About 40% of India’s districts have some form of coal dependency

Mongabay | July 05, 2021

The government had mandated that 60 percent of the DMF contributions collected by each district should be applied in high priority areas including health care, education, skill development, and sanitation.

— India has been under international pressure to rapidly phase out coal and scale up the installation of renewable power systems. However, much work remains for a fair transition of coal-dependent communities.

— A latest study has found that close to 40 percent of India’s 736 districts have some form of coal-dependency whether it is money collected through District Mineral Foundation or the direct and indirect jobs the coal sector provides.

— Experts argue that for a just transition in the coal sector, long-term planning for a period without coal, needs to start now, while keeping in mind the interests of the coal-dependent communities.

As countries around the world are gearing up to attend the crucial 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow this year to deliberate strategies to combat the climate crisis, there is increasing pressure on India to reduce its coal dependency. However, if India takes steps to phase out coal, it has implications for several Indian states and their local districts.

A latest study finds that close to 40 percent of districts in India have some form of coal dependency as they are either home to coal workers or pensioners, collect funds under the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) or are benefitting from coal mining companies spending billions of rupees under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes.

The study was published by Sandeep Pai, a researcher, as part of his doctoral dissertation at the University of British Columbia. He analysed data collected from coal-mining company Coal India Limited (CIL), power utility company NTPC, Coal Controller’s Organisation and India’s Ministry of Coal, among others. The analysis shows that India’s transition away from coal cannot be ‘just’ for people and the environment unless comprehensive interventions are planned and implemented, addressing the concerns of millions of people involved directly or indirectly.

“There are 284 districts (38.5 percent) in India that have some form of coal dependency. They are either home to coal workers or coal pensioners or collect DMF revenues, or benefit from the CSR spending by coal companies. Out of these 284 districts, I found that 33 districts are among the most coal-dependent and would be central for any just transition planning,” Pai told Mongabay-India.

In India, so far, coal mining is largely led by government-owned companies. For instance, in 2018-2019, CIL, Singareni Collieries Company Limited (SCCL), and Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), the three largest government-owned coal mining companies, produced 93 percent of the total coal produced in India. According to the study, the coal sector provides millions of direct, indirect, and induced jobs. The study states that CIL directly employs 270,000 people but “the number of indirect jobs (such as people working for contractors who repair coal mining equipment) and induced jobs (involving people working in local retail industries in coal towns such as in tea shops or grocery stores) … are common in all coal-producing regions.”

In terms of jobs, the study estimates that 3.6 million people are either directly or indirectly employed in the coal mining and power sectors in 159 districts in India. Of the 3.6 million people, nearly 80 percent of these coal jobs are linked to the coal mining sector located in 51 districts while the rest 20 percent of coal jobs are linked to coal power plant jobs. “This is an important finding as it shows that the coal mining sector’s socio-economic contribution in terms of jobs is much higher than the power sector but that it is more concentrated in a smaller number of districts,” said Pai.

Some of these 159 districts exhibit a heavy coal dependency on account of direct and indirect coal mining and coal power plant jobs. For instance, there are seven districts with over 100,000 direct and indirect coal mining and coal power plant jobs while there are 43 districts (including the seven) that have over 10,000 such jobs and 83 districts have 1,000-10,000 such jobs.

According to the study, the Dhanbad district in Jharkhand is home to the largest number of coal workers at nearly 500,000, the majority of whom are employed in the coal mining sector.

The concept of ‘Just Transition’ from coal to clean energy has gained pace across the world with many governments and international organisations formulating strategies to help fossil fuel workers and their communities navigate such a transition in a fair manner.

For India, the issue is critical as the country is trying to increase its domestic coal production as well as step up the installation of renewable power. Experts have, however, said that the increase in coal mining is not in conformity with India’s climate goals and will increase the coal dependency, making the implementation of just transition harder.

In 2015, India had promised a reduction in the emissions intensity of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 33 to 35 percent; achieving about 40 percent installed power capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources; energy efficiency; and creating an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover.

“Beyond jobs, policymakers also need to focus on economic, social, regional, demographic, and other aspects of just transition. The study finds that just transition is not only a jobs problem. It requires a holistic understanding of different social, economic, demographic, and other issues. Just transition also requires a spatial, geographic lens. What is required for a just transition may vary at the regional level within a country; different regions may have different just transition considerations,” Pai said.

He said proper implementation of just transition strategies for fossil fuel workers and their communities may help “increase the general acceptability of climate policies among fossil fuel-dependent communities.”

