Dr. Subash Mohapatra


Role: Convener at National Campaign for Ending Corporate Abuse
Active in Country: India
DTP Alumnus: 2016 Human Rights, Indigenous Peoples, the Private Sector and Development - Indonesia

We run a campaign called End Corporate Abuse; we monitor corporations and their human rights abuses. Companies in India are taking land away from tribal peoples, indigenous peoples, and not providing them with adequate compensation: it’s undue displacement. These companies mine coal, iron and bauxite. Our main work is to help communities bring criminal prosecutions against these corporations. I’m a lawyer and have been involved with this since 1992, my college days.

We act on decisions made by the communities that are being affected. If they want to dialogue with the companies, we try to negotiate first. If companies are not abiding by domestic laws and international standards, then we provide them the opportunity to make those corrections. If they don't do that or they don't dialogue with the communities, then the indigenous peoples' committees – we have encouraged affected groups to form these bodies – will decide whether to advance the case. If they do, then we help them legally.

As well as the companies, we have to look at different agencies, e.g. project financing agencies. The government has its mining fund, so there are coal companies that belong to the Indian government and/or are promoted by the government. Most of our work is with domestic companies, but we also deal with multinationals.

We try to book companies under particular provisions. We use environmental platforms like the National Green Tribunal, which only covers ecological aspects. Still, we can go beyond that because India has a law called the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act. Under this act, if the indigenous people do not get their due compensation, they can choose to file a criminal prosecution case meaning that company employees can be sent to jail. We have had some outstanding results with this. Similarly, we file under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, which safeguards the rights of indigenous people.

Though we work only in India, and specifically in Odisha, we do raise these issues through the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council and inform the Special Rapporteurs. However, international frameworks like the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are not very useful here because of non-compliance. These companies don't comply with anything. In some cases, the land was taken back in the 1980s, and the groups have still not received compensation after 40 years.

They have attacked me several times; they have prosecuted me; I have spent many months in jail. During my jail time, I thought I should write something, so I have written some poems regarding the struggles of indigenous people. One of the books has been published, and two others will be published by December 2020, I hope. The first book is Bought a House on the Moon, the second book is Sunshine and Rain, and the third book is The Question of God. The indigenous peoples of Odisha generally do not understand English so I have written two books in Odia, the local language, so that they can read them.

I attended DTP training in Bandung in Indonesia. It was definitely a helpful experience. At that time, there was a lot of pressure on me, and so it was good to be safe there for a week and to meet many colleagues, having exchanges with the other participants who are doing the same kind of work. There was a good environment; the DTP helped with many things and introduced us to many experts. Incredibly valuable were the fact-finding techniques they taught and how to report issues to the international community. That was exceptionally helpful. So that was a lovely experience. I keep in touch with many participants from Indonesia and other nations.

I have tried networking with other organizations here in India. Still, I have gradually found that some are not really on the side of human rights because they receive corporate social responsibility funding. We don't accept funding from the government or companies in any way; I am not interested in receiving money from corporate organizations and foundations. In a sense, we are fighting against the companies, and so if we accept that money, it would be hypocrisy.

So funding is complicated because we do not receive any institutional money. We only accept donations from well-wishers, advocates, like-minded journalists. And the community itself contributes. So we are a small campaign group doing the work. I am trying to raise money through books. Whatever royalties I get, we'll use towards campaign expenses.


Profile written November 2020