Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Gujarat minor mineral rules "ignore" farmers' and tribals' rights: People's groups represent to government

By Our Representative
The new draft Gujarat Minor Mineral Concession Rules, 2016, seeks to give unfettered powers to “reserve any area not already held under any mineral concession for undertaking mining operations”, allowing these to to be taken by a government company or corporation owned or controlled by it” for mining.
It says, the only obligation for the government would be to issue a notification in the Official Gazette, specifying “the boundaries of such area and the mineral or minerals in respect of which such areas will be reserved.”
Objecting to this, the Khedut Samaj Gujarat (KSG) – the state's premier farmers' organization fighting fighting for land rights – has said the rule “ignores” the interests of the farmers' land ownership and common village land, adding, it is not “how the land would be acquired” and what “procedure to compensate” would be adopted.
KSG says, while the reservation of areas and grant to government companies, corporations or a joint venture is mentioned, wondering “what about farmers/tribals or general residents of such areas, if they want to mine the minerals individually or by founding producers’ company or a co-operative?”
Taking a tougher stance, Mines, Minerals and People (MM&P), a top advocacy group working in 16 Indian states, has said that the rules fail to take into account rights of individuals and communities while allowing the mining of minerals.
Citing the Supreme Court judgment in the case of Thressiamma Jacob & Ors vs Geologist, Department of Mining, Kerala, MM&P says, the owner of the land should be “the owner of the mineral and without the consent of the land holder mining lease should not be approved.”
MM&P says, even the Supreme Court Judgment in the case between Orissa Mining Corporation Ltd vs Ministry of Environment and Forest “upheld the rights of tribal communities and affirmed the importance of free prior consent of the affected community for any mining lease.”
Pointing out that the “the rules should explicitly state that without free prior consent of the affected community, the proposed mining lease would not be approved”, MM&P insists, the government should “modifying this rule to involve tribal individual or tribal cooperatives to be eligible for granting lease.”
Further objecting to the draft rules, to whom reactions were invited by the Government of Gujuarat, MM&P asserts, “There is no mention of Grievance Redressal mechanism in case of violation of human rights, rights over land and illegal mining”, adding, they, in fact, “overlook social impacts of mining.”
In yet another set of objections, KSG says, chapter III, clause 20, gives “free hand over water bodies, streams etc. to the lessee” a disaster for “downstream habitations and livestock rearers.”
GKS apprehends, “Water would be diverted or polluted and no restrictions have been made here, nor is there any provision for strictest possible punishment in diverting or polluting valuable water resources in Gujarat, which are very scarce. This cannot be tolerated.”
Objecting to yet another clause, 22(f), and calling it “draconian”, KSG says, the state government is proposed to act “on behalf of the lease holder”, even as depriving farmers of their right “just to serve the business community.”
The clause says, that in case of a dispute in the receipt of an offer of compensation for any damage from the operation in quarry lease, the lessee would have to “report the matter to the government and shall deposit with it the amount offered as compensation.”
The clause says, the government in such a case would be free to decide on “the amount of compensation” in accordance with the “the principles of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation & Resettlement Act, 2013.”
KSG asks, “Can government take sides and preserve the interests of business community at the cost of farmers? Is it public interest? Is it national interest? And for what and whose development?”

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