Coal mining contributes heavily to the DMF funds and CSR

In June 2015, through an amendment in India’s central mining law – the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act (MMDR Amendment Act 2015) – DMFs were introduced in all districts in the country that were affected by mining-related operations. These district mineral foundations were tasked with managing and utilising the funds for the interest and benefit of people and areas affected by mining.

The government had mandated that 60 percent of the DMF contributions collected by each district should be applied in high priority areas including health care, education, skill development, and sanitation.

Pai’s study claims that in at least nine Indian states, the coal mining industry pays considerable taxes and royalties to state and district governments. The royalties paid at the district level are direct contributions to the DMF funds.

For instance, in 2019, the CIL paid approximately Rs. 500 billion (Rs 50,000 crores) in total taxes and royalties to federal, state and district governments – which is about three percent of federal governments’ annual revenue collection. According to the study, the coal industry collectively contributed Rs. 33.46 billion (Rs. 3,346 crore) towards DMF in 52 districts in India. In 2019-2020, coal mining and power companies also spent Rs. 10.11 billion (Rs. 1,011 crores) as CSR spending in sectors such as health, education and infrastructure development.

Of Rs. 10.11 billion, about Rs 6.8 billion (Rs. 680 crore) was spent by companies in 90 districts while the remaining Rs. 3.3 billion (Rs. 330 crore) was spent on national and state projects that were not tied to any particular district, the study said. The study shows that “some districts are more heavily dependent on jobs, while others have large numbers of pensioners or depend more on DMF contributions or CSR spending.”

Pai said that “money collected and spent under the DMF or CSR component is critical for development work in some districts.”

“Take the case of Angul district in Odisha – it has the highest level of CSR spending. In 2019-20, about Rs. 1.31 billion (Rs. 131 crore) were spent. So, if a state in India loses coal royalties and this revenue is not replaced by other sources, overall cuts in state spending may impact coal-dependent districts as well. This might be more severe in states like Jharkhand where there is heavy coal dependency in multiple districts and the state government itself relies on coal royalties,” the study notes.

Srestha Banerjee, who is the Director, Just Transition at the International Forum for Environment, Sustainability and Technology (iForest), a think-tank working on issues related to the environment and ‘Just Transitions’, said the DMF funds are not going to dry up tomorrow but what is needed is proper planning.

“DMF money is not going anywhere for the next 15-20 years (this depends on the district’s mining activities/ mine life) at least. What is required is to plan about its proper usage right now so that there can be a focused endeavour on creating long-term assets, and diversify income opportunities at the local level. Once such provisions are carved out then even if the DMF money is not there tomorrow the villages or towns won’t feel their absence,” Banerjee told Mongabay-India.

She explained that many local officials also explain that the DMF money comes without any conditions attached and they can do wonders with that but what they lack is their capacity to plan with long-term goals.

“Districts should use five percent of the DMF annual budget for proper planning and implementation. There is a need to create dedicated capacity for DMF planning and implementation. Also, our districts should create a future corpus using DMF funds for long-term security. We also need to ensure the participation of the public, specifically from mining-affected communities, in the bodies deciding the usage of the DMF funds. Basically, we need to plan for the future and maximise the resources by ensuring optimum usage today,” she said.

About 500,000 people depend on pensions from the coal sector

According to Pai’s study, there are nearly half a million coal industry pensioners in India living in 199 districts, whose pensions depend on the continuation of the coal mining industry.

The pension fund for coal miners is run by Coal Mines Provident Fund Organisation, a government organisation that collects equal contributions from coal mining companies and workers, then pays pensions to coal mine workers after their retirement. This means that money from existing workers and coal companies is paid out to retired workers and thus any transition away from coal would lead to consequences for coal industry pensioners.

Sanjay Namdeo, who is the head of the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Madhya Pradesh’s Singrauli, a district with high coal dependency, said: “The conversation around energy transition is good but we need to remember that a coal sector worker who spends his or her entire life working in the coal mines should get the pension or health benefits. Taking that right away from them is not right.”

“If that happens their life will be in a disarray. When a politician who is elected can get a pension why not these workers who spend their entire life in this sector. Any plan for the transition of such workers or areas needs to focus on ensuring that the workers get these benefits till they are alive,” Namdeo told Mongabay-India.

Pai said that it is important to understand the socio-economic dimensions of coal transitions in order to create just transition plans for coal-dependent communities that will facilitate justice in transition, and help mitigate potential political resistance these communities may raise against such low carbon policies.

DMF can be used for gauthans: CM Baghel

the pioneer | June 29, 2021

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Monday said the District Mineral Foundation Trust Fund (DMF) should be utilised to upgrade the arrangements in gauthans established under Suraji Gaon Yojana.

