Maoists extorting explosives from illegal mining firms

Last Updated: Thu, Dec 09, 2010 13:40 hrs

New Delhi, Dec 9 (IANS) The administration's failure to control illegal mining in the rush for economic growth has resulted in arming of the Maoists, a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) released Thursday said.

The report said that unregulated mining has resulted in hundreds of people - mainly Adivasis - being dispossessed of their lands, without resettlement and rehabilitation.

It said the Maoists were extorting 'tax', in the form of explosives, from the illegal mining companies.

'Since the start of the current Maoist uprising in 2005, anyone who questions mining is considered a 'pro-Maoist'. Favouring corporate interests at the expense of security is a high risk strategy. Where state governments have allowed illegal mines, supplies of explosives must follow,' the report said.

Union Minister of Mines B.K. Handique had informed parliament in March that between 2006-09, 161,040 illegal mines were detected in 17 states. This, the report said, is just a fraction of the number of illegal mines operating.

Despite this, state governments filed court cases in just 20,646 cases, indicating a failure to control illegal mining on the states' behalf.

The states in question are Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Orissa, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh among others.

Suhas Chakma, chairman of ACHR, said: 'The Maoists are getting explosives directly from the mines. In a number of districts like Latehar in Jharkhand, the state is not in control. The mining companies have to pay a 'tax' to the Maoists.'

'The tax goes beyond cash. Insurgent groups need explosives that mining companies can provide and these companies, both legal and illegal, operating in areas where the state cannot offer security are in no position to refuse,' he added.

The report said: 'At the political level, corporate interests are favoured over national interest. Neither the Explosives Act, 1884, nor the Explosives Rules revised in 2008 provide any specific requirement to ensure that explosives sanctioned to licensees are used only for lawful purposes.'

To address this, the report suggests that the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill should include the security angle. It also suggests that the Explosives Rules, 2008, must be amended to include stringent provisions to regulate the use of explosives including on the spot end use verification.

'So long as explosives for mining are not brought within the ambit of security agencies, India will continue to handle explosives to insurgent groups, including the Maoists. Existing illegal mines must be closed down on a priority basis,' it said.

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