OUR SNF PROJECT ON SUB-NATIONAL POLITICS IN THE MINING SECTOR IN INDIA

The Graduate Institute Geneva | August 13, 2021

The SNF-supported research project Extracting Voice: the sub national law and politics of relationships between mining companies and affected communities in India uses District Mineral Foundations as a window into the political transformations of, and driven by, extractive economies in India. The project explores the dynamics of sub-national politics in the Indian mining sector, and their effects on socially and ecologically sustainable mining governance.

The mining sector generates significant social and ecological harm due to forced displacement, expropriation, ecological degradation, and destruction of livelihoods. Mining areas have also experienced violent conflict and legal disputes along with protracted struggles for land and forest rights. This follows the general dynamics of extractive economies around the world.

In response, Indian policymakers passed a legislation in 2015 establishing District Mineral Foundations (DMF). DMFs are an instrument (usually Trusts), established in each mining-affected district of the country, to collect a percentage of mining revenue for the direct benefit of affected communities, and which those communities are supposed to govern in conjunction with other local stakeholders. The project studies the implementation of DMFs to reveal how they are refracted through subnational rentier politics so endemic to mining. It asks: given that mining operations occur in complex and varied local contexts, how can companies, communities, and local authorities meaningfully collaborate in decentralized mining governance? Do DMFs mediate the company-community relationship, or do they reproduce and intensify patterns of regulatory and state capture?

Exploring DMFs in Odisha, postdoctoral fellow Bijayashree Satpathy finds a complex interplay between political struggles over forest lands, tribal (adivasi) rights, and mining activities which shape, if not constitute, subnational political organisation and contestations. In Odisha, major mineral reserves lie under the richest forest areas, mostly in fully and partially Schedule V districts like Keonjhar and Sundergarh, which are largely inhabited by tribal communities.

Mining companies in these regions, as with extractive frontiers across the world, are established with the promise of new employment opportunities for local communities. Communities’ aspirations for improved standards of living, and the narratives of both mining companies and the State ensures the maintenance of this potential for employment. However, in reality, companies largely employ high skilled migrant labourers in secure and formal positions due to increasing mechanisation in operations, whilst also create conditions which result in mid skilled migrant labour from either outside the state or district. On the other hand, local populations are employed in extremely low paid and precarious conditions as sub-contractual labour, and in very low numbers. This also coincides with the loss of traditional livelihood generation activities that are sometimes partially offset by the establishment of projects initiated through Corporate Social Responsibility and Non-Government Organisation funding to support small-scale activities for temporary and often short-term durations. However, overall steady jobs are absent, traditional livelihoods are eliminated or reduced, and new projects are temporary.

Against this backdrop of rentier politics, communities are largely unaware of DMFs and its functions. The community representation in the governance of DMFs is often limited in principle to the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat (or head of the village council) – and the quality of representation is variable. In practice, the District Magistrate or Collector – the chief district-level bureaucrat – takes the decisions regarding DMF projects and budgets.

As a consequence, DMF funds are often spent away from the communities they are supposed to benefit. Talking to ‘mines, minerals & PEOPLE’ (mm&P — an alliance of individuals, institutions and communities who are concerned and affected by mining) members in Sundergarh and conducting fieldwork in Keonjhar, Bijayashree Satpathy found that most of the funds are used in the construction of infrastructure in district headquarters, or for the benefit of the hometown or village of the local Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA). When they are spent on affected communities, communities are wary of their low rate of return: in Keonjhar, tribal communities are unhappy with DMF-funded agriculture programs, since the income they generate is far lower than that of the extractive activities which fund them. This combination of suspicion and low awareness creates space for local leaders to uphold positions over the villagers and maintain their connections with powerful groups by motivating villagers (including youths) to remain contingent on the benefits from mining activities. The local level politics may reduce the potential of DMF for mining-affected communities to any other government welfare schemes. Further, the implementation of similar projects by a parallel institution – OMBADC, in mining-affected areas may impact the purpose of DMF.

Bijayashree Satpathy is presently continuing her fieldwork in Tamnar, which has a high concentration of tribal populations and is also one of the most affected coal mining blocks in Raigarh district in the state of Chhattisgarh. Coal and limestone are the major minerals extracted from this district by major companies like South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL), Jindal Steel and Power Company and Hindalco Industries Limited. Since a major share of DMF contributions comes from coal mining in Chhattisgarh, it is interesting to explore the company-community relationship in this state as well.

