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Letters

Open Cast Mining
Coal India Limited (CIL), representing state control of the coal industry in India, is proclaiming high target of coal production. Is it in conformity with the proclaimed policy of least environmental pollution as announced in Paris? It has been proclaimed that the energy policy will be shifted from bio-fuel to solar energy, wind etc. It is needless to point out that bio-fuel is the main ingredient of global warming. To add to it, the CIL, in order to reach its production target, will take the most environmentally destructive method, i.e. open cast projects (OCP). The Coal Ministry will auction more and more coal blocks to big private companies, enabling the latter to plunder the country's natural resources.

The OCPs have already destroyed large tracts of agricultural land and forestry, particularly in eastern India. In some places, they have destroyed small watercourses. The OCPs now run deep into the earth and disturb the underground water layer. In consequence, large areas of the coalfield region suffer from scarcity of drinking water.

The worst sufferers of this mining policy are the local farmers, agricultural labourers belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes, and in some places, religious minority groups. Big landholders are somehow compensated for the loss of their land, while these scheduled caste people are deprived. Losing their means of livelihood, they become coal-pickers, stealing coal from the coal dumps, illegal mines etc. But this coal goes to the depots managed by local hoodlums living under the umbrella of protection afforded by the parties in power. The Coal management has also their tacit support, and the local police and administration have their shares in the loot. It is a legitimate surmise these constitute a deliberate policy of corrupting one section of the people so that they cannot stand up to resist the mining policy of the management. In Europe and the USA, coal miners have resisted the devastating policies of their management, forcing the latter to retreat. In neighbouring Bangladesh, the people have resisted such policies in Phulbari. The people living in the eastern coalfields region, particularly the SCs, have risen in resistance here and there when their habitations are endangered. But this is very little in comparison with the demands of the situation. The trade unionists (particularly those engaged in organizing permanent workers) are incapable of resisting it. They are instead in favour of increase of production, because that will help raise the economic demand of the sections under their control. Next remain the contract workers, who generally come from the victimized sections of the people. It may be hoped that they will take up the work of resistance. But what the situation needs most is a general political opposition to this open cast mining policy.
Mukta Das, Laudaha, Burdwan

Temple of Learning
After spending a decade in institutions of higher learning, I came away thinking that universities are places for discussing ideas and for carrying out research. I do not understand why Delhi University is now seeing the voicing of a demand for a temple, the dispute over which has already cost far too many lives.
Mukul Dube, Delhi

Frontier
Vol. 48, No. 30, Jan 31 - Feb 6, 2016