel plant in the country. The Government then floated a new Company called Hindustan Steel Limited (HSL), and a technical survey of the sites for the location of the steel plant was made in 1953-54.
The experts found that the area around Rourkela village in Sundargarh district of Orissa could be one of the best sites for the location of a steel plant not only from the techno-economic point of view, but also from the angle of reducing socio-economic disparities between regions and the people of India. In January 1955 the HSL submitted its blueprint to the Government indicating the layout of the Rourkela township, the steel plant and other industries. The blueprint covered an area of 207. 37 sq. ms including 10,500 acres or 42. 51 sq. kms for the steel township. Altogether, 30 villages inhabited by around 2,500 households were affected by the acquisition of private land (Roy Burman 1968). Soon afterwards, the landscape of the region began to change with the development of infrastructure such as asphalt roads, rapid transportation and communication networks, electricity, piped potable water, drainage and sewerage, and the provision of other amenities required for the growth of a modem urban-industrial complex.
Construction activities for the erection of the plant and its township drew a large number of workers to the region from different parts of the country through the contractors, jobbers and middlemen. Also, with the commissioning of the steel plant in 1960, the massive recruitment of different categories and grades of workers resulted in the further flow of workers to Rourkela from different parts of India. Thus, by the time of the 1961 Census the acquired tribal villages had already lost their original identity.
The newly-grown urban complex, comprising the planned steel township housing the plant workers and the haphazardly grown civil town providing shelter to a heterogeneous population of private capitalists and entrepreneurs, small and big merchants, traders (wholesalers and retailers), transporters, informal sector workers, organised service sector workers, etc. , came to be known as Rourkela; it gained the status of a big Class II category town’ in the 1961 Census. However, it is now evident that the growth of industries in the region followed by increasing urbanisation has adversely affected the ecosystem.
There has been reckless exploitation of natural resources such For Census purposes, towns are classified into six categories: Class I—100,000 or population; Class II—between 50,000-1,00,000; Class III—between 20,000-50,000; Class IV—between 10,000-20,000; Class V—5,000—10,000; and Class VI—a special category town with less than 5,000 population, such as a military cantonment area, etc. more ’ Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 / 434 land, minerals, water, forests, and the like.
The tribal people and other vulnerable sections of the population have been displaced from their traditional ecological bases and their self-sustaining subsistence system of production. Extensive mining activities for the exploration of iron ore, limestone, dolomite, manganese, etc. , have destroyed the dense forests and fertile agricultural lands of the entire Panposh and Bonaigarh sub-divisions of Sundargarh district. The tribals, once dependent upon sustainable forest and primitive agricultural economy and unaccustomed to the culture of wage work (Cobden Ramsay 1930), now hire themselves out as daily wageworkers.
When they fail to get any work they move to Rourkela as seasonal migrants to work either as contract labour in the steel plant or as informal sector workers such as coolies (luggage and weight-lifters), cycle rickshaw pullers, unskilled construction workers, domestic maids/servants, and the like. In the initial years, the steel plant generated thousands of organised sector jobs with the result that the entire Sundargarh district was rated as the most developed district among the thirteen old and undivided districts of Orissa (Meher 1999).
However, those organised industrial sector jobs generated by the steel plant were monopolised and cornered by outsiders from different parts of the country, and also by people from the relatively more advanced coastal districts of~ the state. With the fast depletion of forest and other self-sustaining natural resources, tribals and other weaker sections of the population in the hinterland have been converted into unskilled wageworkers, while the city has witnessed the growth of massive informal sector activities generating urban poverty and slums. as The ity, III industry and the ecology With the setting up of a public sector steel plant in the backward region of the Chota Nagpur plateau, the unknown tribal village of Rourkela has now become an important urban-industrial centre, although agriculture in the region remains in its traditional and under-developed form. There has been a significant increase in the level of per capita income of city residents. ’ At the time of the 1981 Census, Rourkela alone had more The per capita annual income of the urban households in Rourkela during 1988-89 Rs 4,151. 0, according to the household survey made by me in the course of my doctoral research. In the same year the per capita annual income of the people in Orissa at current prices was Rs 2,625 and at the all-India level, it was Rs 3,875. 20. For details was 2 Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 435 than 80 per cent of the district’s urban population, and 41. 88 per cent of the non-household manufacturing sector’s workforce. Also, thanks to the industrialisation of Rourkela region, the non-household sector industrial workforce in Sundargarh district in 1981 was as high as 15. 4 per cent of the total, whereas at the Orissa state level this was as low as 3. 63 per cent. The increasing growth of the city has led to a significant change in the socio-ethnic composition of the population. The urban social structure of the city consists of a heterogeneous and minicosmopolitan population, representing the major Indian states and union territories. The growth of an urban-industrial culture has reduced the traditional social barriers between various castes and communities, and between language-based and other types of ethnic groups.
Inside the steel plant there is little hindrance to interdining among ex-untouchable and upper-caste workers on the shop floor. Even at the family level, some low-caste workers have been able to establish close social relationships with upper-caste Hindu families, and they unhesitatingly intermingle with one another on all important social occasions like marriages, birthday celebrations, death rituals, etc. Also, in the township nobody is concerned with a person’s caste or social identity. The scavengers and sweepers face hardly any problem of social exclusion by upper-caste people at their work site.
