Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Should a moratorium be imposed on all fresh mining in tribal areas of the country?

- By Nishi Tigga (Student of

“The hill is our god and the earth our Goddess. Between the two, we have the rains and water. Those wanting to mine here will slowly take over all this. Where will we go then?”
This is very a simple question of Dongria Kondh man from Lakpaddar, Niyamgiri Hills but do we have answer to this question?

Scientist all over the world believe that the world exists because nature adheres to the principles of symbiotic relation.  A symbiotic relationship as defined by the ecologists is a relationship between two entities and which is mutually beneficial for the participants of the relationship. If one of them suffers the other is bound to get affected by it. Don’t we see   the principle of symbiosis between the tribals and the forests? Will they not be subject to   destruction if they are separated from each other suddenly?

History of tribals dates back to where history of India starts. The first Five year Plan for 1951 to 1956 had a positive policy for assisting the tribals. The first  plan  clearly  mentioned that  we have to assist the  tribals to  develop  their  natural  resources  and  to  evoke  a  productive economic life wherein they will enjoy the fruits of their own labour and will not be exploited by more organized economic forces from outside. But after 66 years of independence have we been able to keep our promises or have we become the very reason threatening the very aspect of their existence?

The mining projects both by government and private sectors since independence have displaced about 60 million tribals. This has   resulted in landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalization, food insecurity, increased morbidity and mortality, loss to access to common property resources, social disarticulation, differential risk identities and risks to also host population. Mining displaced thousands of people from their traditional sources of sustenance. One can imagine the plight of innocent people whose communities were shattered along with their meager sources of livelihood as a consequence of their forced displacement under mega irrigation, mining, industrial or infrastructure projects. The infrastructure projects though increases productivity and production to a great extent, are not unmixed blessings. They give rise to involuntary displacement thereby creating untold miseries for the ousted as has been experienced in the completed and ongoing projects.

The mining industry's growth is inextricably linked to environmental and human right violations.  Several million adivasis and dalits have already been evicted to accommodate mines and related industries, and several more have been impacted due to land degradation and environmental imbalances caused by mining.  Mining has destroyed the water balance in drought-prone states like Orissa, Gujarat and Rajasthan.  In areas like Kashipur, Orissa, new mining projects threaten indigenous populations and forests in the watershed that are critical in replenishing the fresh water resources of the country.  In other areas such as in the coal mines of Jharkhand or the mica mines of Southern Andhra Pradesh, mining has polluted the air and water over vast areas leading to a noticeable decline in the health of people living there

We have many examples in our country that describes the unbroken history of broken promises. Jharkhand is one of   state where tribals have been the worst affected. On 15 November 2000, when Jharkhand came into being, a long standing demand for separate statehood was fulfilled, not merely to establish a distinct identity but also to do away with the centuries of injustice. “Development” for the sake of urban lifestyle became synonymous to up-rooting poor Tribals from their traditional land and lifestyle.  The political-corporate nexus became active to grab the Tribals’ land, minerals, and other resources became apparent when over 42 MOUs were signed soon after the state was formed. Reports of Indian People’s Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights indicate that a total number of 6.54 million people have so far been displaced in Jharkhand in the name of development.

A similar situation exists in Chhattisgarh as well. Seven percent of the country’s bauxite, about 198 million tones, is available in the Sarguja, Jashpur, Kawardha, Kanker and Bastar districts. It is being mined at present in Sarguja by the now privatized Sterlite and the Hindalco companies. Hundreds of adivasi families have lost their lands. In the name of employment one person from the affected family were employed as lowly paid contract labor. Discontent is rife among these landless adivasi miners. Sixteen percent of the country’s coal (39,545 million tons) is to be found in the Raigarh, Sarguja, Koriya and Korba districts of northern Chhattisgarh. In 2007, the adivasis of Khamariya Village, raising objections to giving up their lands to the Jindal Coal Mines, were beaten up during in a public hearing arranged by the district administration.

In Madhya Pradesh the foundations of illegal mining operations are laid down by benami land deals. In the Satpura Forest Range of the Betul district, illegal mining operations are carried out on patta lands given to tribal people for farming under the Forest Rights Act. It has been reported that families of high profile politicians own many mining companies that carry out illegal operations in mineral rich areas like Sehore and Betul.  Similar illegal mining operations are rampant in Andhra Pradesh also. The bauxite mining in the Araku Valley has been going on in the lands of small tribal farmers. In many cases the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation acted as a front for private companies and took over lands of small farmers.

