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Environment Politics

Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh oppose Centre’s move allowing commercial coal mining

While Jharkhand has moved the Supreme Court, Chhattisgarh has written a letter to Centre addressing the issue

Sabrangindia 22 Jun 2020

commercial coal miningImage Courtesy:en.gaonconnection.com

On June 18 when Prime Minister Modi announced the opening of commercial coal mining for private sector through auctions, there were some states who were unhappy with the decision; Jharkhand being one of them. Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren has approached the Supreme Court against this decision since this is a huge policy decision and the Centre acted without taking state governments into confidence. PM Modi announced the auction of 41 blocks, expected to attract Rs. 33,000 crore in investments, 20 of which are in Jharkhand and rest of them are in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.

The Hindustan Times reported that Soren said, “Mining has always been a contentious issue in the state. After a long time, a new process is being adopted, which will reinstate the system out of which we came out. Even in the existing system, the locals, landowners could not get their rightful entitlements. There are several issues related to land and displacement in the state”. He further said that the Centre has taken this decision in haste without doing an assessment of adverse social and environmental impact.

“It seems the Centre is doing this in haste. It is difficult to understand as the entire world is under lockdown. The Centre is expecting foreign investment, but there are several issues including curbs on foreign travel now. Currently, the demand is also low as many industries are shut. So, I don’t find this process of any help now,” Soren added.

In a press conference, BJP, which is in opposition in Jharkhand asked the Soren government to frame policies for sustainable mining to create livelihood opportunities for migrant labourers instead of blocking Centre’s decision.

Criticisms

When the decision came, it was criticized by Jharkhand Mahasabha stating that  it simply overlooks the staggering impact on the lives of landowners, people living nearby and the environment

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 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.

Trade Unions oppose move

Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and Central Trade Union (CTU) opposed the move and demanded that auction of coal blocks to private players be stopped. In response, Coal India Limited (CIL) Chairman Pramod Agarwal said that CIL will continue to be country’s leading coal producer even after the sector is opened up for private sector. CIL trade unions have announced a 3-day strike from July 2 onwards protesting Centre’s decision.

Chhattisgarh letter to Centre

Even Chhattisgarh government wrote a letter to Union Minister of Environment Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar. In his letter, Chhattisgarh Forest minister Mohammad Akbar asked the Centre not to allow auction of coal blocks which fall under Hasdeo Arand, Lemru elephant reserve and the Mand river catchment area which are biodiversity-rich forests, which account for 5 out of 9 coal blocks to be auctioned in the state.

Related:

Commercial Mining, not a boon but a curse: Jharkhand & Central India 
Auction for Mining in 20 Coal Blocks given go ahead, protests break out: Jharkand

 

Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh oppose Centre’s move allowing commercial coal mining

While Jharkhand has moved the Supreme Court, Chhattisgarh has written a letter to Centre addressing the issue

commercial coal miningImage Courtesy:en.gaonconnection.com

On June 18 when Prime Minister Modi announced the opening of commercial coal mining for private sector through auctions, there were some states who were unhappy with the decision; Jharkhand being one of them. Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren has approached the Supreme Court against this decision since this is a huge policy decision and the Centre acted without taking state governments into confidence. PM Modi announced the auction of 41 blocks, expected to attract Rs. 33,000 crore in investments, 20 of which are in Jharkhand and rest of them are in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra.

The Hindustan Times reported that Soren said, “Mining has always been a contentious issue in the state. After a long time, a new process is being adopted, which will reinstate the system out of which we came out. Even in the existing system, the locals, landowners could not get their rightful entitlements. There are several issues related to land and displacement in the state”. He further said that the Centre has taken this decision in haste without doing an assessment of adverse social and environmental impact.

“It seems the Centre is doing this in haste. It is difficult to understand as the entire world is under lockdown. The Centre is expecting foreign investment, but there are several issues including curbs on foreign travel now. Currently, the demand is also low as many industries are shut. So, I don’t find this process of any help now,” Soren added.

In a press conference, BJP, which is in opposition in Jharkhand asked the Soren government to frame policies for sustainable mining to create livelihood opportunities for migrant labourers instead of blocking Centre’s decision.

Criticisms

When the decision came, it was criticized by Jharkhand Mahasabha stating that  it simply overlooks the staggering impact on the lives of landowners, people living nearby and the environment

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 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.

Trade Unions oppose move

Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and Central Trade Union (CTU) opposed the move and demanded that auction of coal blocks to private players be stopped. In response, Coal India Limited (CIL) Chairman Pramod Agarwal said that CIL will continue to be country’s leading coal producer even after the sector is opened up for private sector. CIL trade unions have announced a 3-day strike from July 2 onwards protesting Centre’s decision.

Chhattisgarh letter to Centre

Even Chhattisgarh government wrote a letter to Union Minister of Environment Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar. In his letter, Chhattisgarh Forest minister Mohammad Akbar asked the Centre not to allow auction of coal blocks which fall under Hasdeo Arand, Lemru elephant reserve and the Mand river catchment area which are biodiversity-rich forests, which account for 5 out of 9 coal blocks to be auctioned in the state.

Related:

Commercial Mining, not a boon but a curse: Jharkhand & Central India 
Auction for Mining in 20 Coal Blocks given go ahead, protests break out: Jharkand

 

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