Although there are problems for the exuntouchable groups in establishing social relationships at the family level with upper-caste people of similar economic and job status, that in no way affects their work relationship with the latter. In the city, Untouchability is no longer prevalent and practised in any form, unlike in the caste society of rural Orissa. Like the Scheduled Castes/ex-Untouchable population, the Scheduled Tribes population residing in the city and its periphery have undergone a remarkable socio-economic transformation.
Some Oraons, Mundas, Kharias, Bhuinyas and Kisans who work in the steel plant and other industries are gradually assimilating into the urbanindustrial culture of Rourkela, and seem happy to forsake their former mode of existence. In contrast to these positive socio-economic transformations and the growth of a relatively open, universalistic, urban social structure at Rourkela, there are, however, many unintended ecological and social Meher (1994: 192); Government of Orissa (1991: A-6); Government of India (1991: S-3).
In contrast, in 1954-55 before the setting up of the steel plant, the per capita income of Rourkela region was Rs 144, and this was almost half the national level per capita income (Misra 1958: 73-74). see Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 436 effects attendant on the construction of the steel plant. Of late, the Rourkela region has suffered large-scale environmental pollution and ecological degradation. The incessant emission of various types of poisonous gases (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, iron oxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, etc. and the release of untreated effluents (hydrogen sulphide, coal tar, fly ash, iron dust, coal dust, etc. ) from the steel plant, from other industries and from automobiles plying in the city have resulted in the large scale pollution of land, air and water. The residents of the city, and especially the vulnerable sections, have fallen victim to various types of pollution-related diseases like asthma, tuberculosis, cancer, heart disease, jaundice, dysentery, gastroenteritis and burning and irritation of the eyes and nose.
The cultivable lands of the region have lost their fertility, while the decline of the forest area and the loss of tree coverage have led to abnormal precipitation in the region (Meher 1994). Over the years Rourkela has grown into a big, Class I town of Orissa. In functional terms it is classified as an industrial city (Figure 1), but, apart from this, the city has in recent years begun gaining importance as the main commercial centre of the region.
The early Master Plan of the city had envisaged that with the full-fledged functioning of the steel plant, the total population in the city would grow to a level of 2-2. 5 lakhs; in fact the town presently accommodates around five lakh people, 3 increasingly employed in the informal and unorganised sector economy. 3 With the consequent proliferation of slums and the distortion of the city’s plan, there has been a marked deterioration in the quality of life. Over the years the civic bodies of the city have failed to maintain and develop basic civic amenities for the urban residents’ (see Table 1).
Excepting the supply provision of potable water and the facilities for higher and vocational education, the availability rate of all oiher basic amenities in the city has registered a significant fall over the years from 1971 to 1981 and 1991. The worsening of the four main civic amenity indicators, i. e. , (i) percentage of pucca road to total road length; (ii) number of latrines per 100 households; (iii) percentage of domestic electricity 3 According to an estimate, the percentage distribution of the informal sector workforce in the Class I towns of Orissa has increased over the years.
In 1971 the percentage of informal sector workers in Rourkela was 46. 90, which increased to 51. 85 in 1981 and came down to 49. 01 in 1991. For details see Meher (1995: 63). 4 It may be mentioned that till 1995 the Rourkela urban agglomerate comprised of two different civic bodies, namely Rourkela Municipality for the civil town area and Notified Area Council (NAC) for the steel township (ST) area. The NAC (ST) is now merged with the Rourkela Minicipality. Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 437 Downloaded from cis. sagepub. om at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 438 Table 1 Availability of Basic Amenities at Rourkela, 1971-91 Source: Census of India, 1971, 1981 and 1991. Censlls Series-16, Orissa, Town Directory. connection to total number of households; and (iv) number of road light points per kilometre of road length clearly show the high rate of growth in city slums and squatter areas that has accompanied the proliferation of unorganised and informal economic activities. Since the city continues to grow at an alarming rate, fed by the stream of poor and lowlyskilled people from the countryside, and government funds for the
Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 439 development of basic infrastructure and civic amenities remain severely limited, the desired level of infrastructural support is assured to only a small fraction of the population. This has resulted in spatial division and segmentation of the population, polarised on the basis of caste, region, language and ethnicity and operationalised through competition and dominance, as well as through institutional requirements like land use restrictions and building byelaws.
As in many other cities of the developing world, the limited development of infrastructural facilities and basic civic amenities in this city is skewed in favour of the relatively affluent localities. Table 1 shows that, with regard to the availability of various basic amenities in the twin townships of the city, the steel township is relatively better off than the civil town area. Furthermore, according to our observation, there is a wide difference in the rate of availability of such basic services among the various localities of these townships (see Figure 2).
Within the steel township boundary, the sector areas and the fertiliser township area are infrastructurally well-developed, with an underground sewerage and drainage system, neat and clean asphalt roads, and a wide coverage of trees, gardens, parks and playgrounds. The staff quarters accommodating plant employees and their families in these localities are all provided with modem basic amenities such as latrines, bathrooms, underground sewerage, tap water and electricity connections.