Banner image by Bijayashree Satpathy: Open cast mining site of South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL) in Tamnar block, Chhattisgarh
Source of map: Shutterstock

Rajasthan High Court directs state govt to conduct training of Principal Magistrates for sensitizing them with JJ Act

India Legal | July 15, 2021

A suo motu case has been filed based on a news report published in ‘Dainik Bhaskar’ relating to the miserable condition being faced by the oral and hearing disabled children housed in a school Hostel in Jodhpur.

The Rajasthan High Court has directed the state government to conduct training of Principal Magistrates in Juvenile Justice Boards for sensitising them with the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

The Division Bench comprising Justice Manoj Kumar Garg and Justice Sandeep Mehta passed these directions on July 13, during the hearing of a suo motu case based on a news report published in ‘Dainik Bhaskar’ relating to the miserable condition being faced by the oral and hearing disabled children housed in a school Hostel in Jodhpur.

Additional Advocate General (AAG) Pankaj Sharma placed on record a copy of the communication dated June 1, 2021 issued by the Mining Department, Government of Rajasthan, which indicated that as per Rule 15 of the District Mineral Foundation Trust Rules, 2016, the fund of District Mineral Foundation Trust and State Mineral Foundation Trust for upliftment of the Child Care Institutions (CCIs) can be used for the welfare of Women and Children.

Further, a copy of the order dated March 17, 2021 has been placed on record, as per which, appointments of Officers have been made on the vacant posts of Principal Magistrates, Juvenile Justice Board, in accordance with Section 4 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

In this background, the Court expected that the Department of Child Rights shall immediately move the concerned members, be it State or District Trust, for allocation of funds from the Mineral Trust Funds, so that the Child Care Institutions in the entire state can be upgraded.

The bench observed that the training of Principal Magistrates, Juvenile Justice Board has already been scheduled by the Rajasthan State Juvenile Academy in this week itself.

In light of above facts, the Court directed AAG Anil Gaur, representing the Child Rights Department, shall ensure that a training programme is organised within next 45 days for training and sensitisation with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act), 2015.

“Child Right Activist Govind Beniwal pointed out that there is no regulatory body, which can monitor the functioning of Child Welfare Committees, thus appropriate directions are required to be issued in this regard for ensuring proper functioning of Child Welfare Committees across the State,” the order read.

The Court therefore also directed Govind Beniwal, to meet the Secretary, Child Rights Department in order to chalk out an action plan for effective monitoring of the functioning of Child Welfare Committees.

Matter will be next listed in the first week of September, 2021 for further hearing.

Odisha: British-era pond facelift to now cost Rs 30 crore for District Mineral Foundation

The New Indian Express | July 15, 2021

The project includes musical fountain, amphitheatre, jogging and cycle track, children’s play area, gazebo, cluster sitting, aeration and oxidation of pond and landscaping.

ROURKELA: An abandoned British-era pond in Sundargarh town is getting a major facelift. ‘Bijli Bandha’, or Bijli tank, is set to transform into a recreational facility that would now cost Rs 30.42 crore and all of it is being funded by the District Mineral Foundation (DMF).

Spread over 20.99 acre of land, its renovation and beautification is taking place on 16 acre. The project includes musical fountain, amphitheatre, jogging and cycle track, children’s play area, gazebo, cluster sitting, aeration and oxidation of pond and landscaping.

After Water and Power Consultancy Services Limited (WAPCOS) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti floated tender for renovation and beautification of the pond last year, Delhi-based Ridhi Construction bagged the work for Rs 25.90 crore.

Work started through Ridhi’s sub-contractor in October 2020 but was halted between March and June this year when WAPCOS raised a running bill for Rs 5.16 crore but only Rs 2 crore was released. In absence of money, the sub-contract firm stopped the work. Work resumed a fortnight back and so far, around 20 per cent has been completed.

By now, the project cost has seen an escalation. Against the original cost of Rs 29 crore, the DMF will now spend Rs 30.42 crore to renovate and beautify the historic pond at the district headquarters town which is apparently not identified as a mining-affected area. The DMF gave its nod to the cost escalation from Rs 29 crore to Rs 30.42 crore in May after new changes were incorporated in the final detailed project report (DPR).

