“There is enormous and large scale multi-state illegal mining of iron ore and manganese ore running into thousands of crores every year, having several pernicious and evil effects on the national economy, good governance, public functionaries, bureaucracy, public order, law and order. It has encouraged huge corruption at all different levels in public life, mafia in society and money power…This has to be stopped immediately and effectively”
These were the findings of the Commission constituted by the Parliament of India in 2010 headed by the retired Supreme Court Justice M.B. Shah. Due to rising economy and increased energy patterns in India, the Mining sector has boomed like a rocket in last 5 years. Due to weak and irregular framework present to regulate this sector, the problem of illegal mining is today’s one of the prime problem that till now Indian Government has failed to address. This data is way too old but still for the understanding of our readers, till 2010 alone, 82,000 cases of illegal mining were recorded by the Indian Government. United Nations has expressed a deep concern for this type of filthy and corrupted practice being persuaded by the Indian Government in trade and economic growth. The recent order of SC to ban the illegal mining activities in the Aravalli hills lying in Haryana and Rajasthan have once again raised the concerns of the Indian Government in context to the Mining sector of India.
What do you mean by illegal mining? Illegal mining means mining, raising, transporting and exporting the minerals from the ore illegally or without the consent or permission of any lawful authority. Therefore by studying various case studies, I can summary up the illegal mining in the following points,
1- Mining without a license
2- Mining outside the lease area
3- Undertaking mining in lease area without the prior approval of the state government (List II, entry no. 23)
4- Raising of minerals without lawful authority
5- Raising minerals without giving royalties subscribed by the proper grades and quantities.
6- Mining and Transportation in contravention to the rules and acts provided by the Centre and State.
7- Carrying out multiple trade transactions to make unclear the origin and source of minerals in order to facilitate their disposal.
8- Manipulating the land records
9- Deleting the interstate boundaries with the view to encroach mining outside the lease area.
10- Forging or misusing valid transportation permits and other documents to raise, transport and export minerals.
These all parameters constitute what we call as “Illegal Mining”. The major legal provisions which regulate the mining business and affairs are – Mines and Minerals (development and Regulation) Act, 1957, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
These were some of the specific details about the illegal mining, but coming onto the dark and the important side of this ‘bad game’. More than 5000 rural households are employed in this illegal mining business. The theory behind this is that most of the families in rural areas of Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh does not even have a fuel to light their stoves, food to fulfill their empty stomachs, clean drinking water facilities, proper sanitation facilities, diesel or petrol for their vehicles, electricity in their hutments, education facilities for their children, proper support and redressal systems for their sufferings and over that the wrath of the loans and banks that they took for their agricultural bank which now they are unable to pay due to lack of rains, misguiding habits of local officers and many other elements. Than as we say “Bhookkamaara”, these people couldn’t decide what they have to take and what not to. The mining contractors have taken the advantage of all this situations and as the result, today the biggest threat from regularizing this illegal trade is to these rural households who are on the edge of their death. There is not a single proper mechanism with the government that how to protect or provide the rehabilitation to these poor families. Simply, shutting down these illegal mining centers and imposing a legal ban and financial obstacle like fines and penalties won’t solve the problem, but let me think, who am I talking to, this government does even care to think in this way? Do they even care about those rural kids who are wasting their life playing in that sand mine, which they do not even know what exactly is, or do the government care about all those 5000 rural households who haven’t slept in a room with a proper fan and light upon his head? The only option which I see that government is looking for is legalizing this illegal trade, regularizing the illegal mining game, there is no need for law, because we are not able to and cannot curb this practice down, than are we moving from Democracy towards to the Anarchy? Are we going to run the principles of our founding fathers and their constitution on the idea of anarchism?