However, within the various sectors there is a further discrimination in the rate of availability and maintenance of such amenities: the residential sectors of steel workers such as sectors 1-2 and the localities of the other sectors accommodating lower grade plant workers are shabbily maintained compared to sectors 19, 3, 4 and 5, which mostly accommodate steel plant executives and higher grade officials. The lower grade steel plant workers are provided with one-bedroom, asbestos-roofed accommodation which is unbearably hot in the sweltering heat of the Rourkela summer (besides the fact that asbestos roofing is a health hazard).
Apart from this, the living conditions of unorganised and informal sector workers in the unauthorised slums and lower grade workers’ colonies of the steel township area encircling the steel plant and its township (Khariabahal, Modem India Labour Colony, Gaja Laxmi Market, Construction Colony, Golghar, Captive Power Plant Jhonpri, Tarapur, Kalinga Auto Colony, Except for a few Lal Tanki, etc. ) are indescribably bad. bore wells or broken public water stand posts, cycleable kutcha roads and a few poorly maintained street light points, hardly any provision for basic amenities has been made for these colonies.
The Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 440 Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 441 majority of the houses do not have electricity connections, and there is no drainage or sewerage system. The workers and their families residing in these colonies defecate in open spaces and bathe in the nearby ponds and wells, or at the leakage points of the water supply pipes and public water stand posts.
The environmental surroundings of these localities are worsening with each day. People residing at the boundary wall of the steel plant in the Modem India Labour Colony are exposed to poisonous gases such as benzene, anthracine vapour, carbon monoxide, iron oxide, etc. , which leak or are occasionally discharged from the coke ovens and the by-products plants located nearby. There are high levels of concentration of coal dust, iron dust, iron oxide, sulphur oxide, benzene, anthracine vapour, nitric oxide, etc. in the air of the localities adjacent to the plant, especially the Modem India Labour Colony, Gaja Laxmi Market, Lal Tanki, Tarapur and Construction Colony. The trees in the Modem India locality are dull and leafless even in spring. People residing in this locality since the early 1960s say that only of late, particularly after the 1970s, have they experienced acute health problems caused by dust and air pollution. Diseases like jaundice and malaria have also taken an endemic form.
Besides, many residents in these localities suffer from various types of eye ailments, hypertension, paralysis of the face and limbs, gastroenteritis, asthma, tuberculosis, etc. , due to the acute environmental pollution caused by the steel plant. The Construction Colony, which houses around 500 workers of the steel plant, is so seriously polluted that the residents had sent a representation to the late Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, in the early 1980s to look into the environmental pollution problems of the locality.
This colony, surrounded by the steel plant, fertiliser plant and Indian Detonators Limited, is situated next to the main drain of the fertiliser and the by-products plants. The plants release liquid naphtha, various undissolved chemicals and contaminated water into this drain, acutely affecting the environment of the locality. In 1981, a fire broke out in the main drain when the naphtha released by the plant caught fire; three persons of the colony were burnt to death in the fire, apart from a heavy loss of property.
The effluents discharged by the water treatment plant as well as the waste treatment plant of the Rourkela Steel Plant have formed a lagoon in the vicinity of this colony, and the hot slag dumping ground of the blast furnace is also located nearby. While the supply of basic amenities and the quality of life of the people residing within various localities of the steel township are uneven, the situation is far worse for those residing outside the steel township. In the Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 442
Civil Town area, localities like Udit Nagar and Basanti Colony near the central business district of the city and the Area Nos 7 and 8 near Panposh are well-developed and better served with basic amenities than the old residential localities like Oraon Para, Kumbhar Para, Gandhi Road, Plant Site Road, etc. Adjacent to the central business district, the railway station and the main gate of the Rourkela Steel Plant, the process of urban growth in the civil town area has led to the formation of many slums and squatter areas (Malgodam, Madhusudan Palli, Kavi Samrat Palli, Gopabandhu Palli, Nala Road, Mohulpali, etc. . There the living conditions of the people are even worse than in the unauthorised slums and squatter areas of the steel township. Located nearer the steel plant as well as the central business district zone, the dwellers here are the worst victims of the land, air, water and dust pollution caused by the giant steel plant and many other commercial and small industrial establishments, while the emissions from the large number of motor vehicles plying in the busy market areas of the city add to their miseries.
Except the Nala Road area inhabited mostly by Muslims, the other slum localities of the civil town consist usually of one room jhonpris with no separate kitchen, accommodating six to seven persons; in Malgodam even ten to twelve persons may be huddled together in one room. People residing in such localities are the poor, informal sector, migrant workers with unsteady sources of income. Excluding a few families with small children incapable of looking after themselves and no elderly person to take care of them, both husband and wife and also their grown-up sons and aughters are typically self-employed or work as daily wage earners in informal and unorganised types of jobs. Some of them work as construction workers in various work sites of the city, and also in the steel plant as contract labour. Some others work as skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers in the small and unorganised sector industries (garages, petty commercial and service establishments and the like), while others are self-employed rickshaw pullers, vegetable vendors, plumbers, carpenters, masons, a painters, etc. ew service latrines built by the Muslim households of the Nala Road area, none of the houses in these slum and squatter settlements has any toilet facility, nor do these localities have piped water supply. The availability rate of the few bore wells or hand pumps works out to one bore well for every 150 families. However, people report that the water of the bore well is hard and unpalatable, possibly due to the contamination of ground water with iron oxide and other undissolved and untreated chemicals released by the steel plant and various other Excepting Downloaded from cis. agepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 443 industries. Since there is no drainage and sewerage system, the localities are invariably flooded with untreated sewage and waste water, which have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and flies which, in their turn spread many endemic contagious diseases like diarrhoea, measles, jaundice, typhoid, etc. There are very few street light points and only a lucky few have electricity connections in their self-acquired but unauthorised huts. Domestic waste, covered by dirt and dust, is scattered all over the roads.
