On Central Government’s Mineral Policies and for Tribal Rights

Adopted at the 20th Congress of the CPI(M), Kozhikode, April 4-9, 2012
On Central Government’s Mineral Policies and for Tribal Rights
The 20th Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) expresses it strong opposition to the mineral mining policies being followed by the Central Government which have led to the loot and plunder of the country’s natural resources. Instead of holding the mineral wealth in Public Trust for the long term benefit of the country and her people, the Government has misused its absolute and arbitrary powers to provide huge profits and windfall gains to private mining companies, global and national, while exploiting and dispossessing the masses dependent on these lands. While the Central and State Governments legally maintain ownership of the mineral resources they have in fact virtually handed over all prospecting as well as extraction rights to private companies. 
The Central Government while granting mining leases has fixed extremely low royalty rates. The mining companies have made huge profits. For example the Central Government has recently fixed the royalty for iron ore at just 10 per cent of the value of the mined iron ore after supposedly discussing with the so-called stakeholders, namely the big mining companies. Royalty is equally low for other major minerals.
Much of the mineral wealth is under land occupied either collectively or individually by tribal communities or under common property resources like forests and in Fifth Schedule areas. International conventions adopted by the United Nations as well as the International Labour Organisation have recognized the rights of tribal communities on land and surface and sub-surface resources. Many countries including Canada, Brazil, South Africa and Australia have been forced to at least acknowledge in different ways the rights of indigenous communities on mineral wealth in their respective countries.
But in India, where an overwhelming majority of mines are located in adivasi areas, the tribals have not only been denied these rights but have been driven out of their lands through forcible acquisition or denied access. The spirit of the Samatha judgement of the Supreme Court to recognize tribal ownership rights has been ignored. The legal requirement under PESAA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act 1996) and the Forest Rights Act  for consent of the gram sabha is blatantly violated. On the contrary even where the gram sabha has opposed a particular project, the land is forcibly acquired as for example in the bauxite rich tribal areas in Vishakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh and Kalahandi in Orissa.
In the face of growing resistance by tribal communities, the Central Government is proposing an amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation Act) 2011, to make it mandatory for companies to give funds for tribal development in districts where they have mining leases. The funds are to be put in a District Mineral Foundation Fund which will be under the control of the administration. Coal companies are to give 26 per cent of their profits to the Fund. Companies mining other major minerals are to pay only the equivalent of annual royalty, which is a pittance. The earlier proposal to ensure profit sharing for all mining was shelved under pressure from the mining magnates. Now, in the name of “sharing” the benefits, the amendment could become the gateway for further liberalization for companies to enter tribal areas and loot the wealth.
The 20th Party Congress holds that this proposal is nothing but tokenism which does not address the basic issue of the rights of tribals to be recognized as stakeholders in the mineral wealth. The control of the use of the fund in the hands of the bureaucracy also makes a mockery of the process of consultation and consent.
The 20th Party Congress demands a complete reversal of the present policies of the Government on mineral mining.
It demands that the Government must not hand over mineral wealth of the country to private companies through leases or user rights or any other mechanism. Prospecting and mining should be undertaken only by the Government through the public sector or fully state owned enterprises after securing prior informed consent from the Gram Sabhas of communities who use these lands. The Government must also legally recognize tribals as stakeholders in the ownership and usufructuary rights through an appropriate mechanism. It demands suitable amendments in the pending Bill

It calls upon party units, particularly in affected States where tribals are being displaced from land in the name of mining, to launch resistance struggles for these demands and for tribal rights.