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Auction for Mining in 20 Coal Blocks given go ahead, protests break out: Jharkand

Mahasabha calls for mass protests against central government’s decision to allow commercial coal mining

Sabrangindia 19 Jun 2020

Auction for Mining in 20 Coal Blocks

Following the Modi.2 government’s controversial decision announced yesterday, June 18, the auction of 41 coal blocks, including 20 of Jharkhand, for commercial mining, widespread protests have broken out, especially as all ownership rights of the land owners and Gram Sabhas will potentially be snatched away and natural resources opened up. People’s organisations and environmentalists have dubbed this move as opening the door for “for more corporate plunder” and also said that it “again exposes the atmanirbhar initiative,” propaganda by and of the prime minister.

In a strong statement issued by the Jharkand Mahasabha, the organisation has also said that it is deeply worrying that Jharkhand government has extended support to the central government’s decision. However, 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. The Mahasabha organised an online meeting on June 17, 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 Constitutional Vth  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 landowners. 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 statement also states that 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, no government should, in a democracy have the unilateral power to take such a decision. If the people and Gram Sabhas want mining, cooperatives of landowners 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. The Mahasabha firmly believes in community ownership of natural resources. Also, agricultural land and forests should not be used for any kind of mining.

On June 18, 2020 when the central government auctions the coal blocks for commercial mining, without any consultation with the people and Gram SabhasMahasabha 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. The Mahasabha also demands 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.

 

Related:

1. Jharkhand’s Saranda forest opened up for mining, authorities dilute sustainable plans

2. Jharkhand Polls: Where Is the Mineral Wealth Going?

Auction for Mining in 20 Coal Blocks given go ahead, protests break out: Jharkand

Mahasabha calls for mass protests against central government’s decision to allow commercial coal mining

Auction for Mining in 20 Coal Blocks

Following the Modi.2 government’s controversial decision announced yesterday, June 18, the auction of 41 coal blocks, including 20 of Jharkhand, for commercial mining, widespread protests have broken out, especially as all ownership rights of the land owners and Gram Sabhas will potentially be snatched away and natural resources opened up. People’s organisations and environmentalists have dubbed this move as opening the door for “for more corporate plunder” and also said that it “again exposes the atmanirbhar initiative,” propaganda by and of the prime minister.

In a strong statement issued by the Jharkand Mahasabha, the organisation has also said that it is deeply worrying that Jharkhand government has extended support to the central government’s decision. However, 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. The Mahasabha organised an online meeting on June 17, 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 Constitutional Vth  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 landowners. 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 statement also states that 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, no government should, in a democracy have the unilateral power to take such a decision. If the people and Gram Sabhas want mining, cooperatives of landowners 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. The Mahasabha firmly believes in community ownership of natural resources. Also, agricultural land and forests should not be used for any kind of mining.

On June 18, 2020 when the central government auctions the coal blocks for commercial mining, without any consultation with the people and Gram SabhasMahasabha 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. The Mahasabha also demands 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.

 

Related:

1. Jharkhand’s Saranda forest opened up for mining, authorities dilute sustainable plans

2. Jharkhand Polls: Where Is the Mineral Wealth Going?

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