The hike in project cost was due to additional works of redevelopment of the connecting area near Sundargarh SP residence and shifting of overhead power lines from the site. The redevelopment of area near SP residence near Bijli Bandha would cost a little more than Rs 2 crore while power-line shifting is estimated at Rs 79.07 lakh.

‘Bijli Bandha’, the water body on Jalachar and Kata types of land is said to have been set up by royal family of the erstwhile princely state of Gangpur for hydro-power generation. It was then abandoned.
There are, however, questions on how this was funded under the DMF as guidelines clearly mandate spending through Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kalyan Yojana (PMKKY) in areas directly and indirectly affected by mining operations.

The Ministry has earmarked 60 per cent spending on high priority areas including drinking water supply, environment, health, education and welfare of children, aged women and disabled, skill development and sanitation. The rest 40 per cent is allowed for other high priority areas like physical infrastructure, irrigation, energy and watershed development besides environmental measures.

Local MLA and DMF member Kusum Tete said she was unaware of the project cost revision. She claimed that to know about the project component while attending the foundation stone laying ceremony.
“As long as development is taking place in my constituency, I do not mind from where the fund was coming from,” said the MLA.

Former president of Sundargarh Special Development Council Santosh Amat said due to dumping of garbage and lack of maintenance, the abandoned water body was heading for premature death. The project would protect the local environment and enable recreational facility to town residents, he added.
Sundargarh Collector and DMF chairman-cum-managing trustee Nikhil Pawan Kalyan did not reply to any query.

‘Father Stan stood by me’: A life devoted to Jharkhand’s Adivasi and Moolvasi communities

News Laundry | July 06, 2021

Seventeen years of seeing Father Stan’s tireless work for the downtrodden.

As told to Anumeha Yadav

I am the national coordinator of the Visthapan Virodhi Janvikas Andolan, a coalition of anti-displacement movements across the country. I live in Jharkhand. Father Stan Swamy, who passed away on July 5, was one of the founders of this broad coalition of people’s movements.

I was jailed for my activism for nine months. The police charged me with the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 in a case in 2008. I was later acquitted by the court. Father Stan fought for my release. I was arrested a second time three years ago.

On February 15, 2018, the Jharkhand police arrested me from the site of a seminar organised in Ranchi on democratic rights. I was being hounded for organising an event four months earlier in Giridih to mark 50 years of Naxalbari and the centenary year of Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution. Note that this was no clandestine event, the state authorities had given us permission for the event almost 15 days in advance, which was withdrawn just a day before the event to throw a spanner in the works. The police kept me in solitary confinement for this crime in a cell without a window for over three months. Father Stan stood by me and my family through all of this, and advocated for my civil liberties.

Meeting Father Stan

I was born as one of three children in Jitpur panchayat in Tundi in Dhanbad. My father worked as bandhua mazdoor, a bonded labourer, on the farms of upper caste landowners in Dhanbad, a coal-rich region of Jharkhand. After my father worked as a bonded labourer his whole life, the landowner had provided our family a small homestead plot. My father managed to educate me in a government school in the village and in 2003, I left Dhanbad to enroll myself in college in Ranchi.

I first met Father Stan in 2004. I had come in contact with anti-displacement activists in Ranchi when I moved there for higher studies. Their work resonated with me.

After Jharkhand was carved as a new state out of Bihar in 2001, the promise was that the indigenous tribes and people, the Adivasis, and Moolvasis like me, would be able to govern themselves. We were told the region’s socio-economic development would be aligned to our traditions. The Bharatiya Janata Party formed the first government in the new state in 2001.

Jharkhand accounts for more than 40 percent of India’s mineral wealth. This region is abundant in water resources, forests, and mineral riches. One of the first steps the then government took was to sign Memorandums of Understanding with large corporations to give our resources away to companies.

In the past, as part of Bihar, the Jharkhand region saw vast displacement. Lakhs of Adivasis and the poor living in forests and villages were displaced in the establishment of coal mines, bauxite mines, hydel projects such as Masanjore dam, the Tata factory in Jamshedpur and dam in Chandil. These policies led to lakhs of poor families being forced to leave and labour in tea estates or as domestic workers in metropolitan cities.

With the new government signing these MoUs, we again faced the possibility and a threat of large-scale displacement of the poor and those depending on forest and common lands by these projects.

