A statement has been put forth by the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha on 18th June 2020 calling for protests. This call was made by the Mahasabha as the central government initiated to auction 41 coal blocks of which 20 is in Jharkhand. While viewed as an atmanirbhar initiative, it move would take away ownership rights of landowners and Gram Sabhas. It would also allow corporates to exploit natural resources. The Mahasabha has expressed concern that the state government has extended support to the decision of the central government. However, the state has sought a 6-9 month moratorium indicating that it isn’t fully on board with the decision.
Detrimental impact of mining by the corporates:
The statement also speaks about the detrimental impact of opening up mining to corporates in the state. A large population of Jharkhand, especially the Adivasis, depends on agriculture and forest-based livelihoods. Being a mineral-rich state, Jharkhand witnesses rampant mining which does not improve the lives of its people and only serves corporate interests. Mining by domestic and foreign corporates will further destroy the environment and livelihoods. Mining companies in support of the government widely flout laws to destroy the environment. The move would also weaken the rights of the coal workers.
Violation of Constitutional Provisions
The decision also violates several constitutional provisions that aim to protect the poor and the marginalized. It also takes the rights of Adivasis to self-govern. Grama Sabhas are the primary decision making bodies under the PESA Act and provisions of the 5th Schedule. Ownership of minerals is to be vested with the landowners was the order of the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment of 2013. Forest Rights Act considers forest as the property of the Gram Sabha. The Central Government has not consulted the respective gramsabhas to arrive at decisions on coal mining.
The government instead must provide technological help and capital to cooperatives of landowners or Gram Sabhas to undertake mining and allied activities on their own. Gramsabhas have earlier demonstrated that they can manage both forest and forest-based products. However, the government has sided with the large corporates. Mahasabha also has stated that it expects the state government to stand with its people against the anti-people and pro-corporate policies.
Call for Protest
Under such conditions, the Mahasabha has given a call to all Gramsabhas of the affected areas to protest against the Modi government’s decisions and not allow the mining activities to start. Mahasabha has put out that it would work with the people to oppose mining activities on the ground. It also demanded the state government take a firm stand against commercial mining and centre’s decision to auction coal blocks. It also demanded that the state implement laws and legislations that protect people’s rights to natural resources and self-govern.