Ensuring quality of life for those affected by India’s mining revolution – ET Infra

Archana Sinha

India‘s stride towards auctioning commercial coal mines has not only marked a major milestone but also beckons a critical juncture in managing its abundant natural resources. With a successful auction of 92 coal blocks across seven trenches, the Indian government has attracted a substantial capital investment of approximately Rs 34,486 crore, poised to generate employment for around 3,10,818 individuals.

The Ministry of Coal has projected an annual revenue of roughly Rs 34,185 crore from this transformative initiative.

Amidst the celebrations and achievements of the government and mining lease holders, it is paramount to recognize the most pivotal stakeholders – the Project Affected Persons (PAPs). The development of nearly 100 coal blocks, sprawling across thousands of square kilometers, comes at the cost of displacing hundreds of thousands from coal-rich regions. This inevitable migration is driven by the nation’s pursuit of energy security.

However, historical precedence has illuminated the environmental toll of mining industries, often prioritizing profit over ecological balance, coupled with inadequate rehabilitation efforts. Compensation packages offered in exchange for acquired lands need to be more equitable. Involuntary displacement not only infringes upon human rights but also deprives affected communities of fundamental necessities such as food, water, shelter, healthcare, education, mobility, and security.

Existing resettlement policies and compensation mechanisms necessitate enhancement to effectively restore normalcy and livelihoods, with the added challenge of combating systemic corruption.

Ironically, existing studies in this domain have omitted an essential consideration – the Quality of Life and its intricate connection to happiness. Our recent research, titled ‘___,’ endeavors to comprehensively gauge life quality within the broader framework of happiness, fostering a holistic approach and model.

Within this framework, we present eight hypotheses, scrutinizing job opportunities, income prospects, housing affordability, health security, infrastructure, social bonds, and environmental sustainability. Through a rigorous examination of these indicators, we sought to validate their impact on Quality of Life and happiness, drawing on primary data collected from PAPs.

The findings underscore that job availability, income prospects, and healthcare security have received due attention through systematic approaches employed by coal companies under their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. However, concerns revolving around environmental well-being, housing, infrastructure, and social fabric demand a more comprehensive response.

An illuminating point to consider is the disconcerting rejection rate concerning housing and infrastructure, indicative of the stark mismatch between provisions and community needs.

Our study accentuates the intricate interplay of life indicators, where job opportunities play a pivotal role in determining access to decent housing and healthcare facilities. In 2015, India’s NITI Aayog highlighted the significant transformation in Quality of Life, particularly in terms of health, triggered by the displacement of individuals from mining regions and their vicinities. This underscores the crucial role of project owners in enhancing environmental conditions and overall well-being.

As India’s government strives for self-reliance across various sectors, including mineral and metal production, the mining industry’s growth trajectory remains undeniable. Amidst this surge, it is essential for policymakers and stakeholders to extend their commitment beyond customary compensation measures. Quality of Life cannot remain confined to urban elites; it must resonate with those who stand to lose their land. By ensuring quality, dignity, and a secure future, let us empower the land’s true owners to emerge victorious in this evolving narrative of progress.

(Archana Sinha is a research scholar at Indian Institute of Technology (ISM), Dhanbad and is a faculty member, Birsa Agricultural University, Ranchi.)

  • Published On Sep 4, 2023 at 03:24 PM IST

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