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CMs snub mine award policy

New Delhi/Ranchi, Aug. 6: Convinced that recommendations on the mineral and mining policy would undermine the states’ interests and will embolden Naxalites, four chief ministers today demanded a peep into the Centre’s mind before clearance of the recommendations.

Categorically refusing Jharkhand approval of export of minerals without value addition, chief minister Madhu Koda said the proposal to empower the Centre to directly award mining leases in the case of delay in processing applications amounted to encroachment upon the rights and powers of states.

“The proposal that areas under prospecting mining leases should be increased from 25 square kilometres to 100 square kilometres, too, is difficult to accept,” he told Union home minister Shivraj Patil, whom Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka, too, had called on to express, what seemed a clear rejection, of the recommendations.

Koda argued that though Jharkhand accounted for highest mineral reserves in the country, it happened to be one of the most backward states.

“The state was not empowered to levy cess and repeated requests to grant ad valorem royalty on minerals has been turned down. Now if export of minerals, too, is allowed without value addition, the new investment proposals received in the recent past would never take off,” he said, pleading that industrial houses willing to set up plants in the state from where they would be extracting minerals ought to be given priority in the award of mining leases.

It was the Hoda committee, constituted by the Planning Commission to review the country’s minerals and mining policy that had recommended the export of minerals without value addition in order to fight the challenges of global economy.

The bone of contention is that the states want prerogative on allowing value addition to the ore, royalty should be ad valorem, which would ensure higher royalty and the Centre should consider stopping ore export.

Patil chairs a group of ministers set up by the Prime Minister to examine the recommendations following strong protests from these states.

“We believe that export of iron ore should be gradually stopped,” a vocal Chhattisgarh chief minister, Raman Singh, said. He argued that the country did not have enough iron ore that could suffice even projections for the next 10 years, thus, there was an urgent need to stop exports.

Urging President Pratibha Patil to intervene immediately for safeguarding the interests of poor tribals living in the Scheduled Areas of the state, Koda requested her to make necessary amendments in the Constitution for financial assistance by the Centre, even if it did not have elected panchayats.

He said it was not possible to hold panchayat elections at this juncture because several disputes related to it were pending before the apex court.

Reservation of single posts in the villages under Scheduled Areas, too, has led to social unrest. The Centre is a party to such petitions. This apart, there were also disputes related to reservations for women and backward communities. He added that an amendment in the Panchayati Raj Extension to Scheduled Areas Act be brought about by the Centre. “The President being the custodian of Scheduled Areas, too, had a crucial role in decision making. Therefore, denying funds to Jharkhand, as it did not have elected panchayats was unjustified,” the chief minister said later in the day. He also sought the President’s help in saving the Lok Sabha and Assembly seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes in the state.

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