Coal Ministry should ensure commercial coal mining does not contribute to human rights abuses

By Amnesty International India
Bengaluru: 28 April 2018 5:20 pm

The Cabinet decision to open commercial coal mining to private companies could have potential human rights implications for indigenous Adivasi people, Amnesty International India said today.   

On 20 February 2018, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved the opening up of commercial coal mining to private companies. Previously, only state-owned companies such as Coal India Limited were permitted to mine coal for commercial use.

Mining by both state-owned and private companies has frequently been linked to human rights abuses in several states and international law.

The 2014 report of a high level government-appointed committee on the status of Adivasi communities stated that the entry of private companies into Adivasi areas “has been met with considerable resistance by tribal communities”. The committee said: “Most studies document that the rehabilitation has been slip-shod, half- hearted and majority of the condition of displaced and project affected people is much worse off than before displacement with many being forced to migrate in search of work.” When Adivasi people protest, the Committee said, they are “met with violence by the State’s paramilitary forces and the private security staff of corporations involved.”

Amnesty International India’s work has uncovered several human rights abuses related to the activities of private mining companies. In Odisha, Amnesty found that a bauxite mine and refinery proposed by a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta resources violated the rights of Adivasi people to water, food, health and work, among other rights.

In Chhattisgarh, Adivasi residents of Raigarh have told Amnesty International India that they were threatened, coerced, intimidated and forced to sell their lands by the agents of three private companies.

“Government must take measures to protect rights of people, particularly indigenous Adivasi communities, from abuses by private and state-owned companies,” said Ashwini KP, senior campaigner, Amnesty International India.

Much of India’s coal lies under the lands which hold most of the country’s dense forests and are home to indigenous Adivasi communities. About 70 per cent of India’s coal is located in the central and eastern states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, where over 26 million members of Adivasi communities live.

International human rights standards require states to consult with indigenous peoples to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting legislative or administrative measures that may affect them. However, the decision of the Cabinet to open up commercial coal mining to private companies does not seem to have involved any consultation with Adivasi groups, who are likely to be affected by the measure.

“The government should have, as a precautionary measure, consulted Adivasi communities to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before proceeding with theirs decision. We urge the Ministry to, at the very least, obtain the consent of Adivasi communities before operationalizing this decision,”said Ashwini KP.

Amnesty International India has written to Piyush Goyal, Minister of Coal, raising these concerns and urged him to:

  • Take steps to ensure that commercial coal mining by private or state-owned companies do not contribute to human rights abuses.
  • Ensure that the provisions of the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, the Forest Rights Act, and the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, are implemented with regard to any coal mining by private companies.

For more information please contact:

Smriti Singh
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 080 4938 8000