Added to this, in the absence of private or community latrines, residents defecate in the nearby open space across the railway line. The overcrowded and polluted environment, coupled with fluctuating income levels, has led to a disruption of community life, social disorganisation, the intensification of crime, and rebelliousness among a large section of the people. Malgodam, the biggest slum of the city, which houses migrants from Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal as well as from the eastern and western parts of Orissa, is notorious for frequent social disturbances and a high crime rate.
The family life of the people in this slum is highly unstable. There is a high level of marital breakdown and desertion. Elopements are quite common, cutting across the boundaries of caste, community, language and region. Drinking of country liquor among both men and women is rampant, and a significant proportion of earnings is spent on alcohol. Generally, the slum dwellers survive on a diet of rice, salt, onion, potato and cheap pulses. From rice, the tribal slum dwellers prepare a type of liquor called handia, which serves as food and drink for everybody at home, including the children.
Many people suffer from tuberculosis and other lung diseases, besides which, some young and middle-aged people, especially among the tribals and migrant workers of the Bilaspur region of Chhattisgarh state, are reported to be suffering from venereal diseases. In addition to many environment-related diseases such as asthma, tuberculosis, respiratory disorders, cancer, leprosy, heart diseases, paralysis, jaundice, skin and eye diseases and the like, workers in the steel plant suffer from various types of occupational health hazards.
Furthermore, many of the workers in small and unorganised sector industries like engineering and metal-based units work in unprotected environments with little in the way of medical relief provisions, though they face similar health hazards to those of the steel plant workers. This is especially the case for those who work at the coke ovens, blast furnaces, steel melting shop, sintering plant, by-products plant and the fertiliser plant. As there is no provision for inter-shop transfer, long years of working in these units expose the workers to high levels of dust pollution and cause serious Downloaded from cis. agepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 444 diseases like tuberculosis, asthma, paralysis, neurological disorders, cataract of the eyes, hypertension and rheumatic diseases. Moreover, with insufficient light in the blast furnaces and the coke oven area, workers in the night shift virtually risk losing their lives while at work. There are many posters directing the workers to wear helmets, footwear, hand gloves, safety goggles, gas masks, ear plugs and the like, but the workers complain that they are provided minimal safety equipment, excepting boots, helmets and hand gloves.
Besides the steel plant, there are many fabrication and machine units, including garages and small workshops, functioning in the busy market area and densely populated localities of the civil town, which freely discharge their gaseous and liquid effluents into the atmosphere, the open fields or the normal sewerage channels of the city, exposing people, animals and vegetation in the neighbourhood to serious health problems. Indeed, with the increasing industrialisation and urbanisation of the region (i. e. the Rourkela-Rajgangpur belt) and the high prevalence of pollution-causing industries like iron and steel, cement, refractory, engineering and chemicals, the whole district of Sundargarh has in recent years started facing severe environmental problems. The morbidity rate is very high. From the recorded diagnosis reports of patients affected by various diseases in the thirteen undivided districts of Orissa during the year 1980, it was found that the prevalence rate of pollution-related diseases like tuberculosis and respiratory diseases, dysentery and malaria in the district of Sundargarh was highest among all the districts of the state.
Besides, the district had a very high number of cases of syphilis, filarial, leprosy and infective hepatitis (Government of Orissa 1985: 165-77). Our random sample survey of 316 Rourkela households in 1988-89 revealed that during the previous ten years, on an average 14. 8 persons per 1,000 had suffered from various types of water-bome diseases such as diarrhoea, gastritis, jaundice and the like every year. The morbidity rate of other pollution-linked diseases per 1,000 population was: respiratory diseases like tuberculosis and asthma 4. 8; heart diseases 1. 2; cancer 0. ; malaria 5. 8, eye diseases 2. 6; paralysis 1. 2; rheumatism 2. 2; and other miscellaneous diseases 3. 2. On the whole, an average of thirtynine persons out of every 1,000 in the sample had suffered from various types of ailments traceable to water and air pollution in the city (Table 2). This health scenario corroborates the findings of Dr T. K. Bose, Chief Medical Officer of the Ispat General Hospital, Rourkela (Bose 1987). In a random study of the health status of 1,500 workers in the Rourkela Steel Plant, 6 per cent of them were found to suffer from respiratory
Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 445 Table 2 Number of Persons per Thousand Population in the Sample Affected Various Pollution- related Diseases at Rourkela Every Year by Source: Meher ( 1994), Table 6. 20, p. 244. diseases, and 14. 9 per cent showed high eosinophil content. A follow up study of l,113 workers working in the dusty areas of the steel plant further revealed that 3. 2 per cent suffered from asthma, 4. 8 per cent suffered from chronic respiratory diseases, and 3. 3 per cent suffered from tuberculosis (ibid. : 80).
