Skip to main content

People's pressure? GPCB mining cancellation 'notice' to top cement unit in Gujarat

By Sagar Rabari*
Environmental Clearance (EC) was given to Ultratech Cement Co Ltd for limestone mining in villages Talli and Bambhor of Talaja taluka in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat on January 5, 2017. EC was issued ignoring, overriding and undermining opposition from local farmers to mining activity in the area. The mining in these two villages covers an area of 193.3268 hectares (ha), while the entire project is spread over an area of 1,715.1311 ha.
In the process of seeking EC, the company declared that there is no national park, wildlife sanctuary, biosphere reserve, tiger reserve, Ramsar site and the wildlife corridor in 10 km radius of the mining site.
In reality, the letter of the deputy forest officer, Bhavnagar, stated: “As per Ministry of Forest & Environment, Gujarat Government Notification WLP-1107-572-G1 Dated 18.05.2007, this area has been declared as Greater Gir (Bruhad Gir)”.
In response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by Bharatsinh Popatbhai Vala, the office of the Range Forest Officer, Wildlife Range, Talaja, Forest Colony, Opposite Jafari school, Gopnath Road, Talaja, stated that three lions and 8-9 leopards live in the Talaja taluka forest range. Details of the compensation amount paid to the owners of cattle killed by these animals was also attached.
The company conceded in its own hald-yearly report (Chapter 2, point 2.4.4 pp 61) that the entire mining operation in 1,715 ha would provide employment to only 30 persons. Clearly, the Gujarat government of Vijay Rupani has not cared about 30,000 persons, who would be rendered jobless as a result of the project.
Mining would have led to salinity ingress, threatening the highly fertile area and its people, who are mainly farmers. There are dehydration plants in the area which earn nearly Rs 1,000 crore in foreign exchange -- which would have to shut down. The Rupani government appears merely interested in safeguarding the interests of a corporate house.
Condition No 6 of EC clearly states:
"Transport of minerals shall be done either by dedicated road or it should be ensured that the trucks/dumpers carrying the mineral should not be allowed to pass through the villages. The Project proponent shall ensure that the road may not be damaged due to transportation of the mineral; and transport of minerals will be as per IRC Guidelines with respect to complying with traffic congestion and density."
The above condition has been brazenly flouted. An inspection report of the Bhavnagar regional office of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in July states that the company supplies limestone to the cement unit via dumper trucks through village roads -- not constructed a separate road.
In response to the representation by me via email and letter dated October 15, 2019 to the Bhavnagar regional office of the GPCB carried out another inspection on October 21, 2019 at 18:00 hours, and found that the limestone was being transported by the company via the village road, which is a breach of EC conditions. As per the condition of EC, limestone transportation has to be carried out via a dedicated road.
The responsibility to ensure that the conditions of EC are adhered to and that they are not being violated lies with GPCB. I have learned that such inspection was carried out earlier too and reports were made, and the company accepted this in its half-yearly report. If so, why EC has not been cancelled?
Now I have learned that under provisions of Section 31-A, GPCB has issued a show cause notice to the company on November 6, seeking an answer as to why mining should not be stopped in Talli and Bambhor villages.
Who is behind this? Despite people’s protest, such open flouting of norms and conditionalities cannot happen without political patronage. As widely reported, protesting people were brutally beaten up in police stations because of the political patronage enjoyed by the corporate house.
Protesting Gujarat farmers clash with police
Despite the corporate house’s acceptance of the breach of EC conditions, why is a deaf ear and a blind eye turned to it? Why is it not being probed? Is the pro-corporate government trying to make money over people’s bodies? If the heavy vehicles and dumper trucks accidentally kill an animal or a human being, will the chief minister personally take responsibility?
The chief minister is responsible for safeguarding the interests of the people. He has to answer as to what action he is contemplating against the company. He ought to and must write immediately to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to cancel EC given to the company.
Whose interests is the Rupani government safeguarding? Corporates’ or peoples’? It appears that the government is acting as a representative of the corporates at the expense of the people and their interests. It is allowing corporates to flout all laws and conditions even as peoples’ lives and occupations have been endangering.
The way in which the government is protecting the interests of the corporate house/houses raises doubts whether politicians’ own interests are somehow associated with the corporate house. Running a business is not a crime if it is done with adherence to due process.
But therhould be no conflict of interest. If the chief minister or his cronies are partners of the company or are receiving huge election funds from them, so be it, but they have no right to break laws and take lives.
This entire episode raises serious issues with regard to corruption and mineral theft. To prove that it is above board, the state government should immediately order the police stations concerned to take necessary steps against the movement of trucks through the villages, it should inform MoEFCC to initiate immediate steps to cancel EC, and a case should be registered against the company for illegally carrying out mining. The company should be made to pay penalty.
The government should institute a commission to inquire into the legalities involved – whether mining is done according to the terms and conditions of EC, whether the company has mined more minerals than was stipulated and whether royalty on the total amount of mined mineral has been paid. The inquiry commission should submit its report within a month.
If the company has mined more mineral than the royalty paid, the the government's department of mines and minerals should register a case of theft against the company.
---
President, Khedut Ekta Manch, Gujarat