If one analyses and observes these illegal mining instances, the mining boards that have been deployed in this filthy mining culture are big financial monsters that have been eating and destroying our natural and regular set-up governing the mining business? According to my personal observation, the file for requesting the clearance of mining is normally in the frame work of the ‘single file system’. The file is initiated at the office of the Director of Mines, than to the government secretary and then to the concerned Minister or Chief Minister. It means that ultimate right of giving clearance to the mining contractors lies with the concerned minister or the Chief Minister. Now obviously one can conclude, that any project that is ready with their money-fuelled financial weapons by a big business tycoon, can now be refused from getting a clearance to the mine. And once he is done with the clearance part, the money power is now ready to be increased by encroaching more than what is mentioned in the mining lease. The reason why I can say this by being so damn sure is because, how one can expect that minister who is approving a clearance (that too after two stages) cannot know what the contractors propose to do, what are their financial credentials and what is their ultimate objective i.e. personal financial enhancement. And being a law student transforming this logical premises into legal dimension, according to Section 24 of Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, it empowers the Central and State Government to inspect any mine any time for any purpose. But while going through the cases pending in the various tribunals and courts, since more than 5 or 3 years no authorized person from neither the state government nor the central government, visited the mines for inspection, be it Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka or any state located in whole of the India (one can visit the official websites of National Green Tribunals and High Courts for these cases on Illegal Mining of Minerals), where this business of illegal mining is going on. Now reading this section even a child could tell, that some conspiracy between the contractors and the ministries have been going on. Otherwise, how a government having a statutory right or power cannot visit a mine, that also not for a month or a year but for more than 5 years. Another thing which I can conclude from this scenario is, there are enough legislations and acts on these malpractises going on, but there is no one to take record on them or a check on them. The Political members have failed to keep an eye on these issues because they are shut down with the weight of financial layer(s) that have been kept upon them and the executive classes have botched to implement them.
Secondly, the absence of professionalism, honesty, dedication has created a dis-harmony between the different departments of the government. The state pollution control boards never visited the fields even on the notice by the government. The licenses were never checked that whether they are to be renewed or cancelled. Going through the reports by Justices M.B. Shah and Lokayukta of Karnataka, round about 30 such instances in both the states relating to state pollution control board appeared. The shifting of responsibilities from state pollution control boards and other departments to the state government and vice-versa has been the prime source due to which, till now the Judiciary is unable to produce something substantial and have a hit at it. Thirdly, this illegal mining has been carried out with the help of heavy machineries and gunda power. The police have never initiated proceedings against any of these organizations, no FIR or any other record is present in any of the Police Stations that are in-charge of such operations. According to the analysts, many of the big police officers does not even wants to get involved in this, due to bureaucratic and political pressure from the above authorities that present above them in the scheme of state management. The machineries have a unscrupulous conditions which are contributing to the land, air and water pollution to its fullest. In many state, the great environmentalists have concerned deeply for the contamination of the drinking water due to which everyday hundreds of cattle’s and agricultural fields are being destroyed.
This game seems to be unstoppable by the Indian Authorities. The time has come that even the orders directed by the Hon’ble SC are not being observed. Step like employing more workforces at lower level has to be taken up. Flying Squads should be constituted to inspect regularly the mines and record their activities. A team or committee should be constituted which can suggest government whether to issue clearance to particular project or not within a short span of time should be initiated. The information related to mines (lease area, contractor, district, financial set-up etc.) should be published in the official website of the Coal Ministry. An Action Initiation Team (AIT) at various levels should be constituted that will keep check on the Political and Executive members that they are discharging their duties properly or not. They should be free from any influence and pressure, Judicial members would be ideal for it. Report relating to the rural people that are being employed in the project along with their details of income, house, food etc. should be prepared and should be given to the appropriate ministry so that if such illegal activities are being active than an appropriate rehab process and action can be planned out. On the part of various state departments and pollution control boards, regular evaluation should take place without any internal displacement. Judiciary should act quickly on the pending matters and take all possible steps to eradicate such unfair trade practice from our nation. More transparent and accountable process for leasing of mines and related aspects should be done by way of publishing it in Gazette, websites of official organizations. Corruption seems to be persisting problem in this sector of our economy.
Principles of democracy should be saved and nurtured. The rural households have to be taken care of, that while out rooting these trade contractors we should not infringe their rights and life. The strength of India lies in efficient and effective restoration of our mining sector and other power sectors. Energy sector and Infrastructure facilities of our nation should be developed by regulating the illegal trade practices of our nation. Every individual’s right should be protected than only the democracy of our India could be saved from getting converted into ‘Anarchy’- a state of lawlessness.