Similarly, in our sample of 316 households, sixty-four persons were reported to have died from various causes, including old age, during 1984-89. Although the death rate per 1,000 of the sample population was 7. 11 per annum, as compared to around 13-14 at the all-India level, it was found that death had occurred due to old age in only 15. 62 per cent of the cases. In the remaining cases death occurred relatively early (at less than 60 years) due to pollution-related diseases like respiratory and lung infections leading to tuberculosis and asthma (17. 19 per cent), heart disease (7. 1 per cent), paralysis (9. 37 per cent), diarrhoea and Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 446 dysentery (10. 94 per cent), 1994). cancer (4. 69 per cent) and the like (Meher Impact of industry on IV the local population As mentioned earlier, the government’s decision to set up a public sector steel plant in the mineral-rich backward region of Orissa was taken with a view to reducing regional imbalances in economic development. However, the establishment of the steel plant at Rourkela led to the acquisition of 13,185. 31 hectares or 131. 85 sq. m of land and the displacement of 23,400 persons, of whom 11,300 (48. 29 per cent) were tribals. Among the oustees only 4,607 (19. 6 per cent) persons could be provided with employment, while the remainder were forced to depend either on poor quality agricultural land in the resettlement sites or on the market forces of demand and supply of wage labour (Fernandes, Das and Rao 1989: 75). In its early phase of functioning, the industry mostly depended on jobbers and contractors for the supply of both skilled and unskilled labour, with the result that very few locals, including the tribals, could be absorbed in the newly created ndustrial jobs generated by the steel plant and other downstream and upstream industries at Rourkela: according to Vithal Babu, in the case of Rourkela, only 161 of 5,973 able-bodied displaced persons in the late 1950s were provided with regular employment: 223 as ’work-charged’ (presumably on contractual labour jobs) and 630 as ’muster roll workers’ (registered unskilled and semi-skilled wage workers, to be taken in regular employment if and when vacancies occur).
The remainder were idle and unemployed, living from day to day on the compensation paid by the steel project authorities, while skilled, semi-skilled and even unskilled workers were brought by contractors from different parts of the country, mainly from outside the province (Babu 1959: 237). Of course, it is also important to note that the local tribals, being unused to the culture and disciplinary norms of wage work, were not interested in working at the construction site of the steel plant and its township in unskilled category jobs, either as regular salaried workers or casual wageworkers.
At the time of my field study, people of the older generation who had been eye-witnesses to the birth and growth of the steel plant in the 1950s and 1960s reported that the plant authorities were initially quite interested in engaging them in wage work at the different work sites. Even the contractors were virtually dragging them out of their houses for unskilled wage work. But many of them were unwilling to Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 447 work at the site where huge power-operated machines, including cranes, dredgers and dynamite, were used.
Also, since many of them were not used to wage work in a closed environment for specific hours of the day and night, they showed little interest. As a result, outsiders took advantage of the situation. In fact, it was only after five/six years of regular operation of the plant, when the local tribal population could see the marked changes that had occurred in the life-styles of the few tribal oustees who had been absorbed into unskilled category jobs at the steel plant, that many of them were tempted to apply for the regular jobs.
However, owing to the informal operation of particularistic recruitment norms like caste, kin, language and region, most of the semi-skilled and unskilled jobs, including new vacancies subsequently created in the wake of the expansion of production capacity, were monopolised by uppercaste workers from coastal Orissa and non-Oriyas. Although Backward Castes, including the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, constitute more than 70 per cent of the state’s population, very few could get regular jobs in the steel plant due to a lack of technical education or the right socio-political connections.
According to the 1991 Census, the tribal population in the district of Sundargarh was as much as 50. 74 per cent of the total, but the percentage of tribal workers in non-household sector industrial jobs in the district was less than 25 per cent. As compared to the aggregate district level figure (61. 59 per cent), a greater percentage (82. 24 per cent) of the tribal workers earn their livelihood in traditional primary sector occupations such as agriculture and allied activities (see Table 3).
The upper castes predominate in almost all modem non-farm occupations, like industrial manufacturing, trade, transport, storage and communications, and also in other white-collar jobs. A fairly substantial number of people from the coastal region of Orissa, and also from the neighbouring states of West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, are working in the steel plant as also in other industrial and commercial establishments of the city.
A large number of workers are drawn from certain villages and regions in coastal Orissa, such as Polosora, Netinga, Gahama, and Origad in undivided Ganjam district, Editala in undivided Balasore district, and Beruna in undivided Cuttack district. In contrast, the peripheral villages like Brahmanitarang, Luakera, Jhirpani, Jalda, Deogaon, etc. , have very few steel plant employees or workers in the formal and organised industrial sector.
