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HT EDIT-Mining in India needs a humane approach The Chhattisgarh protests show just how important it is to take people’s consent

June 14, 2019 06:31 AM

COURTESY HT JUNE 14

Mining in India needs a humane approach
The Chhattisgarh protests show just how important it is to take people’s consent
Opposition from local population to big development projects has now become de rigeur, the latest being coal mining in Chhattisgarh. Chief minister Bhupesh Baghel on Tuesday stopped all work related to iron ore mining in tribal-dominated Dantewada’s Bailadila hills after a five-day protest by tribals who claim the shrine of a goddess is located on one of the hills and is associated with their faith. Mr Baghel also ordered an inquiry into the bogus no objection certificates acquired from gram sabhas (village councils) and illegal felling of trees in the area. Since the Bailadila hill range is a part of Schedule V of the Constitution, it is governed by the provisions of Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, which makes the consent of gram sabhas mandatory for any development activity. The mining company in question, the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), is bearing a loss of ~12 crore a day due to the protests.

While the mining companies say that these resources are needed to fuel the country’s economic engine, the projectaffected tribal communities don’t want to give up the forests since their lives are dependent on them, and they also share a cultural bond with the jungles, an issue that policymakers fail to appreciate. The situation goes out of hand when tribals find that consent for projects has been given without due legal process. All is this compounded by the fact that India’s compensation and rehabilitation record is bad.

A sustainable mining policy, as laid out in the National Mining Policy 2019, could bring in employment and even benefit the environment. More importantly, the Indian State and the mining companies must follow the rules in letter and spirit when it comes to acquiring consent from the people, and also use the district mineral funds for the betterment of the communities that are affected by such activities

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