It will prove to be the proverbial ‘Manna’ for lakhs of poorest of poor people in the country, most of them uneducated tribals who are leading a miserable life. If the Central government’s efforts materialise, these tribals’ hands will soon be full of money in lieu of their land, besides an annual payment from the mining companies who acquire their land.
The Central government is drafting a legislation, known as the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Bill in this regard under the supervision of a group of senior central ministers. Under the Bill, the government is to make it mandatory for rich mining companies to hand over a part of their revenues and make annual payments to land losers, bringing compensation rules in this sector in line with a policy followed by the Haryana government which has won the backing of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
In the wake of the government’s recent decision to deny permission to mine bauxite to Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta in Orissa’s Niyamgiri, the new bill has become extremely high-profile. While that decision was prompted by the project’s alleged impact on the environment, wider concerns about the impact of mining on local populations have come into the limelight.
The government’s proposal has also received the backing of the Congress party that has thrown its weight behind the drive to maximise benefits for project-affected families, especially in the mineral-rich but backward areas of the country. Many such areas are inhabited by tribals, which have the highest percentage of people living below the poverty line.