Skip to main content

West Bengal govt's mining lease to 'impact' sensitive ecosystem, tribal livelihood

Counterview Desk 

A senior West Bengal-based human rights activist, taking strong exceptional to the state government leasing out flatlands beside the Tilaboni hills in the Purulia district to a private mining company for granite mining, has said, this was done without considering the eco-hazards of how it would affect the life and livelihood of the mainly tribal villagers, who depend on the hills for their living.
Stating that at least four villages -- Tilabani, Ledabona, Parashibana and Madhabpur -- might be particularly badly affected, Kirity Roy, who heads the Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), in a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, said, the tribal people here believe that the hills are an abode of their Gods – Goramthan and Marangburu. Hence, their destruction would not only affect their life and livelihood, but also hurt their religious faith.

Text:

I am writing this to draw your attention towards an incident of illegal confiscation of natural assets and attempted destruction of ecosystem of the Tilaboni hills under Hura block and police station area in Purulia district of West Bengal that might affect the life and livelihood of about 500 families from four villages in the vicinity.
As per reports the West Bengal government has leased out the flatlands beside the hills to a private mining company for granite mining, without considering the eco-hazards of how it will affect the life and livelihood of the villagers, who depend on the Tilaboni hills for their living.
Located in the South-West part of West Bengal, the Tilaboni hills in Purulia District cradles the four villages of Kalabani area -- Tilabani, Ledabona, Parashibana and Madhabpur.
To the people of this area, Tilabani is not just a hill; it is closely intertwined with the life of the villagers. These hills are the epicenter of natural diversity of the region. Apart from its exotic natural beauty, the Tilaboni Hill is famous for rock climbing, boulderingand nature study to the nature lovers from all around the country, from which the locals earn some money.
The villagers from all these four villages depend on the Tilaboni hills for their life and livelihood. The hill disburses proper rain water to these villages for irrigation purposes. The villagers also get wood fuel and cattle fodder from the hills.
The trees in the Tilaboni hills produce kendu, neem, honey, karanja, kalmegh and mushrooms, selling which to the local market, the villagers earn a livelihood. Apart from that the hill is a source of several medicinal plants. Last but not the least, the villagers are mostly tribal people and believe that the Tilaboni hill is an abode of their Gods – Goramthan and Marangburu. Hence, destruction of the Tilaboni hills will not only affect the life and livelihood of the villagers but also their faith.
Our fact-finding has revealed that this is not the first time the government is trying to lease out the Tilaboni hill. In 2009, the Left Front government leased out the Tilaboni hill to a private mining company, for a tenure of 10 years, prior to this.
However, when the company initiated to renovate a bridge near the hill for its heavy vehicles to pass, the villagers came to know about the intentions of the government of excavating granite from under the hill. They organized a huge protest against the government’s decision of leasing out the hill and stopped the company to continue their work further. Since then the company ventures were stopped until now.
In 2017, since the previous lease of 2009 was about to end, a new company named Todi Minerals Pvt. Ltd. applied to the government, seeking permission for granite mining in lease, at the Tilaboni hill. As per reports, a new lease was entitled to the Todi Minerals Pvt. Ltd. For mining granite in the flatlands of the Tilaboni hills.
The ADM (LR) of Purulia district approved the mining as did the Block Land and Land Revenue Officer (BL&LRO) of Hura block. On January 10, 2019, the company started to demarcate the mining zone and initiated their work. The villagers came to know about the intention of the company and decided to organize in order to stop the destruction of Tilaboni hill.
Soon the villagers from four adjacent villages formed the ‘Tilaboni Pahar Bachao Committee’ and in February 2019 submitted a mass petition to the local panchayat and the District Magistrate of Purulia district raising their concern of demolishing the Tilaboni hills. There was no further work by the company since then till the onset of Covid-19 lockdown.
However, after the Covid lockdown was over, the company initiated arrangements for construction centres and ensue their work during March 2022. The villagers from 4 villages and the ‘Tilaboni Pahar Bachao Committee’ started a protest movement and organized a protest rally on March 27, 2022.
On April 8, 2022, they lodged a written complaint to several government offices including the District Magistrate, Purulia, the Superintendent of Police, Purulia, the District Land & Land Revenue Officer, Purulia, the Divisional Forest Officer, Purulia, Block Development Officer, Hura block, the Officer-in-Charge, Hura PS, the Pradhan of Kalabani panchayat and the BL&LRO of Hura block.
However, despite lodging complaints to all the relevant district administrative offices, no action was taken by the respective officials. On June 3, 2022, the company along with its workers and a JCB machine came to the Tilaboni hill with the purpose of starting granite mining in the place. The JCB machine began trenching up the Tilaboni hill but soon the villagers were intimated of the company’s intent and rushed towards the hill.
They asked the company workers to stop their work and show them the proof of the lease as well as their identity cards. The company staff stopped the work and called the BDO, Hura, on his mobile phone. The BDO informed that he couldn’t come to the place as he was in a meeting with the DM, Purulia.
After that the workers and staff of the company stopped their work and returned back. On June 9, 2022 a FIR was lodged on the basis of the complaint made by the Director of Todi Minerals Pvt Ltd, Ajit Kumar Sarawgi at the Hura police station against eight villagers of Tilaboni and Parshibana village.
In the complaint he alleged that these villagers have assaulted the workers and staff as well as a director of the company who was present there on that day. Hura Police registered one FIR vide Hura Police Station case number 90/22 dated June 9, 2022 under sections 341(wrongful restraint) /323 (voluntarily causing hurt) /427 (Mischief causing damage to amount of Rs 50) /506 (Criminal intimidation) /34 (Common intention) of Indian Penal Code. On July 1, 2022, a notice from the Hura police was served to those 8 villagers. These victim villagers got anticipatory bail from the Purulia District Court.
