Appeal Letter for rejecting the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill 2014

C-52, Sector -1 Shankar Nagar, Raipur, Chhattisgarh, Pincode 492007, 09977634040
No.   110/ 14                                                                                                                                                                                                     December 11th , 2014
Appeal Letter for rejecting the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill 2014
Hon’ble Members of Parliament,
Union of India
Subject: Appeal to reject the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill 2014 on grounds of it being against the core Constitutional and Legislative framework of the country and being driven solely by narrow corporate interests while completely ignoring the peoples’ interests
Dear Sir / Ma’m,
As you are aware, the Government is planning to introduce and pass the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill 2014 against the backdrop of recent judgment by the Hon’ble Supreme Court cancelling the allotment of 214 coal blocks that had been allotted to various public and private parties since 1993. As you would recall, in its landmark judgment, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had clearly elucidated how mining and utilization of valuable natural resources should strictly be driven by national interests rather than for commercial profiteering by private companies. This was a historic opportunity for the Government to devise visionary, long-term strategies and policy measures to utilize valuable natural resources in the strategic interests of the nation and the people who own these resources.
However, with undue haste, has come up with The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill 2014 to completely nullify the effect of the Supreme Court judgment. This bill not only fritters away this historic opportunity to sincerely reflect and come up with a visionary legislation but moves decisively against the national and peoples’ interests’ in favor of the industry and the corporate, completely disregarding the spirit of the Supreme Court Judgment. Some of the key issues with this new bill are highlighted below:
1.       Opens up commercial mining for sale and private profit – Against the intent of the Supreme Court and completely violating the Coal Mines Nationalization Act, the Bill allows commercial mining for sale or any other purpose with no regard or restriction to specified end-use requirements. This would leave the sector vulnerable to commercial profiteering inviting various hoarders, black marketers, resale agents, etc. and rapid exploitation & frittering away of scarce coal reserves of the country. This would also weaken public sector companies like Coal India Limited.
2.       Attacks the federal structure of the Constitution – The Bill seeks to centralize the entire process of coal allocation without any room for consultation with States or elected local representatives. The role of state governments has been reduced to mere rubber stamps. Mining being and important issue for management of local ecology & environment as well as with huge implications for local population, was placed in concurrent list in the Constitution which envisaged a significant role for States in driving the application process, this was also validated by the recent Supreme Court order. The Bill negates entire role of State in the application process, while leaving them with the responsibility and liability of obtaining social consent.
3.       The bill represents an attack on the judiciary and due process of law – The Bill nullifies the Supreme Court order completely by systematically altering all the key grounds on which Supreme Court had held previous allocations as illegal e.g. formation of joint ventures, mining for strict end-use, no private profiteering, etc. Moreover, the Bill contains provisions to nullify all previous orders / decrees of court, tribunals or other authorities passed prior to the Bill / Ordinance with regard to these cancelled mines on grounds of various illegalities & irregularities.
4.       Would weaken public sector companies like Coal India Limited – The Bill contains no provisions to safeguard the interests of public sector undertakings even while allowing unrestricted entry of private sector companies, including in joint ventures. This might lead to cherry-picking of projects against the interests of Coal India Limited by private companies and could result in a rapid concentration of coal in a few hands. The provisions to allow private companies to undertake joint ventures with PSUs will further weaken the PSUs as had been the experience with past coal mine projects that were allocated to PSUs but then formed join ventures with private companies like Adani which then took full control of mining operations.
5.       Makes a mockery of due processes for ascertaining environmental impact and obtaining social consent – The Bill allows for auction of coal mines and realization of proceeds before forest clearances, environmental clearances or gram sabha consents. This is likely to present these approvals / consents with a fait accompli implying wide-scale damage to the environment and violation of rights of vulnerable tribal and farmer communities.
