I have been out of circulation for a few weeks so this is a brief update:
Odisha (Orissa): Those who read my short book ‘Elusive India: tribes’ will know that this State is rich in minerals and that I have been tracking Vedanta Aluminium Ltd. After losing its High Court case to lop the Niyamgiri hills and extract vast quantities of bauxite it is left with the huge Lanjigarh refinery plant nearby. Recently the State Government announced that VAL will be provided with laterite deposits (rich in iron and aluminium) to help run the plant. At the moment VAL procures lower grade bauxite from four other states and has submitted 33 applications for alternative bauxite mines. Watch this space.
Kutch: This is the monsoon season when rains are expected although Kutch often misses out which presents great problems for this arid area. The most recent report is that the region received 812% more than normal; this must be good news. Meanwhile Modi’s plan to expand industry is moving very fast with little consideration for the fisherman and the pastoral people.
The Times of India recently headlined the ‘Gulf of Kutch now the Gateway of India Inc.’ It mentions nearly 100,000 labourers working round the clock on the expansion of RIL’s refinery complex, one of the biggest construction sites in the world today. Reliance is one of the corporate giants that continues to invest heavily in the Gulf of Kutch. With the deep-water ports of Mundra and Kandla and six others Kutch is rapidly extending its 2000 year-old maritime trading history across the Arabian Sea and moving goods to India’s landlocked States. Industry first and people second? It makes one wonder.
Kashmir: I had a great fortnight staying on Nageen Lake (Srinagar) in a fantastic topline traditional houseboat. And learnt a lot more about this controversial and fascinating region on the northern border of India. The UK Foreign Office advises against travelling away from the city and I am told this is proper advice. Nonetheless I had to see Gulmarg which is very beautiful even in the rain; it’s a mixture of an alpine landscape and the vestige of British Raj buildings with some very good modern hotels. I recommend engaging an agent who knows Kashmir well if you plan to explore. No serious floods this time, just beautiful. Visited Martand, the amazing Hindu Sun Temple (8thC), later smashed by the iconoclastic Sultan Sikander, – outstanding. More of this later.