Throughout India, Adivasis have become increasingly conscious and have organized dozens of grassroots movements to oppose further land-grabs and displacement and they have been asking only one question as to whose country is it anyway? Can stakeholder agreements and promises to share mining profits with Adivasi communities help settle these conflicts?  The Indian Supreme Court on 18 April 2013 rejected an appeal to allow the company to mine the Niyamgiri Hills. Instead, it has said that local tribal councils themselves should decide within the next three months whether or not the project should go ahead. This certainly is a landmark victory in recognizing indigenous rights in India but the final result has yet to come.

Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh Sunday mooted 20-year moratorium on mining in tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh. The Union Development Minister also strongly believed that unregulated mining have resulted to Maoist problem.  We cannot deny this fact that in the recent past we have seen an extreme growth in the number of Maoists. Mining sector has proved to be devastating for tribal but we cannot deny the fact that India’s mining industry is an increasingly important part of the economy, employing hundreds of thousands of people and contributing to broader economic growth. Roughly 70% of India’s power generation currently comes from coal. As India's economy shows signs of slowing, mining remains one of the bright spots on its horizon. India is the world's third largest producer of coal and the fourth largest of iron ore. Its mining industry is predicted to grow to $36.2bn by 2016.The geological survey of India estimates that the country has around 277 billion tons of coal reserves and the consumption of coal is expected to increase by around 1500 million tons per year by 2031.

It is impossible to close down mines but the best possible solution is to take a middle path and impose moratoriums on fresh mining in the tribal areas. These moratoriums can be used to stop mining in India’s forests until proper environmental and social assessments are carried out. Millions of people in India live near or within forests, and rely on them for their livelihoods. According to the Centre for Science and Environment around 26000 hectares of forested land have been diverted for coal mining since 2007. Any new mine will also need the infrastructure around it, including power plants, roads and rail – requiring even more land. Therefore keeping the present conditions of mining sector in mind moratoriums in fresh mining areas is one of the way out   to deal with these issues. Moratorium on developmental projects in tribal territories, will prevent land acquisition and displacement of tribal communities. The moratorium period can be also used as a transition phase where a particular tribal society is first developed by providing them basic need like school; hospital road facility connecting them to cities; good and healthy living conditions. The government could also start various skill development program in the village. The government should actively put more meaningful governance in place for the whole sector.

The government should conduct a study and demarcate those areas only where mining can be done in a sustainable manner and auction it to the highest bidder. The government should recover money that has been lost from the illegal mining carried out all over the country. The government should take necessary action against those who have violated the law by terminating all leases and making up for loss suffered by the State. A positive step towards safeguarding tribals’ rights is the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011. The Bill has been prepared after several rounds of consultation and workshop with all Stakeholders .It seeks a complete and holistic reform in the mining sector with provisions to address issues relating to sustainable mining and local area development, benefit sharing mechanism to the people affected by mining operations.

Mining firms in India employ hundreds of thousands of people and are seen as a center of rapid economic growth. But mining can be a uniquely destructive industry if it is not properly regulated. Irresponsibly run mining operations can damage health, environment and livelihoods of the same local residents who are meant to benefit from mining. Every level of social structure is damaged when a mine or metals factory takes over indigenous people’s  land, their ecologically-attuned economy, strongly egalitarian power structure, material culture and cultivation systems based on self-sufficiency, and an identity based on rootedness to the land that often seems very hard for non-tribals. Imposing moratorium in fresh mining areas will definitely give them some relief.   Indian Government should take the condition of the tribal seriously. Let’s not mine them out of existence but stretch our   helping hands and save them   and their culture which they have preserved from times immemorial.

“Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught. Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”

Monday, 22 July 2013

Political Parties and RTI

This article is just a collection of views from various sources, some of whom speak for the motion and vice-versa.

“Good for others not for me"

This has been the tag line for transparency laws in India. Recently, there has been a lot of debate over the CIC’s order of bringing in the Political parties under the ambit of RTI.  The 54 page judgment given by CIC on 3rd June describes Political Parties as Public Authorities. This judgment was given after providing ample opportunity to the representative of various Political Parties to respond on the issue and have taken inputs from the Election Commission's and Income Tax Department. The Commission argues that the judgment is based on the basic need to bring in transparency into the management and funding of   Political Parties.

·     Directs all national parties to appoint information officers and provide information sought under the act within six weeks.
·     To comply with the provisions of the RTI Act by way of making voluntary disclosures.

