"We stand by our report": CSE responds to Chhattisgarh government's criticism

The CSE report was released in Raipur on May 20, 2008 by the governor of Chhattisgarh, E S L Narsimhan. The report’s contents had forced the state government to issue a 12-page comment, which claimed that the book contained “a large number of factual inaccuracies, sweeping remarks and unfounded criticism of the state government based on conjectures and surmises”.

The CSE response is part of a point-by-point reposte to the official critique, which the NGO released to the media today. A copy of the response has also been sent to the state governor.

A citizen’s report

“As its title clearly indicates, this is a ‘citizen’s report’. It is, thus, a compilation of statistics, quotes, facts, expressions, views and perceptions from a variety of stakeholders, people and observers – all citizens of India – which has enabled its writers to draw certain conclusions,” clarified CSE director Sunita Narain.

CSE’s researchers and reporters have also visited a number of places and sites mentioned in the report – including those in Chhattisgarh – for verifying stories and facts. Publication of such a voluminous report is a time-consuming affair, which, says CSE, explains the time lag between the data (of 2005) used in the report and its release this year.

Moreover, the Centre points out in its response that its report is not an effort to denigrate and criticise any one government – “whoever reads the report will clearly understand that it looks at the state of mining across the country. As part of that effort, it has also looked at all the major mining states – including Chhattisgarh – in India.”

What is the government saying?

“The state government says that we have not obtained its comments and consulted it before putting together this compilation. But that is not true. We have also used data from the state government’s own publications and documents in our report. CSE’s researchers have gone through and quoted from a number of documents produced by the Chhattisgarh government itself,” says Chandra Bhushan, associate director of CSE and the co-author of the report. 

The statistics of the Department of Mines and Geology, government of Chhattisgarh have been extensively used in the CSE report. Similarly, findings of the 2005 Chhattisgarh Human Development Report have also been taken into account. The sources of these comments and pieces of information have been clearly indicated in the report as well. 

For example, the state government has criticised CSE’s observations on degraded forests in Dantewada. But these observations, says CSE, have been taken from the state government’s own document, the 2005 Chhattisgarh Human Development Report. “Is the state trying to deny its own findings?” asks Chandra Bhushan. 

Denial mode
CSE’s response takes the state government to task for its attitude of denial. The Chhattisgarh government has denied that there is large-scale illegal mining of diamonds in the state. The government also claims that statements which say that ‘Chhattisgarh is facing environmental challenges’ are unfounded. 

CSE has countered this denial by pointing out that “the environmental problems arising out of mining in Chhattisgarh – such as the pollution of river Sankhini or the destruction of forests in Bailadila or the air pollution in Korba – are all extremely well documented.” 

CSE’s researchers have themselves visited the locations and experienced and observed the problems. Popular agitations in most of these areas also provide enough proof of the problems and their extent. “The state government’s ostrich-like attitude in this context, therefore, is laughable,” says the response.