Thursday, May 30, 2013

Representation to Gujarat governor takes strong exception to mining activities in scheduled areas of the state

By Our Reprsentative
Several grassroots organizations of Gujarat under the banner of Mines, Minerals and People (MM&P) have represented to state governor Dr Kamla against continued mining of the tribal areas of Gujarat, saying this is happening “against the Constitutional provisions, which prohibit mining of any natural resources that come under the tribal areas, whether it is water, land or forests.” The representation underlined, “It is illegal to allow mining in the tribal areas without prior approval of the gram sabha.”  Those who represented included Ashok Shrimali from MM&P, and social workers from affected tribal villages of South Gujarat. There were Namikaben Chaudhury, who is also sarpanch of Mordevi village panchayat, Bhupendrabhai Chaudhary, of Kosambia village, Manendrabhai Chaudhury or Bahej village, and Lalsinhbhai Gamit of Valod village. 
The decision to represent to the Gujarat governor was taken in the wake of a South Gujarat workshop with the participation of several grassroots organizations, organized by Andhra Pradesh-based NGO Samata, on May 18, under the project Mining Information Clearing House of India, in collaboration of Gujarat’s Setu Centre for Social Knowledge and Action, Adivasi Ekata Parishad, Gandhi Vidhyapith, Vedachhi, and Samasta Adivasi Samaj. 
More than 75 participants from south Gujarat participated in the workshop and discussed in detail about mining laws, environmental impact and violation of the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), 1996, a law enacted by Parliament covering the scheduled areas to provide tribals sovereign rights over the natural resources in their areas.
The representation to the governor, while reiterating the need to implement PESA in both letter and spirit, underlines, “The Supreme Court of India in October 2002 upheld the rights of the tribal people over the natural resources of the areas where they live. On July 29, 2011, the Supreme Court ordered the Karnataka government to immediately stop all illegal mining activity taking into account the existing constitutional provisions.”
The representation says, “Even the Gujarat government’s own notification dated August 27, 2010, of the state industries and mines department, says that only fallow land can be mined. There is no reference to mining of rivers in the notification. The notification further says that there cannot be any mining in an area within 200 metres from a dam, reservoir or a source of water."
It adds, "On August 27, 2010, it was clarified in yet another notification that in case of a scheduled area, there cannot be any mining without the permission of the gram sabha.” Pointing out that despite this, in large areas of South Gujarat mining activities in tribal areas have been continuing, the representation asked the governor to "seek an explanation on this from the Gujarat government."
Meanwhile, the Samata-sponsored workshop on mining activities in South Gujarat expressed concern over the changes proposed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMRD) Bill, 2011. The committee wants that 26 per cent of profit of previous year (for coal and lignite), for community development, be replaced with a mechanism to share royalty in order to make funds available to the local people. Shrimali, who participated in the workshop, said, “Every time the bill has gone through administrative, ministerial and executive check, the provisions to share profits with those affected by mining has seen an exponential drop.”
He underlines, “From 26 per cent equity to royalty sharing in case of non-coal minerals and 26% profit of coal and lignite mining operations, it has now been suggested that in case of coal and lignite, royalty be the basis of payment to district mineral foundation. This is in the midst of the coal scam unearthed in the preceding year.” This is against what former minister of state for mines BK Handique, while speaking at the national consultation in New Delhi organized by Oxfam and MM&P told the audience that “benefits should not be merely doles, these should reflect respect and honour to those who have faced the brunt of mining over the years.”
Shrimali says, “There seems to be utter confusion on 'compensation' aspects to the affected, as there is no clear definition of the affected persons in the case of mining. Downstream impacts of mining are not taken into account. The downstream affects include choking and pollution of rivers by debris and chemicals. At many places, where the land is to be acquired, the recommendations suggest that it awaits the Land Acquisition (Rehabilitation and Resettlement) Bill which is pending with Parliament, and suitable insertions would be made in the MMDR Bill later.”
Shrimali further says, “Other recommendations made by MM&P, Oxfam and other civil society bodies have not seen any mention in the PSC report. The important ones are ensuring heavy penalizing provisions including upward financial penalization and termination of license for a longer period.” He adds, “Sustainable development framework which is considered as the central theme to make mining more sustainable has been left without any useful thoughts by the PSC as well as the government, mere international principles and no benchmarks/ indicators make it redundant in its present form.”
Shrimali recalls, “The Supreme Court’s Samata judgment, which nullified all mining leases granted by the state government in Andhra Pradesh in the Scheduled areas and asked it to stop all mining operations, underlined the need to provide an equitable chance for tribals and their cooperatives to share profits. Yet, in states there is nothing to show that they have co-shared their knowledge or developed skills of cooperatives. Even the net 20 per cent profit suggested by the Supreme Court has not been followed, what more is expected? Now PSC wants to seek legal opinion on the constitutional provisions of the Samata judgment and consider the same for tribal cooperatives.”
Shrimali emphasizes, “While the PSC mentions that the proposed National Mining Tribunal should intervene where there are apprehensions of violations of such acts of omission and commissions, yet it recommends that any appeal arising from the National Mining Tribunal may vest with the Supreme Court instead of the High Court. It also recommends just technical skills as requirement for the chairperson and members of the proposed authorities. This is quite contrary to the MMDR Bill, which wants qualifications of humanities or law as also understanding the needs of the project affected persons.”

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