1.     Political parties are substantially financed indirectly by the central government through concessional land allotments, tax exemptions etc, and thus they are held to be public authorities under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act.
2.     The criticality of the role played by political parties in our democratic set-up and the nature of duties performed by them also point towards their public character, bringing them under the ambit of section 2(h). i.e., the performance of public duty by political parties which “in spite of being non-governmental wield or directly or indirectly influence exercise of governmental power” to “affect the lives of citizens in every conceivable way”

Demands by CIC
·     Enable anyone to ask for internal deliberations of a party including inter-party discussions.  
·     Disclose basis for selection of candidates.
·     Divulge details on money raised and funding of political parties.

 Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) views
·     Lack of scrutiny had led to parties being able to accumulate unexplained wealth running into hundreds of crores of rupees.
·     Political parties must be treated as public authorities because they receive substantial government support in the form of free air time on Doordarshan and All India Radio during elections, discounted rents for party offices and large income-tax exemptions.

Views in support
1.     Political parties have lost their legitimacy due to opaque financing, leaders with a criminal background, subversion of institutions, exposés of bipartisan scams and abuse of power.
2.     State power works through institutionalized channels. The powers and functions of each and every state organ are defined through well-defined processes; state functionaries are held accountable not for outcomes, but adherence to due process. The government bodies are constitutionally liable to treat all citizens equally, except where permissible in law. Even the apex court had already ruled before the advent of the RTI Act that citizens have a right to know about the assets and criminal records of those who stand for elections.
3.     Section 2 (h) of the act states that a non-government organization substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate government, is included in the definition of a public authority. The commission looked at the figures of funds and these appeared to show that crores of rupees of government money had indeed been given to the political parties and could be considered “substantial funding”. Thus should be, willing to part with information to citizens as per the law. There have been a number of court judgments that have confirmed this.
4.     There have been cases where private organizations have been declared as public authority by the respective high courts eg: CWG, Benglaru Airport authority, Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Sikh management committee etc.,
5.     The order doesn’t interfere with the decision making process of the parties. Sec 8(d) of the act states “information  including  commercial  confidence,   trade  secrets  or  intellectual  property,   the disclosure  of  which would  harm  the  competitive  position  of   a  third  party,   unless  the  competent authority  is  satisfied  that   larger  public  interest   warrants  the  disclosure  of   such  information”. Here political party can refuse to provide information demanded.
6.     As per Sec 8(j) , any information which relates  to  personal  information  the  disclosure  of   which  has  no  relationship  to any  public  activity  or  interest ,or which would  cause  unwarranted  invasion  of   the  privacy  of   the individual, can be denied unless  it is in public interest. Thus, in case the parties do not want to disclose the name of the donors, the same can be done under this clause.
7.     In the face of a disobedient political class, the order has also provided a grip to force transparency and a little of accountability on political parties.
8.    It is important to note that political parties exist in a framework of unequal distribution of formal and informal power individually and collectively, and different power combinations assert themselves at different times to affect decision-making. It is useful to evaluate the notion of transparency and accountability of political parties against this backdrop.
9.     Citizens will become more aware, which may influence their votes, and perhaps the way political parties work. It will uncover records — or the fact that there are no records — kept by them. These will slowly change the government, and institutions will become more accountable as currently there is no law which mandates the political parties to maintain books of records. Even if some embarrassing information is revealed, it would lead to improvements in their functioning.

Views Against
1.     Political parties are not governmental organizations or state-funded entities. There was no constitutional provision for a political party. A political party is an association of citizens who come together voluntarily to form a party on the basis of an ideology, programme and leadership.
2.     The political parties allege that they are not substantially funded by the government rather by their supporters including people, corporate houses etc.
3.     Under the present law, every recognized political party had to submit its annual statement of accounts and finances to the Income Tax Department and to the Election Commission. The Election Commission had been providing information about political parties’ audited accounts and finances to anyone who applied for it under the RTI Act.
4.     The political party concerned can move for their disqualification. This has been cited to accord political parties a statutory status. This is obfuscation. The relevant issue is to stop defection by elected representatives who betray the mandate given to them. It applies to members of legislative bodies but does not apply to other members of parties who are free to leave a party and join another. But this disqualification of a member can be done only by the presiding officer of the House and not by a political party.
5.     Under the law currently, parties are already accountable to the income tax authorities, the Election Commission and, in their political performance, the people. There is already a mechanism for accountability available. The RTI Act envisages that information on record must be furnished to any citizen, unless the entity is exempt as per the provisions of Section 8 or 9.  The information commission comes into the picture only when there is a dispute between the citizen and a PIO on the issue of providing information. Essentially, CIC has done now is that it has made political parties accountable to the information commission under the garb of making them accountable to people. The RTI is a citizen empowerment tool, not a commission empowerment one.
6.     Approach to regulation is not normative. It is instrumental. It is a function of our gut instincts of trust and distrust. Since we distrust political parties at the moment, we assume they ought to be regulated more tightly.
7.     The CIC adduces that “in spirit these political parties can be said to have been constituted by their registration by the election commission of India, a fact akin to establishment or constitution of a body or an institution by an appropriate government”. But, even a marriage is valid only when recognized by a public authority; it does not mean public authority institutes the marriage. Merely registration doesn’t makes it public authority and accountable.
8.     There is a case for disclosing funding sources. It jeopardizes freedom of association if we think all internal decisions of parties should be subject to some form of legal or public scrutiny. The order may pave the way for far-reaching interference in the internal affairs of parties.

