184 coal mines stand all
otted to favoured private parties, between 1993 to 2010, in India. Coal output of 21,531.32 million tons has been dug out. Considering cost of exploitation and profit margins, the presumptive loss to the government is around Rs 27 lac crores. Without competitive bidding, coal blocks were given at subsidized prices. In comparison to official records in the union coal ministry, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s assessment of windfall gains to the coal block allottees is only Rs 1.68 lac crores. Since 2004, proposed amendments to the Mines and Minerals Act and the Coal Act have not been adopted by Parliament. To reap profit gains, Gujarat, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal have all along been opposing the idea of coal block allocation through the competitive bidding route.
Sand complexes on the beaches of Odisha, Manavalakurichi in Kanya-kumari district of Tamil Nadu and the Aluva-Chavara coast line of Kerala are abounding with monazite. From 2004, 2.1 million tons of monazite, equivalent to 195,300 tons of thorium at 9.3% recovery, have disappeared from India’s coastal shores. Being a clean nuclear fuel, thorium is of strategic importance for nuclear energy generation and nuclear tipped missiles. Norms of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board have been violated, and private companies have been exporting monazite, ilmenite, rutile, garnet, zircon and sillimanite from the beach sands. Estimated at $100 a ton, the missing thorium amounts to about Rs 48 lac crores. After 2005, the export of beach sand recorded a quantum increase. Even radioactive minerals have been allowed to be exported unchecked. Then this is India!
Chauvinistic political parties in Tamil Nadu have been pelting stones on buses carrying Sinhalese Christian pilgrims, on their way to Tiruchirapalli from Thanjavur. Most of them poor Christian fishermen and their families, the pilgrims come to Tamil Nadu for worshipping in the shrine at Velankanni. The attackers, belonging to certain Tamil groups, have conveyed to the pilgrims, that they were not welcome in Tamil Nadu. Many of the pilgrims have cut short their visit, and have flown back to Sri Lanka in special aircraft. Tamil fanatics have threatened the pilgrims at the Basilica in Tahanjavur, their first stop in Tamil Nadu. A large number of children comprise the visiting group of Sri Lankan pilgrims. The attackers have shouted and gesticulated within Churches. The Sri Lankan government has issued an advisory in Sep 2012, asking visitors from the island nation to keep off Tamil Nadu.
Violence in Mines
South Africa’s mining sector has an abundance of mineral wealth, and employs some 500,000 people. It has a tarnished history of violence and exploitation, stretching back nearly 150 years. 40% of South Africa’s population live below a poverty line of R418 a month. With rampant poverty and unemployment, mining remains a key source of jobs. South Africa has the world’s deepest mines, with one gold shaft dropping 4 km. Even though mining safety records have improved, it is a dangerous trade, with the risks greatest in gold and platinum. In 2011, there were 123 fatalities in South Africa’s mining industry, while before 1994, there were about 500 fatal casualties a year. The entry level basic monthly salary in gold mining R 4840, which rises to a basic of R 5700 for rock drill operators, excluding benefits and bonuses, similar to the platinum sector. Since apartheid ended, miners’ living conditions have improved, but much more needs to be done.
Squalid mining conditions have been provoking violence, as workers in pits question their lot. Demands and strikes at a mine run by Impala Platinum in January 2012, left three people dead in Marikana, pushing the price of platinum by 15%, and closing the mine for six weeks. At the beginning of August 2012, there was deadly violence at a mine in Marikana, owned by Aquarius Platinum. When three hundred employees who had been dismissed stormed out of mine shafts, three people were killed. In the second fortnight of August 2012, there was a strike at the Marikana Platinum Mine, owned by the British company Lonmin, when 3000 miners asked for a 300% wage increase to 765 pound (R 12,500) a month. In the strike marred by violence, over 45 people were killed, and has put the spotlight on the harsh conditions mineworkers face. The conflict erupted when 3000 workers marched on the mine demanding talks over pay. Lonmin management insisted that it negotiated only with unions. Tensions arose from a turf war between Association of Mine Workers and Construction Union, and the National Union of Mine Workers, an older union with strong links to the African National Congress. The workers died when police opened fire.
While it is illegal to sell Nazi memorabilia in France, Germany, Austria and Hungary, it is not so in Britain. Nazi memorabilia trade centres mainly in Russia, where hundreds of thousands of German soldiers were killed, as they retreated on the onslaught of the Red Army in 1942. In eastern Europe it is a big business and mafia run. The Russian authorities have no inclination to crack down on the gangs. The graves of fallen soldiers are desecrated, and Nazi objects are stripped by organised gangs from the graves of soldiers who died on the Eastern Front. Hundreds of Nazi objects are being taken from battlefields in Demyansk, near Novgorod in Russia and Kurland in Latvia. They are listed for sale on websites such as eBay and informal networks, and sold in Britain. Nazi relics provide a multi-million pound international industry, with artefacts ranging from small personal effects, such as dog tags to parts of tanks. The trade could run to several millions of pounds in Britain alone. Soldiers cannot be identified without dog tags. Looting of battle sites in Germany and Russia endangers Second World War archeology.
Vol. 45, No. 13, -Oct 7-13, 2012
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