None of India’s ministries, departments have mining children on the radar: MPs told

Counterview.net | July 22, 2019

A delegation of two civil rights groups, Samata and mines, minerals and People (mm&P), has impressed upon several of India’s members of Parliament (MPs) to discuss and raise issues relating to illegal mining, the Samata judgment, children in the mining areas and the District Mineral Foundation (DMF) in Parliament, adding, the issue of involvement of gram sabhas in decision making ought to be central for allowing any new projects in forest areas.

The delegation — consisting of mm&P’s Ravi Rebbapragada (chairperson), Ashok Shimali (secretary general), Deme Oram, Mukesh Birua, Raju Pandara, Shivkumar malagi, and Swaraj Das; and Samata’s Mithun Raj, BP Yadav and Sree Harica — told Kirodilal Meena, MP, Rajasthan, about the need to implement the Samata Judgment in letter and spirit in Rajasthan.

The delegation said, the Samata Judgment, 1997, protects the land of the tribal people under the fifth schedule of the Constitution. Under the judgment, the transfer of land in scheduled areas, which are home to forest dwellers, by way of lease to non-tribals or a corporate entity is prohibited to prevent their exploitation in any form.

However, it was pointed out, more than two decades have passed, but the implementation of the judgment in the fifth scheduled areas has been dismal. The judgment had called for a conference of the Prime Minister, concerned Central ministers, all the chief ministers, and concerned ministers of states to take a policy decision for a having consistent scheme throughout the country in respect of tribal lands.

“Yet, this has not taken place. In this regard, we urged Dr Meena to raise the issue of implementation of theSamata judgment in the entire country which will help in the protection of the tribal community”, Shrimali told Counterview.

The issue of children in mining areas was taken up with L Hanumanthaiah, and Naseer Hussain, MPs from Karnataka. They assured the delegation that they would surely raise this important issue in Parliament.

The two MPs agreed that the tragedy is, “mining children” are nobody’s children. Neither the Central ministry for mines and minerals nor their counterparts in states look after the mining children. Even other Central ministries or state departments do not look after children. Ministries and departments of social welfare, labour, women and child development, education, or tribal welfare do not have children in mining areas on their radar.

The MPs were to told, some of the impacts on children include increased morbidity and illness, malnutrition, exploitation and abuse, increase in child labour etc. There is a need for the inclusion of issues related with children in mining laws and convergence of ministries and departments to benefit children.

The delegation asked Mansukhbhai Vasava and Prabhubhai Vasava, MPs from Gujarat, to raise the issue of illegal mining in Parliament. In a reply, the concerned minister had told Parliament that in the year 2018-19 alone 1,15,492 cases of illegal mining had been registered.

Illegal mining has huge repercussions on the socio-economic and environmental balance of the country. The government should take strict measures to curb illegal mining, they were told.

The delegation simultaneously met National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) vice-chairperson Ansuya Uikey and members Hiralal Damor and Mahesh Vasava to discuss issues related with forest rights violations in the fifth schedule areas and other governance issues, pointing out, displacement due to development projects is the highest among tribals.

The commission office bearers were asked to take steps for timely rehabilitation and resettlement of those already affected by mining projects.

“We urged Parliamentarians to raise the issue of involvement of gram sabhas, especially in the decision making in DMF committees. The Chhattisgarh government recently announced the inclusion of two members of gram sabhas in these ommittees. This should be replicated all across the country, we insisted”, Shrimali said.

“We told MPs that forest rights has been a focus area of our advocacy programme. The draft Indian Forest Act, 2018 mandates all state governments to hold consultations with all the stakeholders in order to carry out any work related with forests. However, most states have not yet initiated the process. We wanted MPs to take up this issue as well”, he added.