Working together with Father Stan Swamy, and Ranchi’s other progressives, intellectuals, our coalition got information through Right to Information applications of 74 such MoUs to alienate people’s land without their knowledge and consent. Working with Father Stan on this shaped my understanding of how the government even after the formation of a new state planned to sell mineral resources coal, iron, ores to corporates for quick profits, and how this would make the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, the Moolvasis homeless, forcing them to move away.

This is how we constituted Visthapan Virodhi Janvikas Andolan, or VVJA, to wage a struggle against displacement.

A life devoted to the people

From 2004, when Father Stan was 67 years old, until now, I saw that his role and focus remained to save and conserve the forests, land, the community hills, which are the source of our livelihood, and our culture. To take part in this struggle, Father Stan wrote articles regularly; he thought about Jharkhand’s indigenous tribes and communities everyday, and he remained with us in every struggle.

For some years now, in Jharkhand as well as other states, the Adivasis who reside in forests and interior villages where the land holds mineral reserves are being coerced to give up their land or face arrests. Also, successive governments have registered false cases against intellectuals, writers, poets, social activists, to put them in prisons, intensifying the challenges for us.

In 2014, and later in April 2017, the Home Ministry labelled the Visthapan Virodhi Janvikas Andolan as a “Maoist” front in its annual report, but we are neither an NGO, nor any front. We are a broad-based people’s movement against displacement. We advocate against forced displacement. In fact, we have faced state violence in the form of false arrests of our members.

Father Stan Swamy co-founded and lived and worked at Bagaicha, a research and training institute in Namkum on the outskirts of Ranchi since 2006. For the past few years, successive governments in Jharkhand have incarcerated youth who resist land acquisition. They were mostly Dalits, Other Backward Castes, and Scheduled Tribes. Over 16 to 18 months from 2012 to 2014, Father Stan tried to reach out to and investigate the conditions of undertrials, their families, and tried to secure bail for them and I worked with him on this.

We submitted applications to all 26 jails of Jharkhand under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI). The total occupancy in Jharkhand prisons was 128 per cent of the actual prison capacity. Interviewing men and women who were alleged to be “extremists” under Section 17 of the Criminal Law and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, we found that Adivasis and Moolvasi constituted nearly 70 percent, about half were in the age group of 29-40 years, and about 22 present belonged to the 18-28 years age-group. Nearly all of them were landless or simple agriculturists, with 59 percent earning less than Rs 3,000 per month. They struggled to meet bail conditions or legal expenses.

Father Stan Swamy highlighted how in September 2016, the National Human Rights Commission after verifying complaints acknowledged that 514 innocent Adivasi youth had been pressured and cheated by paramilitary and police officials to “surrender” as Naxalites promising them jobs and imprisoning them to apply for awards and promotions.

As part of the coalition, Father Stan pursued both these cases in court. His public interest litigation on the undertrials’ release is pending before the Ranchi High Court. In the case of forced, fake “surrender” of Adivasi youth as “Naxalites”, the administration of Chaibasa, Khunti, Gumla, and Ranchi districts did not submit responses in court and tried to delay and drag the case. There have been no hearings in the case since October 2019.

Jharkhand has special tenancy laws meant to protect the land rights of indigenous communities. Five years back, when the then Jharkhand government announced it will amend two tenancy laws to allow use of agricultural land of tribal people for non-agricultural purposes, Father Stan Swamy wrote articles, published booklets, and organised meetings along with Jharkhandi intellectuals and activists to advocate to save these special Acts.

The Chotanagpur Tenancy Act of 1908 restricts the sale of tribal land to non-tribals in 16 districts of Jharkhand. The Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act of 1876 prohibits sale of tribal land to non-tribals in the Santhal Pargana region. Later, the government had to withdraw these amendments.

Along with this, Father Stan advocated for and worked for the implementation of the Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, 1996, the forests rights laws, and the Supreme Court’s Samata judgement which accord primacy of the gram sabha, the villages assemblies, on decisions on land use. These are all laws and judgements which the government ought to have tried to save, but it did not.

Laws meant for special protections for Dalit, Adivasi and oppressed communities are like a kawach, a protective cover, for these communities. Every time the government tried to break these laws, Father Stan stepped up to write, to protest, to express his dissent, to secure the democratic rights of the oppressed.

