This article is from the conservative business publication Bloomberg Markets. July 29, 2010.
India’s Maoist Menace
by Mehul Srivastava
Armed rebels hold the Red Corridor, a region the size of Portugal, in their grip. The nation’s mineral wealth and 8.5% percent annual growth are at stake.
At the heart of the Bailadila Hills in central India lie 1.1 billion tons of raw ore so pure and so plentiful that half a century after miners first hacked at it with pickaxes, it remains the richest, and one of the largest, iron deposits on the planet.
Essar Steel Ltd. built a plant near the hills in 2005 to turn the ore into a liquid. The Mumbai-based company, controlled by billionaire brothers Ravi and Shashi Ruia, added a 267-kilometer pipeline to pump the slurry to the east coast, where Essar makes steel.
Yet on this quiet June day , cobwebs hang on rusted pipes in the all-but-abandoned facility, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its September 2010 issue. Caretakers prepare to switch truck-size rock crushers out of their coma, rousing the machines for five minutes a month to ensure they still work.
Maoist rebels from the surrounding Dandakaranya forest armed with guns and explosives — and some wielding axes and bows and arrows — attacked the facility four times in little more than a year, officials at the now-mothballed plant say. They burned 54 trucks waiting at factory gates in April 2008 and damaged part of the slurry pipeline, the world’s second longest, in June 2009. Essar idled the plant that month.
‘Sucked Into the Conflict’ “‘The Maoists are gaining ground, and India’s resource crunch will only get deeper,” says Suhas Chakma, director of the New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights. “The entire economic development of the country is being sucked into the conflict. ”