Development of grazing area, shed construction for multi-activity centres, construction of Devgudi and ‘Ghotul’ in Bastar region are permitted under the Fund, he said.

Baghel was holding a review meeting of the Mining department here, an official statement stated.

He said the plan is to develop gauthans as Rural Industrial Park. The shed constructed will be utilized for income generation activities by women self help groups.

The CM Haat-Bazaar Clinic Scheme has been effective in remote and rural areas. The vehicles for the scheme will be procured from the DMF.

Baghel said farmers should be provided irrigation facilities by installing pumps to utilize water stored in unused mines. The royalty amount of minor minerals should be disbursed to the Panchayats.

The Chief Minister approved a proposal to explore new areas for minerals mainly diamond, gold, silver, copper, tungsten, base metal, nickel, bauxite and iron ore with assistance from companies having mining technical expertise.

Star Rating standards have been developed for mining lease holders. The rating is based on scientific and systematic mining of mines, environmental protection, conservation of minerals and compliance of mine safety measures.

Tribal people seek cancellation of e-tender notification issued for calcite mining

The Hindu | June 01, 2021
‘No resolution was passed on the issue in grama sabha’
The tribal people of Nimmalapadu, Karakavalasa and Rallagaruvu villages of Anantagiri mandal in the district have appealed the to the Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of AP Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) to cancel the e-tender notification for calcite mining at Nimmalapadu issued by the APMDC without a resolution by the ‘gram sabha.’

Referring to the e-tender notification issued by the APMDC in a Telugu daily on May 19, 2021, they noted in a memorandum to the VC and MD, that they had been cultivating lands for the past several years on the land proposed to be mined for calcite. They recalled that they had opposed the calcite mining proposal by Birla company in the past by approaching the Supreme Court and sought protection of their lands under the Samata Judgment.

The Samata Judgment clearly states that the right of local resources is vested with the ‘gram sabha’ under the the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA Act). Any business done in the Agency areas, should have prior approval of the ‘gram sabha’, failing which it would be considered a violation of the Constitution. As calcite is a mineral, mining should invariably have the approval of the ‘gram sabha.’

They noted that neither a ‘gram sabha’ was held on the issue nor a resolution passed in this regard. The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution says that tribal people alone would have the right over local resources. When that was the case, they wondered as to how the APMDC could issue the e-tender notification that too during the COVID-19 crisis and the curfew imposed by the government.

I am not in race for CM post: Nirani

The Hindu | May 29, 2021

He says his focus will be on all-round development of Kalaburagi district in the next 30 years Dismissing media reports, Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh Nirani on Saturday made it clear that he was not an aspirant for the post of Chief Minister.

“I am not in the race. It is speculation by a section of media. I have not visited Bengaluru for the last few days. I am completely engaged in COVID-19 containment activities in Bilagi and Kalaburagi and it is my priority. B.S. Yediyurappa is our leader and the government would work under him,” Mr. Nirani told mediapersons at a press conference in Kalaburagi.

Mission 2020-2050
After chairing a meeting of legislators and district-level officers from Kalaburagi district, Mr. Nirani, who is also the in-charge Minister for Kalaburagi, announced that the administration would come up with Kalaburagi Mission 2020-2050 to fundamentally transform the district which had been one of the backward districts in the State as per Dr. D.M. Nanjundappa panel.

“The Mission envisages all-round development of the district in the next 30 years. Agriculture, industry, irrigation, education, health and other core areas would be focused on. The mission would be implemented in three phases each having 10-year duration,” he said adding that he would spend a whole day with intellectuals and subject experts in the district discussing the initiative and taking their suggestions.

On the poor ranking of Kalaburagi in SSLC results, Mr. Nirani said the Deputy Directors of Public Instruction under whose tenure the districts bagged the first rank in the SSLC results would be summoned to Kalaburagi and asked to share their efforts and experiences with their counterpart in Kalaburagi.

On the State’s financial condition to handle COVID-19, Mr. Nirani said that there was no dearth of funds. “At present COVID-19 cases in the district are on the decline. 170 of the 404 beds in GIMS [Gulbarga Institute of Medical Sciences] are vacant. The demand for oxygen and Remdesivir has also fallen. Taking up vaccination on a massive scale is our next priority. There is no dearth of funds for handling COVID-19. Kalaburagi has ₹175 crore of the District Mineral Foundation funds and the Chief Minister has permitted to use 33% of it for COVID-19 containment activities. Besides, we have ₹50 crore Disaster Management Funds. We are renovating the ESIC Hospital at Shahabad which remained unused for the last 20 years. We are spending ₹12 crore for it,” Mr. Nirani said.

