In Search for an Alternative to the Current Mining Policy in the State of Jharkhand, India: Ecological Basis for Sustainability

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"Over the last ten years mining’s contribution to the India’s gross domestic product had stagnated around a mere 2.2-2.5 percent but recently this sector has witnessed the entry of global corporations who have been granted cheap and easy access to mineral resources by the central and the state government, in a desperate bid to augment foreign direct investments into this sector which is facing a significant rise in global demand. Unfortunately in India the best mining prospects lie in heavily forested and tribal-dominated areas, for instance Jharkhand which emerges as an ideal site for exploring the mining and development paradox. Mining in Jharkhand is not a simple ‘dig and sell proposition’ but a complex socio-economic and ecological challenge. Land here is not just a means of livelihood but is intrinsic to the adivasi identity, a fact that featured at the core of the demand for separate statehood. Early tenure laws like the colonial Chotanagpur Tenancy Act, 1098 and the post-independence Santhal Parganas Tenancy Act, 1949 were hailed as products of popular struggle. Even the introduction of the Fifth Schedule within the Constitution of India and the Panchayats (Extension to Schedule Areas) Act 1996 were premised on the belief that tribal-dominated natural resource rich areas are best governed with fewer and special laws. In contrast the current plethora of investor-friendly policy and laws like the National Mineral Policy (for non-fuel and non-coal minerals), 2008; the Model State Mineral Policy 2010 and the draft Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 2010 echo the growing opinion of civil society stakeholders that modern industrial growth requires resources from such regions and not the people. An appropriate framework to critique a developmental model based on mineral resource extraction is by analyzing how different stakeholders, in this case the State, the mining companies and the indigenous tribes relate to the particular natural resource base. The access to natural resources and the burden of ecological degradation are unequally distributed among human actors. Therefore ecological degradation is not a result of human-nature conflict but a conflict between humans. The focus of this paper is less on traditional policy evaluation, and is more aimed at an inter-disciplinary investigation of the legitimizing strategies that lie behind the mining policy in Jharkhand, based on relevant social, economic, legal and ecological indicators to propose a sustainable alternative that balances the imperatives of a biophysically possible and ethicosocial desirable model of growth for the local people."



mining, indigenous institutions, ecology, sustainability