The tribals and lower-caste migrants from the home district, and also from the neighbouring districts in Orissa such as Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sambalpur, Bolangir and Kalahandi, and from Ranchi, Gumla and Singhbhum districts of the Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 448 Table 3 Total Occupational Classification of Workers and Non-workers for the Population and the Scheduled Tribes of Sundargarh District, Orissa, 1981 Source: Census of India ( 1981 ).
General economic tables, part III (A & B), and Special tables for scheduled tribes, part IX, Series-16, Orissa. Orissa: Director of Census Operations. present Jharkhand state, mostly earn their livelihood in the informal sector of Rourkela by working as rickshaw pullers, coolies, construction workers, street peddlers, vegetable vendors, sweepers, and the like (Meher 1994). The migrant tribal workers of the region work mostly as contract labour for the steel plant, that too in hazardous jobs (Sengupta 1983), or else end up in the city’s informal sector economy.
In his study of the labour market in the steel towns of India, Crook observes that in the public sector steel cities, access to protected work is denied to increasing numbers of people of the depressed categories. Over the years the steel plants have preferred to employ up to 20 per cent of their workforce on a contractual basis, who are denied the facilities enjoyed by the permanent core workers. These contract workers, who are mostly drawn from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, are not unionised (Crook 1993: 349-50). Of course, this type of development is ot unusual, but is an all-India phenomenon. In a hierarchical, inegalitarian society, patron-client ties and loyalty factors count for more than the merit, technical competence Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 449 and formal educational level of workers in both organised and unorganised economic sectors, particularly for semi-skilled and unskilled types of jobs. In an earlier study, Sheth ( 1968) had shown how the factory management manipulates caste networks to recruit loyal workers.
Unskilled workers in the Bulsar region of Gujarat are recruited to various jobs in the Government and industry by articulating patron-client and neighbourhood ties (Breman 1979; van der Veen 1979). In the case of another public sector undertaking, the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Bhopal, a similarly particularistic recruitment of workers for the semi-skilled and unskilled category of regular jobs in the plant was reportedly quite pervasive during the early years of construction and commissioning in the 1950s and 1960s (Kundu, Misra and Meher 1986).
It appears from the growth history of many industrial-urban centres in India that the early phase of migration of workers to the towns and cities, whether due to push or pull factors, often took the form of a link-based migration operationalised through local jobbers and middlemen. In subsequent phases, migrants moved from particular regions to those towns and cities where their people had already established a niche in certain trades or occupations, and where caste, kin, linguistic, ethnic or regional ties initially ensured their shelter through a transitory period of unemployment in the city.
Then, with the help of the earlier migrants, the late arrivals looked for both formal and informal types of jobs in the city. Over the years this process resulted in the caste- and region-specific specialisation of jobs in the urban labour market. As evidence shows, this partial monopolisation of jobs by people of certain castes, religions, regions or linguistic groups is a widespread urban phenomenon in jobscarce, labour-surplus economies such as that of India and of several other Third World countries (Gilbert and Gugler 1987; Holmstrom 1985; Hugo 1977; Rollwagen 1971).
In Table 3, we see that although around 57 per cent of main workers in Sundargarh district in 1991 earned their livelihood from agriculture, either as cultivators or agricultural labourers, in the case of tribals this was as high as 77 per cent. More so, out of those 77 per cent tribal agricultural workers, 24 per cent (or nearly one-third of the total) were landless agricultural labourers. Besides this, 5. 45 per cent of the tribal main workers were engaged in other primary sector occupations like livestock, forestry, mining and quarrying, etc. whereas in the case of the district at the aggregate level, this was only 4. 90 per cent. Notwithstanding the greater dependence of the tribal population of the district on agriculture, the average operational holding of cultivable land in Sundargarh has in fact registered Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 450 a marked decline from a level of 7. 9 acres in 1954 to only 4. 27 acres in 1990-91, according to the Agricultural Census of the Board of Revenue, Government of Orissa (Government of Orissa 1995b: 198-201; Misra 1958: 50).
It may be noted that while a socio-economic survey of 92 villages around Rourkela conducted by the Government of Orissa in the early 1950s revealed only 4. 6 per cent landless agricultural labour households (Misra 1958), increasing land alienation in the wake of industrialisation and urbanisation has now reduced many tribals to the status of landless wage labour. Sundargarh is agriculturally one of the most backward districts in Orissa, and the latter is considered one of the most poor and backward states of the Indian Union in respect to both industry and agriculture.
In the year 1990-91, while the average size of operational land holdings in the district was 1. 73 hectares, as against 0. 34 hectares at the all-Orissa level, the per capita availability of food grains in the district during the year 1994-95 was only 155 kgs, as against 203 kgs at the all-Orissa level. During the year 1993-94 the yield rate of the state’s principal crop, paddy, was only 9. 45 quintals per hectare in Sundargarh district, whereas this was 14. 32 quintals at the state level (Government of Orissa 1995a: 5; Government of Orissa 1995b: 250).
Against this background of low agricultural productivity and decline in the average size of operational holdings of cultivable land from 8 acres in 1950s to 4 acres in 1990s, it is significant that the dependence of the tribal population of Sundargarh district on agriculture has registered a marked increase in recent years. Despite this, a survey of peripheral villages around Rourkela revealed that, at present, the majority of the tribal households are not in a position to earn their subsistence solely from agriculture, which for the majority of households supplies merely four to six months of their annual food requirements.
