Mining companies are arming the Maoists
- Illegal mines must be closed for national security interest -
New Delhi: The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) while releasing its special report, “Arming of the Maoists”, stated that mining companies with the knowledge of the Government of India and various State governments are handing explosives to the Maoists.
“The Government of India is putting interest of the greedy corporates above the people and the security forces. Hundreds of people including security forces and civilians are being killed each year in the explosive devices triggered by the Maoists. From January 2005 to 14 November 2010, the Maoists triggered 533 improvised explosive devices. Out of these, 380 explosions were fatal causing death of 442 persons and injury to 422 others.” - stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights.
“The easy access to detonators and other explosive materials has direct implications on the right to life and further intensifies the conflict with a heavy toll on human security.” - further stated Mr Chakma.
The security threat is not a theory. According to information collated by Asian Centre for Human Rights, the security forces, inter alia, recovered 1,50,940 kg of ammonium nitrate explosives, 60,511 detonators, 8,000 rings for grenade making and 1,964 kgs of gelatin and 1,918 gelatin sticks between January 2009 to September 2010 from the Maoists. These do not include incidents such as the disappearance of nearly 300 tonnes of explosives from 61 trucks moving from Dholpur in Rajasthan to Sagar in Madhya Pradesh during April to June 2010.
It is the mines, both legal and illegal, which are providing the detonators and other explosives to the Maoists. According to the statement placed before the parliament on 23 March 2010, the Department of Mines, the Government of India “the state governments had detected 1,61,040 illegal mining activities in 17 States during 2006 to 2009”.
Since mining requires access to detonators, explosives and other materials, the question is how have these 1,61,040 illegal mines been sourcing these basic materials?
“The logical conclusion is inescapable: there is an open explosives bazaar where extraordinary quantities of unregulated and illegal explosives are available. Since it is only the legal mines which have licenses to obtain explosives and other materials, they have been making huge profit by selling explosives to the illegal mines. The mining industry has a case to answer.” – asserted Mr Chakma.
The State governments took minimal actions to prevent illegal mining and proliferation of the illegal explosive market. According to Union Minister for Mines, Mr B K Handique, out of 1,61,040 detected cases of illegal mining in 2006-2009, the State governments filed court cases in only 20,646 cases. The poorest record is held by the State government of Gujarat which went to court in only 8 cases against 39,670 reports of illegal mining (i.e. 0.02%); followed by Maharashtra with 13 court cases out of 22,885 detected cases (0.05%); Rajasthan with 59 court cases out of 11,513 detected cases (0.51%); West Bengal with 19 court cases out of 901 detected cases (2.11%); Orissa with 86 court cases out of 2,756 detected cases (3.12%); Haryana with 138 court cases out of 3,897 detected cases (3.54%); Jharkhand with 39 court cases out of 953 detected cases (4.09%); Karnataka with 711 court cases out of 12,191 detected cases (5.83%); Tamil Nadu with 421 court cases out of 5,191 detected cases (8.11%); Chhatishgarh with 2,283 court cases out of 7,402 detected cases (30.84%); Himachal Pradesh with 711 court cases out of 2095 detected cases (33.94%) and Madhya Pradesh with 16,157 court cases out of 17,394 detected cases of illegal mining (92.88%).
“Since a large majority of illegal mining activities are located in areas where Adivasis live – the heartlands of the Maoists, the illegal mines which operate on the ability to pay are handing explosives to the Maoists”. – further asserted Mr Chakma.
A field investigation in Lathehar district, the hotbed of the Maoists in Jharkhand exposes corporate and the Maoists nexus. When the Maoists call a bandh, nothing functions and the State government cannot implement its basic programmes. However, many corporate houses like the Abhijeet Group, Essar Power and Hindalco have been running their projects smoothly. In April 2009, four security guards of the Corporate Power Limited (CPL), a unit of Kolkata based Abhijeet Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd, which is building 1215 megawatt thermal power plant at Chakla village under Chandwa block in Latehar district with an estimated investment of Rs. 6080 crore were killed by the Maoists after the company refused to pay. Today, it is functioning without any hindrance. The CEO of Abhijit Group, Mr Arun Kumar Gupta stated: “Our ideology of providing development among the underprivileged perhaps matches the Maoists’ ideology. That’s why they are not disturbing our project”.
The corporates are paying and arming the Maoists with the sanction of none other than Union Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram. While justifying payment to Maoists by Corporates on 22 July 2010, Mr Chidambaram stated that “unless the State is able to provide them (corporates) better security they will have to pay these rents to protect their investments.” However, when the poor Adivasis are forced to give food or shelter at the gun point by the Maoists, they are charged as “Maoists symphatisers” and subjected to serious human rights violations.
“This is nothing but double standards favouring the companies. Home Minister does not take into account that socalled rents to the Maoists go well beyond cash and include explosives.” – stated Mr Chakma.
As corporate interests are being favoured over national security by the government, no corrective measure has been taken. Neither the Explosives Act, 1884 nor the Explosives Rules revised in 2008 provide for any specific requirement to ensure that explosives sold/sanctioned to the licensees have been used only for lawful activities or purposes allowed under the Act and the Rule. There is no provision for monitoring end use of explosives by physical inspection on-site. Rule 24 of the Explosives Rules, 2008 provides only for “maintenance of records and submission of returns”. While Rule 128 of the Explosive Rules, 2008 provides for “powers of search and seizures”, there is no mechanism for monitoring end use by spot verification of the explosives sold / sanctioned to the licencee.
Explosives are sanctioned by the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and India’s anti-terror bodies such as the Multi Agency Centre under the Ministry of Home Affairs or State Multi Agency Centre have no role with regard to the sanction of the explosives and other materials. PESO website shows that Jharkhand, which has less illegal mining (953 cases in the last four years), has till date sanctioned 42,77,150 detonators and 6,85,386 kg of nitrate mixture explosives to 376 separate licencees.
Since the current Maoists uprising in 2005, India’s lack of action against illegal mining has changed the nature of the conflict. The technology used to deploy explosives by insurgent groups does not remain static and insurgents develop ever greater technical sophistication in their bomb making. The Maoists strategy does not yet include attacks on metropolitan cities and towns but there is no reason to assume this will always remain the case.
The Asian Centre for Human Rights recommended that the illegal mines should be closed down as a national security priority. Further, the government of India must amend the Explosive Rules of 2008 to include stringent provisions for regulating the use of explosives including on the spot end use verification. [Ends]