MAC: Mines and Communities

India: Plight of mining-hit people highlighted

Published by MAC on 2008-11-05
Source: The Hindu

Tribals, dalits recount their experiences at mm&P assembly

mm&P formed with more than 100 grassroot groups and organisations

'No room for civilian dialogues in process of establishing industries'

VISAKHAPATNAM: The plight of people, particularly the Girijans affected by the manifold problems of mining, was once again in the focus as Girijans, representatives of the NGOs working on the environmental issues and fighting for the cause of Girijans, Dalits and fishermen from different parts of the country recounted their experiences and discussed the issues at the second general assembly of the mines, minerals and People (mm&P) here on Saturday.

The mm&P, a national alliance of more than 100 grass root groups and support organisations, was formed about a decade ago to promote ecological conservation, to campaign for sustainable mining and safeguarding the livelihoods of Dalits, Girijans and the oppressed.

They spoke in Hindi, Oriya and Telugu but their concern is about their existence. They are also determined to oppose mining that would uproot them from their lands and push them into penury while destroying the environment.

The meeting started with two Girijans from Rayagada district of Orissa recounting their experiences. Bari Dodhika and Dadhi Pushika from Gortha village informed the meeting what AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi had told them about mining during a visit to their area a few months ago.

"He told us that he is one of their family members. The rich forests are useful not only for you but also for the country and they should not be destroyed (due to mining). They are the birthplaces of Naagavali and Vamsadhara. I would fight to save the hills and will help you to stop mining".

Then Munni Hastha from Dhumka district in Jharkhand said people in her area were fighting since 2005 to prevent coal mining and Nabin Nayak of Kasipur spoke about the agitation being conducted by people against alumina plant for the last 13 years in spite of continued harassment by the Government and the factory management.

"We will not stop opposing the plant. We will not part with our lands. People want agri-based development," he asserted.

Later convenor of mm&P Sreedhar Ramamurthy said Government should stop mining all over the country till conditions regarding the existing mines were corrected.

There was no space for civilian dialogue in the process of establishing an industry or taking up mining in an area. "It turned out to be template exercise. The environment impact assessment studies and clearances have become a copy and paste job. The mining policy of the government has nothing for the people and environment and it would only discuss the R and R (relief and rehabilitation) programme," he said.

Chairperson of mm&P Ravi Rebbapragada presided. Executive committee members B.T. Venkatesh, K.V. Pratap and T.S.S. Mani were present.

Fight till government acts, says FBV convenor

The Hindu

2nd November 2008

NGOs urged to reach out to downtrodden sections

Talk held on mining and development issues

Awareness about laws stressed

VISAKHAPATNAM: The government would act only after people start questioning its methods and put pressure on it to withdraw steps that would harm them, Forum for Better Visakha convenor E.A.S. Sarma said here on Saturday.

"Even if a protest does not give initial result you must not give it up, Dr. Sarma said while interacting with members of the general assembly of the mines, minerals and People (mm&P) after delivering a talk on mining and development issues.

Later, K. Srininvasa Murthy, a High Court advocate, in his talk on law and mm&P alliance tasks, wanted representatives of NGOs and others to understand the rules and the law and keep on fighting till the government, the investor who is setting up an industry or taking up mining and the politician got tired and dropped the proposal as it would not be economically viable due to delay.

Sending the petition or protest to the right official on paper and getting an acknowledgement were absolutely necessary for an activist fighting for a cause, he said.

Plea to NGOs

Dr. Sarma urged NGOs and others to go down to the level of girijans, fishermen or other downtrodden sections and understand their problems. The gram sabhas must be made active and every one of them must be made to discuss the issues concerning their areas. Government might ignored an issue like a proposed project or mining activity, if one or two gram sabhas discussed an issue but if every gram sabha in the affected region took up the issue and discussed thoroughly, it just could not ignore the people's feeling, he explained.

Agitations by people would make the government to withdraw its plans, he said and cited the examples of Singur in West Bengal. Dr. Sarma also said that a committee of which he and another retired officer K.B. Saxena were members, submitted a report to the government to ensure that a law must be reviewed before it was implemented in the Scheduled areas.

Legal issues

Mr. Srinivasa Murthy, while discussing several legal issues concerning the NGOs and ground-level activists, said the final environmental clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests was necessary to start a project. Most of the investors start work without this and this opportunity must be utilised by the activists to file protests. This would delay the work. He also gave a number of examples of how the activists could manoeuvre the situation.

The activists need not be part of a petition to the court but make a local senior citizen to file the same by providing guidance. They need not fear about police cases, but they should know under what sections the cases were filed against them and others. Hence they should know the law. He urged them to get over the fear of talking to the police and interacting with them.

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