Coal Scam: Where are the Adivasis in the Illegal Mining Imbroglio?

Following is a letter by veteran activist from Jharkhand, Stan Swamy sent to Adv. Prashant Bhushan, who is fighting cases against illegal mining in the Supreme Court.

Respected Prashant ji,

May I bring before all concerned that the Indigenous Adivasi People figure nowhere in the whole discourse on illegal mining presently going on in the SC of India. It is common knowledge that especially in the mineral- rich Adivasi /Tribal dominant central India most mining, both legal and illegal, has taken place in Adivasi land.  Land was forcibly acquired from them using the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. They were given some meager cash compensation and were displaced wholesale. No Indigenous Adivasi has ever been rehabilitated as it involves giving ‘land for land’, resettlement as a community and other social & cultural factors. On the other hand, outsiders have immigrated in large numbers and have taken over the whole economy and have captured govt bureaucracy and the media. The original inhabitants, namely the Indigenous Adivasis, are an impoverished lot facing extinction.

Mining in Jharkhand

The SC of India has taken cognizance of this when in some of its recent judgments it has observed:

(1) The historical injustice done to the Adivasi /Tribal people: “The injustice done to the tribal people of India is a shameful chapter in our country’s history.    The tribals were called `rakshas’ (demons), `asuras’, and what not. They were slaughtered in large numbers, and the survivors and their descendants were degraded, humiliated, and all kinds of atrocities inflicted on them for centuries. They were deprived of their lands, and pushed into forests and hills where they eke out a miserable existence of poverty, illiteracy, disease, etc. And now efforts are being made by some people to deprive them even of their forest and hill land where they are living, and the forest produce on which they survive.” [CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 11/2011 section 36. Emphasis added]

(2) Consent of the land owner necessary:“The right to excavate the mines from the land of private owner is based on the agreement; unless the lessor gives his consent, no lessee has a right to enter upon his land and carry on mining operation. The right to grant mining lease to excavate the mines beneath the surface is subject to the agreement of the land owners, Therefore, with a view to ensure that there will not be any obstruction in working of the mining lease and also for the peaceful operation to the excavation of the mines, insistence on the consent of the landlord is necessary.”[ Writ Petition No. 13147/96, The Order. Emphasis added]                                                                       “… the consultation with the Gram Sabha in Scheduled Areas shall be in accordance with the provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996” [Land Acquisition Act, 2013, Section 2,16,(6)]

(3) Owner of the land is also the owner of the minerals:  “…there is nothing in the law which declares that all mineral wealth sub-soil rights    vest in the State, on the other hand, the ownership of sub-soil/mineral wealth should normally follow the ownership of the land, unless the owner of the land is deprived of the same by some valid process.”[CIVIL APPEAL NOS.4540-4548 OF 2000, section 57]

(4) TheJustice MB Shah Commission reports that in Jharkhand alone, iron ores worth over Rs 22,000 crore and manganese ore valued around at Rs 138 crore were extracted “illegally and without lawful authority” 18 leases were running under deemed extension without having environment approvals and 22 were carrying mining in violation of norms.

The question is: should not this loot amount be restored to the Adivasi / Tribal land owners?

Our proposal and request:  Prashant ji, will it be possible to bring the above considerations before the SC on 1st September when it will consider the consequences of its judgment? 

I and my Jharkhandi colleagues will be happy to hear from you.

With regards,

Stan Swamy                                                                                                                                 

for Jharkhand Bachao Andolan