coal mine

The central government today initiated the auction of 41 coal blocks, including 20 of Jharkhand, for commercial mining. It again exposes the crony capitalism of the government. Ironically, the move, touted as an atmanirbhar initiative, takes away all ownership rights of the land owners and Gram Sabhas and opens up natural resources for more corporate plunder. It is deeply worrying that Jharkhand government has extended support to the central government’s decision. But the fact that the state has asked for a moratorium period of 6-9 months indicates that it is not fully on-board this decision.

The detrimental impact of the decision to allow commercial coal mining on the domestic coal industry and market is well documented. However, the most worrying aspect of the decision is that it simply overlooks the staggering impact on the lives of landowners, people living nearby and the environment. Mahasabha organised an online meeting on 17 June, attended by experts and activists, to discuss the impact of Modi government’s decision on Jharkhand.

A large proportion of Jharkhandis, especially Adivasis, depend on agriculture and forest-based livelihoods. Jharkhand, as one of the richest mineral states, stands witness to the fact that rampant mining, especially in corporate interests, does not improve well-being of the people. Needless to say, mining, especially of coal, has significant environmental and human costs. Opening the state for domestic and foreign corporate mining entities will further destroy the livelihoods and environment. Mining companies, supported by the government, flout laws that aim to check environmental degradation, left, right and centre. Hundreds of unreclaimed spent-mines, across the state, stand witness to this.

The decision also violates several legislations and constitutional provisions that aim to protect the poor and marginalised and the right of Adivasis to self-govern (“atmanirbhar”). PESA and 5th schedule provisions clearly define the role of Gram Sabhas as primary decision-making body of a village. The Samata judgement allows Adivasis and their cooperatives the right to undertake mining in their land, if they so wish. Further, the Lodha bench of Supreme Court in its landmark judgement of 2013 clearly said that ownership of minerals should be vested with the land owners. Further, the forest rights act clearly defines forest as a community property of the Gram Sabha. The central government did not even bother to discuss the plan to auction coal for commercial mining with relevant Gram Sabhas. Opening coal mines for commercial plunder will also further weaken rights of coal workers.

The gatbandhan coalition of JMM, Congress and RJD was given a decisive mandate against the anti-people and pro-corporate policies of the earlier Raghuvar Das government. It is expected that the state government will stand with the people in their fight against forceful acquisition of their land or mining on their land without their consent. Even during the lockdown, coal mining companies have been trying to acquire land or extend their lease without any public consultation. Struggle against such forceful acquisition or illegal extension of lease is already going on in different corners of the state.

The debate on any form of mining needs to start from the question whether people of the area want mining to happen or not. If people and Gram Sabhas want mining, cooperatives of land owners or Gram Sabhas can be supported by the government with capital and technological help to undertake mining and allied activities on their own. Gram Sabhas have effectively demonstrated their ability to manage forest and forest-based products. Mahasabha firmly believes in community ownership of natural resources. Also, agricultural land and forests should not be used for any kind of mining.

On this day, when the central government auctions the coal blocks for commercial mining, without any consultation with the people and Gram Sabhas, Mahasabha gives a call to all Gram Sabhas of affected area to protest against Modi government’s decision and not allow mining activities to start. Mahasabha will work with the people to oppose the mining activities on the ground. We demand that the state government should take a firm stand against commercial mining and centre’s decision to auction coal blocks, implement the laws and legislations that protect people’s rights to natural resources and self-govern, in letter and spirit, and present an alternative non-exploitative vision to the country.

For more details, please contact  at jharkhand.janadhikar,mahasabha@gmail.com .


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