Difficulties in Implementation
The decision of the CIC, if implemented, will have far-reaching implications for containing corruption. This is, however, not likely to happen for the following reasons:
1.     In the case of political parties, there is limited scope for the enforcement of the penalty clauses as per Section 20 (1 and 2) of the RTI Act, through which the CIC imposes monetary penalty and recommends disciplinary action against the public information officer (PIO). It would be difficult to recover compensation from parties, if awarded to information seekers under Section 19 (8)(b) of the act, on grounds of perpetual harassment for obtaining information. It is alleged that a few office bearers of parties have dubious character and criminal records. If such persons are appointed PIOs, who will dare approach them for accessing information, by putting himself in danger?
2.     The organizational structure of government bodies and that of voluntary associations like political parties is totally different. The RTI Act has been adopted keeping in view government servants, who plan and execute policies and programmes for the welfare of the people.

Therefore, a large part of the act, mainly Section 4 that deals with the maximum disclosure of information about a public authority, and Section 8 that deals with exemptions from disclosure, are entirely irrelevant for political parties.

Similarly, there are provisions, such as Section 2(j), which require the public authority to allow scrutiny of the day-to-day affairs and activities. This may not, however, be desirable due to the voluntary nature of such functions. Clearly, the CIC cannot afford to be oblivious to the role of a political party in a democratic country.

Other options
·     Section 2(h) of the act has been defined such that public authorities could be easily identified. Those bodies not covered in the definition of public authorities could be asked to furnish the information under Section 2(f), which stipulates that a citizen can seek any "information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force".
·     In view of this, instead of holding political parties as public authorities, irrespective of the functions they perform, the CIC could have asked the EC to obtain the desired information under Section 2(f) from the concerned parties and that information could be shared with the requester.
·     Such an order could have served the twin purpose of putting details of political funding in the public domain and avoiding unnecessary legal controversy on whether political parties could be brought within the ambit of the RTI Act as public authorities.

-     Vijay Laxmi Merita (Student of

Additional Readings

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Reading List

A regular query by most of the new entrants to civil service preparation is, what books I should read, what magazines should i track, what newspapers I should follow etc. In the first among a series of posts, I will share with you some of the interesting sources from which you can gather information, some good books to build your basic understanding, books to broaden your thought etc.

This post is especially for those of you who are planning to give your preliminary examination in 2014 and those of you who feel that they have the time to go through at least some of these books. I wouldn’t recommend students expecting to appear for mains 2013 to read these now, as the time you have is very limited and very precious.  These books are mere suggestions and you can either choose to read all or part or even none.  I will write individual review of each of these books soon, to give you a preview of its contents.

§        India after Gandhi -Ramchandra Guha / India Since Independence- Bipin Chandra  (post Independence India )
§        India Unbound- Gurucharan Das (impact of liberalisation on Indian Economy)
§        Everyone Love’s a good Drought- P Sainath (Rural India and its problems)
§        Indian Development- Amartya Sen ( Indian Development model and its Analysis)
§        India’s Struggle for Independence- Bipin Chandra ( Indian Freedom Struggle)
§        Idea of India- Sunil Khilnani  ( Anlysis of the Idea of India)
§        Pax Indicana- Shashi Tharoor/ Does the Elephant Dance- David M Malone  (Contemporary Indian foreign Policy)
§        The Argumentative Indian - Amartya Sen (Interesting Analysis of various issues)
§        Making Breakthrough Innovation Happen- Porus Munshy ( inspiring innovation stories from India)

If you can cover these books or some of these it could have a profound impact on your understanding over various issues and give you clarity on many things you have your doubts on. And in these changed syllabus and new pattern, these books could give you a broader understanding of issues and an edge over other students. Eventually it is your conceptual clarity and subject understanding that will reflect in your answers. If you have read any of these books do share your review and opinion on the same. Looking forward to your feedbacks.