South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

NEW DELHI: The Indian arm of the Amnesty International, a global NGO on human rights, on Wednesday released a comprehensive report on flip side of coal mining operations in Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand, highlighting a pattern of human rights violations in open-cast mines run by different subsidiaries of the state-ownedCoal India Limited in these three states.

The report — “When Land is Lost, Do We Eat Coal” — is not against coal mining per se or any development model in India, but it examined how the state agencies have failed over the years to adhere to existing laws to provide adequate relief to the thousands of displaced people in all the three mining-rich states.

The report — which was also presented to the new environment minister Anil Madhav Dave — said the mining operations by India’s state-owned Coal India Limited (CIL) were shutting out indigenous adivasi communities from decisions that affected their lives.

Referring to plight of local people, it highlighted how the CIL, central government ministries and state government authorities in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha failed to ensure meaningful consultation with adivasi communities on land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement, and the environmental impacts of mines, seriously affecting their lives and livelihoods.

“Mineral reserves are not the property of any government. They are merely custodians. Development that does not include the adivasi and that leaves out the poorest of the poor is not development, but exploitation,” said V Kishore Chandra Deo, Congress leader and former Union minister for tribal affairs, who was present on the occasion of the release of report.

Nirupabai, a mine affected adivasi woman from Korba in Chhattisgarh, was also present on the occasion. She narrated how the coal mining operation affected her family and fellow villagers as they all lost their homes. Amnesty International Indiaalso released a documentary, narrating plight of many local people in the area. The narration pointed out how community rights and titles under Forest Rights Act (FRA) were routinely rejected in the mining areas in all the three states.

The NGO had conducted its ground research in the areas of open-cast mines run bySouth Eastern Coalfields Limited‘s Kusmunda mine in Chhattisgarh, Central Coalfields Limited’s Tetariakhar mine in Jharkhand and Mahanadi Coalfields’ Limited’s Basundhara-West mine in Odisha. It claimed that the report is based on interviews with 124 affected adivasi people across the three mine areas, state government officials from the states’ forest departments and pollution control boards, representatives of the three Coal India subsidiaries and local activists and lawyers.

Noting the “abusive land acquisition” in those areas, the report highlighted that the central government had acquired land without directly informing affected families, or consulting them about their rehabilitation and resettlement. “Frequently, the only official notice given was a declaration of the government’s ‘intention to acquire’ land in an official government gazette, which is virtually impossible to access for affected communities”, it said.

“The government plans to nearly double coal production by 2020, and Coal India wants to produce a billion tonnes of coal every year. Yet both the company and central and state governments don’t seem to care to speak or listen to vulnerable adivasi communities whose lands are acquired and forests destroyed for coal mining,” said Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty International India.

The Amnesty report also came out with a series of recommendations for different ministries — environment, tribal affairs and panchayati raj — and governments of all the three states. It suggested that the environment and forests ministry should “amend the 2006 Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) circular to ensure that the potential human rights impact of proposed mines, or the expansion of the existing mines, is considered as part of the social impact assessment of the EIA process”.

It also suggested action against mining companies that fail to conduct meaningful consultations with affected communities during public hearing.

Updated On: Jul 13, 2016