On 6th November, MKSS, ICAN and PUCL organized a public hearing on mining in Bhilwara district, Rajasthan. The meeting was attended by Kavita Srivastava, Trilochan Sastry, Prashant Bhushan, Onkar Singh, District Collector, Bhilwara, CO, Zila Parishad, Hiramath, Prithvi, Chunni kaka, Sridhar and Bharat Dogra. In addition the meeting was attended by over 300 people from all over the country, and many districts of Rajasthan.
The public meeting was organized in response to the growing threat to people’s control over their resources, livelihood, and environment in Rajasthan, and thus to determine how to devise an equitable and sustainable mining policy for public good, and environment.
The meeting began with a visit to Thana village, where over a period of 4 years, the villagers transformed barren land which was being encroached upon, into lush common forestry land used for pasture by pooling resources and wage free labour. Examples of 2 other villages were discussed, one where illegal mining was successfully resisted by the village, and another where illegal mining was still rampant.
Some highlights of the discussion are as under:
Chief O, Zila Parishad mentioned that the total royalty in the district from mining was Rs. 4.7 crores out of total profit of Rs 1500 crores. This translates to a less than .3%!
The Collector promised that there will be complete transparency of all mining leases in the district. In the beginning, one block (Mandal) will undertake transparency walls which will detail the mining leases and associated details in that panchayat in one month.
Kavita Srivastava highlighted the devastation being wrought by illegal mining in the Aravalli belt of Rajasthan where there was active nexus between the politicians, bureaucracy and mine owners. As an example of the rampant mining, she detailed that a small village (Dabla) with about 75-100 bighas of stone had 52 mining leases, 5 stone crushers, and 22 sand washing wells, and where resistant was met with massive state repression.
Hiramath discussed people’s struggle to stop illegal mining in Bellary, Karnataka.
Chunni Kaka proposed that village land must belong to villagers, and not the government.
Bharat Dogra raised the issue of illegitimate political power acquired by mining companies internationally, and in India. Highlighted that the issue was a threat to democracy itself. Also proposed that mining must be sustainable and controlled by the workers and people themselves.
Sridhar said that 90% of the mining leases were illegal, and that only 10% of the operational mines were legal. Moreover even the legal mines were flouting labour, environment, and other mining laws.
Trilochan Sastry discussed that it was imperative that all people work in concert to fight illegal mining and rampant violation of legal leases
Prashant Bhushan highlighted the need for gram sabha approval before granting mining leases, and proposed a moratorium on new leases for the next five years
The meeting ended with the following resolutions passed unanimously:-
No mining without agreement by the gram sabha
Mandal block will publish all mining leases in the panchayats of the area
Rajasthan and National policy on mining must be discussed in a widespread manner; until such discussion and consultative amendments if needed, no further leases must be given
Regulation of work environment for labour in mining sites
Mining must be done only through the public sector, and village and workers cooperatives.