Comments

TRENDING

'Flawed' argument: Gandhi had minimal role, naval mutinies alone led to Independence

Counterview Desk Reacting to a Counterview  story , "Rewiring history? Bose, not Gandhi, was real Father of Nation: British PM Attlee 'cited'" (January 26, 2016), an avid reader has forwarded  reaction  in the form of a  link , which carries the article "Did Atlee say Gandhi had minimal role in Independence? #FactCheck", published in the site satyagrahis.in. The satyagraha.in article seeks to debunk the view, reported in the Counterview story, taken by retired army officer GD Bakshi in his book, “Bose: An Indian Samurai”, which claims that Gandhiji had a minimal role to play in India's freedom struggle, and that it was Netaji who played the crucial role. We reproduce the satyagraha.in article here. Text: Nowadays it is said by many MK Gandhi critics that Clement Atlee made a statement in which he said Gandhi has ‘minimal’ role in India's independence and gave credit to naval mutinies and with this statement, they concluded the whole freedom struggle.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Don't agree on domestic subsidies, ensure food security at WTO meet: Farmer leaders

Counterview Desk  The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (ICCFM), a top network of farmers’ organizations in India, in a letter to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, has asked him to “safeguard food security and sovereignty, even as ensuring peasants' rights" at the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO MC 13), to take place from 26 to 29 February 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

Sharp 61-85% fall in Tech startup funding in India's top 'business-friendly' States

By Rajiv Shah Funding in Tech startups in top business-friendly Indian states has witnessed a major fall, a data intelligence platform for private market research has said in a series of reports it has released this month. Analysing Tech startup data of Telangana, Maharashtra, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, Tracxn Technologies Ltd , the Bengaluru-based research firm, finds that except for Kerala, funding witnessed a fall of anywhere between 61% and 85%.

Students, lawyers, professors detained in Delhi for demonstrating in support of farmers

By Our Representative  About 25 protestors, belonging to the civil rights network, Campaign Against State Repression (CASR), a coalition of over 40 organisations, were detained at Jantar Mantar for holding a demonstration in support of the farmers' stir on Friday. Those detained included students, lawyers and professors, including Prof Nandita Narain and Prof N Sachin. 

Maize, bajra, jute, banana cultivation banned off West Bengal border: Plea to NHRC

Counterview Desk  West Bengal-based human rights defender Kirity Roy, who is secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch, and is national convenor of the Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity, in a representation to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, second within few days, has bought to light one more case of trespassing and destruction of a fertile banana plantation by BSF personnel along the Indo-Bangladesh border, stating, despite a written complaint to the police has taken "no initiative".

Solar energy funding dips 9% in 2023; 2024 'kicks off' with US$1 billion investment

By Lakshmitha Raj*  Solar energy tech companies have already secured slightly over US$1 billion in funding in 2024 (till Feb 7, 2024) after total funding into Solar Energy companies in India fell 9% to US$1.55B in 2023 from US$1.7B in 2022. A total of 39 $100M+ rounds have been closed till date, with Delhi leading the city-wise funding, followed by Gurugram and Mumbai.

India second best place to invest, next to UAE, yet there is 'lacks support' for IT services

By Sreevas Sahasranamam, Aileen Ionescu-Somers*  The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is the best place in the world to start a new business, according to the latest annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey. The Arab nation is number one for the third year in a row thanks to a big push by the government into cutting-edge technology in its efforts to diversify away from oil.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Mahanadi delta: Aggressive construction in flood plains, reduced fish stock, pollution

By Sudhansu R Das  Frequent natural calamities, unemployment, low farmers’ income, increase in crime rate and lack of quality human resources to strike a balance between growth and environment etc. continue to haunt the state. The state should delve into the root causes of poverty, unemployment and natural calamities.