Campaigners for tribal rights have accused the British government of unprecedented ‘cloak and dagger’ secrecy over a meeting between Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and Britain’s secretary of state for international development Andrew Mitchell in London last week.
hurriedly left for India on Wednesday — cutting short his visit by a day to quell a rebellion by partymen — he met Mitchell on Tuesday. But details of the discussions are being withheld by the Department for International Development (DfID), which describes the meeting as “private”.
Odisha is one of three Indian states that will receive British aid until 2015. Last year, it was given £20 million — an expense that has become controversial because of allegations of massive human rights violations against tribals in the resource-rich state.
The line being taken by DfID — in a possible attempt to distance itself from the controversy over human rights violations — is that it wasn’t Mitchell who sought the meeting but Patnaik.
“Andrew Mitchell … was delighted to welcome the chief minister to the UK. He had a productive meeting with the chief minister where they discussed Odisha’s progress in reducing poverty and a new scholarship programme for Dalit and tribal girls to enroll in secondary school,” a spokeswoman for the British ministry told HT.