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Hemant Soren says Centre’s decision on coal mine auction a ‘disregard of cooperative federalism’

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Saturday lashed out at the Centre, saying the decision to go-ahead with the auction of coal mines for commercial mining ignoring the State’s concerns was a “blatant disregard of cooperative federalism”.

“The decision by the Union Coal Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office to go ahead with commercial mining and coal block auctions without acknowledging our concerns around the potential socio-economic and environmental costs and the impact on our forests and tribal population is blatant disregard of co-operative federalism,” Mr. Soren said on Twitter.

His attack came two days after the State government moved the Supreme Court challenging the virtual auction process of 41 coal blocks for commercial mining in the country.

“There is a need for fair assessment of the social and environmental impact on the huge tribal population and vast tracts of forestland of the State which are likely to be adversely affected,” the Jharkhand government said in its petition.

‘Reasonable returns unlikely’

It contended that the negative global investment climate prevailing due to COVID-19 was unlikely to fetch reasonable returns proportionate to the value of the scarce natural resources.

 

Jharkhand is ranked first as far as coal reserves in India is concerned. With close to 84 billion tonnes of coal, it possesses 26% of the country’s coal deposit.

In a June 10 letter to Union Coal and Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi, Mr. Soren had sought a moratorium of six to nine months on the auction, stating that the government should wait for more competitive auction which would ensure sustainable mineral development in the State.

“Coal and iron ore are the two most significant minerals which are found in districts that have significant forest cover and host a large proportion of tribal population.”

‘Scientific mining’

“It will be in the larger interest of people of this State if the new policy is able to attract the best foreign and domestic investors who are known to practice scientific mining through latest technological tools. It would be extremely important to minimise the adverse impact of mining activities. It will also be our bounden duty to ensure that the subsequent distribution of wealth arising from such economic activities reaches even most marginalised sections of our society,” the Chief Minister said.

Meanwhile, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha (JJM), a network of activists, said the process of commercial mining was taken up without any consultation with the people and gram sabhas. It gave a call for mass protests against the Central government’s decision to allow commercial coal mining.

“Gram sabhas have effectively demonstrated their ability to manage forest and forest-based products. Mahasabha firmly believes in community ownership of natural resources. Also, agricultural land and forests should not be used for any kind of mining,” said Bharat Bhushan Choudhary, a JJM convener.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 3:05:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/hemant-soren-says-centres-decision-on-coal-mine-auction-a-disregard-of-cooperative-federalism/article31880935.ece

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