‘Centre has to help states in rehabilitation work’

Jharkhand accounts for over 27% of India's coal reserves–the highest among states--but has failed to leverage the fuel to attract investment into its power generation sector. In comparison, Chhattisgarh with its relatively lower coal reserves has emerged as a power generation hub, and is exporting power to other states. Jharkhand was created out of the Bihar state in 2000. Babulal Marandi, who held reins of power as Jharkhand's first chief minister until 2003—and is also the national president of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik), a party founded by him—talks to FE's Noor Mohammad about factors impeding development of coal mines in the state. Excerpts:

Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have a similar coal resource base. While the latter has become a power generation hub, Jharkhand is still struggling to attract investment?

Local resistance has emerged as a key obstacle to harnessing the state's coal resources in a speedy manner. People have become aware of their rights and are insisting on proper rehabilitation before cooperating in extraction of coal. What makes coal mining more difficult in Jharkhand is its relatively higher population density. Maoism is not a major problem to developing coal blocks expeditiously.

The Centre plans to start auction of coal blocks. It has also proposed legislative changes to stipulate for coal companies to contribute 26% of net profit for local development. What other policy changes can be initiated to win the confidence of locals?

If the rehabilitation work is left to states, they cannot deliver. The Centre needs to come forward to help states. People who lose their land due to mining projects should be allotted an equal area of forest land. The mining area should also be declared a forest area post-mining. These things cannot be done without the support of the Centre which owns the forest land. Further, rehabilitation work should be done only after a detailed survey of project-affected people. It also does not matter whether blocks are allocated through auction or on a nomination basis because the real problem is local resistance. I am against the proposed auction of coal blocks.

... contd.

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