Administrator’s laws put Lakshadweep in the middle of nowhere

The Federal | May 26, 2021

Take a close look at what he has proposed in the name of development – a larger picture being communally polarized in a small tribal territory

Lakshadweep’s new Administrator Praful Khoda Patel’s draft proposals have drawn huge public outcry with many criticizing them as a product of a communal agenda against the majority Muslim population in the island with an intention to tarnish their culture and tradition. A reading of the proposed laws brings out a larger picture that has multiple objectives aimed at creating polarisation in the guise of development.

Here are the proposed laws in chronological order:

The Goonda Act (January 28, 2021): The draft law named as a The Lakshadweep Prevention of Anti-social Activities Prevention 2021 which is colloquially known as ‘Goonda Act’ provides arbitrary powers to the Administrator of the island. It empowers the police to detain a person for seven days without giving him the opportunity to represent before a court of law.

“It is meant to terrorize people and prevent protests. Goonda Act is the beginning of their saffronisation project in the island,” says Mohammad Faizal, MP from Lakshadweep, while talking to The Federal. He alleged the Administrator was trying to impose authoritarian rule in the island.

Under this law, several offences under IPC which are bailable and those amounting to punishment of less than three years are included. The law empowers the police to keep any person in detention even if there is an apprehension that he may commit an offence causing harm to public interest.

As per this proposed law, a “cruel person” and a “dangerous person” can be taken into custody on the grounds which appear satisfactory to the authority under the Administrator. Section 2 of the draft law defines “cruel person” as one who violates or intends to violate the ‘Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960’.

A dangerous person is defined as one who commits a range of offences such as theft, unlawful assembly, mischief, criminal intimidation, breach of trust, criminal trespass and misconduct by a drunken person in public. In addition, the proposed Goonda Act creates a new category of offence as ‘property grabber’. Section 2(O) of the draft law defines ‘property grabber’ as one who illegally takes possession of land belonging to the government or local authorities.

Several of these offences listed in the draft law are bailable; even non-cognizable which attract punishment for less than three years or six months or fine. The offences like ‘unlawful assembly’ are often used against protesters who gather for any social or political cause.

Under the proposed ‘Goonda Act’ any person can be detained even before committing any offence on the grounds that there was reasonable apprehension of his committing any of the offences. The person can be kept in custody without even being informed the reasons for his arrest for seven days.

Lakshadweep Town & Country Planning Regulation 2021 (April 28, 2021): The law proposes formation of a development authority which is to be empowered to notify any area of land classifying into any of the four categories as ‘residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial’.

In the guise of development, the authority is empowered to acquire any land notified under the Land Acquisition Act of 2013. Under this law, the government is entitled to declare any land as planning area by notification.

According to Section 35 of the draft law, the people — owners of the notified land — have to seek approval of the town planning authority for any ‘change of use’ of the land. This includes even the alteration of houses in the exterior. The permission is granted only for three years which has to be renewed; failure or delay in renewal will lead to a fine of up to ₹ 2 lakh (section 37). “This literally takes away one’s right over one’s land,” says Advocate Rohit, a lawyer at the Kerala High Court who handles law suits in Lakshadweep as well.

Rohit argues that the new law is brought to overrule the land rights entitled to the tribal community in Lakshadweep by the Land Revenue and Tenancy Regulation Act of 1965 pertaining to Lakshadweep and Minicoy islands. (Only revenue land can be used for any development activity by the government according to this Act).

“Lakshadweep, a tribal majority Union Territory with a 94.8 per cent tribal population should enjoy protection under Article 244 of the Constitution as it is notified as a scheduled area under the Fifth Schedule and PESA Act of 1996,” says C.R. Bijoy, an expert on land rights.

Besides, the authority of town planning is vested in the local bodies according to 73rd Amendment of the Constitution.

Notification for the transfer of powers from the PRIs to the Administrator (May 5, 2021): Many say the notification has close links to the proposed law for creating an authority to have the powers to take over the land. The notification transfers the entire establishments of agriculture, fisheries, animal husbandry, health and education with immediate effect to the hands of the Administrator. The order explains that the transfer of powers to the PRIs in 2012 ‘had overburdened the PRIs which caused an adverse impact upon the efficiency of the execution of schemes’ which is cited as the reason for this current decision.

The proposed beef ban, omission of meat from the noon meal and the lifting of liquor ban in the name of tourism are widely criticized as provocative steps challenging their culture, tradition and religious practices.

The creation of a new category of offence as ‘property grabber’ and bringing the same under Gunda Act, the suppression of fundamental rights, the introduction of a law that empowers the authorities to acquire any land for development and the shifting of powers from the PRIs to the Administrator set the alarm bells ringing for the people of the island.

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