6.       Against the interests of mine workers and labour unions – Promotes large-scale privatization with limited protective mechanisms for the rights of mine workers and labour unions. Moreover, the Bill prohibits any prior claim for wages, bonus, royalty, rent, taxes, provident fund, pension, gratuity or any other dues against the mine, the allottee or the Government removing the scope for remedying any existing irregularity with regard to functioning of the mines.
7.       Seeks to promote large-scale acquisition of land at marginal compensation and limited relief & rehabilitation without consent – Provides for land acquisition using Coal Bearing Areas Act 1957 making a mockery of the consent requirements and provisions for compensation, relief and rehabilitation of the Land Acquisition Act 2013.
8.       Restricts scope for remedying past irregularities with existing mining projects –  On the one hand, the Bill allows for automatic vesting of all clearances with the new bidder without any room for rectifying the various existing process irregularities pertaining to these clearances & consents. On the other hand, it restricts any legal or other remedies pertaining to the original allottee only as a personal remedy, making them completely meaningless. It also protects mining operations that are being carried out with complete disregard for all environmental compliance and norms.
9.       Aims to drown opposition and people’s voices against genuine grievances and concerns – The Bill nullifies previous orders/decrees of court, tribunals or other authorities passed prior to the ordinance with regard to these mines. Also contains provisions for heavy penalty of Rs 1-2 lakhs per day for any person accused of causing obstruction or impediment in takeover of mines by the bidder.
The ordinance also fails to incorporate the long standing demand that a thorough environmental and social impact assessment of the entire coalfield be undertaken before splitting it into smaller coal blocks which process tends to undermine the overall ecological, social and environmental impact of the various coal mining projects. Overall, this ordinance will lead to blatant exploitation of scarce natural resources for narrow gains of corporate to the detriment of India’s ecology, environment and climate. This will also result in large scale displacement and violation of rights of marginalized adivasis and poor farmers.
In summary, this is a completely anti-people legislation that sacrifices people’s interests at the altar of corporate profits. We, therefore, urge you to strongly condemn this Bill and scrap it completely while proposing an alternate legislation that is more in-tune with the peoples’ interests.
Alok Shukla (Convener)
Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan
1.      Heera Sing Markam, National president  (Akhil Godwana Mahasangh)
2.      Com. Manish Kunjam, Com. C R Bakshi       ( Akhil Bhartiy Adivasi Mahasabah)
3.      Anand Mishra (Kheti Bachao Jivan Bachao Andolan)
4.      Sudha Bharadwaj (PUCL Chhattisgarh)
5.      Kalyan Patel (Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, Majdoor Karykarta Samiti)
6.      Com. Nand Kumar Kashyap, Sanjay Parate (Chhattisgarh kisan Sabha)
7.      Vijay Bhai, Jansay Poya (Bharat Jan Andolan)
8.      Amarnath Pandey (Rashtriy Vajib Majdoori Adhikar Morcha)
9.      Keshav Shori (Janadhikar Sangthan, Kanker)
10.  S R Netam (Akhil Bhartiy Adivasi Vikas Parishad , Chhattisgarh Unit Raipur)
11.  Sevti Panna (Jashpur Jila Bachao Sangharsh Samiti)
12.  Lakhan Singh (PUCL Chhattisgah)
13.  Rinchin (Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan Raigarh)
14.  Mamta Kujur (Mahila Maha Sangha, Jashpur)
15.  Umeshwar singh Armo (Hasdev Arany Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, Sarguja)
16.  Ramakant Banjare (Visthapan Virodhi Manch)
17.  Anil Sharma (Kisan Sabha Chhttisgarh)
18.  Kaushal Kumar (Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Dhamtari)
19.  Raju Samsun (Janshakti Sangthan)
20.  Indu Netam (Adivasi Jan Van Adhikar Mancha)
21.  Mehnatkash Aavas Adhikar Sangh,Raipur
22.   Digri Prasad Chohan, A P Josi, Priyanshu Gupta, Ajay TG

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