In these circumstances, they must turn to wage work for survival. Moreover, with the setting up of the steel plant at Rourkela, the forest coverage of the district registered a marked decline, from 54. 18 per cent in 1965-66 to 38. 18 per cent in 1985-86. By a simple linear regression method, the average decline of forest area during the period is estimated to be 1. 4 per cent per annum, while simultaneously the rainfall of the district has now become more erratic. In the absence of adequate irrigation coverage, the district is frequently afflicted with drought and crop failure.
The normal annual rainfall of the district is 164. 76 cms. However, between 1965 and 1987 the recorded actual average annual rainfall was only 123. 43 cms and the estimated XI value of the actually recorded rainfall revenue Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 451 for the said period is significant at 1 per level of significance (Meher 1994). While the district’s forest statistics now show a marked increase in forest area, thanks to the Government’s afforestation programme, the reality is altogether different.
My visit to the peripheral and far-off villages of both Panposh and Bonai sub-divisions of the district surrounding the Rourkela industrial region reveals that the region is now completely denuded of its pristine dense forest. The intensification of mining activities in the region has not only led to the decline of the forest cover, but has also adversely affected the self-sustaining forms of livelihood that had earlier pertained among the aboriginal population.
Before the industrialisation of the Rourkela region, tribals were leading lives of sustainable subsistence, depending on primitive agriculture and a regenerative forest economy. With the commercial exploitation of forests and the extensive mining of minerals and metals, the tribals of the region, whose sustainable subsistence was dependent on minor forest produce such as edible fruits, leafs and tubers, were gradually deprived of their common property resources. Moreover, with the opening of tribal lands in the wake of industrialisation, the tribe-caste interaction was intensified.
This resulted in marked changes in tribal life-styles, changes in food habits and dress, and the rise of a new materialistic and acquisitive culture in a context of acute competition and caste-tribe conflict over scarce natural resources. The region is now flooded with highly skilled, educated plains people, while the tribals have become pauperised; their own resource base is shrinking and encroached upon by industry and also by outsiders. The number of wage earners and unemployed among the tribals is increasing by leaps and bounds.
Many among the educated tribals are now forced to remain underemployed and unemployed, as there is little possibility of their getting any organised industrial or tertiary sector employment in and around Rourkela, while the illiterate and semieducated among the tribals have been virtually deprived of their traditional means of livelihood as wage employment opportunities in this industrial region have become more precarious. Soon after the completion of the steel plant’s modernisation programme in the 1990s, the steel industry in the country as a whole has been affected by the problem of recession.
There has been a continuous fall in steel prices due to open import of steel and iron from the international market at much cheaper prices. In this scenario, the Rourkela Steel Plant has now been converted from its status as a profit-making public sector unit into that of a loss-making unit of the SAIL, as the debt-servicing cost of the plant has increased phenomenally in the wake of modernisation. This Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 452 generated multiple negative effects in the local labour market of the region, and also in the service sector economy, including trade and commerce.
This industrial city, which was more prosperous and commercially more vibrant than the state capital, Bhubaneswar, from the 1960s to 1980s, now looks almost like a sick and marooned city. In this situation, the condition of the occupationally displaced tribals and other marginalised has groups of people has become more precarious. It was revealed during the 1981 Census that while only 0. 60 per cent of the state population was unemployed at the all-Orissa level, the tribal population of Sundargarh district had an unemployment rate as high as 1. 91 per cent of the total. Although the Rourkela urban agglomerate and the Sundargarh district as such have a relatively larger percentage of workers in non-household manufacturing, this has shown a marked decline over the years. Much of the employment in the Rourkela Steel Plant was generated in the late 1950s and early 1960s, especially in the commissioning stage (1958-62) when the employment figure shot up from 4,000 to 25,000. It is reported that in 1983 the steel plant had around 39,000 regular workers on its pay roll (Sengupta 1983). However, the number of regular workers employed by the steel plant has declined significantly in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The number of contract workers has also shown a wide variation annually, but with a declining trend, with numbers never reaching the figure of the early 1980s. By March 1996 the strength of regular employees in the steel plant stood at 34,000, while the number of contract workers was fewer than 6,000. These days the management does not encourage the employment of casual and contract workers. At the same time, it plans to reduce regular employment by about 5,000 workers after modernisation. V Conclusion The large-scale migration of tribal hinterland in recent years and their eople to Rourkela from the rural dependence on the informal sector 5 These figures are computed from the 1981 Census data of the General Economic Tables and Special Tables for Scheduled Tribes of Orissa. It may be mentioned that the non-workers in the census are divided into seven sub-categories: ( full time students; ) i ) iv ) v ) ii ( household duties; ( dependents and infants; ( beggars, vagrants, etc. ; ( retired ) iii ) vi persons and those of independent means; ( inmates of penal, mental and charitable institutions; and ( others.
