Mining and quarrying

Battle for minerals

Print edition : April 29, 2016
Chhattisgarh is fast turning into a police state where officialdom is trying to clear the path for corporate mining interests.

Once again Chhattisgarh has hit the national headlines for issues relating to police excesses and the free rein that anti-Maoist vigilante groups seem to enjoy in areas that have long been rocked by insurgent trouble. Anyone speaking against the police atrocities is branded a Maoist sympathiser and thrown into jail or driven out of the district. It must be noted that Chhattisgarh is one of the most mineral-rich States in the country.

The mining and quarrying sector has been contributing over Rs.2 lakh crore to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in recent years. In 2013-14, the accrual to GDP was Rs.2,22,652 crore, the Indian Bureau of Mines said in its Indian Minerals Yearbook 2014. The Bureau functions under the Union Ministry of Mines and Minerals.

That year, the top contributors to the accrual to the GDP were Odisha (39 per cent) and Chhattisgarh (21 per cent). These two States are also home to vast tracts of forest areas and high populations of members of the Scheduled Tribes (S.Ts) and, unsurprisingly, a strong Maoist presence.

The average daily employment in mining in 2013-14 was an estimated 5,12,270 persons, with public sector companies accounting for 78 per cent. The public sector also accounted for 59 per cent of the total value of production, or Rs.1,67,985 crore, despite operating only 741 mines compared with the private sector’s 3,238. The total value of mineral production showed a marginal increase at Rs.2,82,726 crore from Rs.2,79,999 crore in 2012-13. Fuels accounted for about 66 per cent, with metallic, non-metallic and minor minerals accounting for the rest.

Chhattisgarh has a high S.T. population of 78.2 lakh, about 7.5 per cent of the country’s total S.T. population of 10.4 crore. Data from the National Crime Records Bureau show that it stood fourth in the number of crimes against S.Ts in 2014, after Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.

Bastar, the third largest district in the State, is one of the worst affected in terms of state terror. Nearly 66 per cent of the population is S.T. and its literacy rate at 54.4 per cent is much lower than 70.3 per cent for the State. Only 51.4 per cent of the households have electricity and 90.8 per cent of them use firewood for cooking.