In the 17 years that I knew him, I realised Father Stan lived for the Adivasi and Moolvasi communities of Jharkhand – thinking of, speaking and writing for them. He made his life’s mission to not only write and speak up for these communities, but to also experience what people are going through by actually living among them. This was his daily routine for the 17 years that I spent with him.

When the police harassed and arrested social and cultural activist Jiten Marandi, a Santhal Adivasi, and tried to brand him a Naxalite, and later even arrested and imprisoned his wife Aparna Marandi who was attending to him in prison, Father Stan went to their village, their home, and raised questions about their arrests. He asked why, after Birsa Munda’s sentencing by the British, the same was being repeated in independent India, targeting an Adivasi who spoke up like this. He took part in several campaigns, public meetings and demonstrations for their release.

Who are these thousands of Adivasis and poor undertrials in Jharkhand? They are those who speak up to protect the natural resources, the jal jungle zameen in their villages? Who are the advocates to conserve the community’s resources and why do they do so? It is because they know that the state’s so-called “development model” has displaced lakhs and crores of Adivasis. It has captured their resources, and forced them out. They have been forced and coerced out of their homes.

Decades after Independence, the government has failed to create basic services and provisions for roti, kapda, makaan, for education and employment, and on top of it, the government tries to loot our livelihood resources and exclude us from them.

The people understand this and that is when they step forward, and then the governments start trapping them in false cases, charges, imprisoning them under black laws such as Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967 which allows prolonged incarceration without bail, to keep them locked up for years. The conviction rate in UAPA cases is extremely low at 2.2 percent between 2016-19 (as stated in the Parliament), showing that these charges are largely without any evidence. It was against all this that Father Stan Swamy spoke up, wrote about, and tried to fight their battle through their legal and democratic protests.

The arrest

The National Investigation Agency arrested 84-year old Swamy from Bagaicha in October 2020 while the country reeled under a pandemic and there were curbs on movement after the lockdown. Despite the Covid crisis raging in the country, the NIA officials took him from his home to a place he had never been to before.

We protested this wrong and struggled against his arrest. Eight months on, the State has killed Father Stan Swamy in judicial custody. The judges who knew of his condition as an elderly, ailing person with Parkinson’s disease, who denied him bail, and then tried to stall his case giving dates upon dates for delaying his hearing too are responsible for this.

In the days to come, more social activists and human rights defenders may face the same. This is a big challenge. But Jharkhand has a 400-year-old history of struggle of Adivasi Moolvasi to save land, water, forests and culture – from Birsa Munda’s movement, to Sidho Kano, Tilka Majhi, who revolted against British to protect our resources and culture, our livelihood. We have faced such challenges before and we are ready.

In days to come we will rise against this injustice, taking inspiration from Birsa, Sidho Kano, Tilka Majhi, Chand Bhairav. This fight will not stop – we will come together for activists like Father Stan, for human rights defenders, those opposing CAA-NRC and arrested in false cases, those whose lives are being destroyed as they are kept in prisons, the movement against all this will intensify.

If we, the Adivasis, the Dalits, do not protest and take part in movements, our jal jangal zameen, our source of livelihood will be looted. We have to advance because there is no place for us to retreat.

Damodar Turi is the national coordinator of Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, a coalition to resist land alienation and forced displacement of poor and indigenous communities.

5 yrs on, schools fail to deposit labour cess

The Tribune | Karam Prakash | July 05, 2021

Mandatory to pay 1% building cost to govt

Though the Education Department has developed many smart schools in the state, but none of these has deposited labour cess, which is mandatory under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ (BOCW) Cess Act. Consequently, cess worth crores has not been deposited at the labour department, which is used for the welfare of construction workers.

As per the BOCW Cess Act, 1996, 1 per cent of the total cost of any construction facility has to be deposited with the labour department as labour cess. The Education Department, in 2016, had already issued orders to the District Education Officers, stating every school had to deposit 1 per cent cess for any construction work at the school. However, none of the schools, despite the instructions, paid the labour cess.

VK Janjua, Principal Secretary, said, “We will again write to the Education Secretary to issue fresh directions to schools to deposit the labour cess.”

Meanwhile, school heads and principals, who get the construction work done, told The Tribune that they were neither informed by any government agency nor had they received any additional amount for labour cess. Amarjeet Singh, District Education Officer, Patiala said, “It is not my responsibility to deposit the money. School heads have to deposit the amount as they look after the construction in schools.”

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