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Coalmining scam: Activists demand withdrawal of cases on those who protested against scrapped projects

By Our Representative
A public gathering at Dumka, Jharkhand, saw senior activists campaigning against indiscriminate permissions to coalminers without taking into account people’s livelihood needs demanding withdrawal of all cases against protesters in all coalmining projects, especially those coal blocks whose licenses were cancelled by the Supreme Court on August 25, 2014. “Cases should be immediately withdrawn and all the injured and killed by police repression and firing should be appropriately compensated”, a statement issued at the end of the meet demanded.
Led by NGO Mines, Minerals and People (MM&P), the gathering focused on issues related with coal mining and thermal power projects. More than 300 affected peoples from coal mining areas interacted with MM&P representatives from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, West Bengal, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The two day gathering, which took place last week, reviewed the latest situation in the country in the light of the Supreme Court judgment.
The statement demanded cancellation of “all statutory clearances granted to the coal and thermal projects granted earlier to the judgment of the Supreme Court, even as seeking fresh clearance under environment, forest and tribal laws. It wanted CBI enquiry into “police firing on protestors opposing coal, dam and thermal plant in Kathikund, Jharkand in 2008; illegal land deals of Heavy Engineering Corporation and illegal appointment of 9,000 ineligible people in Damoder Valley Corporation/”
The statement said, there should be early resolution of the “pending resettlement and rehabilitation”, even as condemning “the efforts and intention of Government of India “to dilute the provision of environment and forest laws in favour of corporate sector.”
It added, “The reality, notwithstanding the rhetoric of protecting rivers and environment, is the systematic dilution, amendment and/or abolition of the jurisprudential, constitutional, fundamental rights based on internationally recognized instruments of environmental and community protection built into the country's laws, rules, regulations and legal system.”
Giving examples, the statement said, “The High Level Committee, setup to 'reform' Environmental Laws has been given a mandate to overhaul all green laws and make them investor friendly, within a framework of 2 months.” And, “as many as 240 projects were cleared by the Ministry within three months, a time period that simply cannot be adequate to undertake proper environmental impact studies, public hearings at local sites, and other mandated procedures.”
The statement opposed “delinking forest clearance from the green signal that is given by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), to projects around tiger reserves, national parks and sanctuaries”, adding, “Previously forest clearance could only be given after the NBWL approval.” It also opposed reduction of the need for “NBWL approvals for projects within 10 km around protected areas to only 5 km.”
Other efforts to relax rules for the corporate sector include “relaxing procedures under the Forest Conservation Act, which requires central approval of diversion of forestlands, for linear projects through forest areas, projects in forests and eco-sensitive areas along international borders and in ‘Naxal-affected’ areas”; doing away with :the need for public hearings for coal mines of less than 16 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) capacity (from the earlier 8)”; and allowing onetime expansion of mines up to 6 mtpa if they are already of 20 mtpa size.”
Then, the statement said, the Government of India is seeking to “exempt” irrigation projects affecting less than 2,000 hectares from needing environmental clearance, and allowing state governments to clear those a effecting 10,000 hectares”, and there is “systematic removal of independent voices from critical institutions of environmental and social governance.” All this is coupled with reduction of the “budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) by 50%.”

Comments

dattajv said…
Economic Development of India which eliminates poverty, improves healthcare, provides social security to old people is not negotiable. Can the so called NGOs suggest alternative model of development. It is only a disservice to the society, pretending to champion the cause of tribals, who continue to live a life of destitution without proper income, deprived of health care and hygiene, education. Middlemen lure these innocent people and plunder the forest. For some NGOs and the extremists, there should be always poverty and ignorance, so that they can exploit them and play God to them. Unless the mining, which is a site specific activity endangers wild life in the identified sanctuaries, it should happen to meet the requirement of power and meeting other needs. Forest and Environment departments should have strict rules for enforcement and imposing heavy penalties for violating any safety and environment laws of the country.

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