Between Mines & Roads

Between Mines & Roads

Apropos cover story & editorial (Down To Earth, April 30, 2007) it is
evident that the mineral production in India valued at more than Rs
84,000 crore does not recognize the cost of environmental damage,
economic marginalisation, massive multiple displacement and social
unrest. Not surprisingly, even the coercive recommendations of Anwarul
Hoda and A K D Jahdav Committee on mining policy do not deal with it.
One gets to know of it and one will know of it each time police firing
and custodial murders of protesters is in news.

In such a monstrous developmental context the narrative, "The pain
suffered by pregnant women on these bumpy roads when they come for
delivery is worse than the pain of delivery…" underlines the
outstanding failure of Hoda & Jahdav Committee to diagnose the
ailments let alone treat it. Not only that anyone who seeks attention
towards human development indicators like health runs the danger of
being branded anti-development and an extremist or is prevailed upon
by the brute might of the state to rewrite the recommendations to suit
government and corporate needs of The Orissa Mining Corporation Ltd
and Vedanta Alumina Ltd as has been witnessed in the shocking U-turn
by a prestigious institute on the adverse impact of proposed bauxite
mining in Lanjigarh, Orissa because ministry of environment and
forests funds it.

Committee recommendations says, In line with the current economic
policy, in future the core functions of the State in mining will be
facilitation of exploration and mining activities of investors and
entrepreneurs, regulation and tax collection and there shall be arm's
length between State agencies that explore and mine and those that
regulate.

Be it Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh or Goa it is indeed true that
"the local politician has been reduced to nothing more than a
middleman—a pimp..." and in fact every politician is a local of some
constituency. In such a backdrop when chief ministers like Naveen
Patnaik say, "No one, I repeat no one will be allowed to stand in the
way of Orissa's industrialisation and the people's progress," it
compels likes of V P Singh, former prime minister to react saying,
"Yes. I want to become a Maoist if this is the model of development.
But I can't at this age."

It is consistently emerging that in our parliamentary democracy human
trafficking and 'corporate' development is a norm not an exception.
Most elected representatives and civil servants seem to be just tools
used by corporate houses, which fund them and their political parties.
Given the consensus amongst geologists that India being a part of
Gondwanaland has a similar mineral resource potential as Australia,
Africa and South America, the nexus of those who wish to share the
booty of massive mineral resource is hardly surprising. The proposed
new mining policy cannot be expected to travel a road that is
sensitive to environmental damage, economic marginalisation, massive
multiple displacement, social unrest and even pregnant women.

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