MAC: Mines and Communities

Indian tribal land rights in jeopardy from new coal mine

Published by MAC on 2001-05-23

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.

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