The villagers have alleged that in order to suppress their protest, they are being charged with fabricated cases. They also added that in their complaint, the mining company has mentioned that they will not damage the Tilaboni hill; rather they would conduct mining in the flatlands beside the hill.
However, in actual, they have started trenching up the hill with their JCB machine on the very first day of their work. The villagers have also alleged that there is no vacant land beside the hill, where mining can be done. There is an adjacent road and the land of the forest department fenced with barbed wire.
Moreover, the land of the Tilaboni hill (Plot no. 1114, JL No 4, Mouza – Tilaboni, PS & Block – Hura, District – Purulia) is characterized as ‘Hill’ by the West Bengal Land and Land Revenue department. Hence, the proclamation made by the company authority is based on a false premise.
Under the circumstances, the illegal leasing of land and subsequent charges of fabricated cases on the protesters is a violation of Article 19 (1) (a); 19 (1) (b) and 19 (1) (c). Right to protest is the fundamental right protected by the Indian Constitution. Protest is a way of expressing objection to any action policy of the government or any organization. The district administration illegally permitted the license to Todi Minerals Pvt. Ltd for granite mining operation in Mouza Tilaboni Plot number 1114.
As this Tilaboni hill closely intertwined with the lives of the villagers of the four village and they very much depend on the said hill for their life and livelihood along with this hill is highly attach with the religious sentiment of the local people; therefore, the voice of the villagers should have been heard by the district administration.
How did the district administration permit license to Todi Minerals for mining on the Tilaboni hill without hearing the local people’s voice? In the complaint letter to the Officer-in-Charge, Hura Police station by the Director, Todi Minerals Private Limited, it is mentioned that the said company would never damage the Tilaboni hill but we have photographic evidence which substantiate the fact that the JCB started work for mining on the Tilaboni hill and not the flat land beside the Tilaboni hill.
We tried to find out the land details of plot No 1114 in Mouza Tilaboni from the ‘Banglar Bhumi’ app which was maintained by the Land and Land Reforms and Refugee Relief and Rehabilitation Department, West Bengal. In the said app there is no information regarding the said plot of land.
Prior to this, in 2009, the Left Front government leased out the Tilaboni hills to a private mining company for ten years
On July 20, 2022, I submitted one RTI application to the SPIO, Office of the District Land and Land Revenue Officer, Purulia district regarding the documentation of land records of the above stated land but the concerned department till date did not communicate any information to me though we received information from the Indian post website that the concerned department had received my RTI letter on July 25, 2022.
From these incidents we can assume that there is gross negligence on the part of the district administration to deal properly with this matter. After making a public protest now the district administration tries to hide the information of the land details which they leased to Todi Minerals.
Local people protested this illegal mining, and therefore Todi Minerals and district administration jointly made fabricated cases against them. It is purely an intentional act. This act of fabricating the local people in false cases aimed at the destruction of one of the fundamental right of people, i.e, right to protest which attracts Article 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Article 21 and Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognizes the right of peaceful assembly and right to protest. People of four villages are completely dependent on the Tilaboni hill for their livelihood and the district administration tries to snatch it from them which violates Goal number 1, Goal 8, Goal number 15 and Goal number 16 of the Sustainable Development Goal which the Government of India pledged to adhere within the year 2030.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) makes specific reference to conservation in article 29, affirming that indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and their lands, territories and resources. The loss of biodiversity not only poses a grave threat to indigenous peoples’ natural resources and livelihoods, but also to their cultural identity and survival.
The villagers in this area are mostly tribal people and believe that the Tilaboni hill is an abode of their Gods – Goramthan and Marangburu. Hence, destruction of the Tilaboni hills will not only affect the life and livelihood of the villagers but also hurt their religious faith which attracts section 295 of the Indian Penal Code for destruction, damage and defilement of places of worship in any beliefs.
The right to free, active, meaningful and informed participation in public affairs is guaranteed by the ICCPR as well as other international conventions and instruments, notably the UN Declaration on the Right to Development, multilateral environmental agreements, and national laws and policies.
In this case Todi Minerals Pvt. Ltd along with the district administration both are responsible and they cannot ignore their joint nexus for brutal blowing on the people’s right to protest.
In this regard, we demand:
  • The whole incident must be inquired by the NHRC by its own investigating wing.
  • Immediately withdraw the false case against the innocent villagers who peacefully protest against the illegal mining on Tilaboni hill.
  • Steps should be taken under proper penal provision against those perpetrators who intentionally defile the place of worship of the people in the area.
  • Take strong steps against this illegal action of the Purulia district administration which harms the biodiversity of the area at large.
  • The rights of the indigenous people (adivasis) of this area must be protected.
  • Recommend your Commission’s decision on the right to protest of people and circulate it to the administration of all states and union territories within the country. 
  • Save Tilaboni hills from the hands of illegal mining conducted by the Todi Minerals Pvt. Ltd.

