Mining rights cloud rural polls

Although mining of minerals is essentially a subject concerning the Union and the state governments, the issue is likely to be an important plank in the forthcoming panchayat elections.

By RAJ KUMAR
  • Published 14.10.15
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Rights activist Rahul Basu during a discussion in Namkum, Ranchi, on Tuesday. (Hardeep Singh)

Ranchi, Oct. 13: Although mining of minerals is essentially a subject concerning the Union and the state governments, the issue is likely to be an important plank in the forthcoming panchayat elections. 

At least the views of social activists, who had turned up on the premises of Bagaicha, Namkum, from different parts of the country to deliberate on “District Mining Foundation, Permanent Fund and Illegal Mining” today, suggested so. 

The two-day discussion is being held by Bagaicha, an NGO headed by Father Stan Swamy that works for different social and economical issues plaguing the state. 

“We should boycott panchayat elections unless the gram sabha is empowered to give mining rights to private companies. When all mining activities are conducted in villages, instead of the state government, the gram sabhas should be empowered to sign MoUs with private companies,” said Mukesh Birua, national vice-president of Akhil Bharatiya Rashtriya Mahasabha, who has come from Kolhan. 

Buttressing his point, Birua went on to add that natural resources were not merely a property of tribals, but a part of the society. “Tribals have supernatural spiritual relationship with natural resource like water, forests, animals and land besides men and minerals,” he opined.  

Nishant Alag, president of Environics Trust that works to save the environment, supported Birua. “The way decisions are being taken to give mining leases for 50 years to private players is not good. It suggests that the government wants to sell tribal land to outsiders by ignoring the interests of villagers,” said the speaker who came all the way from Delhi.

Rahul Basu, an activist associated with Goa Foundation, could not agree more. “A major part of profit from excavation of minerals is being taken by private players. The amount is so high that those wanting mining leases influence policy-makers and play a major role in formation of the government,” he said. 

According to Santosh Upadhyay, national executive member of Mine Mineral and People (MMP), who has come from Dehri-on-Sone in Bihar, around 1,000 activists fighting against anti-people mining activities in the villages had been branded extremists and implicated in false cases. “They are languishing in jail while process for the panchayat election has been started,” he said. 

Others present included Munni Hansda, whose name hit headlines when she fought against the proposed power plant of Calcutta-based Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation in Dumka; Charan Kumar, member of Swasashan Ekta Manch and Hansda’s aide;  Deme Oraon, who is associated with MMP, Odisha; and K.C. Mardi, another activist from Jamshedpur.