The last category of non-workers encompasses unemployed ) vii people looking for work. Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 453 economy of the city can in no way be characterised as upward mobility of the aboriginal population of the region. Rather, they may be called ’ecological refugees’ in the city, struggling hard to eke out a subsistence and finally bearing the brunt of the environmental pollution generated by the Rourkela Steel Plant. It is not only Rourkela or the tribal populations of Sundargarh hat are being pauperised due to the one-dimensional industrial development designed at the top to serve the interests of the privileged sections of society. The entire industrial belt of Chota Nagpur, stretching from DurgBhilai in Chhattisgarh to Rajgangpur-Rourkela in Orissa, Ranchi-Bokaro and Jamsedpur in Jharkhand and Durgapur in West Bengal, has experienced a similar of development, where the aboriginal population are reduced to being distressed migrants in the modem urban-industrial centres of their own homelands (see Mathew 1989; Reddy 1994; Sachchidananda and Mandal 1985; Vidyarthi 1970).
It is they who mostly reside in the slums and squatter colonies of the modem cities, earn their bread in the proliferating informal sector economy at below subsistence level, and suffer most the ill-effects of environmental pollution and ecological type degradation. Given the inadequate land revenue records of the ex-Princely State of Gangpur, many of the displaced tribals of Rourkela could not be properly rehabilitated.
From their independent self-employed status in agriculture and the forest economy, the tribals have become wandering wage-earners in the informal sector urban economy, their traditional sources of livelihood now almost lost. The domination of the upper-caste Hindus in the organised sector jobs of the region leaves them with little scope to enter the formal job market. Extensive mining activities in the entire Panposh and Bonai sub-divisions of Sundargarh have destroyed dense forests and fertile agricultural lands, and the tribals are now dependent upon the unsustainable mining economy by hiring themselves out as daily wage earners.
When they fail to get work, they migrate to Rourkela as turnover and seasonal migrants, working either as contract labour of the steel plant or as informal sector workers such as coolies, rickshaw pullers, unskilled construction workers, domestic maids, and the like. As in other parts of the country, the modem industrial-urban society that has grown up at Rourkela has more or less mimicked the traditional, particularistic and hierarchical Indian caste society. The resource and income distribution arising from industrialisation and urbanisation is skewed in favour of the upper castes and privileged sections of society (Meher 1994).
Like other public sector steel cities such as Bhilai, Bokaro, Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 454, Durgapur, etc. , Rourkela, a melting-pot of people hailing from different parts of the country, presents a more cosmopolitan look than other cities of Orissa. However, due to the marginalised status of the local population in the steel plant and the claims of the younger generation among them for a rightful share in the plant in terms of regular jobs, the city is now beginning to witness various types of ethnic tensions and regionalism.
No doubt the city retains some features of both the melting-pot model as well as the Indian ’salad bowl’ model, in which the ingredients retain their distinctiveness (eg. , The Bhilai Steel Plant [Parry 1999: 138]). But unfortunately each ingredient in the ’salad bowl’ of Rourkela does not transcend its individuality through the presence of others. Instead in a job-scarce scenario and with the downsizing of the steel plant workforce, the ’salad bowl’ model of the city population in Rourkela creates conflictlike situations between different ethnic groups.
Moreover, the large-scale migration and rural exodus of people to this urban-industrial complex is often network-based migration, leading to the partial monopolisation of different types of jobs in the city by different caste, ethnic, linguistic or regional groups. These contradictory social forces have in fact worked in such a manner that they have ruptured the relatively open, universalistic urbanism that was expected to develop at Rourkela. The recent slowing down of the pace of industrialisation is creating various sorts of social turmoil and disturbances.
The level of unemployment among the younger generation is becoming very acute. Loss of agricultural land and the migrant population’s quasi-monopolistic hold over the limited job opportunities created in the regional economy of Rourkela is making the tribal youths and the local caste-Hindu population restless. ’Nativism’ and ’sons of the soil’ movements have gained in strength, threatening to destroy the cosmopolitan character of the city. Added to this is evidence of the rupture of the symbiosis between industry, ecology and society in Rourkela.
This rupture has occurred not only because of run-away industrialisation and the use of modem technology, but also because residents of the city have neglected the serious problems of environmental pollution. It is astonishing to observe that very few people in this industrial city show concern for or are aware of the state of ecology and urban environmental decay. Although many of the workers suffer from occupational health hazards caused by the arsenic elements discharged by the steel plant, very few talk about environmental pollution.
Even the major trade unions concerned with more immediate bread and butter issues of the city keep quiet about the health hazards Downloaded from cis. sagepub. com at NATIONAL UNIV SINGAPORE on February 28, 2012 455 the steel plant and the ecological degradation in the city. The skewed distribution pattern of civic amenities across space and different segments of the population has further distorted and compounded the problem of urban living for the poor. The slums and the localities inhabited by the poor informal sector workers are the main victims of urban industrial pollution.
It is true that environmental problems affect everyone, but some are more affected than others: in general the urban poor and tribals face more pollution hazards, job insecurity and low income, all of which further weaken their competitive capability. The experience of industry-led development and change in the Rourkela region clearly shows that the present developmental model, which is based on a GNP-led economic growth indifferent to the ’Quality of Life’ and on the maintenance of symbiosis between industry, ecology and human society, may prove a failure in the long run.
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