MAC: Mines and Communities

Rejecting the marginalization of women in the Indian mining sector

Published by MAC on 2009-04-06

A conference held in India last month, focused on key demands made by women from Indigenous, Dalit and other marginalized communities - "a vibrant meeting that brought forth the current critical problems in India reflecting the shrinking democratic and political spaces for women"

International Women and Mining Network - RIMM


19th March 2009

Consultation on Women, Mining and Development,

16 to 19 March 2009, Hyderabad

Forty participants, primarily women from seven states in India, belonging to Adivasi, Dalit and marginalised communities came together for a four day skill share and Consultation and Skillshare on the issues of gender injustice as a result of mining. This consultation was held from 16 to 19 March, 2009 at the National Institute for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (NIMSME) (formerly NISIET) located in Yousufguda, Hyderabad. The consultation was organised by the national alliance mines, minerals and PEOPLE (mm&P) and Dhaatri Resource Centre for Women and Children on behalf of the International Women and Mining Network or Red Internacional "Mujeres y Mineria" (RIMM). RIMM is a platform to bring together women affected by mining either as communities or as mineworkers, to voice the problems faced by them as a result of being displaced and losing their rights over natural resources or as mineworkers forced to work in highly exploitative conditions in the informal mining sector.

This consultation is a part of processes at different levels-local, national, regional and international-for exchanging skills, experiences and strategies between different mining struggles, particularly the women involved in these campaigns. It was a vibrant meeting that brought forth the current critical problems in India reflecting the shrinking democratic and political spaces for women.

The highlights of the Consultation were :

• Adivasi women who came from different states unanimously expressed anger and anguish at the increasing incidence of State and corporate violence. For example, Orissa Adivasi Manch narrated their experiences of Kashipur and Niyamgiri struggles. In Kashipur, displaced families who were relocated after false promises have till this day not received any compensation, housing or alternate livelihoods. In Niyamgiri the Dongria Kondh women do not want to leave their lands and their sacred hills. However, Vedanta/Sterlite is using all its money and muscle power to make the state machinery of Orissa violate all human and constitutional rights. Even women are beaten up by the police and agents of the company while peacefully demanding for their rights.

• In Jharkhand several mining projects are operating creating serious environmental hazards, not implementing any rehabilitation that was promised to the Adivasis. Ulgulan Mahila Manch, which has been peacefully fighting against the RPG Thermal power project proposed over 1000 acres and threatening to affect more than 250 Adivasi villages, has been facing severe State repression. Police firing was opened on December 6, 2008 during a peaceful rally where several adivasis were injured and 12 people were put in jail on false cases. Among them is one of our members, Munni Hansda who is still refused bail on various criminal charges including, being a Naxalite. Two adivasis died of bullet injuries and one who is in jail, needs critical medical help. Adivasi women from Jharkhand spoke about the continuing problems of women affected by radiation around the Jadugoda uranium mines.

• From Andhra Pradesh women came from the proposed bauxite extraction and refinery sites. In Makavarapalem, in spite of hunger strikes and strong opposition from the women against the Ras Alkhaimah refinery, they were forced to take compensation for their lands and are now living in fear of being evicted from their homes. They gave testimonies to the undemocratic public hearings conducted amidst police intimidation and tear-gas shells in all three places-Chintapalli, Makavaripalem and S.Kota. Adivasi women came from Araku and Anantagiri, the proposed bauxite mining project area of Jindal South West Limited (JSWL). The women were firm that they did not want mining in their lands.

• There was representation from Tamil Nadu on the violations of Sterlite industries from Tuticorin and the deteriorating health conditions of women affected by the copper smelter.

• Women mineworkers from Maharashtra and Rajasthan narrated their stories of exploitation at the hands of mining contractors while working in the stone, granite and other quarries. They not only face economic injustice and indebtedness, but are sexually abused, face alcoholism, violence and forced into prostitution. They are suffering from several mine related health problems, death and injuries from accidents. Women here have mobilised themselves as federations and self-help groups and are fighting for their basic rights. Success stories have been a learning experience for each other.

• A representative from Bellary presented the post- recession situation of women mineworkers in the iron ore mines. Now women have neither labour opportunities in mines nor agriculture and are unable to survive.

In view of the elections in several of state assemblies the women will be representing their demands to political parties concerned.

The main demands are:

• the upholding of the Fifth Schedule and the protection of Adivasi lands from mining activities and private mining companies;

• the inclusion of Adivasi women's perspectives in development policy and planning for tribal regions;

• the immediate release of Munni Hansda and other adivasis being held in Dumka jail;

• the withdrawal of uranium mining proposals in Nalgonda district; the proper implementation of the Minimum Wages Act;

• the social security bill to be made into an Act including specific rights for women mineworkers and wives of mineworkers;

• a complete review of the new mineral policy and the relief and rehabilitation bill;

• stopping of the bauxite mining in Araku and Ananthagiri as well as in Niyamgiri;

• cancelling of mining leases given to JSWL and Ras Alkhaimah under the guise of Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation;

• ensuring right to unionise for the women in the unorganised sector;

• ensuring complete elimination of child labour in any kind of mining activity.

On behalf of Dhaatri, mm&P and RIMM K. Bhanumathi, Fatima Babu Director, Member Dhaatri Resource Centre for Women and Children,mm&P

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