Jharkhand opposes Centre’s move to amend coal bill | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Jharkhand opposes Centre’s move to amend coal bill

By, Ranchi
Sep 06, 2023 12:48 AM IST

Jharkhand has forwarded its objections regarding the Coal Bearing Area (Acquisition and Development) Amendment Bill, 2023, which seeks to replace a 1957 law, officials said

The proposed modifications to a law governing coalfields that allow for indefinite leases to state-run miners and diversion of unused acquired land to private entities would hamper the interests of Jharkhand, the state government has said in a letter to the Centre, officials aware of the development said.

The Centre will consider all aspects based on feedback received from the states, said Pratul Shahdeo, spokesperson of the Jharkhand unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (HT Archive)
The Centre will consider all aspects based on feedback received from the states, said Pratul Shahdeo, spokesperson of the Jharkhand unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (HT Archive)

Jharkhand has forwarded its objections regarding the Coal Bearing Area (Acquisition and Development) Amendment Bill, 2023, which seeks to replace a 1957 law, they said.

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“The consultative committee of the Centre had sent us the draft of the amendment Bill seeking our opinion. The department has written back, raising the state’s concerns with certain proposed clauses in the Bill,” said Aboobacker Siddique P, the state’s mines and geology secretary.

Jharkhand is one of the member states of the consultative committee, officials said, and some of the major concerns raised by the state include tweaking rules to extend the lease period indefinitely to state-owned miners that would have a bearing on the royalty paid to the state government.

“As per the section 8 of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 and rule 24 (c) of the Minerals Concession Rules, 1960, the lease period for the public sector mining companies is fixed. Now it is being proposed that the lease period for mining would be for the entire life period of the concerned mines, which is against the existing rules,” an official said, declining to be named.

The 1957 law and subsequent amendments in 2021 say that any lease or its extension for mines in fifth schedule areas entail additional payment to the respective state. But the proposed amendment of lifetime lease would deprive the states of additional funds, the official added. The fifth schedule of the Indian Constitution deals with administration and control of areas where tribal people live.

Jharkhand has also questioned the proposed modifications related to land acquisition for public and private firms.

“The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 provides for acquisition of land for the public sector firms only for mining purposes. Any additional land acquisition for infrastructure development or residential purposes is done under the Land Acquisition Act,” the official said. “However, now the Centre wants to dilute the original Act and amend the law so that land acquired for public sector firms could also be given to private entities for infrastructure development.”

Concerns have also been raised about handing over land acquired for public sector firms, especially in the scheduled areas, to private entities would be an encroachment on the rights and privileges of tribal people and moolvasis, or original inhabitants. If the unused land of the mining firms is diverted to other firms, it would affect the initiative of the state government to return such unused lands back to the original owners, the official said.

The Centre will consider all aspects based on feedback received from the states, said Pratul Shahdeo, spokesperson of the Jharkhand unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“At present, its feedback time, where the opinion and feedbacks of all affected states is being sought. Our government at the Centre is seized of the concerns of those displaced due to land acquisition as well as the federal structure. The Centre would take any final decision only after considering the feedback,” Shahdeo said.

Manoj Pandey, spokesman of the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, however, alleged that the Centre was amending the law to help private firms.

“The incumbent government at the Centre is only interested in helping their corporate friends. They tried similar things with the land acquisition Act and bringing an ant-farmer bill, but had to withdraw under opposition pressure,” Pandey said. “Our party would always fight for the interest of the tribals and the moolvasis of the state.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Vishal Kant works as an Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times. He tracks developments in Aam Aadmi Party and Delhi government. Vishal has spent about a decade covering the city politics and governance, besides writing on Delhi’s civic issues, urban transport and infrastructure.

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