Comments

TRENDING

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

Facing tough times, Rajasthan's Raika herders hold first-ever camel cheese festival

By Rosamma Thomas*  During the pandemic, the annual Pushkar camel fair in Rajasthan did not occur for fear of contagion; in 2022, it was called off again as lumpy skin disease affected cattle. At Sadri in Pali district, however, festivity continues – a two-day Camel Cheese Festival was held on November 23 and 24, 2022. Visitors spent time with the camel herds and their Raika, drank camel-milk tea with the herders and then returned to lunch at the Kumbhalgarh Camel Dairy, from where the Kumbhalgarh Fort is visible, to taste camel cheese. The Raika herders have been facing a tough time – camels are no longer used as much for transport or agriculture in Rajasthan. The animals have limited utility, but their milk is prized. Camel Charisma, the dairy at Kumbhalgarh, sends camel milk across the country to people who use it in therapy – for autistic children, improved blood sugar levels, or even to treat cancer. It is believed that the health benefits of the camel milk is because the animals

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

Shedding Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan? New Modi-Shah love for Tamil Nadu 'ignores' Periyar

By Sandeep Pandey*   The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) have long argued for ‘Hindu-Hindi-Hindustan’, which into recent years has translated into a crisper English expression: ‘One Nation-One Religion-One Language’. Given this backdrop, it is curious that the BJP government has organised the Kashi Tamil Sangamam in Varanasi, the Prime Minister’s constituency. Why did the BJP and RSS feel the need for such an event? All Narendra Modi events are highly publicised and have multiple political objectives. It is never an innocuous religious/cultural event as it may appear from the face of it. Afterall, RSS calls itself a cultural organisation, but has never ceased to surprise us with its political designs. Tamil Nadu has a long history of opposing imposition of Hindi by Union governments. Periyar EV Ramasamy had opposed the idea of compulsory teaching in Hindi as far back as in 1937. The 1960s witnessed violent protests against Hindi in which a number

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr