Special Correspondent

Kolkata: The public sector Coal India Ltd which produces nearly 85 per cent of the country’s coal, has suggested to the government that it be allowed to adopt a customised, flexible policy regarding rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) of the thousands of people it needs to relocate while starting a mine.

This is crucial for reaching its 11th plan production target, which requires it to produce an addition 159 million tonnes of coal at an investment of Rs.18,000 crore against the 80 million tonnes increase it achieved between 2002 and 2007.

The suggestion, now before the Union Coal Ministry for pursuing with relevant authorities, is being made in the backdrop of a growing fear that the present R&R policy is not adequate and acquiring land for CIL’s new projects was becoming increasingly difficult in the wake of the agitations, especially in the mineral-rich States, against acquisition of farmland for industry.

Demand and supply

According to CIL chairman Partha S. Bhattacharyya, CIL needs 42,000 hectares of land if it is to meet its 11th plan production target of 520 million tonnes. This output will still leave a gap between coal demand and supply but is considered a crucial input in India’s energy security. CIL now has 1.28 lakh hectares in its possession in West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

While the present policy does stipulate provision of employment for every land oustee having more than two acres of land and CIL is keen to spend on training facilities to enhance the employability of land oustees, it feels that customising packages in consultation with local people could be a better way of resolving the issue.

Delivering the 50th Holland Memorial lecture here, he said that mining was a vibrant industry now and there was a strong case for these industries to make provisions for social costs and spend the amount for making fundamentally positive changes in the livelihood of people around the mines.

Quite often, the mining companies substituted these efforts by providing employment to a handful of land oustees, but this process inherently ignored the interest of a large number of project-affected people who were left out from employment thus increasing inequality.