MAC: Mines and Communities

Indian tribal land rights in jeopardy from new coal mine

Published by MAC on 2003-09-23

Indian tribal land rights in jeopardy from new coal mine

The vast majority of coal mining in India is currently performed by state-owned companies. But now, in a long-heralded bid to break the public monopoly, the government plans to introduce legislative changes allowing for private mining, thus "liberalising norms for allotment of captive blocks (concessions) and permitting trading of coal", according to the Business Standard of 23rd September 2003. As many as 143 blocks have now been identified for allotment with total estimated reserves of 30 billion tonnes.

An early casualty of this neo-liberalisation threatens to be Adivasi (Tribal) land holders in the indigenous state of Jharkand (formerly part of Bihar). The following statement, issued through the Delhi Forum on September 23rd 2003, outlines the protests villagers have made against the proposal. It reveals the contempt with which the authorities regard the people; even though the mine would violate previous prohibitions on mining, and legislation (including the historic "Samata Judgement") supposedly ensuring that Scheduled Tribal land is not transferred to private parties.

Readers are now asked to support these protests by faxing letters to the central Indian and Jharkand governments, as well as the country's Chief Justice.

Adivasi Land in Scheduled Area Transferred to a Joint Venture Company for Captive Coal Mining

Jharkhand Government violates Constitutional Provisions and Directives of the Supreme Court

The Jharkhand Government, vide a letter of the Ministry of Coal and Mines (Department of Coal), letter No. 47011/1(4) 2000- CPAM dated 26th December, 2001, acquired land for Pachwara Central Block, in Amarapara, within the scheduled area of Pakur district, in Jharkhand, eastern India, for captive coal mining for the power plants of Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB).

The captive mining will be done by a joint venture company, PANEM Coal Mines Limited, established between PSEB and Eastern Minerals and Trading Agency (EMTA).

The Pachwara Block measures 13 square kilometers covering nine revenue villages (mouzas) of Singhdehri, Taljhari, Kathaldih, Chilgo, Bisunpur, Dangapara, Amjhari, Liberia and Pachwara. In addition the Government has acquired another 28 square kilometers of land to constitute two other blocks (North and South) for coal extraction.

It is estimated that Pachwara Central Block encompasses more than 1100 hectares of Raiyati, forest, homestead and grazing land. Official figures also estimate that within next 10-15 years 250 families will be displaced and ‘afterwards possibly more”.

The land acquisition took place without any prior consultation with the local people and the Gram Sabha of Pachwara as stipulated in PESA 1996.

The Land Acquisition Dept issued Notification No 4 on 13-11-2002 in the local newspapers to which the Gram Sabha of Pachwara sent a letter on 9-12-02 to the concerned authorities reminding them of Panchayat Raj (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996. There was no response from the authorities.

The Goverment again issued Notification No 6 in local newspapers on 14-5-03 announcing the proposed acquisition of plot nos. The villagers again responded on 2-7-03 to the effect that they demand a dialogue with concerned Gram Sabha. This communication was sent to concerned officials by Registered Post. This letter was returned to them on 23-7-03 with a note “Refused” by the post man.

Through the latest Notification No 8, the department has informed the people that measurement of those plots of land proposed to be acquired is to take place. The villagers have now hand-delivered a letter on 25-7-03 to the officials demanding explanation for their Refusal of the previous letter.

The above unilateral action is a violation of Section 53 of Santal Parganas Tenancy (Supplementary Provisions)Act,1949, which enjoins the Deputy Commissioner “to issue notice to the raiyats and other persons interested to appear before him and to file objections, if any…” The Deputy Commissioner of Pakur has not issued any such notice to the raiyats. Nor has he entertained any of their objections.

Section 20 of the SPT Act prohibits transfer of a raiyati holding through sale or mortgage or lease or any other agreement. And Section 41 prohibits settlement of vacant holding and wasteland in a Paharia village with a non-Paharia.

The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of India covers comprehensive provisions to protect the tribals of the Scheduled Areas ‘against the State as also other exotic forces.’

It should also be noted that the Government of India, Ministry of Mines, issued a directive, dated 10th July, 2000 ( Vide No.16/48/97-M.VI) to the Committees of Secretaries, pointing out that “The majority view in the Samatha case has virtually re-written the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution by making it mandatory for the Governor to make regulation prohibiting the State Government from transferring its lands to non-tribals.”

Following the Samatha Judgment The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes dispatched a letter to all the Deputy Commissioners of Santal Parganas Division pointing out directives of the Honorable Supreme Court in the Samatha Judgment ‘for your information and necessary action.’ (No.6/5/2000 ESDW-II, dated 10.01.2001)

It is further to be noted that the then Divisional Commissioner of the Santal Parganas Division, Smt. Mary Kachhap, IAS, wrote to Sri.M.M.Banerjee, Advocate General, Jharkhand, Ranchi, (dated 27.04.2001, Memo no.71/Res.) the following: “ . . .from the documents enclosed it is apparent that a perpetual and grave contempt of the Honorable Supreme Court Order dated 11.07.1997 given in Civil Appeal nos.4601-4602/1997 is being committed by not following the clear and unambiguous order of the Honorable Supreme Court and therefore it is stated that all mining operations in the Scheduled Areas of Santal Parganas Division especially those in the Scheduled Areas of the districts of Pakur and Sahibganj must be stropped forthwith. It is also observed that the State Government must immediately take Policy decision and issue necessary orders for urgent compliance of the directions of the Honorable Supreme Court of India.”

In the meantime the local villagers of Amarapara, under the banner of Rajmahal Bachao Andolan are resisting the land acquisition and not allowing outsiders without prior permission to enter their area. They have rejected the PANEM compensation package as it considers land compensation only for homestead land.

But, the company is trying to lure away some of the villagers through their dalals and have unleashed the local police to harass them and implicate the villagers in false cases of kidnapping and murder.

We, therefore request you all to plan actions in support of the Rajmahal Bachao Andolan and also send protest letters and faxes to the Governor and Chief Minister of Jharkhand, President of India, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs and Chief Justice of Supreme Court demanding:

1. Immediate cancellation of all land acquisition procedures undertaken in Santal Parganas, including that of Amarapara for mining;
2. Institution of a proper investigation to enquire into the violations of the Constitutional Provisions for Fifth Schedule Areas and the Order of the Supreme Court in the Samata Judgement by the concerned authorities;
3. Strict implementation of the Fifth Schedule Provisions, PESA 1996 and the Santal Parganas Tenancy Act, 1949; and
4. Proper dialogue with the Gram Sabhas by the concerned district authorities including undertaking of prior permission or consent of the Gram Sabhas in mining projects.

Please address your protests to:

A P J Abul Kalam
President of India
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi 110 001
Fax No. 91 11 2301 7290, 91 11 2301 7077, 91 11 2301 1689

Chief Justice of India
The Supreme Court of India
New Delhi 110 001
Fax No. 91 11 2338 3792

Governor of Jharkhand
Government of Jharkhand
Fax No 91 651 2201101

Chief Minister of Jharkhand
Government of Jharkhand
Fax No. 91 651 2281447

Union Minister for Tribal Affairs
Government of India
Shashtri Bhavan
New Delhi 110 001
Fax No. 91 11 23070577

For more information, contact:
Souparna Lahiri
Delhi Forum
F-10/12 Malviya Nagar
New Delhi - 110 017
Tel: 91 11 26680914, 26680883
Fax: 26687724

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